It’s the real thing…How will you deliver your message?

A TV commercial came out when I was in elementary school that I remember to this day. We lived in a different time.  The 1960’s had ended and we were at the start of a new decade.  It was 1971.  People were protesting the war (in Vietnam this time).  Richard Nixon was President, Chairman Mao had declared the Cultural Revolution was ended (1969) and the door to China was slowly opening to the West. New technologies in semiconductor science and computing were evolving and a new environmental movement via Greenpeace was born.


A commercial came out in the fall of 1971 that captured the people’s mood and helped embed a brand – Coca-Cola – in the hearts and minds of a generation. (See video from YouTube above.)   The story of the how the now famous “Hilltop” ad came to be is a good one and a legend in the ad industry.  Two top 20 Hits came out after the commercial, one by The Hillside Singers and the other later by the New Seekers.  You can hear and see their version here.

At the Great Wall copyright Joan Koerber-Walker 2001Fast forward 30 years – and my husband Chris and I were in China seeing the sights.  It was just weeks after 9-11 and the world was still reeling in shock.  It was not a time of global love and trust.  One sunny morning, we made a visit to the Great Wall of China.  As we made our way up the wall, I watched a man helping a little girl climb step by step.  We stopped, as they did, along the way to take a break.  I took a Coke out of my backpack and caught the Dad’s eye and pointed at his little girl.  After he nodded yes, I turned to offer it to her.  She did not speak English, but her eyes lit up as she giggled and sang out “Coca-Cola!”  Perhaps they did teach the world to sing after all.

How will you build your brand?

Most of us can not afford the $250K Coca-Cola spent just to create the famous ad in 1971. (That’s $1.3M+ in 2009 dollars and without airtime!)  But, that’s OK.  You see, they learned the most important secret of business growth and branding. 

It’s not what you say about your company that matters.  What matters is what others say about you.  Especially in times like these – times of challenge and change -actions speak louder than words. 

It does not matter how big or small your company is.  Your decisions can make or break your brand.   The next time you have a business decision to make – ask yourself, “How will others see this – and what will THEY remember?” 

People have long memories, and you never know who might be writing about YOU thirty days or thirty years from now.

Stay Tuned…

-Joan Koerber-Walker

Doing the Right Things in AZ

Governor_Jan_BrewerOn Friday March 27th, I had the opportunity to attend Phoenix Rotary 100 where the speaker was Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  

I was impressed.  Not because she is a stunning and charismatic orator – she’s not.  What she is is a leader whose integrity shines through.  She’s inherited a huge mess (Arizona has the highest budget deficit per capita in the US) and she is doing something about it NOW.  She’s surrounded herself with ‘some of the Top Experts in the state”, is carefully looking at all the facts and options, and making hard decisions.  Some that even she says “I never thought I would ever support” – like raising taxes – at least temporarily.

She’s taking action to fix the immediate problems as well as working on solutions that will make for a better Arizona in the future.  It was very clear that she has no intention of letting this state be bankrupted or passing this mess on to the next Governor or the future generation of Arizonans.

There are times when doing the right thing can make you very unpopular in certain circles.  No one is ever happy when you take things away from them.  What the Governor demonstrated when fielding questions from the audience is that she is not making decisions based on popularity ratings.  She is using every resource at her disposal to fix the problem because it is the right thing to do.   That takes a lot of guts – especially for a politician.  Kudos to you Governor!

Governor Brewer laid out her Five Point Plan for getting our state out of the current mess and for building a better Arizona.  To read the whole text, click the link above the bullets.

Five Points for Building a Better Arizona

  1. Reform budget process with focus on longer-term needs and resources
  2. Improve Prop. 105 – The Voter Protection Act
  3. Further spending cuts, reduce general fund by $1 billion
  4. Provide tax reform to attract business and more jobs
  5. Temporary tax increase – $1 billion revenue to bridge the gap in our budget shortfall

We’re going to keep hearing lots of complaints and reading letters to the editor about programs being cut, budgets being squeezed, and how short sighted we are being.  But look at the chart and form your own opinion.  Its pretty simple.  The BLUE line is what we were spending and the PURPLE line shows what money the state projects to come in.  When you look at the widening gap, you start to understand why the Governor is taking a stand not just for today but for the future.  


