An Interview with CorePurpose founder, Joan Koerber-Walker

A Time for Growth An interview with Ahwatukee “-preneur” Joan Koerber-Walker  It’s spring in the valley – a time for new growth, more green, and lots of activities as we get ready for our famous Arizona Summers. It’s also the favorite time of year for a valley entrepreneur who is passionate about helping companies and organizations grow.  A nationally recognized innovator and entrepreneur, Joan Koerber-Walker launched CorePurpose, Inc., in July of 2002, after a 20 year career with Avnet, Inc. CorePurpose has a simple mission – providing services and solutions that build business. Through its three divisions, Publishing, Consulting, and the CoreAlliance™, CorePurpose works with companies in and out of Arizona to assess – where they are today -where they want to be tomorrow – and most importantly helping them get there.  In addition to her roles as a CEO and advisor to businesses in the valley and around the world, Joan is an author, speaker and active member of the Arizona community, sharing her expertise with many valley organizations including the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU, the Arizona Technology Council, the National Speakers Association, and Parenting Arizona, a statewide services agency with a mission of strengthening families and preventing child abuse. In the following interview, Joan shares some of her best secrets for growth with Ahwatukee Monthly.  AM: More and more Ahwatukee residents are starting or running their own businesses – why do you think that is?  JKW: There are a number of factors driving a change in how many of us view work today. In the last five years, many workers left traditional jobs in corporations and explored new alternatives. In some cases, what they found was more rewarding than their former jobs and they will not be going back to the corporate world again. They have opened consulting practices, restaurants, retail establishments and on-line businesses to name a few. Many people, from the Ahwatukee area, have shared their enthusiasm with me for their new businesses or business ideas. Additionally, population demographics are changing. In 2010, over one half of the world population will be over 50 years old and the average life expectance in the U.S. will be approaching 100! People will be healthier, more active, and less likely to retire, but will want the flexibility of non traditional jobs. A new entrepreneurial or self employed life style is very attractive to many of the people embarking on their ‘second 50 years’. Many Ahwatukee residents have the resources and key factors for starting or growing a business – education, talent, experience, and the drive to create something new and different. Our corner of the valley is a great place to put these advantages to work and grow a business.  AM: You call yourself a “-preneur” instead of an entrepreneur. Why is that?  JKW: An entrepreneur is someone who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for turning an idea into a business venture while an intrapreneur is a person who does the same thing within a large corporation. In both cases, you take direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable organization or finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. The prefix before the “-preneur” simply shows where you are in the organization when you are driving change and growth. When I am at the helm of my own company – I am an entrepreneur. When working with clients – they have the ultimate responsibility and my job is to help them as the entrepreneur or intrapreneur. I like to think that as a “-preneur” you can make things happen – no matter what the structure of the organization you are in.  AM: When you speak to audiences and in your CD’s, you focus a lot on the purpose and values of an organization. Why is that so key to growth?  JKW: Defining the core purpose of an organization is actually the process of centering in on what you really care about – what you are really good at – and in the area where these activities come together – what you can do that creates a degree of value that people will pay you for. This is your core purpose or the primary reason that you are in business. If all of your strategy, goals and activities are focused only on what satisfies each of these three criteria, there is a much higher probability for success. Conversely, activities that do not fall in these areas are opportunities for outsourcing or partnerships. The basic premise is to do what you do best and for the rest – partner with whoever is best at it. This defines WHAT you do as a company. The next key factor is HOW you will accomplish it. This is where values come into play. An organization’s values define how they do things. We always talk about how a company does something but the reality is that it’s the people inside that make things happen. People’s values determine how they do things. How they act. How hard they work. How creative they will be. If you can match the values of your organization to the values of the people who are in it (or come into it), you’ve got a winner. When people share the same values, they don’t have to be motivated. They already are motivated. They find new ways of doing things. They focus on the customers. They make things happen because they believe in what they are doing.  AM: What do you think are the most important things a company should look at as they are getting ready to grow?  JKW: Probably the most important factor is to be sure that the growth fits in with your core purpose and values. Very often we see an opportunity to grow and we jump into it before we take the time to fully evaluate what it means to our business in the long term. Growth for growth’s sake can be very dangerous. Companies that grow too fast can lose their focus, confuse their employees or adversely affect the quality their customers have come to expect. In the most extreme cases they can even run out of cash and without cash everything stops. Here are a couple of questions every company should ask themselves as they mover towards growth:  1. Does the new product, location or service fit into what we have defined as our core purpose?  2. Do we have the operational and financial resources to support the levels of quality and service our customers have come to expect from us?  3. What should we be measuring each step of the way through the growth process to ensure we are continuing to move in the right direction?  4. Who are the partners we work with who can help us with this growth and how can they help us? What are they best at?  AM: You are active in the community and donate a lot of time – why do you think that is so important?  JKW: Seeing something grow and fulfill its potential is a real motivator for me. Over the last decade there are few places in the United States that have experienced more growth than Arizona. We have new businesses, new schools, and explosion of people all bringing their new ideas, challenges, and the creativity to meet them. But to sustain that growth we need more infrastructure and services to support the foundation of the community we are building within. In the early days of our state, the pioneers bonded together and helped to build that foundation. Today there are many valley organizations and volunteers who are coming together to support us all.  In the same way we build our businesses, I believe each of us has a responsibility to focus in on what we are passionate about and then use the skills we are best at to lay a strong foundation for growth in our community. My professional passion is innovation and new technologies so the Arizona Technology Council was a great place for me to get involved. My personal passion is families and children so I volunteer my time to support Parenting Arizona, a statewide organization that prevents child abuse and neglect by helping parents develop better parenting skills. Since my strengths lie in the areas of gathering information and connecting people, I combine my passions and my strengths in ways that can make a difference in our community and when we accomplish something – it’s a great feeling.  AM: On top of all your community and business activities, you are also a wife and mother of two teenagers. How do you keep it all in balance?  JKW: I wish I could say that everything is in perfect balance. But my family would probably fall off their chairs laughing when they read this article. The reality is that I get wrapped up in what I am doing and sometimes I need a reminder of what is really important. I have a great husband and two wonderful son. When I go too far one way or another they reel me back in. In the end, what we accomplish in business and the community is important – but our relationships with family and friends are the true legacy that each of us leaves.  AM: What is your best advice for someone who is thinking about starting a new business?  JKW: Find something you can get really excited about. Starting any new business is hard work and few pay off right away. You need to really care about what you are doing. It keeps you energized and enthusiastic when things get tough. Once your business is established, use your passion, your purpose, and your values as a guide. Find employees and partners that share your passions and values. Together you can’t help but grow!

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