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9 posts from May 2009

May 29, 2009

Nice work ... if you can get it

Friends used to tease me about what a cushy job I had writing sports. Get into all those events free. Great seats. Sit in a nice warm press box in lousy football weather. Free food (though in later years that perk wasn't what it used to be). 

Yeah, it was good work. But it had drawbacks, too. Lots of night and weekend work. Late night drives home in crummy weather. While fans return to the parking lot to continue imbibing after a football game, you're banging out a quick story and then heading to the interview room to try to elicit useable quotes from players who don't always feel like talking. There was travel, to be sure, but how long has it been since flying somewhere was a pleasurable experience?

There was the occasional assignment, though, that was downright cushy and I'm sitting at the site of one of them right now. I'm talking about covering golf. It's a pretty sweet gig. In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to admit how easy it is.  I'm reminded of that as I write this from the comfort of the Glen Oaks clubhouse at the Principal Charity Classic.

Covering golf, you work in gorgeous surroundings. The Glen Oaks media room looks out over the swimming pool, the 18th green and some of the palatial homes lining the course. The media folks from the PGA are knowledgeable, friendly and go out of their way to help you. The golfers, especially on the Champions Tour, are approachable and easy going.  Hey, these guys found a new life at 50. Who wouldn't be happy about that?

While it's always good to wander around the course to get a feel for things, you can watch the tournament on TV in the media room and they bring the golfers to you. They're usually good for decent quotes and their recall is amazing. I was talking to Tom Watson once and he could remember shots he made years before, the club he used and exactly how far he was from the hole. I'm lucky to remember what I did last week. The food, you ask? Well, today's menu featured pecan-encrusted walleye and key lime pie (or pecan, if that's your preference). And to think I used to get paid for this.

Admittedly there's a lot of pressure covering a major tournament, especially when you work for the Associated Press. You have to tell a great story and you have to do it quickly and accurately. And here at the Principal Charity Classic, Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register works his tail off turning out stories. But for an AP guy covering a routine tournament, it doesn't get much better.

Just don't spread that around, OK?

Connecting with WBO Bloggers

Why are women business owners adding blogging to their workloads? Well, we're always looking for ways to connect with people. Here are three blogging WBOs who are members of the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO-CI) and insights on how they use blogging to benefit their businesses and lives.

6a00d83453ad4169e200e55006e56d8834-150wi Kathy Towner of Win Communications in Des Moines was excited to see me blogging, something she's been doing since late in 2005. She's inspired to add links on her Web site to the blogs of other women business owners. So don't be shy about coming forward; comment here to promote your blog or post links to the WBO blogs you read. We can share a lot of "been there, done that" business knowledge this way. 

Kathy started blogging to establish herself as an expert in Internet marketing and permission-based e-mail publishing. One impressive result of her efforts: Kathy has improved her search results on Google. Her blog is purely professional and serves as a resource center for tips and ideas on e-mail marketing programs. When she's making a presentation to get new business, Kathy frequently responds to potential customer questions by simply pulling up her blog and showing them the answers. She lets her work (not just her verbal sell strategies) speak to the depth of her knowledge. And when someone e-mails her a question, she can frequently save the time it takes to craft a meaningful response by simply referring them to a specific blog post. Kathy's favorite recent post is a strategy for social media marketing.  

Pic_cindy When Cindy Helgason, owner of ten-year-old Soapourri Natural Bath & Body, LLC, isn't handcrafting glycerin soaps, her hands might be found on the keyboard. Cindy has been blogging for two years and says it's a "good way to communicate with my customers and others about my products, my life, my city and more." She's run contests and polls on her blog. 

Last November 17 she got tired of fearful media reports and depressing conversations about the economy. So Cindy wrote a "good news" blog, asking readers to post something positive going on in their lives. She rewarded them with a low priced "economic stimulus/good news soap" in a sugar and spice fragrance. She's posted a few times about personalized soaps she's made (one with a picture of five hearts, each topped with "I love you" in a different language). A picture was worth a thousand words: that post resulted in a lot of orders from people who came across her blog post while searching for personalized soaps. 

