CEO Roundtable

Date: July 20th, 2012

Location: Kirkland Public Library 3308 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland WA

Time: 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Meets Monthly)

Registration: www.ideal-companies.com

This is a roundtable discussion of business issues faced by business owners, CEO’s and motivated entrepreneurs, including solo entrepreneurs and small business professionals. Each attendee will have the opportunity to highlight an issue they face in growing their business. Other attendees will offer their input based on their own knowledge and experience. This event is a very dynamic form of the mastermind. Please come and participate in this learn and share event.

The Dance

Welcome to the dance! Many of the networking groups available today have a technique called the dance. The dance is when two members of the networking group get together and spend about an hour getting to know each other. Each person takes about half of the time and talks about who they are and what they need as far as referrals. This generally gives the participants a good insight into the other person and they are able to refer them to much higher level.

I like to take the concept of the dance a little further than just a networking technique. Over the years I have met and danced with the number of people. A lot of those people became good friends and the rest good acquaintances. I believe this technique is something that most people should do on a regular basis. Invite somebody that you want to get to know better have a cup coffee, and interview them, get to know them, and share a little of yourself with them.

This last Saturday, I had a dance Liz Tidyman. We set about an hour, at Tully’s, to share a cup of coffee and a few stories. As they say time passes when having fun, so three hours later Liz and I were still chatting. It was a delightful time, we talked about the three forbidden topics – sex, politics and religion. We also talked about our time in scouting, schooling, business and life in general. During our discussion, I got to know Liz an entirely different level than our time in Tuesday’s with Deborah. She is a wonderful, intellectual and caring person. I’m glad we had the dance!

My recommendation to all of you is welcome to the dance. Pick a person who you’d like to get to know better, set a time for cup coffee, and enjoy the dance.

A Father’s Story

His son was born at 24 weeks gestation. Very few children survive birth 3 months early. Eyes, lungs, heart; not many functions needed to sustain life are developed at that stage. The doctor didn’t expect the child to survive more than 8 hours. But somehow he did. The father and/or his wife were at the hospital 24/7. They divided their time between home, caring for their two year old daughter, and the hospital, watching over their son – for four months. Finally, after he was able to feed on his own, they were allowed to take him home.

The boy faced multiple disabilities as a result of his premature birth. He was experiencing detached retinas in his eyes, he was unable to hear, he was not using one side of his body because he was unaware of it. For 15 months the family trooped in and out of clinics trying different therapies designed to aid one disability or another. Finally at 19 months, they walked through the doors of Kindering in Bellevue.

This morning, at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club, my club, I heard a remarkable story. It’s not the first time I’ve heard stories like this one of courage and hope. Nor is it the first time I’ve learned about the world class work being done right in our backyard.

In high school my daughter had a good friend, Liz. Liz had been to our house many times and we enjoyed her warm outgoing personality. At the time I was working in a human service organization, attending meetings in the community with other professionals and acquainted with the CEO of Kindering, Mimi Siegel.

One day, shopping at the mall, Liz spotted me across the way and came over to say hello. Then her mother walked over as well. “You are Ginger’s mother!” she exclaimed. “You’re Liz’s mother!” I said back. We had no idea that our daughters were good friends. Mimi and I have been good friends as well ever since. Over the years (our daughters are now 38) I have enjoyed our friendship, but more than that I have marveled at the genius behind Kindering.

Founded in 1962 by five Bellevue-area mothers of children with disabilities, Kindering is the only early intervention center serving urban East King County. It is the largest intervention center in Washington State, one of the three largest centers in the nation, and notably the most comprehensive. To maximize each child’s potential, early treatment is profoundly important. Long-term studies show that early intervention is responsible for greater achievements later in life. Kindering works to help the whole child, not just one disability or another.

The boy who arrived at Kindering at 19 months, unable to walk or crawl, to form words, to move his left side, to thrive, is now 18 years old and has a very bright future ahead which includes further education and a job, something his family could never have imagined when he was born.

