Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My New Sister

We are so lucky this week to have Priya Gokhale staying with us. She is an architect from India, who is in the states on a Rotary business exchange program. In her mid 30's Priya is very accomplished.

Even though Priya is the age of my youngest child, I feel like I have the sister this week that I've never had.

Here are some tidbits of what I've found out from Priya:

Priya's generation of women are both traditional and modern. They have careers and they also value family and home. Priya chose her field, because while she loved art, she knew that she could not make money being an artist. She also considered engineering, but wanted a job with more people contact. With architecture she could work from her home in a creative medium and she would also have contact with her clients. Priya shared that the next generation of Indian women are not so traditional, that they will sometimes let business take priority over family.

Priya also is the editor of a glossy, four color architectural design magazine that is published every other month. She interviews architects in order to feature them and their projects in the publication. What I found really interesting was that it is published in English. She said that in India, business is conducted in English.

Last night at dinner, Priya shared that women do not serve in restaurants in India. While they do staff hospital emergency rooms, for some reason they have not made an entry in the food service industry. She is not sure why and also is sure that it will change in the next several years. Priya said that what has changed in India is that they now value all work, that no work is beneath another type of work. She thinks that in the states we are ahead in that area.

Her view of the United States before she came, has of course come from movies. She said that is was a positive picture, but it is different in so many ways than the movies. Not a surprise!

Yesterday, I asked David Munger, co-owner of Munger and Munger, to meet with us at the Perrysburg library. David is the architect who worked on the successful expansion of this library about 7 or 8 years ago and he is also the president of the library board. As president he also serves on the foundation board, of which I am a member. David gave us the tour of the library and the explanation of the expansion along with other tidbits about the building. Priya loved this experience, and I've got to tell you that I did too. I really didn't know David that well or had I viewed the library in such a detailed way. It all goes back to making personal introductions. People ask why I take the time to do those and I share that I always learn and develop my relationship with both people that much more.

When was the last time you learned something new about someone you thought you knew really well?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Climbing the Ladder of Success

Yesterday, I told you about the Girl Scout Camp CEO weekend from the business game point of view. Today, I'll relate our experiences at the climbing wall and the giant's ladder.

Having spent the morning inside, it was fun to get out in the sun. The strong wind kept the the temperature a little colder than jacketless weather. We received instructions from Christy Gustin, the Girl Scout Program Director. She explained that probably at some point high up on the wall, that we'd feel like we couldn't go any further and that they would encourage us to push just a little more.

It was exactly as she said. There seemed to be a point about 3/4's of the way to the top, where the wind was really blowing, and the hand and toe holds were a little more tenuous. That's where so many said, "I'm ready to come down." Christy would encourage a little more effort and the rest of us would shout our support. In every instance the climber was able to go higher and many were able to push to the top.

The giant's ladder, was just that. It felt like I was in the world of Gulliver! This was a rope and wood ladder. The rungs of the ladder were 4 x 4's and the distance between the rungs was no less than 4' and the top most one stretched more than five feet. Two people would climb at the same time, helping each other. Some pairs were better than others. Mentor, Paige Scarlett and student, Ju Leigh Serpa were so graceful in their climb that it seemed as if it were choreographed.

On both the wall and the ladder, each of us were asked to set goals for what we wanted to achieve. This meant that each person could decide her own performance levels.

As I watched people get "stuck" and then push on, I realized that I was watching a visualization of the world of business. Some business people decide that they are too scared or tired to push on. Others, especially those with outside support, may get stopped, but figure a way to keep going.

Hopefully, next year at this time, I'll be telling you about new aha's from the 3rd annual Camp CEO. But in the meantime, where have you been stopped in your business life, and what helped you to push on?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Jewelry Business

Whew! I've had a busy time, here!

This past weekend I spent from midday Friday till midday Sunday at Camp Libby in Defiance, OH for our second annual Girl Scout Camp CEO. The idea is that successful business women are each paired with a young woman, in grades 10, 11 or 12. The purpose is for each of us to learn from each other.

The weekend was a mix of business training and team training, with the team training being outdoors at the climbing wall and "giant" ladder. My friend, Lori Cannon, who was named Distinguished Woman of the Year, is the leader of the pack when it comes to this weekend.

We decided that we wanted to have some fun with the business learnining experience for the girls and the women. Between the two of us we created a game that would help the girls to understand that starting a business is not just about coming up with a good idea. You can imagine our nervousness with the thoughts of how this was all going to play out. In theory the game sounded like a great idea, but in reality would it be fun and educational?

Well, the jury is in. It was fun and we all learned. There were some bumps in the road, which will help us to perfect this game for the future. I think for me, the best comment was from Emily, one of the students. At the end of the weekend yesterday, she shared that the first couple rounds of the game, she had no idea what the game questions were talking about, but as the game went on, she began to get the idea.

The object of the game was to accumulate points that would turn into money that they could use for initial investment in their companies. We told all three teams that they were in the jewelry business, but that one was retail, one was wholesale and one was manufacturing. Each team then had to prepare a short presentation as if they would be presenting to someone who would invest in their new company. They needed to gain the difference between the money they had accumulated and the total amount they needed.