Sandy062007 Sandy Renshaw, Purple Wren, started blogging in mid-2006 after attending a blogging conference. Her Web site and static pages grew from her blog. She uses blogging to express herself and finds that she's not only expanding her thinking, but her world. Sandy's attended SOBCon (Successful and Outstanding Bloggers Conference -- tagline: Biz School for Bloggers) to learn as well as meet bloggers in person. Sandy blogged on arounddesmoines.com and then purchased the site. She's collaborated on two books with other bloggers and has also designed book covers, logos, and Powerpoint presentations for other bloggers. 

Sandy, who also does live blogs from local events, is big on using visuals and has urged me to add more photos (so I did and maybe one of these days you'll find videos -- talk about a demanding learning curve). Her Wordless Wednesday posts are photos she finds to share. One of her favorite posts--with words--is about creating a treasure map of your goals

May 22, 2009

TSB: An Aha Moment

Background: Many times in my 30 years as a WBO (woman business owner), I heard that I needed to become certified by Iowa's Targeted Small Business (TSB) program. The program is designed to help women, minorities (American Indian, Asian, Black, Latino, Pacific Islander or persons with disabilities start and grow their businesses. 

But many WBOs would focus on one program component: access to government entities—and corporations from Iowa and other states—who turned to the TSB roster to meet minority contracting goals. All the years that I've been up to my eyeballs in work, I never completed the hefty packet of paperwork to get certified. Plus, the vast majority of the WBOs I knew who became certified would report, "I didn't renew my TSB certification because I never got any business." 

Fast Forward to 2009: This year I've revisited just about every business decision I ever made and checked out TSB certification. The process is now streamlined and simple. That "directory of TSBs" is now online and easily searchable by a world of potential users. The TSB program also offers low interest loans and technical assistance to TSBs. 

So I'm now TSB-certified and officially registered as a vendor with the State of Iowa. Before yesterday I'd done two things since getting started last month: I looked to see who else was certified (600 businesses) and I reviewed the RFPs posted by state agencies in the Current Bidding Opportunities List. The only opportunity I saw that was connected to my skills was huge in scope, not a project that my small business could successfully complete. So until Thursday I was perhaps destined to be one of those women saying, "I got certified and never got any business from the state!" 

That's when I learned that only projects of $10,000+ have to go out for bid. Dah! In three decades of work I can still name the individual projects I've had that netted $10,000 for P.S. Writes. So it's time to look at ways to access my typical opportunities (those that top out at $9,999) with state agencies. 

On Thursday I attended a "Doing Business with the State of Iowa" workshop. I learned the ins and outs of state procurement from TSB (Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals), the Department of Administrative Services, Iowa State University, Department of Transportation, Department of the Blind, and the Iowa Communications Network. I walked away with the names of specific purchasing individuals who want to connect with vendors with my areas of expertise. And now I know that much more is required than getting my name on that TSB list and becoming a registered Iowa vendor. That wasn't going to create a new revenue stream. Relationships still need to be there. I'm still responsible for connecting. It's still up to me to make the contacts and market myself so that I'm more than just a name on a list.

May 20, 2009

Remembering a track guru

What I'm about to relate happened years ago and I don't remember exactly where, though it probably was Drake Stadium because it had to do with track. Anyway, the guy who said this wasn't a big track fan and I still remember the joke he made about his indifference.

``You know,'' he said, ``the only thing more boring than track is field.''

I don't remember who said it, but I do know this: It wasn't Mike Henderson.

Henderson was the information director for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union who died in 2004, taking with him to a better place a vast storehouse of names, numbers, places and events. His razor-sharp recall worked for all sports, but track was his first love. With the state high school meet getting under way Thursday, this seems a good time to talk about Mike for a minute.

