Thursday, December 23, 2010

Weird Christmas Cards and Letters

It seems that the digital communication revolution has created opportunities for some weird outreach at Christmas time.

I have (so far . . .) received four “thank you” cards, thanking me for my support/business in 2010. They came from people I have, with one exception, never met and with whom I have – without exception – never done business.

Then I got a “special gift” from someone else, in the form of an invitation to take a look at her new web site. What’s that all about?

And another “gift” – 10% off a coaching network’s membership dues. And I’m not even a coach! Don’t want to become one, either.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pay & Performance

Pay & Performance.

The idea, in the business world, is that the compensation you receive is commensurate with your performance level. You do a good job, even exceed expectations, and you get paid handsomely. Your performance is not up to snuff and your pay gets docked.

Seems fair? I would say so.

So, here is the guy in charge of Heathrow Airport (I never liked the place, going back decades!), who had some half a million people stranded for days because of the weather, with many forced to line up outside for what must have seemed like an eternity. So what does he do? He “magnanimously” decides to forego his 2010 bonus. Ha!

Isn’t his salary (before bonus) already $900 thousand a year? Or is that 900 thousand pounds (= $1.3 million)? I think he should be out there helping to shovel snow for a while, to earn some appreciation for performance, before he gets his next pay check.

Welcome, International Readers!

My most recent international readers have signed on from the Bahamas, Algeria, Dominica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, Macau and Saint Lucia.

FYI . . ., of these, Belize is the only country I have visited. Good memories!


I was recently encouraged to follow the blog of an expert on ethical leadership. The encouragement came from a respected source, so I decided to take a look. For 2010, the blog has a total of four posts, the most recent one in early May.

This does not mean that the blogger does not know what he is talking about.

However, anyone who decides to share his expertise via a blog owes his readers more than four posts per year.

How often do you blog? At least once a month, I hope. Your readers deserve it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Running a Profitable Business

You have probably received the same sort of letter from your accountant that my CPA sent me and all her other clients the other week. It has to do with a new law that gives the IRS the right to ascertain that tax preparers maintain client files that show complete and accurate income and expense details.

It all makes perfectly good sense to me – reporting gross receipts, mileage expense recording, charitable contributions’ receipts, etc., etc., etc.

One sentence in particular stood out for me: “The IRS expects you to make a profit in 3 out of 5 years.”

That seems like a no-brainer to me! If your business cannot produce a profit in 3 out of 5 years, you ought to close its doors, or make such changes that will get it to be profitable again in no time at all.

I hope your business has been profitable in 2010 and will be so again in 2011!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Social Networking

LinkedIn is not the only on-line network, but for business and career connections it is the best. So, why am I still getting so much resistance?

In discussions that played out over several months, a prospective client for a LinkedIn profile told me in our last conversation that he was not yet convinced that this was a good venue for him (his prospects are CEOs of private companies in the $5-$20 million arena), but he would ask a few of his peers and if they recommended it, he would hire me to optimize his profile. He would call me the following week.

I never heard from him again.

So, for him, and for others with the same mindset, go to Amazon and buy a copy of “Let's Connect: Using LinkedIn to get ahead at work”, by Ajay Jain. An easy read and the perfect primer for people who deep-down know they need to be active in at least one social network but are unsure of how to go about it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Early Friday Afternoon . . .

Do you ever experience an early Friday afternoon when you tell yourself: "Enough - the work week is over!"?

I'm having such a day today. I finished one installment of a project for a client in New York and should get started on a project for a European client, but . . . enough! It will wait till Monday.

Wherever you are in the world . . ., happy week-end! :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gordon MacKenzie, a Genius of our Time

Gordon MacKenzie was a man who did not fit his time: an artist, a genius, making a living in a structured corporate environment. As his book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, tells us, his employer, Hallmark Cards, did not favor ideas that the hierarchy did not see meshing with corporate productivity goals.

He made it work for himself, as the company’s “Creative Paradox”, up to a point. Then he retired and began traveling around the country, speaking, in high-energy, marvelous performances, to audiences about maintaining creativity in bureaucratic environments. Then he died.

Yesterday, arriving early for a typical “girlfriends’ luncheon”, I had a copy of Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” in my bag -- I always have something to read with me, as I am more often early for a meeting than late or on time -- and whose name did I see when I turned to page 68? Gordon MacKenzie’s!

Such memories, immediately! I met, interviewed and had dinner with Gordon MacKenzie when he was in Atlanta for a workshop in, I think, 1999, and attended his what can only be called “performance”. Truly a genius!

His book is still in print. Buy it. Also Dan Pink’s book, and absorb both of them over the holiday season. Then go back to your work environment in January with the confirmation that you arrived in this life with a rolled canvas under our arm and that it is up to you – not anybody else – to paint your masterpiece.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blog Visitors

Thank you, Germany!

For weeks, German visitors to this blog were stuck at 99 - as late as yesterday. This morning, there are 107 of you. Way to go -- and "spread the word". I hope to make my business observations even more relevant in 2011.


Many business women I know do not go to conference because, in order of significance stated by them, (1) they cannot afford it, (2) they are already conversant with the topic or (3) they are not interested in the speakers. “Networking” is never mentioned.

These are my criteria:

1. Does the topic interest me?

2. Do I have time to attend?

3. Are the expected attendees business prospects for me?

4. Do I want to go to where it is held?

5. Can I afford it?

One of my clients (executive search executive in renewable energy industries) tells me that # 3 is his top criterion. His business, already significant and growing, comes from personal interactions with other conferees.

This is where he will be in the near future:

December 1, 2010 – Atlanta
Promoting Sustainable Energy Solutions

February 1-2, 2011 – Boston
Offshore Wind Power

February 10-11, 2011 – Boston
PV Rollout, European American Solar Deployment

February 13-16, 2011 – Washington, DC
"Hydrogen + Fuel Cells = Pathway to a Clean Energy Future"

March 8-10, 2011 – Tampa
Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America 2011

If networking with renewable energy top players would benefit you also (what can you sell to them?), may I suggest you sign up as well?

