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12 posts from August 2006

August 30, 2006

Reinventing the interview

As promised, Kirsten Osolind at ReinventionInc. took the book tour to a higher executive level asking questions pertaining to power women and trust. She also brought forward a study from Ohio State University about men connecting to symbols and women connecting to each other. I responded with my gut feeling to her question, having not read the research paper. When she posted her blog, she also posted the link to the study. Ironically, it concluded exactly what my gut told me. "Whew," was my first response, I'm glad that I didn't contradict the study. "No Kidding"? was my second.

For me, the lesson I continue to learn is that my gut feelings and others are coming from somewhere. A study simply shines more light on the truth and helps to join the left and right brainers.

Thanks for the questions, Kirsten, and keep bringing the studies forward.

August 29, 2006

What should Dell do?

Toby Bloomberg tossed me a challenge this morning. She wants to know what I think about how Dell is handling a product faux pas on their blog.

First, let me say that unless you have a Microsoft monopoly, the days of releasing products that aren't quite ready for prime time are done. You're just opening yourself up to bad cyber karma, i.e. what goes around, stays around... as others pick up the conversation and carry it forward and it becomes a reoccurring problem.

What's interesting is that marketing "gets" that products need to be individually configured, but that customer service isn't configuring their responses to the individual who took the time to put their concern in writing.

I agree with Toby, "the messenger" (that poor guy who now wonders why he said yes to the blog writing job) needs to have more than a mass message for these very spirited and sincerely put off customers. This isn't an "organized group" coming at Dell, it's individuals. If you have to mass respond to get the message out quicker, so be it, but then also inform the masses that you not only thank them, but will be talking to each of them personally. It's the least Dell can do for someone who invested thousands in them and are now losing money by having their business lifeline cut off. (At that time, have more than a hat in hand, carry an individualized peace offering as well.)

That seems like a lot of work, and it is, but sales people do it all day long - making 40-50 calls a day is normal for some. If companies can telemarket for new business, they can telemarket to save business and keep cyber karma from spreading.

Other Lesson learned: Four women with blogs just came to Dell's side. Toby flagged the issue and gave solutions, I extended the conversation, Yvonne and Anita backed the "messenger" and poured salve on his soul. That's blogs and women at their best, trying to restore balance in a system that's forgotten how to respond human to human.

August 28, 2006

More than a Book Tour

Wow! When my publisher and friend Yvonne DiVita set up this Virtual Book Tour, I had no idea what I was in for. I had some notion that it would be like going on Jon Stewart where I'd be virtually batted around for a five minute laugh with the book mentioned at the end. WRONG! These women are want answers and they are holding my brain to the fire.

Check out Deborah Brown over on the Bizinformer, one of her questions prompted me to talk about a recent car purchase where the dealer was selected by simply being more friendly than the other online car dealers... all it took was one well worded (and sincere) paragraph. No fancy ads, no pictures, just a few hundred words at the right time and the right place.

Toby Bloomberg didn't hold back, either. She highlighted one of the push-back problems attached to this cultural shift and asked me to respond to one of her male readers. He was happy that women were joining together to support one and another, but also felt like some reverse discrimination was going on. Read her interview and find out what I said.

On Tuesday I tour with Kirsten Osolind on her blog ReinventionInc. Kirsten is playing devil's advocate in her questions and they point out a perception gap between the women at the top of organizations and what is being done to communicate with their female customers.

(It's another reason that I keep talking about what Best Buy is doing to close that gap - see last Monday's blog posting - They aren't just putting women into management to increase diversity standards, they are taking advantage of women's social skills and networking to cross link departments and solve problems in a true marriage of right brain/left brain thinking.)

After Kirsten, I go live (yikes) with Dr. Gayle Carson in the afternoon, with a worldwide audience of 1.5 million - no pressure there! Later in the week, Susan Getgood will turn the burner up again on trust factors and more. On September 5th, Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends, wants to see a list of 5 Do's and 5 Don'ts.

It's grueling, but great fun and it continues the conversation that In Women We Trust starts. My sincere thanks to you all for your participation and thought provoking questions.

August 24, 2006

Come tour with us

If you're going to take a virtual book tour, you couldn't possibly have better guides, i.e. reviewers, than these ladies.  Deborah Brown started me out yesterday at Bizinformer (kisses Deborah! Glad you liked it). Next on the list of interviews/reviews is Toby Bloomberg, Kirsten Osoling, Susan Getgood, Anita Campbell, Elizabeth Albrycht and Dr. Gayle Carson. A huge hug goes to my publisher and high level blogger herself, Yvonne DiVita for setting up this amazing lineup of women that every business person should know. My thanks to you all for joining on! 

