It does not have to be a Zero Sum Game

PH02802JIt’s been an interesting week so far.   A week of stepping back and looking at why things happen, how things happen, and how we fix them. 

As an economist, we were trained to look at value based on scarcity.  There is only so much to go around and value is based on how rare or unique something is and how badly people want it.

As an innovator, we look at creating plenty.  Not ‘how to get our piece of the pie’ but rather how to use what we have to ‘make the pie bigger or create new types of pies’.

Lately, I fear that too many of us have been thinking more like economists and less like innovators.

As I write this, I am listening as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifies to the House Finance Committee.  He laid out six key ingredients for his recipe for stabilizing future financial markets, protecting key assets, creating market balance globally, and forming public/private partnerships to deal with the plethora of distressed assets that are choking the system.  It’s a discussion on managing scarcity and creating security- but long term perhaps we may also be inhibiting growth.

But here is what else I have heard and experienced:

My friend Francine Hardaway has often cautioned me about the perils of stepping out as a leader and an innovator.  She never discourages me, simply warns me to be prepared for the challenges that come with that path.  She should know, she’s faced them for over 30 years!  Sometimes I listen.  Sometimes I don’t.  (Unfortunately she has an uncanny knack for being right – especially when I don’t listen.)

A Skype conversation with Annie Loyd yesterday opened my eyes to what innovators can do and what innovators need.  Annie too has been leading for decades.  With a passion for equality, justice,  and opportunity, Annie has been working behind the scenes and on the front lines for years.  Her vision for her next big adventure is brilliant. 

Gloria Feldt dropped me a note on FaceBook and asked a question about why so many feminists choose not to lead but rather stay in a circle or team to move change forward collectively.  My answer to Gloria was simple.  We need both.  “I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist – but leading can be a joy if you have a wide circle of support both male and female to move the mission forward. The trick is knowing when to step out and when to step back into the circle for support.”

A collection of friends from coast to coast have been helping me understand what’s happening on the private equity and venture capital fronts.  Yes there are challenges right now, but I am inspired by all of the creative ideas and strategies that are being developed and deployed to overcome those challenges.

And to top it all off, my new friend Sheri Tate sent me an incredibly edible treat, a sampling of her newest  Silver Moon Desserts. Imagine ice creams and sorbets infused with a tantalizing hint of liqueur – melting in your mouth.  Someone is going to make a fortune with Sheri and her team.  I just sent a note to a few friends I know who might want to take a look – and a taste.

You see life, innovation, and growth do not have to be played as a Zero Sum Game.  We all have opportunities to make the pie bigger, or create a series of unique and different pies of all shapes and sizes.  We just need to keep building that strong circle of support, finding new ingredients, adjusting our recipe by trial and error, and then reaching down for the courage to take a big step out of the circle and take the lead.

Stay Tuned…

– Joan Koerber-Walker

What’s Being Done? The Fed and Treasury Together

Today was a very good day on Wall Street.  Dow Leaps 497 Points as U.S. Lays Out Bank Rescue Plan (NY Times)   Some say we may have seen the bottom.  Some say not. This week will be an important one as we watch each day how the markets respond to the actions of both the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury.


The actions of these two organizations, one independent of Congress and the other tied to it, are working together to stabilize our economy and to bring liquidly back to the market.  As we have all heard, this is not just a Wall Street issue.  It’s hit Main Street hard.  Large Businesses, Small Businesses, Student Loans, Mortgages, and Consumer Credit have all been affected.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who has not felt the pinch in one way or another.

The big questions for now are  “What’s Being Done?”  and “What does it all mean?  There are reams of articles that try to answer these questions, written by folk’s much closer to the issue and lots smarter than me.  Instead of trying to analyze it again, I have pulled together 4 videos that together help put “What’s Being Done” into perspective. In the first video (INSERTED ABOVE) Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explains how we can keep history from repeating itself.  In the second video (see links below) he talks about what the Fed has done and is continuing to do.  In the third and fourth videos, Treasury Secretary Geithner explains his plan and Treasury’s actions to get things back on track. 

Three More Videos to Watch:

Fed Chairman Bernanke on Financial Crisis   

Part one of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner discusses his plan to help clear bank balance sheets of their toxic assets.

Geithner Pushes Bank Rescue Plan, Part 2

It’s the fact that , finally, there are detailed plans and that both the Treasury and the Fed are tacking action, that is driving  market confidence – and prices up.

So,  you may be wondering – is this the answer.  Truthfully, no one knows.  But for the first time, in a long time, we are starting to see a turn in market confidence – and THAT  is a very good thing.

Stay tuned…

– Joan Koerber-Walker

Opportunities are out there. Are You Ready?

innovation 2It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Arizona.  The sky is blue and cloudless , the breezes are still balmy – not like the hairdryer blast they will turn to come July. Parked by the pool with my laptop, it’s a perfect  time and a perfect place to review what I saw last week and plan for the week ahead.

The Week in Review

Monday was an exciting day as Joe Carangelo and I presented the RiboMed opportunity to potential investors from Germany, Florida, and New York.  Not only did we get to spend time with investors but we made contacts with some really cool companies.  Tuesday – Catch up time – sending  follow up emails to the investors and innovators I had met the day before and then a real treat – a tour of SARRC guided by the one and only Denise Resnik. Wednesday – a day of brainstorming ideas with old friends and new. Thursday – time to buckle down to work –  drafting plans, running numbers, and making phone calls.  Friday – two separate introductions brought great new connections and a great exchange of ideas and resources.

The Week to Come

The week ahead is equally exciting – more conversations in New York and Florida, helping some friends in California arrange financing for an exciting project, speaking to the Tempe Kiwanis Club on Tuesday, putting together this years sponsors for the 4th Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference (mark your calendars for November 12, 2009 for the state’s best entrepreneurial gathering yet) and the list goes on…

Getting Ready

Keeping things exciting means being ready to react to and capitalize on new opportunities as they appear.  Here are a few strategies that work for me:

1.  You are what you read.  Things are happening and changing faster than ever before,  I found a great tool that puts all the latest happenings at my fingertips.  This link takes you to my AllTop page.  My list may not be your favorite reading, but the cool thing is that when you sign in you can configure your page for the stuff you want to read and stay up to date on. And best of all its free!

2. Clean up your email.  Look through your In Box and your Sent Items.  Flag as follow ups things you need to touch back on or reply to, File important messages  in folders for future reference, and delete the rest.  Nothing is more depressing than trying to figure out what to do with thousands of emails that have been accumulating for weeks.

3.  Do your homework – You know what you have planned for the week ahead.  Take some time to do a little research – check out the newest developments on line.  If it’s a company or an organization you are visiting – check out their News or Media page.  If you are meeting a new contact, look them up on Google or Linked In.  Your meetings will be more productive for it.

4.  Plan your trips – Whether you are heading across town or across the country – think about who you know who is close to where you will be.  Call them and set up a quick coffee or time to drop in and see them.  That way you leverage your travel time and can get much more accomplished with every trip.

5.  Set aside time for new developments – There’s nothing worse than discovering a new opportunity but being too busy or booked up to seize it.  Keep some time available to pursue something new when it pops up.  Because if you are open to discovering new opportunities – they are out there – and they will find you!

– Joan Koerber-Walker

Sometimes You Win…

Chris, Dad and Chelsea with the Thorne Cup 2009.  Photo by Terri Berman

If you have been following this blog over the past few months, you know that there have been some big changes since December and there are lots of exciting games in play. 

On a personal note, my son Chris returned from Canada in December where he had been playing in the BCHL.  I wondered for a moment if my days as a hockey mom were over.  The next thing I knew, Chris was rejoining his former team, the Phoenix Polar Bears, as they skated their way to another Western Division Championship, made USA Hockey history when they locked in an Eighth Straight National Championship berth, and this weekend won the WSHL Thorne Cup Trophy.  The National Championships are the last weekend in March.  Stay Tuned.

On a business note, I left ASBA at the end of my contract in December 2008 to explore new opportunities and devote more time to my duties as a board member and treasurer for Ribomed Biotechnologies, Inc.  As my journey progressed, I have seen some incredible companies, found some incredible opportunities, pursued a ‘really cool deal’, made some great new contacts in the world of business, been actively raising capital, and learned a lot along the way!

My ‘really cool deal’ was an exciting roller coaster ride.