In any event, do not overlook the “networking” aspect of any conference you plan to attend in 2011.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Charitable is the Charity you Support?

I almost made a big mistake!

A lovely catalogue arrived in the mail from a charity about which I had heard good things and I was about to make a donation when that same catalogue showed up in my mailbox a second time. “Wow”, I thought, as I walked back from my mailbox to my front door, “they are not very patient, are they? I wonder how much money they spend on their solicitations.”

A quick look at Charity Navigator brought me the results: almost 18%, earning them a 3-star rating. Not terribly bad, but I decided I’d go and look for an organization with a 4-star rating, focused on a cause I care about. I found one and my check has gone to them. Its fundraising costs are 8% and their top guy’s salary is under $140 thousand a year, compared with more than $260 thousand a year for the one with the pretty catalogs.

Suggestion to all in this gift-giving season: check with Charity Navigator before you write that check!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Practice What You Teach!

The other day, in a local art studio, I picked up a flyer for a “Marketing Online Workshop” – very basic stuff (web site, blog, social media), a reasonable fee, and an instructor whose name I had not heard before. A few minutes’ search told me that neither teaching nor online marketing are her areas of expertise. I have no questions about her effectiveness and success as a business owner and suspect that she is very good at what she does, but I wonder why an online marketing course should be taught be someone who launched her own blog in January 2009, has posted only 4 times (most recently on January 16, 2009) and has only 1 “follower” (herself).

Shouldn’t we all, as business professionals, practice what we teach?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Facebook Users’ Goals and Benefits

Randomly selected Frequent Facebook Users have responded as follows to my questions about their goals in the use of this Social Medium, and what benefits they have derived from it:


Connect with interesting people and potential clients.

Keep up with friends.

Reconnecting with high school and college friends and staying in touch with family members.

Getting to know clients on a personal level.

Building my brand and promoting my business.

Added visibility and brand awareness.

“I sort of have to be there”.

It’s a showcase for my products.

Attract buyers.

Provide industry-related tips.

Build name recognition.

Promote my blog.

Provide support and motivation to others.

Develop a following for my company and its brands.

Rolling out products and services.

“Spying on my kids. LOL”

Communicating with friends, clients, family, colleagues, association members.

Creating on-line portfolios.

Getting more business than expected, including international.

Selling books and getting speaking engagements.

Being chosen as an example of effective social media use by a nationally-known publisher.

“I seem to be building a community.”

Increased web site visits, newsletter sign-ups and webinar attendance numbers.

National name and face recognition.

Great motivation, support and kick-in-the-butt.

Being able to “let go” – voice opinions, express feelings.

Saves time; no more phone calls.

Some new assignments and many leads.

Easy to use, compared with other Social Media.

And you? Post your goals and benefits in a brief comment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Web Site as Hub of Media Outreach

Still writing about last Friday's and Saturday's Social Media Integration conference . . .

One of the nice things of conferences such as this one is that you go at least in part because of "The Big Names", the celebrities and near-celebrities who headline the event and then the surprise often comes from a not-so-well-known presenter, who has a lot of good stuff to share.

That was the case last Saturday with Jesse McDougall ("a social media consultant and web programming geek living in the woods of Vermont") of Catalyst Webworks, whose topic was "Make Your Website the Hub of Your Social Media Outreach".

What he said made perfectly good sense (my clients will benefit from my notes!) and the best way for me to pass it on to you is to suggest you take a look at the companies Jesse mentioned:

Lonely Planet
Seventh Generation

Even though these companies may be a bit bigger -- if not lots bigger -- than yours, study them for ideas you can use on your own site.

SMI Conference -- Five ideas from Shiv Singh.

His presentation started with: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer”. (Peter Drucker).

Shiv’s expansion: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers”.

Not an original thought – it was already posted by Sean O’Driscoll on Ant’s Eye View on January 22, 2009.

Maybe Drucker said: “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” Who knows and does it matter?

I actually do not like the idea of “creating” customers; I like the idea of “attracting” them. For me, “creating a customer” has a feel of manipulation or even coercion to it. When I talk with a prospect, I hope I am able to convey to him or her that my skills as a writer and what I know as a Social Media strategist are of value to their business or career and that for that reason they want to hire me.

O.K. – on to the five ideas:

  1. Create a digital franchise, e.g. a platform for a cause (or multiple causes) to support while getting your message out. Example, PepsiCo’s Refresh Project.
  2. Reinvent display media. Example: add a Facebook “like” button to your banner ads.
  3. Rethink the market model. It is more important to take care of your existing contacts than to acquire new ones. “The consumer experience is everything; branding is second to that.”
  4. Redefine the agency model. Shift from the tradition of client’s brief - the agency’s Big Idea - the execution (with TV ads the main focus) to the new model of “consumer insights, the brief, a group of ideas, many agencies”. (Good for small businesses to know perhaps, but who among us hires an advertising agency for our marketing campaigns?)
  5. Use a SIM (Social Influence Marketing) score to measure results. I don’t ”do math”, so let me just refer you to two others’ take on this:
Social Times:
Social Commerce Today:

Coming back to the point here: your image matters; be sure that you participate in the conversations about you!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Decorum on the Conference Podium

So, I was at this conference, looking forward to the keynote address; well-known speaker, “corporate celebrity”, from way out of state – truly, in media parlance, “a get”.

The agenda simply said “Keynote Speaker”. The auditorium was well populated. On the podium, we saw the conference chair, with the keynoter to his right and a little behind. Imminent introduction anticipated.