August 19, 2006

How do you create a retail revolution? Julie Gilbert at Best Buy, Inc. is doing it one WoLF pack at a time.

Julie_gilbert_best_buy “If we are loyal to each other and we bond together with other males, we can reinvent the company and the industry.” Julie Gilbert

Today’s INSIDE LOOK features Julie Gilbert, Vice President of WoLF and Entrepreneurial Initiatives at Best Buy, Inc. WoLF stands for Women’s Leadership Forum which was Julie’s personal project while she was the Vice President over Best Buy’s Premium Customer Segment. It's a networking group functioning inside the corporation.

“WoLF is a movement to develop amazing leaders,” Julie told me, “If we want to be a great place for women to shop, we have to be a great place for women to work.”

Julie is on a mission, to have Best Buy’s female employees contribute to their individual futures as well as the company’s future direction. It’s based on woman-to-woman networking and came out of her concern regarding the lack of women-to-women mentoring opportunities. Out of need and “inspiration” she created a way for Best Buy’s female employees to network, learn, and create from each other and at the same time build business for Best Buy. Her WoLF packs aren’t part of HR, marketing or sales and yet all three departments benefit from the packs. 

WoLF is a combination of building leaders who happen to be female and using their unique perspectives to turn the company into a female focused organization and serve the $55 billion female consumer electronics market. Women actually outspend men today in the consumer electronics, but the industry was built by guys for guys. As Julie says, “It’s a different world today”!

What started as a way to help women become better leaders at all levels, however, is transforming Best Buy and creating a new business model based on “real” relationships regardless of title, education or gender.


MARY: Welcome Julie, what terrific news for the women of Best Buy.

JULIE: It’s a good time for Best Buy men as well. I just received an email from a guy who is involved in WoLF and he said that he has not had such a powerful experience in his 18 year career.

MARY: This isn’t the first time you’ve connected the disconnected. I read that before you came to Best Buy that you co-created a new business at Deloitte and Touche by merging the taxation and consulting divisions.

JULIE: I was a senior manager there and noticed that the two divisions didn’t communicate with each other well. It was almost like one group was “blue” and the other “yellow.”  My interest in consulting and curiosity caused me to think of a new business opportunity that combined the two and then spent the next six years building the new business across the country.

MARY: Before this new WoLF position, what did you do at Best Buy?

JULIE: I created and led the team that created Magnolia Home Theatre, which is now the largest high-end home theatre in the world. I also co-created a venture which launched Virgin Mobile in the U.S. from a Best Buy perspective.

MARY: I’m impressed… with those two successes, I can see why you get the support that you do. I read that you have a Masters in Strategy and Marketing from Carlson School of Management and a CPA. That explains how you can identify a business opportunity and then be able to prove that it will be profitable. 

JULIE: The financial side of my brain is always thinking, “How can we make money from this”? In turn, that’s the challenge I present to the WoLF packs, to come up with ways to improve their own career and also make Best Buy more profitable. They go hand in hand.

MARY: Why WoLF? Which came first, the name or the initiative?

JULIE: The dream! No, really… I was touring Best Buy stores as part of my Premium Segment job where female employees frequently hugged me. One day, about 2 ½ years ago, I asked one why she did it. She said, “You give us hope that we can one day become you.” It made me want to help women more directly. That night I had a dream and woke up at 2 am. Growing up in South Dakota, I often heard the howls of wolves or coyotes howling in the distance during full moons. In my dream, I heard the same thing, but instead of wolves or coyotes, it was women’s voices. Inspiration struck me and I realized that each of us feel alone like a stray wolf but if we are loyal like wolves are loyal to each other, and we bond together with other males, can reinvent the company and the industry. AND we can build amazing leadership skills in the process.

MARY:  I can see why the pack structure would work, providing a place for women to speak freely and support one another is a key element in how women interact. They can’t do that inside the current business model, it’s too hierarchal in structure. When did you start WoLF and how many women are participating?

JULIE: I started it the day I had the dream, while still in my Premium Segment role. I literally launched the first WoLF pack on October 12 which was one week after my dream. In August 2005, I transitioned to do it full time. This year, we will have impacted directly more than 10,000 employees as well as thousands of people outside of Best Buy through “Community Give Backs” which is a core pillar of the program.