Mimi came to Kindering when it was just a gathering of mothers of children with disabilities. They asked her to be their first CEO, and she’s the only one they’ve ever had. There are wonderful stories of courage like the father’s story I heard this morning. Or the story of a young man I know who was born with multiple disabilities, not expected to live, and who now is a college graduate with a full time job. Stories of families and children who work hard to push the limits of what others think is possible. There’s a reason why their fundraising luncheon is called the “Courage” event.

Mimi is not a therapist, she doesn’t have a medical degree. Yet Kindering has managed to become a world class leader in developing innovative therapies that help children, born with multiple disabilities or who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, thrive. The genius behind Kindering’s success is Mimi’s ability to hire outstanding people and then get out of their way and let them do what they do best.

Kindering has attracted amazing board members, outstanding staff and a multitude of loyal donors because of the nurturing environment Mimi has created. It’s not only a place where children become the best they can be but it’s supportive place for families as well. I am so pleased and proud to call Mimi my friend.

Is this a Love/Hate Relationship?

Don’t you just love and yet sometimes hate being the CEO of your own business?

This has been a most unexpected journey, a mind stretcher, horizon expander and the opportunity of a life time. It’s been filled with fear and panic. It’s been a challenge. It’s like a roller coaster ride full of screams of terror and delight. It’s been boring and exciting and everything in between.

I know these life expanding moments are not limited to the owners of small businesses. Anyone who decides to take responsibility for his or her own life and especially their income is going to feel some of the same emotions. I just didn’t know it was going to be like this when I started. Like a therapist friend of mine said, “I didn’t become a therapist so I could run a business. I did it to help people.” I wonder how many others in service fields blindly entered into business thinking just being a good _______________ (fill in the blank) is all it takes.

One of my coaches made the comment, “Leona, you have to be a coach, it’s your path to self-actualization”. In being in business for myself as a coach, I’ve had to face my fears square on, toe to toe. I’ve had to stare my demons down and move forward despite the knot in my stomach and the all too clear voice in my head telling me I am going to fail.

Even so, as each coaching call ends there comes the exhilaration of knowing I am doing what I was created to do, being who I was created to be – and there’s no greater thrill.

How about you? What’s it like being the CEO of your own business? What are the challenges you’ve overcome and continue to face? What are the keys to your success?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Earn Customers Without Spending a Dime (according to SEOmoz)

Part 3 of a 3 part series: a review of this users experience at Startup Conference Seattle 2012

How to Earn Customers Without Spending a Dime

Rand Fishkin, Founder and CEO of SEOmoz, is not only smart and personable and his commitment to transparency is evidenced in his slides. He shared the financial story of SEOmoz WHICH is projected this year to earn over 18 million in revenue for the online SEO software tools it creates and maintains, so that customers big and small can improve their organic positions in search results.

You and I and even big ol’ Dell will pay $99 a month for membership and access to the brilliance of SEOmoz’s Brain Trust on Organic Search and how to get it for yourself!

What Rand did right from the beginning was to develop a passion into a service that in time became a product ANYONE could access and all the while he cultivated a passionate community of users who appreciated him as he appreciated them. I remember using SEOmoz tools when they were free and I see value in being a paying member.

  • He shared that he has never spent a dime on paid search.
  • He shared that 35 billion was spent on paid search for 18% of the click thrus.
  • He shared that Google Search grows at 18% a year–organically.

That means there is a big and wide  opportunity for attracting customers who find you through their search. Why buy customers when there are DIY ways to attract them that are low or no cost, organic and grass roots? It is about thinking like the searcher and tracking what works and what didn’t.

I loved the definition of  search he offered.  Search  = “I want this thing right now.”

So besides becoming a member/user of SEOmoz what can one do to attract customers without spending a dime?

  • Realize a need (for which you are the solution)
  • Do research on search acting like the searcher (explore and take note of what you discover)
  • Ask some friends how do they search (again, starting with people you KNOW)
  • What tactics would earn you people’s attention to start a relationship? (may they earn people’s business for you)

The Bottomline: It’s about Content. Content influences everything (and people). Content comes in many forms too. Content that takes into account key words is smart. Content that inspires community and conversation online is golden. Content and community that inspires trust and connection and gets distributed virally is really golden. Product developed out of this collective conversation that solves big problems is bound to be well-received. It starts with listening to what people are asking for and how they ask for it.