This is what happened:

The conference chair took the microphone and talked for 10 to 15 minutes about the conference, gave out an award, mentioned another award that would be given out later in the day. The keynoter was completely ignored.

The conference chair introduced another person (co-chair?), who spoke for a minute or two. Keynote speaker still on the podium, still ignored.

Supposed co-chair introduced another person, who started talking about the conference. The keynoter, still ignored, now by the third speaker in a row, exited stage right.

The person kept talking – the conference, the organizers, the theme, the venue, the need for volunteers and sponsors for the next event, etc.

The microphone was handed back over to speaker number 2, who, in two sentences, lamely introduced the keynoter – finally! – who then came back on the podium.

Lessons for conference organizers:

  1. Stick to the agenda. If it says “keynote speaker”, do not add awards, promotions and self-congratulations.
  2. Don’t let the keynoter stand on the podium like a potted plant, while you carry out a different agenda.
  3. Have the highest-ranking person present (Conference Chair, Mayor, Chief Sponsor) introduce the keynoter. 
  4. If the keynoter is not immediately introduced, keep him or her offstage until the introduction takes place. Then give him/her a rousing welcome, commensurate with the speaker’s corporate/celebrity status. Not two sentences that sound like an afterthought to what has come before.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Nice to Women"

Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal were guests on "Oprah" yesterday, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Love Story.

Talking about Farrah Fawcett, ONeal's longtime love, who died last year, MacGraw described her as "a lifelong beautiful girl who was nice to women."

Sort of sad that women being nice to other women should be noted, but it's indeed a far from common experience.

Kudos to Ali MacGraw!


One of the saddest aspects of “pro-business” I see is the stream of small businesses that join Chambers of Commerce as members, expecting to make important connections and reap benefits, only to discover that the Chambers’ interests lie with developers, bankers and politicians, not with small businesses.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day 2010

America got its name from Amerigo Vespucci (Italian explorer, 1454-1512), but we have no Vespucci holiday in this country. Instead we have Columbus Day, named after Christopher Columbus (Ital. Cristoforo Colombo , Span. Cristóbal Colón ), another Italian explorer (1451-1506).

Juan Ponce de León (1475-1521) was, historical data tell us, the first European explorer to set foot on the U.S. mainland (April 2, 1513, somewhere in Florida). We don’t have a holiday for him, either.

Happy Columbus Day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Going to a Conference?

Conference season is in full bloom in Atlanta. Your mailbox is probably just as full of invitations as mine is. What makes you decide to go or not to go? These are my criteria:

1. Does the topic interest me?
2. Do I want to hear these speakers?
3. Do I have time to attend?
4. Is the location convenient for me?
5. How much does it cost?

What makes me say “no”?

Three-day conferences (who has the time?) and hidden costs (who wants to go through menus with multiple clicks, and the need to provide contact information BEFORE the conference fee is revealed?).

Is Blogging on the Decline?

Hardly, it seems. More than 144 million of us have blogs and many of us post frequently.

Technorati reported last year that the typical blogger is male, between 18 and 44 years of age, more affluent and better educated than the general public.

While there is a plethora of blogs that are essentially public journals, satisfying the writers’ creative needs, the trend is toward serious business blogging. There will always be people who claim interesting niches and find a large readership; their blogs become sales platforms for their products, services or events.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Three “Networking” Failures – and how to avoid them …

You probably know people who believe that “networking” does not work. You may even think so yourself. You’ve been to a networking event, not met anyone of interest to your business or career pursuits and not been able to sell anything. Why do that again? It does not work, right?

Several years ago, I received an e-mail from someone who had recently attended a networking event I had organized. “I will never come back,” she wrote. “Every time I go to a networking event, I make a sale. Yours is the first event where I did not sell anything.”

This was for me a unique experience: the first such e-mail in more than a decade of offering networking opportunities. But the sentiment the writer expressed has not been unique.

Here are the three common networking failures, and what you must do to overcome them.

Not showing up. You join organizations – professional groups, referral clubs, Chambers of Commerce – but you only sporadically attend, or maybe not at all. You cannot expect business, or referrals, from people who do not know who you are, or what you do, or do not feel a connection with you. Solution: attend as many of your organization’s events as you possibly can.

Not participating. Showing up is not enough; you’ve got to participate! Serve on committees, volunteer for tasks, such as staffing an event’s registration table or introducing the speaker, or host something, e.g. a fundraiser for the organization. Solution: become known, make yourself visible, and contribute to the organization’s success. “What goes around, comes around” – trite but true!

Expecting to make a sale. Networking is about meeting people and creating relationships. It is very much NOT about making a sale! Solution: participate in conversations, get to know others in the room, ask questions, listen to answers, detect common interests, send a note in the mail, suggest a coffee or lunch to talk more about those common interests (maybe you are both runners and you discovered she, like you, had run the Peachtree the past two years and you had both been thinking about the Boston Marathon for next year). She works in HR for a manufacturing company and you work in finance for a staffing agency. Over the course of getting to know each other, she may mention to you that her company is planning to add a dozen or so temps for a special project. You get the picture?

Networking is an excellent practice for growing your business or advancing your career. Do it the right way. Avoid the failure traps, and you will succeed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Looking for a job . . .?

Perhaps one of the best places to start is the Women for Hire Career Expo, October 12, at Cobb Galleria.

Tory Johnson, whom you have probably seen at ABC's Good Morning America, if not met in person (she is 'everywhere'!) saw a need and decided to meet it, with the creation of Women For Hire. Isn't that how many of us have started our businesses? Find the void, analyze it, then fill it.

I know several career coaches and will be happy to refer you, if you are looking for a career opportunity or change in the corporate world. If, on the other hand, you are ready to start a business of your own, we should talk!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Tao of Everest

The lucky 30+ of us who were at Maggiano's Perimeter Mall last night for Ian Woodall's story of his multiple climbs of Mount Everest -- and the associated leadership lessons -- experienced an evening we will not soon forget.