MARY: I know Best Buy has about 120,000 employees worldwide, so that means about 10% of Best Buy is already benefiting from the program?

JULIE: Yes ,that’s correct.  To be clear, not all 10,000 are in WoLF packs. We actually have 7 ways for both women and men to participate. The first, of course, is to be in a WoLF Pack. We have 21 packs of 27 people across the country today. Next, Community Give Backs - pack members like to volunteer time back into society. We have quarterly events across the country to ensure they have an opportunity to do that. Third, agree to be a Network Partner. They must want to mentor another WoLF anywhere in the country. It probably should go without saying that those in the packs are committed to their career at Best Buy. Part of a pack’s success is the membership longevity. It’s hard to know and support one another if you come and go quickly.

Each year we sponsor an Annual Event which we’ve been doing for 3 years – last year we had over 1700 attendees from the U.S., China and Canada. We also had 45 other companies join us as well. Next month [September] we have 1600 attending a 3 day event. Another way to participate is Just Be You.  In this, we have the first group called the Dancing Wolves which is an actual hip-hop dance group. Its purpose is to illustrate what it is like to express yourself like you should be doing in your job each day with new ideas, and just bringing your “whole self” to work. We’ve had about 300 participate so far.

Inside the WoLf packs you can be an Alpha WoLF. These are leaders of the packs and they must go through a nomination process and then be interviewed for the positions on the packs across the country. And for those who want to participate but can’t because of the size limitation on the packs, we have a Be My Guest Program. Anyone can be a guest at any of the meetings or activities.

MARY: Ok, I have to hear more about the Dancing Wolves...

JULIE: That’s kind of our fun thing that’s also instructional. You know how stupid you feel when you’re first learning to dance? You don’t know the steps and your moves are sloppy and you’re embarrassed that everyone is looking and laughing at you? Learning how to dance (for real) is also our metaphor for learning how to take on anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing - first it’s the mis-steps, then you get your footing and finally you are so confident that they can’t get you off the stage. This is a place where the women can try out their steps both literally and figuratively.

MARY: I can see why being on in a pack is both inspiring and fun. Do many apply?

JULIE: Yes. Everyone wants to be part of something that has such a positive impact and they all know what type of person we’re looking for - if they have a high career commitment, can network and giveback, we want them in the pack.

MARY: Women already do a lot of volunteering, why is it important to make it part of the pack culture?

JULIE: First, because it’s the right thing to do and second because you learn more communication and coaching skills, gain empathy - all of that makes you more human and everyone benefits.  It is this skill that will ensure they are truly great leaders—investing in other people and finding ways to help them be successful.

MARY: Other than as a guest, how do men participate?

JULIE: Men can participate in all 7 ways and do.  On Wolf Packs, Each pack has 25 women and 2 additional men for 27 total. The men have to apply and adhere to the values as well. To be honest, they are just as excited as the women to be included. It’s interesting because they get to hear the stories that women share about what it is like to enter a room and not have their hand shook and how that instantly makes them feel like an outsider. Men don’t go through that same experience, not as much, anyway. There are just enough “men” in the room to remind the women that Best Buy serves both genders, but not enough to stifle the conversation. If my emails are any reflection, like the one I mentioned earlier, being inside a WoLF Pack is a positive experience for them as well. 

MARY: How do you put the packs together? Are they all customer service people for instance?

JULIE: No, in fact that’s what we don’t want. You can’t build your career path if all you know is people on your level. The packs deliberately contain people of all rank and title. We’ve discovered that as the women talk, the rank tends to disappear. The important thing is that the women get to know each other and learn how to build out their own “network” of associates.
MARY: Besides being personally beneficial, I can see where women customers would be more apt to patronize a Best Buy store that treats its employees with such respect. What about the business side of the pack, are the packs coming up with new Best Buy programs?

JULIE: We have innovation projects launched on the packs to reinvent the company. For example, one of the projects is a Job Share innovation pilot to build a capability where professionals in stores could share a job to ensure we keep talent that may not be able to do the full-on retail hours.

MARY: I’m sure parents appreciate that and anyone else who has to split up their personal and professional life. What about the customers, can they feel the WoLF influence yet?

JULIE: You’ve heard of the Geek Squad, right? It’s a company within Best Buy that helps customers trouble shoot their electronic problems. Recently we’ve seen where the women geeks, we call DIVAS [Dynamic Intelligent Vivacious Agents with Solutions] have turned up more business simply by being… well… women. They may be called out to a home for a computer problem, and then the homeowner feels so comfortable with them that they take them to a second electronic snafu and so on. Sometimes they even invite them to dinner.

MARY: I didn’t know the Geek Squad had women, I’ve only seen the guys in action.

JULIE: DIVAs are fairly new, but because they see things from a woman’s perspective they are uncovering issues the guys might miss. One of our Geek Agents-Kat S., was very passionate about educating parents on the risks their kids face on the Internet. [Child predators can easily find kids based on information they share freely with the emergence of sites like myspace.com and others.]  She created a brochure and training for parents so that they will be educated on this and ensure their children are safe. It's called the Internet Lingo Guide for Parents, Keep Your Kids Safe.

MARY: What a very needed idea. Did you put the information online as well?

JULIE: Yes. There was such a high demand that we put it on the front page of the Geek Squad and added other things since then. The brochure itself is in the Best Buy stores that have Personal Shopping Assistants throughout the country or what we call "Jill stores."

MARY: I’m sure you’d like to have more Geek’s (or DIVAs) like her.

JULIE: Actually we’ve partnered with many organizations to build female linkages.  One of these is Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Chicago to build a pipeline of agents specifically for the Geek Squad. I guess you’d say it’s a women-helping-women program.

MARY: Really? I met some women at BlogHer that will be happy to hear that. Finding ways to encourage girls to go into technology was a big concern during the tech session. I have to admit though, that women-helping-women isn’t normally how you visualize Best Buy, are you afraid it will hurt it’s image? 

JULIE: This isn’t about marketing, it’s about changing the way all women perceive technology and helping them to do that through education and support, both as employees and consumers. It’s also about changing the way we relate to one another, and becoming better leaders through helping others be successful.  If you are an amazing leader, you can accomplish anything you wish.  The best ideas happen when people are allowed to think freely - and howl once in awhile…

MARY:  You got that right! Thank you Julie for not only leading the women of Best Buy, but defining a whole new business model for other consumer companies to follow. I have to go now,  and load up on Best Buy stock. 

For more information on Best Buy and the Women Leadership Forum email wolf@bestbuy.com.

August 17, 2006

Of Wine and Women

Over on WonderBranding, Michelle is stirring the vat with her take on the wine industry marketing to women.

I see many comments are about word-of-"mouth" being the best way to sell wine. In that case, I think that companies like reseller Got Great Wine have done the best job of positioning and selling to women.
1. Provide 6 bottles to taste at a party for $59. (Cheap party booze)
2. Provide a wine tasting expert for free. (cheaper party entertainment)
3. Bring in boutique California wines that you'd never find anywhere else except at the vineyard. (provide guests with a unique experience)
4. Make a buck besides (hosts can get wine gifts, ala Tupperware)

Everyone wins, everyone learns, everyone goes home happy... now THAT's how to market to women and WITH women.

August 15, 2006

Are the meek inheriting the capitalist earth?

And the conversation continues over on Susan Getgood's blog regarding white male dominance (still) in business, advertising and blogging. How after all this time, the 'club' is still the club. Sighhhhhhh....

Perhaps it's time to sit back and take the same stance as the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when she said something like, "He may be the head of the family, but I am the neck and I can turn the head in any direction..."

In other words, we (as women) don't have to push to be heard anymore, all we have to do is try, buy, (complain) and capitalism will turn the heads of those talking in a new direction. It is happening already thanks to some great push work that set the foundation.

Within my lifetime, women gained educational opportunities. Title IX did that.
Within my lifetime, women gained political clout. The Women’s Rights movement did that.
Within my lifetime, women could buy their own home. The above, did that.

Within my lifetime, masses of women found their voice and are now using it. The Internet and blogs did that.

With all that in place, the "meek" (as some see women) are reclaiming their place on the earth. How? Follow the money…

- An estimated 2/3rds of the Gross Domestic Product is made up of consumer goods.
- 80% of who buys or specifies those consumer products are women.
- Will companies do whatever they can to win the majority customer over? You bet.
- Can that affect social change? It already has. If you believe in the 1% rule, it doesn't take much.

In three years Super Bowl ads went from disgusting to practically Disney. Women have complained for decades, but now we have money and access to public opinion. Business had to change or lose customers - better, more responsible and resonating advertising was the result. 