The three girl teams did a stupendous job of presenting and grasping the ideas of having to find a source of money to start their businesses. I thought back to when I was seventeen or eighteen. There was no way that I even understood the concept of starting a business, let alone, asking for money to do so.
I'll write about the outside "work" we did tomorrow!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It Just Doesn't Make Sense

Friends mean so much.

I have refrained from writing about this, but it's time.

I have three children. Unfortunately, I only hear from the youngest one, my only daughter, when something is wrong.

She and her husband are in mortgage trouble. I don't need to share the details of why, as it's not important.

My knight (knightess?) in shining armor is my friend Germaine LeBourveau-Smith. Germaine owns Guardian Settlement Services, a company that helps folks who are in the situation my daughter is in. She helps by talking with the financial institution to negotiate a way for all involved to hopefully have a postive resolution from the situation. She charges for her services. Germaine has not been able to obtain any meaningful PR because of that last part. She charges for her services. (And believe me, she doesn't charge enough.)

The comments she get from the media and other government folk are, "But why are you charging for something that people can just do for themselves? After all, they could call their bank and talk with them. They don't need you."

So let me give you an idea of the roadblocks she has run into with CitiMortgage already. She faxed the powers of attorney over to the number listed for such things, got a confirmation.....three times. And still CitiMortgage said they didn't receive it any of the three times. (Could they be stonewalling?) She finally asked to speak to a supervisor. She was told that they (the powers of attorney) would not become active on the account for somewhere between 24 - 72 hours. That's customer service for you.

Because she can't get a clear picture of what is happening on the account and keeps getting different answers from CitiMortgage; on Wednesday of this week Germaine asked for them to send her a payment history. It is now Saturday and she has still not received it. In the meantime my daughter sent a payment at the end of March for April. Yesterday, CitiMortgage sent a "goon" to her home, to hand-deliver a message saying, "Call Ranger Fairbanks at this number. Your call is expected today." This was at 4:30 PM Friday. The man at her door would not identify himself. As far as I'm concerned, this is intimidation and harassment.

Additionally, previous to my daughter contacting me, CitiMortgage, engaged a law firm (they did not identify themselves as a law firm, but as a professional corporation) that demanded a $1200 payment for their services, "or it was inferred that the mortgage very likely would go to foreclosure." $1200! That made me livid. Of course, my daughter and her husband thought they had no choice but to pay it, so they used their income tax return and you know that they'll never see that money again. That was almost a month and a half of mortgage payments.

And the media won't give Germaine the time of day because she charges $250 for the first three hours of her services.

That shady law firm's solution was to add $300 to the monthly mortgage payment, (if daughter and her husband can't pay now, how will they be able to pay more?) It's that same shady law firm that holds people hostage for their fees that are over four times as much as Germaine's fee. I would say that the media is actually criminal in not letting people know that Germaine is a low-cost alternative to highway robbery.

We hear about the mortgage fiasco everyday. In my opinion, some companies are taking advantage of the very people who can't afford it.

Germaine's contact information should be on every billboard right now. Instead of paying for such marketing, she'd rather charge a small amount so that most people can use her services.
I'll keep you posted on what happens as this goes along. I'm sure we've not heard of the last of the stupid bank tricks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What'd Ya' Get?

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with a frustrated sales person

You see, she brings in more sales than the total sales of the other sales staff combined, but her boss doesn't want her to do it her way.

He wants her to make cold calls and if she goes to a networking event, he wants to know what "she got" from the event.


He has a successful sales person bringing in more than quota, a lot more, and he wants to reform her into something that doesn't work.

IF YOU ARE A SALES MANAGER READING THIS, please, instead of trying to mold the wildly successful sales person into your mold, how about finding out what they do that is very different from what you think works.

Gosh, you might even have to change your mind about what works.

And for those of you sales managers who don't want to engage in conversation, good sales people don't "get anything" from a networking event. That is, we don't get sales. Or if we do, it is because of the relationship that we've developed already with the person who gives us business at such an event. It's not because we sell.

So get off your super star's back. Let her do what is working. Support her in helping your success. After all, the over-ride that you get from her sales ain't so bad.

Okay - got that out of my system.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reduction Means Expansion

Friday was our monthly Master Mind meeting.

It was a bittersweet meeting.

You see, Merri is leaving us.

Merri is moving to Columbus, which is 2 1/2 hours away from here. She will still have clients here in this area, but more than likely she won't have time to commit to Master Mind.

Merri is one of the people who started this group. She always has good helpful comments when we are all sharing our challenges. (The picture shows some of the group, as five of our members were missing in action on Friday. Merri is center, back.))

We will all miss her, but know that this new setting provides a wonderful opportunity for her to grow her business even more. We laughed when we talked about how consultants are always more valuable when they are from out of town and that probably now her Toledo business will get even busier when she moves to Columbus.

Merri Bame, my friend, we will certainly miss you!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Good Guy

I just found out that my friend, Dave Achen, was named Business Person of the Year for the Sylvania (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce. Dave had asked me to nominate him and I was more than happy to do so, as he is truly an advocate of the chamber. My only regret is that I was not able to attend the event where his recognition was announced.