Mike's involvement with track went far beyond his job with the Girls Union. He worked at meets around the country. He was a key figure in getting the Drake Relays up and running each year, so important that Drake always found him a place to work on campus in the weeks leading up to the meet. Former Relays director Bob Ehrhart looked to Mike as his guiding hand  in selecting athletes for the invitational events. When Mike spoke, the Drake folks listened.

When I needed to talk to him the week of  the state meet to figure out what might happen, I always could find him on the second floor of the Drake Stadium press box, surrounded by paper, empty cups and food containers. Mike was not the neatest guy around (I can just see those of you who knew him smiling at that memory).  If you looked up ``unkempt'' in the dictionary, you'd probably find Mike's picture. But his mind was as neatly organized as the most sophisticated Excel file. If I had just a fraction of Mike's knowledge of track (and field, too), I'd consider myself an expert.

The next week, Mike would be working away in the press box to get ready for the boys meet and I'd climb those steps again to get his take on that event. The Girls Union was good about sharing Mike because they understood that when you have a treasure, you need to let others benefit from him, too. When a meet was going on and Mike was there, you just knew things would be fine. Now, if problems came up or things got a little tense, it's known that Mike would utter an occasional swear word, maybe even string a few together. But he'd always get everything sorted out and keep working as if nothing had happened. ``Oh, Chuck, I didn't see you there. What do you need?''

The state meet didn't go coed until after Mike died. I'm not quite sure what he would have thought of that. On one hand, he would have enjoyed three straight days of track, including a couple that stretch to nearly 12 hours. But when the meets were separate, he got two weekends of track instead of just one, so there was always something to be said for that.

Since Mike's been gone, everyone at the meet has had to work a little harder. Before, all we had to do was ask Mike. Now, we have to look all that darn stuff up.

May 15, 2009

Lucca's coming back -- will it matter?

Good for Lucca.

By deciding to return to the Iowa State basketball team next season, Lucca Staiger is doing himself a favor. First, he'll have another year of classes toward a college degree. There's no guarantee he'll stick around long enough to actually get that degree, of course. But he'll be closer to it than if he had left school to play professionally in Europe. A little extra education can't hurt, no matter what you plan to do with your life.

Second, he'll have another year of seasoning in one of the nation's most competitive conferences. No, he won't be the star. Craig Brackins has that role all to himself. But you don't have to be a star to make yourself better. Staiger at least will have that chance.

Whatever Staiger decided, it wasn't going to make or break the Cyclones' season. He was inconsistent last season, struggled on defense and was strictly a one-dimensional player. And even when he shot it well, it didn't necessarily lead to a victory.  In his best game, Staiger knocked down eight 3-pointers against Drake. The Cyclones still lost.

Now, I'll cut him some slack. After the widely publicized battle with the NCAA over his eligibility, the expectations on him were over the top. It was asking too much for him to live up to all that hype. Plus, he wasn't healthy, which triggered the frustration that led him to think about staying closer to his family in Germany. So I'm willing to give him a chance to show what he can do, to see if he can make that jump you expect between Season One and Season Two. If he can expand his game a little, he could give the team a nice lift.

Brackins, for one, should be pulling for Staiger. The better the Cyclones shoot from the perimeter, the fewer double- and triple-teams he'll see.

After watching the team's leading scorer depart for one reason or another in each of his first three seasons, coach Greg McDermott finally has seen his luck change with Brackins and Staiger returning. Now the onus is on McDermott to produce.

May 12, 2009

Letting Go of the Story

What's the story you tell about yourself—to others as well as in your self-talk? Do you present yourself as blessed or as a victim? Are you truly happy or just going through the motions of getting through another day because you "have" no other choices?