Read the testimonials, find out how you can buy a copy of Ian's book, and if you missed his Atlanta appearance this time, be sure you make plans to attend next time. Yes, there will be a "next time" -- Barb Giamanco, left in the above photograph, is already working on it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shame on the Iron Grill

When a new, upscale restaurant comes to town and a business women’s group makes a reservation for a networking event, one would expect that the manager is there to greet the group and there would be a private room available, with customized menus on the tables with drinks and dinner suggestions and maybe a “come back” coupon for next time. One would think that a restaurant that has 20+ business women walk through the door on a Tuesday evening would jump for joy and think of all the new business that might come from such a group.

One would think . . .

Chef Lamar’s Iron Grill in Athens did not think this evening.

We were herded like cattle into a corner of the lobby (while the upstairs private room went unused), where a kitchen table with eight chairs had been set up. Twenty-some women, eight chairs – you do the math!

The bartender was charming, the pomegranate martini was delicious and there were complimentary appetizers on that table in the lobby corner (Who cares? Who could even reach them?), but if I were a restaurant manager and had 20 business women walk in the door at dinner time, I would see a $600 to $1,000 tab for that evening and an endless string of repeat business – you know . . ., husbands, boyfriends, clients, prospects, colleagues.

Shame on the Iron Grill. This is clearly not a restaurant that wants to have business women as customers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Will he drop out?

Nathan Deal resigned from Congress earlier this year, so that he could spend more time in Georgia and devote more attention and energy to his bid to become our next Governor. Had he not resigned, he would have been next in line for an expected rebuke (or worse) from the House Ethics Committee for use of Congressional staff to protect Mr. Deal’s no-bid contract with the State of Georgia.

In this summer’s Republican primary election, Deal came in second to Karen Handel; in the run-off, he came in ahead of her by a few hundred votes and she conceded even before the last ballots were counted. I did not like this; I think she might have prevailed in a final count and a recount. In any event, she should have stood her ground and continued to talk about ethics. Wasn’t that one of her campaign points – that she was the only not-ethically-challenged candidate in the race?

Be that as it may, Deal’s Democrat opponent, former Governor Roy Barnes – another good ole boy – has been hammering Deal on his alleged ethics violations as Congressman, and his unwillingness to, until recently, disclose his financial information. Now we know where that unwillingness came from: a $2.85 million business loan in 2009 and a $2.3 million investment in his daughter and son-in-law’s failed business in Habersham County. Wilder Outdoors, owned by Carrie and Clint Wilder, was established in 2006 and administratively dissolved on September 8 of this year. The Wilders are reported to have filed for bankruptcy. Nathan Deal asserts that he and his wife, Sandra, will not. They listed their home in Gainesville for sale last year for $985,000, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen ( and have not found a buyer yet. There are currently 190 homes priced between $500 thousand and $1 million for sale in Gainesville. It’s a tough Real Estate market in Georgia.

How it will all work out is impossible to say, but I expect the Republican leadership in Georgia will have a heart-to-heart with Mr. Deal soon, followed by his departure from the race. Then what?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


A friend and client of mine is a Civility expert. Companies hire her to teach civility to their employees and she received a “Civility Star” award earlier this year from the prestigious Association of Image Consultants International.

Knowing all this, I began to think of places where civility is still much in evidence these days. Courtrooms, I decided, with their traditions and protocols, surely had to be hubs of civility in our society. So, I sat in one for a few hours recently and took notes.

When a bailiff advised “everyone sit down”, most did, but there were still people standing along the sides when the judge made his entry. And they stayed there.

He was 20 minutes late and not everyone rose when the “All Rise” was called. The “grand central station” behavior observed before the judge took the bench abated somewhat but did not come to a halt: people moving in and out, crossing from one side of the courtroom to another other – it was chaotic.

The calendar clerk was a mumbler; the lawyers sitting in the front row probably heard him, but moving farther back I am sure the accused and the witnesses had to strain their ears; in the back of the room, he was 90% inaudible.

While before the bench cases were presented and dealt with, throughout the Courtroom lawyers and their clients – or lawyers, their clients and their Court-appointed interpreters – held whispered conversations.

In this particular Courtroom, there were no “Order in the Court” admonitions, there was no gavel concluding the rulings and many accused had their cases adjudicated before they seemingly knew it was all over. Witnesses subpoenaed by the State never met “the State” and looked around bewildered when a case in which they had been ordered to appear to give testimony was concluded in less then two minutes with a plea bargain. It was all very casual and lacking in decorum. Courtesy did not rule here.

I’ll have to go looking for that center of civility elsewhere.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Networking Opportunity

“Give us the opportunity to see who else will be there”, a registrant said the other day, talking about the September 9 Atlanta Women in Business luncheon, where Marla Brown, one of the "Opportunity Meets Motivation" authors will speak. And why not? Here we are — you will see some familiar names and the names of some of equally bright and accomplished business women you have not met until now.

Come early, “network”, get to know one or two of the other attendees, make plans for a follow-up conversation and let serendipity be with you!

Christina Adams, Kathy Anderson, Annette Auger, Karley Barber, Bernadette Boas, Marla Brown, the speaker, Rose Caplan, Monica Caras, Patricia Crowley, Patrice Dickey, Essie Escobedo, Sarah Falgoust, Betty Fowler, Alberta Gallo, Barb Giamanco, the sponsor, Robin Hensley, Odette Kranc, Iliana Malinov, Aniki Mienie, Eleanor Morgan, Betsy Oberholtzer, Peggy Parks, Diona Potter, Karen Robertson-Wall, Liz Roling, Bonnie Ross-Parker, Lisa Rowe, Jane Samson, Judi Adams Sanek, Debbie Snelling and Kate Stradtman

Thursday, September 2, 2010

“To Whom It May Concern” - why bother?