Follow the money...

The forefathers of this country were able to evoke change and put a constitution into place because they were the land owners with cash and clout. If history has taught us one thing, it's that cash and clout carries more weight than a good speech. If you were a company, who will you be listening to, the men blogging away and linking to each other or the women who may not be top bloggers, but who actually buy your stuff? Follow the money...

Fortunately for humanity, the women coming into their own cash and clout are also adding their heart and soul to the mix. And, if there is anything that this world needs more of right now, it's heart and soul.

Can women change the world?
In a customer driven market? Yes.  The more that the average woman knows that she is in the driver’s seat the more SHE (all alone) can hold corporations to a higher level of ethical behavior as well as better products and services.  Does it really matter if men link to men and women link to women? Only if you're in marketing and then you want every woman linking to you. That won't happen unless you earn their friendship and trust.  How are you going to do that guys? Humm, maybe linking to our blogs and sites is a start... Until that happens, we'll just keep linking to each other and building our own infrastructure.

Are women meek? Not when they have the right leverage... follow the money.

August 13, 2006

INSIDE: NEW Entrepreneurs

Christine_klosterToday we're going to go inside a business group that visualizes it's way to success, among other things. It's not your typical business structure, but it's working well.

I'm speaking with Christine Kloser, the Founder of NEW Entrepreneurs, Inc., President of Love Your Life Publishing and Producer of the Conscious Entrepreneurs Tele-Summit helps service-based entrepreneurs integrate their business and their life, making it possible to experience personal, financial, business and spiritual fulfillment.

Named the Wealthy Woman’s Business Ambassador for her dedication to empowering entrepreneurs, Christine has been nationally recognized as a business and empowerment expert.  In addition to her own book series, Inspiration to Realization, her business and success advice has been featured in the books:

The Ugly Truth about Small Business by Ruth King
Web Wonder Women by Lynne Klippel
What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business by Jan Norman
Empowering Women to Power Network by Ponn M. Sabra
The Business Mom Guidebook by Terrilee Harrison
Heart of a Woman by Sheryl Rousch
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker

A former television host, Christine has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs and has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Woman’s Day.  Her insights and articles are regularly published in the NEW Connections ezine, which reaches thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide.

MARY: When most people hear of a “networking business” they think about pyramid type companies, like Tupperware, how is NEW Entrepreneurs different?

CHRISTINE: NEW Entrepreneurs isn’t anything like that; this is truly a web of women “circles” working together to inspire themselves and each other to be better business people and better people in general.

MARY: Could you describe how it operates?

CHRISTINE: Let me go back to the beginning to answer that. We started in 2000 after I had attended every networking meeting possible and just didn’t feel at home. I wanted to meet other entrepreneur types, those who created their business from scratch who understood the frustrations that I was facing. I did that by asking five friends to join me at a Chinese restaurant. The next month “we” met again, only those five sent others who more closely represented the vision of sharing each other’s successes or failures and cheering each other on. The next month there were more women and then more… we kept outgrowing restaurants and today hold our meetings locally at a hotel or virtually. At it's core it's still one circle of women, helping another.

MARY: How many members?

CHRISTINE: About 700 meet on the ground and in the air, as well as 5000 more on our mailing list.

MARY: That’s a lot of influence. Where are the ground groups?

CHRISTINE: I started in Southern California, although I’m now in Pennsylvania where we moved after my daughter was born. The groups reflect my physical location and are located in Santa Monica, Agoura Hills, Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley, Boston with additional on-the-ground chapters are also being developed in Orange County, San Diego and San Fernando Valley. On top of this we have our virtual, tele-seminar group to accommodate the many more who can’t make a ground meeting.

MARY: What’s the typical member?

CHRISTINE: She’s an entrepreneur for one, someone who creates her dream instead of building on someone else’s established practice. Age wise the women are about 30-55 and have been in business for a few years, either with a corporation or on their own. We have a few men, but very few. They aren’t really comfortable with our style of meeting.

MARY: What is your style?

CHRISTINE: Well, for instance at the end of the meetings, we stand in a circle holding hands, much like women might have done around a campfire eons ago, and then envision how we want to see our business and our world. Most men wouldn’t feel comfortable in that situation, it’s a bit too touchy-feely, but it works for us and makes us feel more connected and committed.

MARY: How do you pull that off virtually?