Chances are you're giving the wrong thoughts power they don't deserve. Elizabeth Grant, The Quantum Coach, says that the stories that hold us back are the ones we tend to repeat, either as we talk to ourselves or as we talk to others. So if you're giving your energy to beating yourself up, or commiserating with your peers over fewer and slower-paying clients, scaled-back plans for this year's vacation, or dwelling on what went wrong (whether it was just yesterday or when you were in fifth grade), you're putting it out to the universe and asking for more of the same (God forbid I relive the guilt of that fifth grade chalk fight!). 

If you see yourself as a person who has endless reasons and excuses for attracting misery, you're saying, "This is the way I am, bring it on." Your verbal declaration affirms it, says you're attached to it, and asks for more miserable energy to come your way. Time to get over it and write a few new stories? 

Since hearing Elizabeth speak in April at a meeting of NAWBO-CI, I've been listening each morning to her short "Quantum Power Sessions." I slip (a lot, I admit) from the empowered/confident/self-accepting place she introduces in her session and the intention I set for myself regarding my thinking throughout the day; old stories are quite well rehearsed, you know. Heck, we've based our lives on them, whether they help us or hurt us. identifying and getting rid of the stories that no longer serve us takes deliberate attention and energy. Elizabeth provides daily "thought corrections" when our minds can't keep us on track, living life as our highest selves. If you'd like a free two-week trial of Elizabeth's sessions, jump in now. We're working on our stories this week, and I love a good story. 

May 06, 2009

Living "Little" on LinkedIn

I always think I'm the last one on earth to embrace new technology, but this week an internal software designer asked me what a Tweet was, so there are still people out there who might benefit from learning my meager steps into the world of social networking media. I'm not Tweeting (yet), but here's my experience to date on LinkedIn. 

A couple of years ago I was invited to connect on LinkedIn by Julie Gammack, a Washington D.C. area business coach. Today, I'm still just scratching the LinkedIn surface. Julie and I were friends from her Des Moines days and spent many an afternoon together in a small writing group. She billed LinkedIn as "Facebook for professionals." I wasn't on Facebook (still am not). LinkedIn has been around since 2003, and today someone joins this online networking community about every second. There are some 40 million members representing 170 industries in over 200 countries/territories around the world.

LinkedIn says it exists to "connect the world's professionals to accelerate their success" and to help us "make better use of our professional networks and help the people we trust in return." And I love these words from the short intro video: "It's about helping YOU be more productive" by showing you who knows whom to create a visible path for reaching people who are potential clients, suppliers or subject experts. I'm not more productive yet, but I haven't exactly chosen to be joined at the hip to LinkedIn. 

I didn't upload my address book. I started small by inviting some contacts to connect with me (just to see what happened). Some folks declined. LinkedIn tells me that my 26 connections now connect me with more than 1,300 people. Hmm, time to expand the holiday card list. I can visit the profiles of each of my connections and access the names and companies/organizations of their connections. I can see the names of our shared connections.

So far I've set up my profile, which tells my education and my current experience, honors, group interests, etc., and links to my web site and this blog. Other than a photo, I haven't posted personal information (address, birthday, phone, etc.) and don't see a reason to. I have two recommendations from women business owners I have worked with (though my profile says there's one recommendation -- a system-wide problem that software folks are working on it, I hear) and I've given one recommendation, with others to follow now that I've figured out how to do that. Judging by the number of FAQs in the customer service area, I'd say there are a lot of us trying to navigate little LinkedIn challenges. 

I can join groups, create my own group and follow discussions in areas of professional interest. I can post questions and get expert answers (a great option when one is writing an article/brochure and wants to find someone to quote on a highly specific subject), and I can search past questions and answers. Folks, I have done none of this. I accept responsibility for not living large on LinkedIn. 

One of the hardest things to embrace about all the new "opportunities" in social media is that every hour I add to sitting at the computer is an hour I'm not face to face with another human being. I admit I've had wonderful sharing via email (researching an article on biking in Connecticut a couple of years ago connected me with a retired gentleman in that state who I still would love to meet...and I don't even bike). But I will continue to put the highest value on face-to-face networking, getting to know new people and connecting with those I care about. I'm not sure how much more productive all this online stuff will make me, but I won't know unless I jump in and explore. I'll keep you posted on my learning and results.