I received a letter in the mail yesterday. It stood out from the 20 or so other mail pieces in my box. It was a solid envelope, good quality paper, nice logo and had first-class postage on it. It came from a well-known, prestigious organization that has, unsolicited, been sending me its magazine for years. I opened the envelope with anticipation. Nice letterhead. That same recognizable logo again. They wanted to engage me for my expertise, or offer me a partnership, or invite me to a high-level brainstorm, surely!

Then I saw it.
“To Whom It May Concern:”

The content (which I did read!) did not live up to the expectations the envelope, postage and letterhead had raised, but it did not matter. “To Whom It May Concern” was the deal-breaker.

Lesson: if you invite someone to do something that is supposed to benefit you as well as the recipient and a bunch of other people, at least address that person by name. Otherwise, why bother?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Results Count

My company’s Atlanta Women in Business unit has awarded “Results Count” to individuals and corporations since 2004.

Companies nominated for the award are recognized for their awareness of the value of the contributions their female employees make to the enterprise, by promoting them to supervisory, managerial and executive positions. Individual nominees are women whose businesses experience growth and increased profitability and who consistently make positive contributions to their communities.

The recipients of the 2010 Atlanta Women in Business Results Count award will be recognized during a January 20, 2011 luncheon.

Contact me for more information.
Lya Sorano


Friday, August 27, 2010

"Get Clients Now!" workshops

Since becoming a Get Clients Now! licensee, I conducted my first workshop last week, with seven outstanding students. I can't wait to see their progress, or to do the next workshop.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mama Grizzlies Speak For Themselves

Thank you, Emily's List, for this campaign. And Pat, for bringing it to my attention.

Opportunity Meets Motivation - The Book

In the interest of transparency . . ., this book is a project of my organization, Atlanta Women in Business, conceived in 2008 and now in print in 2010.

It would not have come into being without the perseverance of Project Manager Angela Durden, whose “hands-off” message to the organization was 100% respected.

Her story, combined with those of Marla Brown, Eleanor Morgan and Peggy Parks, is what makes this book an inspiration, really a “kick in the pants”, for any American woman who has ever dreamed of starting a business of her own and thought there were just too many obstacles in her way. These four women started businesses of their own, creating success for themselves, their families and their employees, and had fun in the midst of lots of hard work. You can do it, too!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oh, Those Stupid Prospects! -:)

If, in your efforts to sell a product or service, your message to your prospects is that they are stupid not to recognize the benefits and hand over their wallet right away, you have already lost the sale!

This happened to me last night. A bubbly, nicely-dressed, middle-aged woman with a book, some magazines and a stack of brochures in her hands approached me, introduce herself and told me she has this “great new product that all women need, full of anti-oxidants and other anti-aging ingredients”. She handed me a brochure and I asked her: “Is this acai?” “Yes”, she said and turned up the heat on her anti-aging message. I handed her the brochure back and told her “Thanks, but this is not for me.”

At that point she should have moved on.

Instead, she kept talking about “this great product.” And a “great company” – “bigger than Microsoft and (some other companies she named).”

She knew nothing about me. I could have been selling the same snake oil. Or a competitor’s snake oil, or own the factory where the snake oil is made. All she knew was that, by appearance, I was in her target market. “How many fruits have you eaten today?”, she wanted to know. “Two so far”, I told her (not counting the piece of lime in the drink in my hand). “I’ve already had 13”, she enthused, and went on and on about this miracle product. “It’s very fresh; they bottle it within hours of harvesting the berries”. And on, and on, and on, “educating” me on all these fantastic things I knew nothing about (she assumed), that could improve my health and extend my life, if I would only begin using that product – after buying it from her, of course.

Finally, she moved on to her next victim – uh, “prospect”.

Three messages for anyone reading this:
* Do not go to a networking event with the purpose of making a sale.

* Do not attempt to sell something – anything, in any setting – to a person you don’t know and are just meeting for the first time.

* “No” means “no” – move on!

MeetUp in John's Creek

Dan ("Mountain Man") Easton, Judy Harper and I were among some 50 attendees at Dagmar Sands's program in John's Creek last week. Congratulations, Dagmar, with this success; it is not easy these days to hold monthly events to which people return time and again. You ought to bottle and sell the formula!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Austerity or Stimulation?

“Cut the spending!” is the popular phrase in Washington and around the country this election season.

What if the country were your business? And it was somewhat limping along? Would you practice austerity, cutting your spending down to the barest necessities? Or would you go out, borrow money, and pump funding into your business development strategies?

I don’t know about you, but I, truly caring about the future of my company, would value stimulation much more than austerity.

This seems to be a true conservative vs. liberal issue. No secret which side I’m on. And I find it ironic that all those insiders who have shunned regulation for so long and made it possible for financial markets to loan us more money than we needed or should wisely have accepted are now telling the government “stop spending; we can’t afford it”!

If the country were your business, would you not want it to survive? Or is it time to let it go down the tubes?

I understand the Republican attitude perfectly. But the Democrats are an enigma to me. Do they actually think that their silence on increased stimulation will earn them more votes in November? It seems to me that the people are more likely to vote Republican in November than “Republican Light”.

I am not looking forward to November 2.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Media Power - Who wants to be Governor?

Lots of people, apparently!

On the Democratic side, here in Georgia, we have Roy Barnes and Thurmond Baker (and a bunch of others who are not getting any traction). Mr. Barnes, one-term Governor before Sonny Perdue defeated him in 2002, has the experience, the big bucks and many TV ads; he is way ahead in the polls. Mr. Baker, in second place in the polls, has the media atmospherics, a good reputation as Attorney General, and little else. Unless something drastic happens between now and July 20, Mr. Barnes will win the primary handily.