  • Identifying an interesting opportunity on January 12th
  • Analyzing it independently
  • Pitching the deal to investors
  • Getting the money I needed to make an offer and take the company to new heights.  Even though many said it could never be done that fast!
  • Making my offer – and starting the process
  • Losing the Deal to another bidder on March 16th.

Oh, no! you might be thinking, All that work and it did not happen.  Well, of course it was disappointing to lose the deal, but learning what I did alone the way is a BIG Win.

Here is what I learned:

1.  If you have a solid deal with good fundamentals – there is money out there to fund it. AND,  YOU CAN GET IT!

2.  There are lots of people committed to making a positive impact on our economy right now.  Not just politicians and big bankers, but entrepreneurs all over the country and the world, making connections, starting new projects, sharing connections, and making a positive impact – daily!

3. People want and need to hear POSTIVE business messages right now.  That’s why over 1,000 people like you are reading this blog.  And that’s why I make the time  to write it.

4.  That I may have lost this ‘really cool deal’ but a better opportunity is waiting just around the corner.  You may not win every game, but with each new game and each new play, you have the opportunity for a break-away goal.   Stay tuned…


-Joan Koerber-Walker

Like Finding Water in the Desert…

Oasis in the Desert courtesy of Environmental Graffiti.comToday, a friend asked me how my quest for capital was progressing? 

My answer – Like finding water in the desert

But the more I thought about it, the more apt the analogy became.  You see there is water in the desert, it’s just hidden under the sand.  That’s how oases are formed in nature.  The winds of change shift the sands until the water table is closer to the surface.  Then, even in a desert, things begin to grow.

Lately for some, it may feel as if the winds of change are blowing sand right in your face.  The trick is to look for the opportunities that may be lying underneath the surface as you see the sands shifting.

There are oases out there.  Here are some examples:

  • A friend of mine sent me an email tonight.  She owns a great and growing company.  She asked for a favor…can you help me find a key employee for my company.  I called a few friends who might be a fit.
  • Another friend in La Quinta, CA  has a new book out and started a radio show to help people look at their careers.Career Secret Sauce and the Career Mechanic. 
  • Over coffee, I got to meet with the guys who run AZ Weekly. They have a great concept and are growing circulation like crazy.  We brainstormed how they could grow more AND save money.  Hopefully it helped.
  • My social media expert friend, Steven Groves ,is coaching me on how to navigate the social media desert and use it to build a brand.  If he can teach me – he can teach anyone!  If you need help, ask Steve!
  • I found a really cool deal, but I need to access capital to make it work.  Friends from across the valley have offered to help me.  We just might make it too.
  • And as I talk to others about my really cool deal, I get to learn about their opportunities…and help them connect to others who can help them.
  • And so it continues…

“Opportunities out there, just below the surface…like finding water in the desert.”

–  Joan Koerber-Walker

Buffeting Business

I watched an interview with Warren Buffett on CNBC early Monday morning.  Few would argue that Mr. Buffett is one of the most savvy and successful investors and businessmen of our time.  You can see some of his comments on the video, but the three main points are this:

  1. The American Consumer has lost confidence, and our markets and our economy are paying the price.
  2. That American business works – it may not always be perfect, but it can and will recover.
  3. That the team in Washington needs to work together, not against each other, to solve the problem. 


Warren Buffett on CNBC on MSN March 9, 2009

Regaining Confidence:

  • A light at the end of the tunnel?  While Q2 is expected to see a continued decline, a recent survey of 51 economists see a modest upturn starting in Q3.
  • China’s Q1 GDP Growth is estimated to be 6.5% while not something they are happy about, since its average GDP growth over the last 25 years of 10%.  But we learned in business school that 3% is the responsible and sustainable growth level over time for any economy.  Perhaps what we are seeing is a return to realism not the end of the world economy.
  • When the cupboard is empty it’s time to start buying.  We’ve all held back and conserved as we saw things tighten up.  Companies cut back on inventories, consumers stopped buying and used what they had on hand.  But especially in the cases of consumables- you eventually run out and need to start buying again.  There are some fabulous deals out there.  I’ve seen it first hand.  When my job ended in December, I started to conserve.  We used the stuff in the freezer or cupboard instead of buying more.  But as the cupboard runs bare, its time for a buying trip to Costco and Safeway.The economic winds that are buffeting business will change.  They always do.

    American Business Works

    • IBM is on the offensive – forging forward and taking proactive measures to lead in their markets.  It must be working.  The aggregate drop in their stock since the beginning of the year is only about 1% compared to the DOW that is down 25%
    • Even in a recession – some companies are hiring.  Even banks, one of the hardest hit industries by the downturn, are hiring.  When the weak ones fail, the stronger, more conservative ones are picking up the slack and growing.
    • In every meltdown, new businesses emerge.  Read this story on how people who lost their jobs created new businesses and jobs for lots of people.

    We ALL need to work together to solve these problems.

    Instead of bemoaning the challenges, or letting the economic winds buffet you from side to side – DO something about it.  Be part of the solution.  Here are a few ideas…

    1. Buy something today!  (It does not have to be huge or a grossly irresponsible debt causing event.  Buy something in proportion to what you have to spend.)  If each one of us bought something each day, spending will rise.  Stop hoarding your cash.  When we stop spending we cycle down – when we start spending we cycle up.
    2. Call Three People you know.  Ask how things are going.  Offer ideas or offer  to help.   Be positive!
    3. If you are not working – VOLUNTEER somewhere.  Non profits are getting hit especially hard right now.  Instead of sitting home and watching TV, call an organization that is making a difference and ask them if they have something you can do for them.  You’ll feel better about yourself and perhaps help someone else who needs it even more.
    4. If you are working, pay attention to what you do and how you do it.  When times are good, we all tend to get a little sloppy.  Now is the time to look at each program or process and find ways to improve, optimize, and in some cases let go of things that are not productive.
    5. Pay Attention to what’s happening in Washington.  Go on Twitter and follow John McCain and Barack Obama.  They are sharing what they are doing –  follow along.  And if you see something you like or something you don’t –  call your Congressman.  What they are doing will affect you.
    6. Never lose hope.  Whether it is a business problem, a personal challenge, or the economy at large the only thing that can truly defeat us is our attitude.  Never give up. 

    Yes the current winds are Buffeting Business and those of us in it.  But eventually every wind calms.  Smoother seas follow and we move ahead.

    Joan Koerber-Walker

  • A Global Balancing Act…

    For the last few weeks, I have been working on a ‘really cool’ deal.  It’s not done yet, and the next week will tell the tale of whether it happens or was not meant to be. 

    Ready Set Grow, created by Paul Svancara, copyright CorePurpose Inc. 2003-2009I hope we can pull it off, if we do, it brings a new industry to Arizona, will create a few jobs now and more  in the long term, and will send a strong message, ANYONE CAN. 

    It’s good old fashioned business.  We make a product, deliver great service, offer a better solution to serve our customer’s need (at home and around the world), and create value for our customers, employees and investors.  Those are the basics that I learned in business school, in my career, and in observations of life. 

    Like most mornings, I was up before sunrise.  Scanning my Wall Street Journal and Financial Times online, checking out what happened overnight on MSNBC, scanning emails, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Getting ready…

    These days, a lot that I read links back to our economy, what’s happening at home, how it affects access to capital, what Washington is up to, and what’s happening around the globe.  Here’s what I was reading this morning….

     A Global Retreat as Economies Dry Up

    The darker side of Buy American

    Thomas Friedman’s best selling book The World is Flat

    …and here’s what I think.  Everything we do is connected.

    Like the circles above, all our actions, our projects, and networks connect, interact, and come together to create the whole.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Sir Isaac Newton).  Failure to keep things in motion (inertia)can lead to collapse.  We’ve seen it in our financial markets as the flow money dried up, in our stores as spending dropped, and in our job market as the companies, who make the goods and deliver the services cut back.

    We’ve lost momentum, but together we can get it back.  So go find your ‘really cool deal’.  Put something in motion.  Get connected and help a friend move things forward.  Recovery is up to us and we can make it happen.

    -Joan Koerber-Walker



    And AZ Small Businesses Said…

    What keeps you up at night?  What are the challenges you face in growing your business?

    For the last year, O’Neil and Associates in partnership with the Arizona Small Business Association has been asking thousands of Arizona Small Business owners this question and others like it.  The study, the only one of its kind, gives great insights into what entrepreneurs need, especially in this challenging economy.  Even better, it has tracked the results over time, giving us a picture of the world evolving around us.

