Standing Together this May Day

It’s May Day today (May1, 2009).  In different cultures and different places, May Day has different meanings, but interestingly in one way or the other they link to a common theme.  In each face of May Day we see people coming together.

When I write these weekly wrap up blogs, I often add a song or video so you can listen along.  This one – Stand By Me by Playing for Change is a favorite of mine – I hope you enjoy it as you read on.


So, back to May Day and its meanings…

For some, May Day is the celebration of Spring, with communities coming together to celebrate Spring in all its glory.  It is a time to look toward the future – to celebrate growth and new life.

In come countries, May Day is Labor Day or Labour Day while here in the United States, we celebrate it at the end of the month.  Around the world, May Day gatherings have not always been just joyous gathering and picnics.  May Day has long been a day of often marked worker protests, rallies for change, and calls for equality.  May Day became a significant rallying call for the Socialist Parties in many countries and in many cities around the U.S. this year there are gatherings about immigrant rights and issues.

May Day is also the internationally known distress call.  Not tied to May 1st, it’s origins come from the French phrase  m’aidez which translated means ‘help me’.  Only used in times of serious distress or danger, May Day calls are monitored 24/7 (on VHF channel 16, or HF 2182.0 KHz) so that help can be sent when needed.

Well on this May Day, some might say that we live in a time of distress calls.  War, unemployment, homelessness, business failures, and frauds mark the news daily.  Disease is on the rise from cancers, to autism, to the newest outbreak of swine flu around the globe.  But the good news is people and organizations continue to come together to do something about it.  Here are a few examples:

  • OTEF – The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation – launched  Blueprint for Survival to help displaced workers through entrepreneurship skills.
  • The government continues to launch new programs daily to help on the Recovery. (Agree or disagree with the strategy and tactics as you may.)
  • New Global Citizens is teaching young people how to “be the change they see in the world” (Ghandi) while Playing for Change is is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
  • SARRC reaches out to offer support and solutions to a growing population of families touched by autism.
  • AACR recently held it’s 100th Annual Meeting of Cancer Researchers where people from all over the world shared ideas and innovations.
  • RiboMed is imagining (and working towards) a future when getting a noninvasive, multi-disease diagnostic test at your annual medical exam is as routine as having your temperature or blood pressure taken. Imagine tests that can detect early biomarkers of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autism or heart disease long before symptoms present. Imagine that when disease is detected, doctors can prescribe a treatment plan designed specifically for you.

In spite of all the  challenges we face, for me this May Day means Hope.  You see, when people come together to build solutions, magic happens. 

Please leave a comment and share ways you have found or seen where people are coming together and making a difference.  Leave your mark this May Day! 

Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Why going multi-profile on Twitter makes sense

Two weeks ago I started to experiment with multiple profiles on Twitter.  Some of my friends have tweeted with questions about why I am doing this, how it works, and is it worth it.  So instead of having multiple conversations, I thought I would put what I am learning right here and give you peak into how the experiment is going. 

I’m not a social media expert, just a business person learning to use it effectively with some really great coaches like @LonSafko, @Hardaway, @StevenGroves, and @jenn_ex.

I now have five twitter profiles. @joankw for an eclectic mix of things that I share with my friends on Facebook as well as with my twitter followers at the same time.  @CorePurpose is all business articles and tips. This links back to my profile on LinkedIn. Then I have three very specific profiles to have deeper conversations on the subjects I like the most @JKWinnovation@JKWgrowth@JKWleadership.

Reasons to do it

  1. If you Tweet consistently – and I do – linking to other platforms like Facebook, Plaxo, and Linked in can cause you to monopolize your friends feeds.  It’s like crying wolf – when you have something important to say – no one’s there to listen.
  2. Your profile is a brand component.  Multiple profiles allow you to keep your brand focused and consistent within each profile.  People follow the profiles that have the messages they want.
  3. It’s easier to have real conversations.  On the focused profiles, I follow publications and people who tweet on the subject – when we connect we have something to actually talk/tweet about.