There is an even more crowded field on the Republican side, with John Oxendine, current Insurance Commissioner, and Karen Handel, former Secretary of State, in the lead. Former U.S. Congressman Nathan Deal is in third place and a man named Eric Johnson, unknown to me until I started seeing his ads on TV, in fourth. And others, whose names I still do not recognize.

In our red State, and with the Democrat primary pretty well concluded before the ballots are all cast, the Republican candidates are getting all the attention. Mr. Oxendine’s ubiquitous ads stress job creation. Mr. Deal’s awkward ad takes on ‘illegal immigration’, Mr. Johnson, who has been advertising on TV longer than any of the others, wants to lower taxes, and Ms. Handel, who has one ad out with what seems to be a limited buy, talks about government ethics. Mr. Oxendine is unlikely to win this race without a run-off. So, with whom will he be in the run-off? It should be Ms. Handel, but she is all but invisible on TV. Thus, it could well be Mr. Johnson, as his ads are everywhere.

A week from tomorrow we will know!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Business coaches always tell you that when you achieve something notable, or simply reach a goal you have set for yourself, you've got to give yourself a reward. So, this is my reward for a good first half of 2010.

The picture is of poor quality (my "work"); the real thing is an exquisite piece of silver with an unknown (to me) stone of some sort, in my favorite color, by Kristen Anderson.

Art at Tannery Row

Top: "Bison Spirit", by Jim Klippel
Center: "Untitled", by Jeffrey Stone
Bottom: "Red Hat", by Danny Brooks

Art & Business

Rosa Jang is one of the artists at Tannery Row; I purchased this pressed-flower collage from her yesterday. There is amazing art being created at Tannery Row and I love going there (not often enough, unfortunately).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Living History

This blog has been suffering from inattention because it is gardening season in my part of the country and every minute I am not indoors working for my clients, or in meetings with them at various locations around town, I am in my garden!

However, yesterday I had such an extraordinary experience that it's got to be mentioned here.

I had an interview with a businessman whose on-line bio I have been commissioned to write and who is a living piece of Georgia history, with family roots that include a Revolutionary War spy, a colorful, notorious pirate, a justice on Georgia's original Supreme Court, a Native American adoptive mother, and a whaling ship – wow! And that's only the beginning. I am encouraging him to convert this oral history into a book. To be followed by a Hollywood script?

Friday, April 2, 2010

We've Got it!

It's an amazing phenomenon to me that many men don't seem to 'get it' that we are not helpless creatures, who need to be educated on how to live our lives or run our business. The most recent example, yesterday, is a man who wanted to meet with me and discuss a training session for Atlanta Women in Business members, on how to use the telephone or e-mail to seek business appointments, and how to conduct a meeting after an appointment had been secured.

He had no clue, apparently, that women do this sort of training also, and that some of them might even be members of Atlanta Women in Business. Or, that we already know how to do this sort of thing.

The frequency with which I receive requests from men for opportunities to address my network, so that we can be educated on wealth management, hiring practices, insurance policies, acquiring real estate, conduct sales meetings, etc., is staggering. No offense, but . . . we already know!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Being First; not always a good thing!

Tiger Woods, who cheated on his wife with numerous women who have since last Thanksgiving sought their own 15 minutes of fame, is going to resume his golf career next month at Augusta National (“The Masters”), a club that has no women as members. Does anyone else find this amusing?

Augusta is, of course, delighted; hotels and restaurants will be full again and the city can use the revenue. Mr. Woods, in the embrace of an all-male environment, will be free to demonstrate his skills (as a golfer, I mean), and Billy Payne, who brought the Olympics to Atlanta, can chalk up another success.

Membership in Augusta National is by invitation; there are reported to be women on the waiting list and one expects one or more will eventually receive an invitation to join. In this environment, I’d hate to be first.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

International Women's Day 2010 - "And the Winner is . . ."

In Atlanta, we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, with a focus on international business and international careers for women.

Many of the women present had never been abroad; some had immigrated to the United States from . . . Canada, Germany, Haiti, Latvia, the Netherlands, Singapore, and a few had traveled abroad. Few had done business internationally and even fewer expected to have international careers. Nearly all agreed that “global” is here to stay and that we must become comfortable functioning in an interconnected world.

Permit me to share some highlights with you, in the event you were not there in person:

We talked about the status of women in the business worlds of Japan (serving) and China (leading).

The dominance of U.S. diplomatic influence in international business and law was touched on.

A fascinating insight was provided by an attendee who had in the near past attended a women’s leadership conference in Turkey, where women from twelve different countries had compared notes. Her conclusion was that while women in the business world all deal with the same issues, “balance” and equality among them, we all come to them from different starting points.

We talked about the fact that the U.S. is isolated between Canada, Mexico and two oceans, thwarting global curiosity, but the argument that “we are still a young country and still have a lot to learn” was countered by our immigrant from Singapore, who mentioned that her native country (46 years old, vs. the U.S.’s “old age” of 234) had already successfully figured it out.

Much emphasis was placed on the need to hire an employee or consultant who is intimately at home in the next country in which you want to do business.

Four attendees gave their input into “favorite country to visit” and named, respectively, Dubai, France, Italy and Sri Lanka.

Putting it all into perspective, this contribution came from the attendee who had been at the conference in Turkey. Another participant in the conference had been a business woman from Saudi Arabia, who had been hired by a firm that “broke the rules” (i.e. hiring a woman was anathema in this particular industry and in business in general) and who could not report to work for the first three months of her employment, because . . . contractors had to be brought in to add a woman’s restroom to the premises. Office complexes in Saudi Arabia, it was mentioned, are built without ladies’ rooms, because no business ever anticipates hiring a woman!