    Mike is a brilliant researcher, and the data these reports – as well as others I have received over time have been an invaluable tool.  A tool that I used in my ASBA days to help shape policy, and today as a small business owner, use to shape the decisions I face each day.

    Provided below is some of the great data released today. I’m not the expert on reading this data, Mike is.  So from this point on, the words are his…

    O’Neil Associates/ASBA Economic Indicators Monitor

    “Healthcare, Bank Lending Dominate Critical Issues for Arizona Businesses.

    Housing Market, Government Regulation, Interest Rates, Skilled Workforce Follow in Importance”

    – Mike O’Neil (


    Healthcare costs (37%) and reduced lending by banks (35%) are most likely to be rated as critical issues by Arizona small businesses.  These are the dominant findings this quarter for the O’Neil Associates / ASBA Arizona Economic Indicators Monitor, a survey of the 3,000 members of the Arizona Small Businesses Association. We asked Arizona small
    businesses to indicate how important each of ten separate issues were for their business. Each was rated as being either “critical,” “important,” “somewhat important,” or “not very important.” There is ample reason for focusing predominantly on issues which are considered to be absolutely critical. Only slightly less likely to be rated as critical are the housing market, excessive government regulation, interest rates, and skilled workforce.

    When we add in those responses which considered items important, the rank ordering of responses tends to be similar; although, the relative importance given to interest rates, skilled workforce, and inflation is higher.

    2 oneilresearch


    Are you Leading?

    We hear a lot about leaders today.  Our country’s leaders, our state’s leaders, technology leaders,  business leaders. 

    It seems that lately, some of our leaders may have let us down, while others are rising up, making promises, trying to get the country and the economy back on track.  Some of those promises they will keep and no matter how hard they try, some of them they will not.

    Today I spend some time listening to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testify to Congress about what is needed to support our ailing financial markets and another $30 BILLION investment in AIG.  I wondered what it would be like to be “too big to fail.”

    Through his remarks ran a common theme – the U.S. will be better off “moving aggressively” to solve economic problems because the alternative “could be a prolonged episode of economic stagnation.”

    You don’t have to be famous to be a leader.  Each of us has that opportunity each day when we talk to someone, share an experience, pass on a lead, or just take the time to listen.  Leaders can be your teacher, your neighbor, your friend or the stranger sitting across the room at the coffee shop. Any of us can be a leader if we are willing to take the lead.


    Over the years I have learned a few things about leadership and about taking the lead. 

    • You can’t keep the lead by standing still. Leaders forge forward.
    • People will not follow you if you don’t help them see what’s waiting for them at the end of the road.
    • You have to keep to your path, have faith in your sense of direction, and be willing to stand in front and take a bullet.
    • You will know you are out in front when others try to emulate what you do.  – Celebrate when what you do is valued it means you’re on the right track.
    • To keep your lead — keep innovating — or you can be left behind!
                     -Joan Koerber-Walker

    Being in the right place…

    250px-Bob_Hope_in_The_Ghost_Breakers_trailerOne of my favorite quotes is from entertainment icon Bob Hope.

    The quote is simple: 

    “I’ve always been in the right place at the right time..of course I steered myself there.”

    Whether you are looking for a new job, building a business, or looking for financing for the business you own, being in the right place can make all the difference.  The right place can be a frame of mind, a networking event, or a new business opportunity.  Steering yourself there starts when you open yourself up to new things, take sage advice when it is offered, leverage your personal relationships, and always extend a helping hand to others.

    It has been so rewarding to be out in our community and see so many examples of Arizonans ‘steering themselves there‘.  Friends, old and new, making introductions – offering advice – making time for others – and most of all creating new opportunities. 

    The photo in this blog (courtesy of shows a young Bob Hope in 1940.  That’s right Hope in the Great Depression.  Recently I have heard so many (from the President on down) compare our current economic times to that period in history.  Yes, there are some similarities, but there are also many differences.  In many ways we have contributed to steering ourselves into this mess. And we can steer our way out of it again.   American ingenuity, innovation, our determination to overcome adversity, and our willingness to lend a hand have served us well in pulling through each historical downturn.  There have been a number of booms and busts. Remember the S&L debacle and the Internet bubble bursting.  I sure do!  We recovered then, and we’ll recover now.  So start steering yourself there.  All it takes is a little Hope.