The Writer and Marketeer and Community Builder that I do my best to be was grinning from ear to ear. Why?  Because each Tuesday at the Writers Support Group for the Reticent Blogger (that I have now facilitated for two years and counting) I am in my words “preaching” the same message. Build strong relationships by the content we create and share and in the dialogue that follows and ALWAYS be real and generous and transparent and see what is attracted to you.

Content. Community creates Content. Product may be the Content. Or Distribution may be the Content. It all serves as Content that people may be compelled to talk about and share which brings potential customers to you who are INBOUND and with less outbound marketing effort on your part.

The Truthiness Is

Search (done by Real People) continues to grow.

Social (media activity and participation) is discovery prior to interest and demands great content and rewards it.

Social  (media activity and participation)can spread a message like nothing else

Social (media activity and participation) has a huge influence on search and how people change the way they do it.

The Short List mentioned by Rand at this gathering:

Stumbleupon (believe once upon a time I opened an account)

Reddit (uhm, can I handle one more on my list!)

Digg (yes, I digg it.)

Delicious (great name I always thought_

Tumblr (may make my future short list)

Twitter (still hasn’t enchanted me, though I know it is time to say yes to that relationship)

Wikipedia (my favorite  resource!)

Pinterest (gaining eyeballs daily!)

Quora (here begins the conversion funnel says Rand)

So what is an ambitious but busy entrepreneur (like me) with a great idea or two (and some great collaborators)to do to be found by potential clients and advocates?

Blog – check!
Social networking – check!
Social Bookmarking – on my way
Post Video –  not there yet

I am (for the present) good with my 2.5 our of 4 key activities as suggested by the Creator of the web’s most popular SEO software for the DIYer. And I think I will read The Art of SEO while on winter break in Denver!

Remember says Rand: A lot of conversion comes from soft metrics: Content, Search and Community.

I SO agree with that. Which makes me intensely curious: how do I improve “searchability”  on the community blog I co-founded (with y’all) that is filled to the gills with awesome content?

AND, it’s only 11am and there are six more compelling topics awaiting a room of eager listeners… (this attendees review of her experience to be continued after a short intermission and coffee break!)

(My advice reader: If there is a Startup Conference coming to your city, run, don’t walk to register early)

Real Estate, Boobs and Botox, Doctor and Lawyers, and Better Travel Rates.

Part 2 of a 3 part series: a review of this users experience at Startup Conference Seattle 2012

Real Estate, Boobs and Botox, Doctor and Lawyers, and Better Travel Rates.

Serial Entrepreneur and CEO Rich Barton has started a series of business with a common theme. He is driven to keep transparency for the everyday person to have access to information previously available to members in the inner circle only.  As he put it:

Empower the people with information so they can make good decision. ~Richard Barton, CEO of Zillow

He’s got quite the list of projects he is or has been part of!

http://expedia.com  (created while inside Microsoft and the first company to be “set free” and spun off)

http://zillow.com (it’s about making real estate data transparent for all)

http://glassdoor.com (what is going on inside companies re jobs/salaries?)

http://trover.com (up and coming this idea is a social, local, mobile travel resource)

http://realself.com (in short, the truth about boobs and botox services and fees)

http://avvo.com (start here to find a good lawyer/doctor/dentist)

On Being an Intrapreneur vs and Entrepreneur

I didn’t realize that Expedia began as a “travel version of Encarta,” backed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen and developed within Microsoft. It was inspired by a “functional but ugly” Prodigy product used primarily by travel agents that Barton became aware of.  Expedia would also be the first company to spin off of Microsoft. Apparently, creating the “separation agreements and contracts” was a first as well and was an interesting process in itself, shared Barton.