So, our award for IWD 2010, if there is one, goes to the Saudi Arabian company that broke precedent, recognized women (well, at least one woman!) as valuable contributors in the business world and trumped its peers! Way to go!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Karen Handel for Governor

The idea that I would ever support a Republican candidate for anything – even going so far as to write a check in order to contribute to a campaign – had never occurred to me until this year.

But look a the landscape: the choices in this year’s election for the next Governor of the Great State of Georgia will ultimately come down to a choice between (Democrat) Roy Barnes and the person the Republicans decide to nominate this summer. Roy Barnes, a “good ole boy” if there ever was one, has already been governor once (he was ignominiously deposed by that other “good ole boy” Sonny Perdue 8 years ago).

So, what is one to do? Support Karen Handel, of course! I first knew her when she was the President of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, as a candidate for Georgia Secretary of State, she graciously came to my “Crossing Bridges” international business women’s conference to welcome the conferees (Mayor Shirley Franklin was in China or some place at the time and nobody from her office was available . . . that says something, too, doesn’t it?). Over the years, Karen Handel has made an excellent impression on me, and on other women in the business world. Thus, I am happy to support her candidacy.

Others, apparently, are of the same mind. These are the current poll numbers, provided by Karen’s campaigns, in the race for the Republican nomination:

Oxendine 27%
Handel 19%
Deal 13%
Johnson 3%
Scott 3%
Chapman 2%
McBerry 2%
Undecided 32%

Comments from the campaign:

There are some conclusions to be drawn from the latest survey data:
The momentum is clearly on Karen's side as this is just the latest of several polls that have shown growth and movement for Karen's campaign.

Karen's message of reform, cutting spending and job creation is clearly resonating with the voters. While the numbers have stayed stagnant for the other candidates, Karen has shown tremendous growth over the past several months.

While Eric Johnson is widely perceived to be a top-tier candidate (largely because of his initial fundraising success) he is still languishing in the single digits with Austin Scott, Jeff Chapman and below the margin of error.

This poll was conducted before Congressman Deal's announcement that he will be resigning from Congress on Monday - an event that appears to be having a significant negative impact on his campaign. At this stage of the campaign it is shaping up to be a largely two-person race between John Oxendine and Karen Handel.

Can Karen Handel become the first woman governor of Georgia? I think she can, and I would sure like to see it come about!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Consumer Protection Legislation Needed

Not my first op-ed in a major publication, but certainly my first in The Hill! Yahoo!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who Are You?

Far more people listen to Tori Johnson than read this blog, but she and I are on the same page when it comes to career advice.

On “Good Morning America” today, her advice for looking for a job included that networking should be about who you are and what your talents are, not be defined by your job – past or present. In other words, people will hear you when you say you are a sustainability expert and tune you out when you introduce yourself as the CSO of XYZ Corporation.

In my case, I am, at my core, a writer. I am also the CEO of The Oliver/Sorano Group, and the Founder & Principal of Atlanta Women in Business, but that’s not what draws people in need of my services to me. “Writer” does.

So, who are you?

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Communication - It's Complicated"

That's the title of a guest column in the February issue of one of my newsletters. It immediately drew a question from a recipient: how can I comment on it? Well, not in the newsletter, but here is a repeat -- with ample opportunity to comment:

What's complicated about communication? You say what you want to say. The other responds. What’s complicated about that? Take the movie, It's Complicated, for example. For those of us who had the pleasure of seeing it, we may have noticed that Alec Baldwin's character was a bit narcissistic. Over and over he said to Meryl Streep, "I'm so happy." He mouthed the words to her across the room. He whispered them in her ear. Never once did he ask, "Are you happy?" Everything was all about him.

Now, you might say that's typical of movie versions of the male species. Perhaps. But, I'd argue that many of us place ourselves at the forefront of the conversation and forget the other person. When we meet someone at a networking event, what do we often do? Do we listen when the other people tell us their passions? Or, do we immediately jump in with our solutions to their problems? It's been my experience that we jump in with solutions even when we do not know what the problem is.

If Alec Baldwin had paid more attention to Streep's needs, desires and wants, perhaps he would have gotten the girl in the end.

The next time you find yourself in front of another person, challenge yourself to hear what that person is all about. Challenge yourself to make communication less about you and more about them. That way, it won't be so complicated!

Author: Joan C. Curtis, Ed.D.
Total Communications Coach

Saturday, February 13, 2010

International Women's Day

Yesterday, I had a great telephone conversation with Barb Giamanco, Peggy Parks and Pat Bowen. We spent a few minutes talking about the Phenomenal Women's Conference, on the heels of Pat's, Peggy's and my visit with Dorothy Zinsmeister and Joann Trodahl of The Siegal Institute last Monday, but then quickly moved on to International Women's Day (March 8).

Not very popular in the United States, certainly not here in the South, but if it is true that those who do not heed history are doomed to repeat it, we'd better start heeding!

Atlanta Women in Business will observe this year's International Women's Day with an "After Hours" get-together. Barb will do IWD interviews on her radio program that day and in the evening she will bring in a crew for a video recording.

What does International Women's Day mean to you? To me it means that we've come a long way since women could not vote, were regarded as second-class citizens, could not have a credit card or make major purchases in their own name, and were told to aspire to nothing more than "making a good marriage". It also means we still have a long way to go, with the pursuit of equality an elusive goal.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Universal Health Care

Margaret Flowers, M.D. is my newest heroine! Representing a physicians' group that advocates for universal health care in the United States, her Open Letter to President Obama is worth reading:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gray Hair and Computers: A New Incompatibility?

I do not color my hair, so it has, for years, been making progress from blond to gray. I am in a minority. Only one of my friends has uncolored hair (her gray, nearly white, is prettier than mine), in my gardening circles there are a few more “gray-haired ladies”. Both my daughters, being Asian by birth and thus with black-crowned heads, color theirs; the elder started showing some gray when she was 20 or 21, the younger waited another decade. My granddaughter, who just got her driver’s license the other week, colors her hair from time to time (or, her mother does it for her), even though I am not aware that a gray hair has ever appeared on her head yet.