CHRISTINE: We can’t really hold hands, but I guess you could say that we hold hearts and again spend a moment envisioning what we would like to see for ourselves and the group. It’s spiritual or group dynamics at work depending on where you are in your belief system.

MARY: Since spirituality is mention often on your site, how do you see it coming into play with your NEW Entrepreneurs?

CHRISTINE: It’s more of an acceptance that we are all one in energy, per se, that it’s neither created nor destroyed and it’s on a continuum. We just try to tap into that energy while reaffirming that we are a creator of more energy as well as a sharer and barer of it.

MARY: Yep, that’s definitely not the usual business meeting, but apparently it’s helping a whole new audience.

CHRISTINE: (laughing) I’ll admit, that I never did fit into the corporate mold, but I am happy to say that our members have reported double and triple profits since joining the fold. Something must be working.

MARY: That sort of follows the “Think and Grow Rich” concept, but you must do more than visualize before it works.

CHRISTINE: We sure do. One thing we do is get women published. So far we’ve helped nearly 200 women become authors. Every woman has a story, they need be acknowledged for their thoughts on leading, healing and guiding business in new ways.

In 2003 we launched a seminar division featuring one-day business events to educate entrepreneurs on strategies to improve their business… and their life.  Most recently, I  introduced the Conscience Entrepreneurs Telesummit™ which features experts like Michael Gerber the author of E-Myth, Alexandria Brown the Award-Winning “Ezine Queen,” Dr. Joe Vitale, Author of The Attractor Factor and one of Oprah’s favorite repeat guest experts. We’re also introducing our first annual “NEW Connections Retreat” in the mountains of Southern California this September, which coincides with the launch of the Conscience Business Circle™. We want to give our women all the resources, inspiration and tools that they need to succeed.

MARY: Including the direction?

CHRISTINE: The direction they set themselves, but through our “system,” if that’s what you want to call it, we certainly help them find it.

MARY: How do you stay connected? I see you don’t have a blog.

CHRISTINE: Blogs aren’t for everyone and frankly I don’t have the time to maintain one, I’d rather focus my energy on a newsletter and the other resources that we’ve already established. They seem to be helping our members the most.

MARY: Do you see yourself as a leader, facilitator or party host?

CHRISTINE: Definitely a leader in the sense of being visionary. With the spirituality movement increasing, I feel like I’m on the forefront of bringing it into business.

MARY: Ok, I’m going to close my eyes and envision a better world, what take away thoughts would you like me to have?

CHRISTINE: To embrace the power of speaking up, asking for help and finding and building relationships with other like-minded women. I would like to ask that all entrepreneurs understand that because they don’t follow the rules that they are in the position to create rules for a better business society.

MARY: Thanks Christine, for envisioning a better way to set your business goals and to get ongoing answers.

Christine can be reached at:

August 11, 2006

Just Say QuizNOs

Ok, I'll admit, I've enjoyed my share of Quizno's subs even though they are priced too high for what you get. Having read this, however, I have an additional reason to try the next franchise in the mall.

We can't blame a whole franchise on one kinky marketing guy, but he did more than hit on a 13 year old. According to the Ad Age article, "he" the Senior VP of Marketing "has been involved with some much-maligned campaigns at Quiznos, from the shrieking 'spongemonkeys' to a wisecracking character with the body of an infant but voice of an adult named Baby Bob who hit on adult women."

He wasn't the only one approving those ads, however, and we hope Quiznos goes back to marketing their quality product. The price paid for this kind of advertising is pretty high, too.

August 08, 2006

INSIDE: Women4Success

Karen_morrison_women4success_1 We’re talking with Karen Morrison, the president and CEO of Women 4 Success (www.women4success.com) It’s a small group (under 100) women, but the structure and the lessons learned from the dynamics are worth noting – especially if you’re a trying to sell into a women’s organization via word of mouth.

Karen has her Masters in clinical psychology from Pepperdine and was on her way to becoming a marriage counselor until she had her first child. At that point she needed to do something that allowed her to be a parent and a professional. “Women are the ones who generally have to restructure their time and day around the kids,” she said. “I had to be realistic and find something that would let me be a parent, use my education and also provide a living wage. I also wanted something that would provide real meaning in my life,” she continued, “Which is goal that many of our members have as well.”

Karen then did just what she tells other women to do now, she hired a coach. During that time she took a hard look at all her skills and determined that coaching others is what she wanted to do as well. She already was doing it in social services, this was just taking it a step further and back into her home. The difference between what Women4Success does and what other business training courses might do, however, is that she helps clients be successful and still have a personal life.