Barton’s suggestion based on his experience: You don’t need to leave the company you are with to build your own (at least not prematurely). If you are casting about for something to do (inside or outside a company) and come up with an idea you want to pursue, consider incubating it while still employed! (Now that makes great sense doesn’t it?)

Have an idea? Need a co-founder? Start with people you know. (Again, that people theme.)

How do you tell if it is a big idea or not? Be advised: What you think it will turn out to be is never the end result. Focus on the pond and the fisherman. How big is the pond? How many fishermen? How much dysfunction in the industry? The BIGGER the dysfunction, the BETTER the prospects for creating a winning SOLUTION that could attract INVESTORS.

It’s who you climb in the boat with and those you add as you grow that matters. It’s the people, people!

And where two co-founders are concerned says Barton: better 49/51 and never 50/50. Someone must have the deciding vote in tough calls (translation for me: check your ego at the start and make it about the bigger vision.) And from the start build in flexibility. Being flexible is key. (You’ll last longer and weather more storms that way.)

The Reality Check: “Most people don’t have what it takes to make it through all weather like the mail…rain, sleet, snow. The best way to make something happen is to be a sharer, a communicator, involve others to engage in giving you feedback.” (Yes. Yes. Yes)

For Rich Barton, his success as the Serial Entrepreneur and CEO is all about:

People. Transparency. Empowerment.

His Opening Keynote was a home run for this participant who couldn’t take notes fast enough.

And what came next was inspiring to me for a whole other set of reasons…

(My advice reader: If there is a Startup Conference coming to your city, run, don’t walk to register early)

Facebook: Why is nobody listening?

Update 2012-02-19 – this original blog post has been cross-posted on “socialmediatoday – the world’s best thinkers on social media,” as well as “SmartData Collective – the world’s best thinkers on business intelligence and analytics.

Summary
One headline this week read, Procter & Gamble would lay off 1,600 after discovering that advertising on Facebook is free. But how many of your 2000 fans bother to take part in the conversationLess than half a percent. Learn from Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Nike! Or maybe NOT.

I just got back from another convention where an ad agency tried to convince the audience that Facebook was a fantastic way to improve your bottom line. Are you sceptical? So am I.

We can probably agree that if a company wants to use social media effectively, it must evaluate its current position with the help of a social media audit (Gattiker, 2012 – coming soon). Moreover, if you run a huge marketing campaign that implies customers are cool and have exciting lives, nobody cares about the brand, as evidenced by this Red Bull branding video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

1. Facebook engagement up to 0.90 percent

But the Red Bull video also suggests that we must audit how well you do with social media. For instance, a very small percentage of fans that Like your competitor’s Facebook page see the carefully crafted status updates. Accordingly, Facebook status updates are similar to broadcasting a message to an empty football stadiumimagine the Super Bowl without an audience.

In the Mercedes-Benz video below, people call for a cab and get picked up by a trailer truck. If you can afford the €200,000 to hire VonMatt to script the story and make the video, you might get 8000 views for the English version and 20,000 for the German one. The question is whether this is a flop. Measure for impact, anyone? Continue reading “Facebook: Why is nobody listening?” »

The Startup Conference Seattle 2012 (part 1of 3)

Got a Big Idea? For a Big Market? Want to Woo Investors and Win Funding? Care to avoid Mistakes made by those who went before you who not only succeeded with one startup but went on to do it again and again?

9am. February 16th was a crisp, cold, grey day in Seattle, WA. Yet again, but I didn’t care at all.

Lucky local me was attending the latest offering of The Startup Conference organized in partnership with the Founders Institute.  As the non-tech entrepreneur that I am, I had registered on an intuitive whim back in December. (Trust your intuition people!)

I was personally interested in the sessions on SEO, Building a Tribe, Fixing Elevator Pitches and Attracting Media Attention. I was particularly looking forward to hearing Rich Barton of Zillow (who originally founded Expedia) and Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz (the web’s most popular SEO Software provider and resource) speak.

It was the idea of hearing Rich Barton and Rand Fishkin speak about their Seattle-based startup experiences  that initially “got me” to register in a flash. And, the WHOLE day was a content rich, dense, and well-organized daylong conference that introduced me to other fine examples of brilliant wisdom and business smarts that honored “people” consistently and at times above the idea.