All this to emphasize the fact that my gray hair is surrounded by colored heads.

This “sign of old age” not infrequently leads to curious assumptions.

I am not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but I get around a computer well enough to make good use of its capabilities and run a few businesses with its applications, not to mention the work it allows me to do for my clients.

Thus, it always amuses me a bit (O.K., it downright annoys me!) when I meet someone who assumes incapability has accompanied my gray-hair progression and care must be taken in communicating with me.

This week, I was as a horticulture conference and trade show: growers and wholesalers of trees, shrubs and other plants, mainly. Good event! I’ll be writing more about it on my gardening blog.

My math after the event showed me that only 54% of the exhibitors had web sites; 14% had no e-mail and 35% had AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo or other non-proprietary e-mail addresses. Yikes!

One of the booths I visited on the expo floor was staffed by a woman probably ten years or so my junior. She had nothing I wanted, but she tried to sell me anyway. Looking at the brochure she handed me, I asked “Do you have a web site”?, to which, solicitously, head inclined to one side, she responded with a question of her own: “Do you use a computer”?

Guess what – after I came home, and managed, somehow, to turn on a machine identified as a “computer”, and somehow to get onto a cyber space called “the web”, and, almost by miracle, typed in her company’s URL, what did I see? A message that said: “We are updating our web site; please check back later”. The company has a Gmail address (not listed in its brochure, but printed in the conference’s Exhibitor Handbook)

You know want I think? This is one of these do-it-yourself (DIY) web sites that do little but annoy its visitors. Will I go back and check it “later”?

Well, hell no! I’m thinking of going and coloring my hair instead - not! :-)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Does Lobbying Benefit You?

Women, you could be a member of an organization that works against your best interests!

A Congressional Bill that would provide for consumer protection in financial matters, such as credit cards, mortgages and other loans, has been approved in the House of Representatives, but is stalled in the Senate, where it is unlikely to emerge with much, if any, protection for consumers, because of furious lobbying.

Who are in the forefront of lobbying against consumer financial protection? Chambers of Commerce! Are you a member of a Chamber of Commerce? Find out if it is part (directly or indirectly, through its membership in larger associations) of this lobbying effort. You could be a member of an organization that works against your best interests!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Results Count!

Barb Giamanco, CEO of Talent Builders, Inc., received the 2009 Results Count award from Atlanta Women in Business today, with 30 women applauding her achievements over lunch at Maggiano's. Here she is (left), with BB Webb (2006 recipient), Peggy Parks (2008 recipient) and Grace Lopez-Williams, CPA (2005 recipient). Deborah Latham (2004) and Melissa Galt (2007 recipient) missed a wonderful event.

"Results Count" is Atlanta Women in Business's award program, established in 2004. It is annually given to a woman whose business has shown significant growth over the course of the preceding year and made a positive impact in the community. That certainly applies to Barb and her company!

Nominations for the 2010 award are now being accepted; request a nomination form from

Monday, January 18, 2010

Death and (In-)Dignity

I went to Barney’s funeral on Saturday. I did not know Barney, but his widow is the president of my writers’ club and I wanted to express my sympathy to her.

It was a very dignified affair. The evening before, at “visitation”, members of the U.S. Marine Corps had come to pay their respects (Barney had fought in World War II in Europe, a member of “The Greatest Generation”, in Tom Brokaw’s words), and on Saturday, the Marine Corps emblem inside the coffin’s lid, the pin on the deceased’s lapel and the American flag draped over the coffin’s bottom half all contributed to the sense of gratitude and joy Barney’s family must have felt for a long, well-lived life. It was a funeral cloaked in dignity.

Yesterday evening, on TV, there was the stark indignity of images from Haiti, with earth-moving equipment removing scattered bodies from the streets of Port-au-Prince. Limbs hanging out of large steel scoops before being dumped into trucks that would proceed to mass-grave, no-name burials.

It’s understandable that this has to be done, but does it have to be shown on television?

The United States is this hemisphere’s richest country and Haiti its poorest. Should a devastating earthquake, God forbid, strike an American city of equal size and population, is this what we would see on the evening news? Has our society become so insensitive that disaster victims are nothing more than this week’s trash? Or does being poor, black and dead bring with it an automatic deprivation of dignity? I wonder.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti; when News becomes Voyeurism

I do not need to see any more images of dead Haitians.

Yes, the earthquake has been terrible, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost or impacted. A country that never had much going for itself lies in ruin. But television newscasts that are ¾ filled with news from Haiti, with anchors Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer on the ground in Port-au-Prince, accompanied by dozens of reporters and support staff and tons of equipment, are too much.

How is it that during the previous U.S. administration we were not even allowed to see flag-draped coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq arriving at Dover Air Force Base, but now we are served endless rows of twisted, mangled, bloated bodies on the streets of a Caribbean island on the evening news (not to mention the morning news and the midday news and the evening entertainment programs)?

This is too much. It is not necessary. The disaster struck. The recovery is going to be a Herculean task. Four hundred million dollars in relief aid has already been gathered or promised. And life goes on. Or not.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pocketbook Politics

A small group of (mostly) Republican women in North Fulton County has launched a grassroots movement to get fiscal conservatives elected to office and shun social conservative issues (such as abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc.) that have in recent years given Republicans a bad name, causing many former Reps to declare themselves Independents.

I met the group’s principal yesterday, and two of her cohorts, at the launch luncheon for Karen Handel’s bid for the governorship of Georgia, and expect to hear more from them in the weeks to come. If ethics and transparency are coupled with fiscal restraint, they might just have a winner!

Look for to go live soon.