Business and the Butterfly

monarch-butterfly-on-flowers What’s the deal with a video about butterflies on a business blog?  Simply said, the butterfly is is thing of beauty and so are the right people in a great business.  It emerges from its cocoon, moves from place to place, does it’s duty, and fosters growth in the most inspiring of ways.  The same can be said when you have the right people in the right roles.

At least that’s what came to mind this morning as I watched this video from National Geographic about the simple butterfly.

We all need more butterflies in our businesses and in our lives.  Think of it like this:

The Butterfly is a creature that is committed to change.

Few creatures provide a better analogy for change than the butterfly as they move from stage to stage.  (You can see a great time lapse series here)   People also go through many stages.  It takes time for them to develop from an early stage to into voraciously absorbing the resources and knowledge around them.  Then its time to rest, use what they have consumed, and then emerge into something – or someone – pretty special.  It is that point that they spread their wings and fly. 

The  Butterfly moves from place to place enabling growth.

As a well developed butterfly spreads its wings, it moves from flower to flower, taking precious pollen with it.  This brings new growth, fresh blooms, and new colors to the world.  As a well developed person spreads their wings, they bring new businesses, new leadership, new opportunities, and new innovations. 

Butterflies like bees have a job to do. But Butterflies don’t sting.

Now you might say that we do not need the butterfly since we have the bee.  It too moves from flower to flower spreading growth.  The BIG difference is that butterflies never sting!  On the people side, I bet you’ve met both butterflies and bees.  The butterfly gets the job done with elegance and finesse.  The bee is awfully busy in getting the job done, but don’t cross it or it just might make you sorry.  That’s why we tend to squash bees and treasure butterflies.

Butterflies are a wonder to watch

A fully developed butterfly is a wonder to watch.  We can learn so much from them.  Butterflies, like people, must stretch their wings and explore new boundaries.  NASA even took butterflies with them into space in 2009.  The same is true of human butterflies.  If you give them time to develop, the resources they need to grow, and let them spread their wings, they will help your business garden grow and it’s a joy to watch them do it.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Can we have it all?


Whether I am speaking to a packed ballroom or just exchanging ideas over a Diet Coke with a friend, the question “Can you have it all? A great career, a family, a sense of purpose?” is one that comes up a lot.  I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have MOST of them.  But, the the family, friends and mentors I have met along the way are helping me to figure it out.

Whether we are looking to get the best in our business or the best in our lives, we all have a series of choices that we have to make and a series of priorities we have to set.

Our values as people  and as organizations are the points on the compass that help us navigate the journey.  Luckily, there are people that we meet along the way that help us determine the points on our personal compass.  It may be just for an instant or it may be a partner that comes along on the journey – but either way – they share something with us that helps us set our direction.

This video shares to story of one of the people I met along my journey over 25 years ago.  What she said stayed with me.  It has helped in my business and my life, and her work graces the walls of my home to this very day. 



So to answer the question – can you have it all?  I think the answer is YES, you can have it all in your business and your life IF you understand WHAT “having it all” means to you – AND you are willing to embrace the people, the ideas, and the value choices that are the markers along the path.  So pull out your compass, plot your path, and enjoy the journey.

Thanks for Stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Don’t let great opportunities pass you by

Gear-Up-for-Opportunity-lgAs business owners, we are always on the look out for opportunities.  But, too often, great opportunities pass us by because we are not ready for them.  Capturing a great opportunity and making the most of it takes a combination of three things – Awareness – Access – and Ability.  Like cogs in a machine, each plays a critical role in driving action forward.  Otherwise, as you are standing still, opportunities may pass you by.


There is a reason AWARENESS forms the biggest cog in the opportunity process.  The world is  full of opportunities, but knowing which is the right one for you and your business requires a continual scanning of the marketplace.  Some opportunities are great for someone, but not necessarily great for you. Others may be hidden and require a bit of polishing  up before they are ready to be considered. But if you are not continually searching, scanning your markets, and aware of the changing trends, you have not got a chance.  Before you know it the opportunity has passed and you only see it when someone else takes advantage of it.


As you become aware of new or current opportunities, the gear turns and triggers a need for ACCESS.  To capture the opportunity’s potential, the teeth bite in turning the next gear.  In the case of opportunity access, think of the teeth as the six key assets you will need to take advantage of the opportunity. In most cases these are:

  1. The right talent to make things happen
  2. The right resources to build up from
  3. The right market to serve
  4. The right partners to deliver through
  5. The right processes to keep things rolling
  6. The right funding and business partners to grease the wheels

Each of these assets are critical. If one is missing the wheels stop turning and the opportunity engine skips and stutters.


The final gear is that of your ABILITY to execute.  I spend a lot of my day speaking with business owners and other leaders.  Most, when faced with a challenge, can lay out their goals, their mission and their plans.  But when the gears jam up it is almost always due to a lack of execution.  One missed step or flaw can make the difference between success in making the most of an opportunity or the failure to do so.  When one missing critical process brings things to a grinding halt and the opportunity engine seizes up we tend to want to force it.  Yet as leaders, our job is not to take a crow bar to the the gears (that almost always makes matters worse) but to make adjustments or shift alignment so that things start running smoothly again.  For it is only when we are moving forward that we can keep abreast of our opportunities and capture them.