Mary: How did you decide to work only with women?

Karen: When I started, I wasn’t focused on women, but it evolved that way.  Men, for the most part just want an action list as to what to do next. Women have a lot more going on in their lives. They need to work through those fears and the things that overwhelmed them before they could get to the point of making a list. I discovered that my coaching style and experience just worked better with women.

Once I was into it, I found that women were hesitant to pay the high prices with one-on-one training and that’s when I started the Women4Success model which allows women to join at a low entry fee of $27 a month, It’s less than the cost of a typical networking luncheon and it is focused completely on helping them succeed.

Mary: I see that entry level members get a teleconference call once a month, tell me about that.

Karen: During that call, members can ask anything they want of myself, another coach or the group. As they get to know people on the call, they start to building up their network of people to know better at a quarterly live event or during our once a year annual retreat.

At a higher membership levels, they can have one-on-one sessions with the peers or industry experts. It’s much like having your own personal board of directors. They can participate in everything the entry level member can, but they get personalized and focused attention based on their industry.

Mary: Do women come, get their coaching and move on?

Karen: Some do, but others have told me that they come for the training and then stayed for the camaraderie. That’s why we host events, so that the women can really get to know one another and share their experiences. During an event like kayaking, they get to know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. That’s where they take off the masks. Later on, and back inside a group session, they know that it’s a safe place to tell the truth of what’s really happening in their business and life.

Mary: Is it different coaching women than men?

Karen: For one thing, women are more comfortable coming together and not staying alone. They’re already used to the concept of community and know how to operate inside of one. For them it’s a low emotional entry point as well as low cost.

Second, for them, being in a group with other women is less challenging than being in a mixed gender group. I’ve noticed that women show up more as themselves when it’s an all women group than when men are part of the mix. Here they can embrace their own ‘womanhood’. It’s more about coming as you are to learn, not coming as you aren’t to network.”
Mary: Who is your typical member?

Karen: Generally a sole service professional like a lawyer, web designer, realtor… those who tend to feel isolated and not have anyone to bounce ideas off of. I think the structure works for them for two reasons, first they aren’t buying coaching, they are buying what coaching will do for them and second they understand the community concept. They join to get inspiration and talk though their issues and to be told what to do next by those who have been there. There are tons of books on everything we offer, but women just want answers and they want other women who have gone down the path before to steer them.

Mary: How many chapters do you have?
We have groups of 16 and many individuals that we coach. The groups are in Orange County, Riverside County, San Diego County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and launching in Arizona in the fall of 2006.

Mary: How about your training sessions themselves, how do conduct them for optimal learning?

Karen: I always tell them that I won’t be lecturing for two hours, instead, I give 15-20 minutes of context and then we break into groups to share, discuss and finally do the work. Listening can be inspirational, but it does nothing to implement the idea into their life. By talking with others they come up with ideas that work, throw out the ones that haven’t worked for others and then form their own action plan.

Mary: What has held you back, if anything?

Karen: It’s one of those cons that I turned into a pro… I’m younger than most professional women, but I’ve always worked on my own. During that time I’ve been told that I’m ‘too emotional’ and yet all the success that I’ve achieved has happened because of that emotion. Now I coach others to own and use their strengths, emotional and otherwise and to show up in public as yourself. One of our members followed that advice. She thought she had to be an excellent public speaker to be a success, but she hated giving speeches. Instead, she went a route that fit her better and her business tripled. It’s about trusting yourself.

Mary: What do you do to keep the group together?

Karen: We have a monthly newsletter, through it people get to know me, my professional partners and each other. I asked one new member if she had any additional questions and she said, ‘No, I’ve read all the newsletters and I feel like I know you already.”

Mary: In closing, what would you like the readers to know that different, new or novel – something they can’t turn away from?

Karen: Wow, no pressure there… I think business owners need look for ways to break out of the superficial relationships that typify the usual networking meetings and look for ways that really show them off as people. Our networking and approach mimics how women talk to each other when no one else is watching and I think that’s why it works so well.

Mary: Thanks Karen for an insider view at a women’s group in work and play.

Lessons learned: 1) Make friends FIRST then follow with business. 2) Lead with your heart, and your soul will follow.

You may contact Karen at kmorrison@woman4success.com. If you would like your group founder profile, contact me.