Early mistakes

  1.  Don’t be a FEED HOG.  Unless it’s meaningful across profiles,don’t multi-tweet.  It’s annoying if your followers don’t have a tool like Seesmic that aggregates repeat messages.
  2. CHECK your spelling.  (My biggest failing.) People discount your message if it’s  full of typos.
  3. Find the right mix of tools.  It’s a bit of trial and error but the right tools for you are out there and more are coming daily. (More on tools below.)
  4. Let people know you are out there and what you have to say.  Thanks  to the folks at TwitStamp for these fun and interactive profile stamps.

Ways to make work it without going crazy

  1. There are some great tools for those of us with multiple profiles.  None are perfect, but my toolset includes Seesmic – great visual interface – and Hootsuite which allows me to ‘tweet later’ and manage the follow.  It these two platforms would just merge into one, I would be in Twitter Heaven.
  2. Tweet Later – a great way to spread your messages across the day with out being tied to your computer.  Early each morning I schedule a few messages for each profile to tweet later using Hootsuite.  Then I log in later via Seesmic to read the feed, reply to conversations, or share more ‘in the moment’ thoughts.
  3. Set aside a specific time to do this then turn it off.  It’s easy to get sucked into all the goings on and not get other important things done.
  4. Less can be More – I share and follow based on good content.  So when someone follows me – I follow them.  If it turns out to be spam or just noise – I un-follow later.  That way I can find interesting new people and still get through all the messages in a reasonable amount of time.

How’s it going?

So far, so good.  I have met some great new people, found interesting articles and blogs, gotten asked to be on a couple of radio shows to share ideas on topics I care about, and, wonder of wonders, found a customer or two in the process.  Who knows, I may also find what I really want – the opportunity to lead and grow another really cool company.  Not a bad start.

Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

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

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

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

Climbing Mountains…one step at a time

south mountainThis morning my husband Chris and I took a walk on South Mountain.  As mountains go it is is not exactly the top of the heap. Mount Suppoa (the highest peak) reaches 2,690 feet.

As I tripped up the trail (literally) I saw others making the trek.  Mothers with little children, bikers, hikers and the like, all were taking advantage of the trails on a glorious Arizona Sunday morning.

Walking the paths, I thought back on the week and the many people I had met with and talked to.  Each were climbing their own mountains (metaphorically).  Some were looking for jobs.  Some were starting them.  Others were starting new businesses or growing the businesses they work in.  Some had had unexpected set backs.  Some were worried about what was yet to come as the economy continued to falter and the stock market hit a new low.  But interestingly, as each tackled their personal mountains…no one was giving up.  Each was taking it one step at a time. 

DSC00084 I remember another time when things were pretty bleak.  It was October of 2001.  The implosion had just begun to really gain momentum.  Our country had just experienced one of its greatest tragedies – the horror of 9-11.  At that time my husband and I were in China and climbing another mountain, this time along the Juyongguan Pass (about 37 miles from the city of Beijing)  back in those days we also faced uncertainty, a perilous  stock market, job losses, and the like.  But we rose up after that period in history and started climbing again.  Just like we did in ’89, in ’92 in the 70’s and on and on it goes.  You take each step just as my friends and I did along the Great Wall.  You struggle to reach the ‘top’, and when you do, before you is an incredible vista – of more steps and watchtowers as far as the eye can see.  Each one is a new milestone – a challenge to be reached.  And in between there are valleys where you step down before you can begin to step up again.

It’s been said that there is only one way to eat an elephant…one bite at a time.  Well, when it comes to tackling mountains, we take it one step at a time.  In the end, it’s worth it.

So as I prepare to tackle the week ahead, I have my hiking shoes on.  We each have a mountain to conquer, I wish you luck with yours.

Joan Koerber-Walker, CorePurpose, Inc.