Dave and I go back a long ways. I first met when he asked to have coffee and then proceeded to do a "sales" presentation with charts and graphs, of why I needed to invest with him. Needless to say, I ran from Dave! We laugh about it now. But he was only doing what he had been told to do.

Fast forward a number of years. Another friend, Jennifer Alford, at that time was the marketing director of the company Dave worked for. She realized the value of the Certified Networker class and she put nine people from the company through the course. One of those was Dave.

He was not happy to be in the class. His body language told me that! After all, he had taken every class known to man. What new could we possible have for him.

The rest is history. Dave got involved. He realized the value of developing relationships. One person he met through CN gave him a referral that is still putting big money in his pocket. Dave also gives back.

I am proud that Dave is my friend and am so happy that the rest of our area has recognized his talents.

Please send Dave your congratulations, too.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

At the Round Table

Yesterday I was honored to be a Speed Leader.

"A what?" you say.

The Rotaract Club (Rotary at the college level) of The University of Findlay, had an event where students could sit at a round table with a business leader. They could ask questions of the business person for 15 minutes and then each leader would move on to another table to repeat the routine with another group of students.

Before I would answer questions at each table, I asked each student to tell me their major or majors and what they wanted to do when they graduated.

Except for one or two, most had no idea.

That really disturbs me.

Think of all the money the students and their parents have invested in their education.

These students had not connected with those in the business community at all until yesterday's event.

In my opinion, each college should have some sort of credit program, where each student has to meet with one business person per month. The college could help by having a list of people within each academic area that are willing to be part of this project.

Why would business people want to do this? Well, some would just want to give back to the community, but others would like the opportunity to connect with good interns or employees for the future. It would give students a window into the real world of business. It might give them a clearer picture of how to begin to use that expensive education.

For those students just weeks away from graduation, who have no idea of a direction, I am just sad. Sad that they are not getting a complete education, one that gives them education and ALSO lessons in relationship development.

What do you think about all this?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Leader Toledo, Diversity Day

Yesterday I was blind.

Yesterday was another day of Leadership Toledo.

Yesterday was diversity day.

We met at The Ability Center where we were divided into six groups. Each of us received a disability. Mine was blindness. I donned a pair of black-out goggles. Some people had walkers, others were in wheelchairs, some had hearing loss and others had limited vision. The one that challenged one high school student was not being able to speak.

Each group went from station to station to find out different ways the center helps people with disabilities. What is really neat about this organization is that many of the staff have some form of disability, so that when they are working with clients, they can very much empathize.

Here's what I noticed. When I couldn't see what was happening I became less engaged in what was going on. I think I do a lot of lip reading anyway, because of my hearing loss, but not being able to see facial expressions certainly limited the level of communication that I was able to receive.

Because we moved from station to station, I needed someone to help me move around. Ron Dike, one of the members of my LT class, made it his job to be my leader. Ron and I had never really talked before, as we had never ended up in any of the smaller groups together. At first, I was tentative with my movements, but as Ron proved that I could trust his expertise, I became much more sure. For me it was an interesting exercise in building relationship without having conversation other than the directions or the description of what was happening that Ron was giving me.

What are some ways you see relationship develop that go beyond conversation?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Linkedin Etiquette

Alright, I must admit that I'm only just getting to understand LinkedIn. For the longest time I just thought it would open my whole address book to the chance a being spammed, but now I understand that is not true. LinkedIn seems that it could be a very nice tool for helping to develop new relationships.

But here's the question. Or I guess I'm asking if my understanding is correct.

The way I understand is that if someone removed from my immediate network wants to communicate with me, they have to ask the person who knows both of us to make an introduction first. Is that right?

The reason I ask, is today I received a second Linkedin email from someone I don't know asking me to request a link with them so they can pick my brain to help them recruit workers. The first email was similar in that he wanted to connect to do business and then in the very long email proceeded to sell me on his services.

Is that the way it's supposed to happen?

If so, I don't think I like LinkedIn.

Who can help me to understand this whole concept?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


It makes me laugh.

Lot's of people still think that networking is all about handing out cards.

Recently, I was at a networking event where the participants were encouraged to network with each other at the end of the meeting. I had just finished chatting with one gentleman when a lady came up and breathlessly said, "I am not doing very well with getting my cards handed out, so I'm just going to pass them out at each setting."

I am always amazed when networkers (unschooled ones at that) have a goal of getting rid of as many of their business cards as possible. They obviously think that is the reason for attending an event. Little do they know that they could just save time and dump the contents of their business card holder into the trash bin.

A business card is a static object that doesn't tell me anything about the person behind the card. I am not going to blindly do business with a mystery man or woman. Most business people want to make a connection first and do business second.

If your goal is passing out as many business cards as possible, my challenge to you is to have one meaningful conversation at the next event you attend and only give a business card to the people who request it. What is a meaningful conversation? It could be several questions that you ask so you know more about the business of the person you are talking to. It could be finding out who their best customer might be. It could be asking them if there is someone they want to be introduced to. It could be just finding out what you have in common with each other.


What suggestions do you have about this topic?