As a business owner, I understand that you can’t keep writing checks if you don’t have the resources to back them up.  You make the best allocation of resources you can based on the business environment and your own ability to generate revenues.  When cash is tight, you cut back.  When times are good, you may spend more – but you always you put money into reserves for the days when cash get’s tight again.  Because those days always come. 

I certainly don’t envy Governor Brewer’s position as a leader at this time in our state’s history. But I truly respect what she is working to do, and I hope that when it comes my time to lead – in what ever way it comes – that I will do it with the integrity, guts, and good old fashioned common sense that she is showing now.

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

The WE Recovery…

As I have been sharing through this blog over the last few weeks, WE are the recovery solution.  So who is WE?  It’s every American with a Bold Idea, a Passion, and the persistence to see it through.

Here are some of the great things I have seen this week.  Examples of how WE are driving things forward.

  • Joan Gustafson and her husband Cliff came down and showed me a great new program Joan has developed in Minneapolis and would like to bring to the valley.  It helps displaced workers find their place again!
  • Francine Hardaway took me on a tour of a great new incubator – Gangplank.  Check out a great new program: BluePrint for Survival
  • Four different Private Equity gurus (no names – they like to fly under the radar) shared their time with me to review my ‘Really Cool Deal’ at Shop24.  They not only shared their time, they walked me through it, gave me feedback, and helped me make connections!
  • A new Investment Banker friend invited me to lunch with some old friends and great new contacts.  I learned about great new programs like TEKcelerate, got to meet the Founder and CEO of Medelis, a great local biotech firm, talked to a fund manager who is working with a local small business icon to save the company (sorry no names here), and lots of other great people.  The 12 of us talked for over 2 hours.  Now that’s a POWER LUNCH.
  • Mike Campion, my favorite Guilty Millionaire held an event at the Ritz to help others experience the success that he has.  My Friend Neil Dempster did the keynote.  Sorry to have missed this – my con call ran late and I could not get across town.
  • Checking in on the Washington Beat, I followed John McCain on Twitter and got to read his list each day of the top ten Porkiest Deals – but I also learned that John McCain and Olivia Snow brought forward new legislation this week to allow importation of drugs from outside the US.  This will increase competition and bring down healthcare costs – a huge burden on all of us.
  • My friend and hero Shay Pausa shared a fabulous video that gave me increased hope for the future.  Here it is.

So what’s on tap for me today…

4:30 AM and 5:30 AM – Calls to friends in Milan and London to get feedback on my current project.  They shared great inputs, had actually used the product and told me what they liked about it.

6:30 AM – sharing the weeks positive business news through the blog

7:30 AM – back to work on the business plan

8:30 AM – Off to tour the new offices of Metro Studios and to explore creation of an on-line TV program to keep driving our Recovery Mission forward.  Lisa and Clay are fabulous!

11:30 – Lunch with one of my favorite bank exec’s

2:00 – 4:00 – calls with Private Equity and Investment Banking friends in the continuing quest for capital

6:45 PM – You’ll find me in full Hockey Mom mode – Cheering the Phoenix Polar Bears on to an EIGHTH straight berth at the USA Hockey National Championship Tournament.  This weekend will determine USA hockey history.  Want to come?  Get the details at

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


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.

Change is what we make it.

Are you ready for Change?  2009 will be full of it.  From politicians, to business owners…  from consumers to sellers – January 2009 brings a who new year filled with opportunities.

Now is the time to take stock of what you have to work with, lay some plans, and get energized for the change you will make in 2009.  Don’t let all the negative media steal your energy.  Make your changes positive – act on your plans – find new resources – make a difference in your business, your community, your life.

Working together anything is possible and opportunites will be what we make them.