It's about time for another round of invitations to see if some of you want to give this a whirl. I'd love to know if this has been a business-building tool and pathway to productivity for you. At any rate, the LinkedIn updates I get about the professional people in my network are providing little snippets I might not otherwise know (nothing juicy, but perhaps they're conversation starters...as if I ever lacked for words). 

By the way: In December, Julie Gammack sent me an invitation to view her Facebook page where she can post pictures, videos and events. I'm not ready for that yet. Baby steps.

May 01, 2009

Choosing Happiness in a Down Economy

Yesterday morning I hosted a coffee for women business owners at Cafe Diem in Ankeny, IA. Fifteen females shared tips and techniques that we use each day to stay confident, remain unflappable, feel heartfelt gratitude and choose happiness. We get physical with yoga, as well as regular and irregular workouts. When time for exercise is limited, we walk quickly around the yard to check out spring growth or "mindlessly" vacuum when a task change and feeling of accomplishment are needed. We say affirmations, envision positive outcomes, meditate and linger on thoughts of gratitude. We feel the calming presence of friends/family who have passed and the joy of being a powerful example for our kids. One woman keeps a small digital photo frame on her desk, so pictures of people and experiences she loves are always just a glance away. We choose to be around positive people, and we keep smiling (even when negative folks corner us). Aligning ourselves with who we truly are brings peace, and we embrace our faith. 

Most simply trust, believing that tough times happen for a reason, even when the "why?" isn't clear. Knowing we'll be stronger, smarter and better for weathering any storm is a given. We continually pay attention to our self talk and change course when needed. Thinking from a mindset of abundance works for us. We make a conscious choice to not worry and obsess, and we act by stepping away from our fears and chaos. After one hour surrounded by positive thoughts and passionate women, I had the most amazing, productive and truly smooth work day that I can remember in 2009. I'm still smiling more than 24 hours later. Thanks, ladies! 

Incidentally, the a.m. coffees (and afternoon "happy" coffees) are activities of the National Association of Women Business Owners - Central Iowa Chapter. They're free (just buy your own beverages) and no registration is required. For upcoming events, check out www.nawbo-ci.org.

Barcelona memories

Iowa State's hiring of Kevin Jackson as wrestling coach takes me back to 1992. I was in Barcelona, covering the final couple of days of wrestling, and saw Jackson win his gold medal amid chaos that looked more like something out of WWE than the Olympics.

He beat Elmadi Jabraijlov of the Unified Team -- that's what they called the former Soviet republics back then -- 1-0 in a sudden-death overtime match. The Unified coaches and non-U.S. fans went bonkers when the officials did not award Jabraijlov a point as Jackson slid across the mat on his butt to get out of bounds while Jabraijlov held his leg.  One of the coaches threw his sandals onto the mat as he and his cohort stormed to the scorer's table.

Later, when Jackson took Jabraijlov down for the winning point, the ruckus started again. The coaches went back to the scorer's table to scream some more, Jabraijlov joined them and the crowd hooted and whistled while Jackson stood alone at the center of the mat. One coach slid across the mat, looking like someone trying to douse a fire in his pants, to imitate what Jackson had done. When the wrestlers returned for the medal ceremony, Jackson stood at attention while the national anthem was played, the gold medal draped around his neck, but the hooting crowd almost drowned out the music. At his proudest moment, he was jeered as a villain even though he had done nothing wrong. 

To his credit, Jackson shrugged it off and never lashed back. ``I don't know how long I'll smile, but I'll walk around with a smile I'm sure until I leave Barcelona,'' he said at the time. ``Once I hit the States, it'll appear again.''

A gold medal in any endeavor is something to treasure.  I hope he's still smiling about it. I'm sure he's smiling about being Iowa State's coach.