I enjoyed every minute, all day, furiously taking notes as I listened intently. I was a sponge.

They were smart in how they ran the day. Held from start to finish in one large ballroom at the Westin in downtown Seattle,  I spent the day with 350 other eager students, entrepreneurs,  investors and a handful of media representatives. With wide open interest and no expectations,  I discovered each and every presenter had valuable perspectives and insights and there was a common underlying theme the entire day that I heard.

It comes down to PEOPLE and who we partner with as we leverage emerging and evolving technology to solve the Big Problems in Business and Living. The Vision of the Founders and the Team incubating the Vision make all the difference in the end. People using technology. People make it happen.

Alain Raynaud, organizer of the Startup Conference and Director of the Founders Institute Paris warmed up the room with opening remarks that addressed “finding a co-founder”  by way of illustrating the five mistake many founders make.

(I couldn’t help but ponder how finding a co-founder and dating and marriage (aka a long-term relationship) seem to have some things in common.)

Take it or leave it, his best advice for all the years he’s been starting and growing and selling companies (for profit)goes something like this:

1. Work with someone you know; for a month without agreement, before you lock in (sounds like dating to me). 2. Remember that people don’t copy ideas, they copy success, so don’t be afraid to talk about your idea with potential co-founders (have an attitude of abundance not scarcity). 3. Gather good “people” with skills who complement and supplement each other ( who is needed for your dream team?) 4. Splitting equity fairly is not always simply equal division (division of labor in relationships is seldom 50/50), a mix of full-time and part-time founders seldom works long-term (are all parties fully invested in success?) 5. And choose a CEO (so there is a head of household when needed).

And what if you are an idea guy who needs a developer to join your project! To attract that technical “rockstar” member of the team if you need one (that potential investors will also care about) consider these “carrots”:

  • Can you show evidence of  “traction”?
  • Are customers signing up to your Beta version?
  • Are investors interested but asking you for specifics?

What struck me about ALL that Alain Raynaud suggested: it was ultimately about choosing GREAT PEOPLE to work with.  People you could imagine spending years with in times of struggle and hard work and celebration (again, to me this is sounding like a REAL marriage or long-term relationship!)

I was now officially primed to listen all day to successful business founders sharing stories of trials, tribulations and success, meaningful tips, smart strategies and practical tactics for creating my own venture.

What would fascinate me even more this day?  Every CEO’s story of an idea (a GRAND Problem to Solve) that became a company that would succeeded and become profitable had its roots and story of origin in: Passion, Determination, Resilience, Creativity, Adaptability to name a few of the key qualities OF ITS PEOPLE, its Founders, its STARTING LINE UP.

And the Opening Keynote by CEO of Zillow, Rich Barton hasn’t even happened yet…

(My advice reader: If there is a Startup Conference coming to your city, run don’t walk to register early)

CEO Roundtable March 16th

Date: March 16th, 2012

Location: Kirkland Public Library 3308 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland WA

Time: 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Meets Monthly)

Registration: www.ideal-companies.com

This is a roundtable discussion of business issues faced by business owners, CEO’s and motivated entrepreneurs, including solo entrepreneurs and small business professionals. Each attendee will have the opportunity to highlight an issue they face in growing their business. Other attendees will offer their input based on their own knowledge and experience. This event is a very dynamic form of the mastermind. Please come and participate in this learn and share event.

CEO Roundtable February 17th

This is a roundtable discussion of business issues faced by business owners, CEO’s and motivated entrepreneurs, including solo entrepreneurs and small business professionals. Each attendee will have the opportunity to highlight an issue they face in growing their business. Other attendees will offer their input based on their own knowledge and experience. This event is a very dynamic form of the mastermind. Please come and participate in this learn and share event.

This is a monthly event and generally meets on the third Friday of the month.  We meet at the Kirkland Library, 308 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland, WA.  Time is 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.  Register at www.ideal-companies.com.