So don’t let your great opportunity pass you by.  Focus on the three A’s – Awareness, Access, and Ability.  When you do, you just might find that opportunity will not pass you by…instead it will come knocking at your door.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Got a Problem? Get Creative!

As entrepreneurs, business owners, employees, or just as people, we all face challenges.  And often those challenges involve the BIG M – money.  When it comes to growth, you need resources.  Money for marketing, for inventories, for systems, and oh yeah, groceries.Continue reading

An interview with my favorite Rocket Scientist – meet Joe Williams

I’ve been fascinated by space ever since I was a kid. I still remember the night when it all began.  My friends and I had pitched our tent in the back yard for a sleep-over and were toasting marshmallows over the barbeque when Mom and Dad called us all inside to watch history happen.  Before our wondering eyes, American Astronauts took their first steps on the moon.  It inspired me, encouraged my love for science and technology, and made me proud to be an American.  It made a difference.

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m proud to say I know one.  Meet Joe Williams of NASA, my favorite Rocket Scientist.  More than your ‘Average Joe” he’s a husband and father seeking to make a difference in all that he does whether its dancing with his daughters in their dance recital  or in his professional   work, as a “rocket scientist” contributing towards establishing a sustainable and permanent human presence off Earth.

I first met Joe through Twitter (he’s @RikerJoe) and by reading his blog titled Leading Space (one of the best blogs out there if you are a student of leadership like me.) Online conversations evolved into emails then phone calls and this week I even got to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston to meet him along with  some of the team in person – what a treat!

As part of our ongoing People Making a Difference series, here and on Little Life Stories, I asked Joe a few questions.  Here is what he had to share…

“Be a leader, be a friend, be of service.”  Joe Williams

JKW:  Can you tell me a little bit about what you are up to at NASA these days?

Joe:  My current project is working with our team in determining how NASA’s mission operations in Houston acquires the goods and services it needs to fulfill its role in human spaceflight.  About 85% of NASA’s budget is spent on procuring goods and services from the private sector, and mission operations is no different.  Whether it is Mission Control, our training facilities where we train astronauts, or the people who work in them, we are heavily reliant upon our contractor workforce to accomplish our mission.  With the recent policy shift mandated by the White House for NASA away from the certainties associated with near-term Moon landings and into the uncertainties and ambiguities of new technology development, the task before me is made even more difficult.  What is the near-term role of mission operations?  How do we procure the goods and services we need to fulfill that role?  I love a good challenge, and it’s here!

JKW:  That’s going to take a lot of leadership focus.  Who are some of the leaders you have worked with and been mentored by who inspire you.

Joe:  I’m inspired by Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.  A few years ago I served as his Executive Officer for a five-month period while he was an Associate Administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.  Scott has the amazing blend of a strong technical background (his is in physics as is mine), a grasp of the subtleties of space policy, and the ability to formulate and articulate the combination of both in an amazing way.  Scott inspired and encouraged me to stretch myself in many ways.  Two of these in particular are to be comfortable working with leadership at least two levels above my pay grade, which is paying tremendous dividends in my current work.  The second is that we are capable of handling a tremendous volume of work – that the only impediment is our own self-imposed limitations of what we think we are capable of doing.  Scott always smiled when I would report to him something along the following lines: “I’m working two dozen items and I believe you would like to hear the status on six of them.”

JKW:  A key to leadership is understanding what really matters – what ‘matters’ to you?

Joe: I’m rooted in my three core values: learning and discovery,  fairness and respect, and excellence.  NASA’s mission and results align with all three.  Therefore, NASA gives me the opportunity to make a difference directly in creating a sustainable and permanent human presence off Earth.  I feel strongly it is our destiny to eventually leave Earth and settle other places.  It’s part of our heritage as a nation to explore and discover the world and universe around us.

Family is incredibly important to me.  My wonderful wife JoAnn keeps  me grounded so that I never forget what’s important at home, even when I am hyper focused on space exploration and our NASA mission. Together we are creating a better future for our daughters.  She’s an important reason why I can what I do.   On the lighter side – I am a HUGE Texas Longhorns fan.  Burnt Orange is my favorite color especially when cheering for my favorite team.

JKW:  If you had three wishes, what would they be?

Joe:  My three wishes are tied to my three core values:

  1. That everyone can get the education he or she needs to make a difference;
  2. That we can treat each other with fairness and respect; and
  3. That each of us will demand excellence from ourselves and from each other.

In the final countdown…

Spending time with great leaders is an “out of this world” experience.  What I learned in my visit to NASA is that The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is more than just about space exploration – it’s a breeding ground for our nation’s leaders, a crucible for innovations of all kinds, and a source of inspiration and pride for Americans everywhere.

NASA history began when John F. Kennedy said: “”I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”  That one goal sparked thousands of innovations, new technologies , new industries, and through them hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs for Americans, yet in a time when we need them more than ever, we may be missing the opportunity to set new and equally aggressive goals.

Perhaps it’s time to reengage the American spirit with a new goal.  I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out,…. Washington…are you listening?

Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker