Sunday, September 27, 2009

Need a Job? I Have One.

I spent the last couple of days in Boca Raton, Florida with some of the most amazing people that I have ever met. I am not one to go to a conference for women or women business owners but I needed to get inspired. I know the economy is bad. We hear it ever day and that sucks. But, you know what, our business is growing and we are grateful. A trip to South Florida was fine with me and I got more inspiration than I expected.

Count Me In is an organization whose mission is to promote economic independence and the growth of women owned businesses. You know how I found out about them? I was going through a stack of catalogs deciding which ones to read and which ones to recycle and I saw the Costco Connection. Now I love Costco. I just do. I saw Theresa Alfaro Daytner, owner of Daytner Construction Group on the cover. I read the article and you can read it too . I signed up for the 3 day event. What the heck.

I had the privilege of meeting Nell Merlino, the creator of Take our Daughters to Work Day, author of “Stepping Out of Line”, and the leader of The Count me In Women’s organization (That's her in the picture with me)

I want to focus on one of the many outstanding things that Nell said. And, I am taking liberty in paraphrasing. The biggest issue in the United States today is the unemployment rate. What is wrong with the country is that people are not working. Fear is stalling the growth.

Even the female business owners in this conference were hesitant to hire employees, which means as the leaders of our companies we are taking on more and more work. I looked this up and it’s real according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics released September 23, 2009: The national unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in August 2009, seasonally ad-justed, up from 9.4 per-cent the prior month and up from 6.2 percent a year earlier. Yep, that means 1 out of ten people in the United States is out of work.

She went on to talk about this being a very tough year. And, I agree, and it does seem like everyone is waiting for someone to fix this or the government will throw enough of our money at it to make an impact. Then she said something amazing. I wrote it down. “What if we could?” And, I thought what if we could what, Nell? Are you actually suggesting that the 100 female small business owners in this room fix the economy? Really.

She told a story about women and war. No, not about a cultural icon, Rosie the Riveter – we have all heard it; she talked about how during World War I, even though very few women worked outside the home they took the place of the men who had gone off to war and worked in factories and on the farms. Teddy Roosevelt even provided uniforms with pants (very few women wore pants back then) and women ended the food riots by harvesting the crops and planting Victory Gardens. Women in the U.S. and Britain brought in the crops (see Farmettes and Land Girls).

Women get it done when the chips are down.

Back to “What if we could?” She said, “What if everyone in this room hired one person when they got back to their business?” It’s about personal responsibility and accountability and the belief that the show goes on (according to me) and again, I think she is right. That would put 100 people to work and the family, community, and economic impact of that does matter. There is a ripple effect. However, is it significant? Well, there are millions of female and minority owned businesses and if everyone hired one person we would put millions of people back to work. Yes, it is significant.

· 10.5 million businesses are owned by women in the United States*
· Women-owned businesses employ approximately 27 million people
· Women own 48% of all businesses in the United States
· Women business owners contribute more than $3.6 trillion to the marketplace each year
· Women account for more than 70% of consumer spending
· 55% of women provide half or more of their household's income, yet 48 million women -- that is 80% of all women in the workforce -- earn less than $25,000 a year**

*”Stepping out of Line” and **Facts from "The National Foundation for Women Business Owners"

What if every corporation or business regardless of the gender of the owner (who cares!) added one employee this month or next month? Why wait for our government to get it right? Why not do what we do and get down to business. Every woman that I met this past week was a woman that meant business. And, many of these women run multi-million dollar businesses.

One of my favorite comments of the day was from one of the few men in attendance. An executive from Office Depot (a sponsor of Count Me In and the wonderful folks at Office Depot are the topic of my next Blog) had supported, attended and listened to the comments from women for 3 days. And, he said, “If the women in this room are representative of other businesses run by women then I feel comfortable in saying we’re good. The U.S. is good.” Everyone applauded because he is right. We are good. We are an amazing country with people that have a can-do attitude. Turn off CNN (Constant Negative News) before you spiral into a depression and think about what you can do to chip in.

I am proud that Mindspot Inc, is a state of Florida certified Female/Minority owned business enterprise and I am proud to belong to Count Me In, an outstanding organization that helps women build their lives and their business.

So in closing, what are you going to do? I would love to hear your feedback. Post a comment because I know you have something to say. I have a job opening. Email us for the job description at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Many Friends Are Too Many Friends?

Ever wonder how many users are on Facebook? The answer, today, is more than 250 million active users. Facebook started on a college campus (Harvard) in February 2004 and then expanded to other colleges and then high schools. Today two-thirds of FB members are outside of college and the fastest growing demographic is 35+.

The average FB user has 120 friends. How many do you have? Today I have 274 tomorrow maybe more…maybe less. Here’s the thing: Corporate management theory, the military and psychology gurus support the optimum group size of 150.

It is often referred to as “The Dunbar Number” because Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist researched this and determined the optimum number to maintain social interaction was 150. His research was based on personal communication involving speech. So what does that mean for a social networking site like Facebook? Does it mean that we as humans using technology –that we are expanding our “tribe”? Is it an evolutionary shift?

Or will what typically happens in corporate, organizations, and government evolve here as well? Will we have more bureaucracy and social stratification to ultimately keep the core group smaller and more manageable? Can we keep up with a growing number of friends?

I recently had a FB request from someone who wanted to know where he knew me from? Well he doesn’t know me. However, he sent me the friend request a while back because I am a friend of his friend’s sister. That was when he was new to Facebook and adding friends. Now, he wants to decrease the size of his group to people that he knew or that he communicated with on a regular basis. I made the cut, but likely only because I responded that I enjoy his posts. I am reasonably sure if you didn’t respond to his post that you were “de-friended”.

There is an application where you can designate your “Top 25 friends” or you can be someone’s “Top Girl” to let people know who your top people are at any point in time. Or maybe it’s to let you know. Based on user demand FB has added Friend Privacy in March of 2008.

Dunbar’s research also supports that in small groups there are diminishing returns on Group Satisfaction after the group exceeds 150. For smaller groups this occurs between 12 and 15 people. Ah ha that is were the optimum focus group size of 8-12 comes from! Yes, it’s based on research!

So getting back to the point; are we evolving with the help of technology or are we providing diluted communication to some group members once they exceed the personal limits of our time and attention? My guess is that the effective number is still 150. It takes a long time for evolution to happen even with the Internet!
However, we will keep adding friends and the average number will grow exponentially like Facebook itself has grown. A number of segments within our groups will evolve with varying degrees of communication and interest and we will pay more attention to some friends than others. And, if we want to keep in touch with everyone and let them know we think about them…we write a blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

There’s a Personal Cost to Living Virtually

I make my living using cyber tools to better understand the “real” world. So, I’m the last person to bash the Internet or the emerging social media. But because I spend so much time online I invest a significant amount of time and energy examining what is done well online and what isn’t.

There’s an old axiom that everything comes around again. You know, the old becomes new. Well, one of society’s lamentations has been that as TV became more widely available families stopped sitting down around the table for dinner together. TV trays were invented and people brought their food into the living room and all sat around watching the Boob Tube and no longer talked with one another.

As time has progressed people bought more than one TV per household and that availability of multiple screens coupled with 100s of channels led to even greater isolation as people weren’t even sitting in proximity to each other. Everyone grabs their own micro waved dinner or snack and retreats to their own space to watch whatever interests them and they no longer have to be inconvenienced by their siblings’, parent’s or children’s request to change the channel. And now, the internet provides us with even more thinly sliced niches to explore.

Social media has arisen in response to people’s sense of isolation. The irony is social media tools far from bringing us together are further isolating us. Personal websites, Facebook pages and Twitter are very useful for disseminating information to large groups of people. We post once and “broadcast” to our audience. But the question becomes just because you can do something, should you?

I’m sure sometime in your life you’ve heard the expression, “Think before you speak.” The same holds true with the Internet. Think before you post. Ask yourself why are you posting? Would you say what you’re writing to someone’s face? To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How’s that work for you?”

A lot of people feel that without social media they wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with their friends because their too busy. I’d like to encourage you to rethink this. We all know long-distance relationships are difficult to sustain. Social media creates artificial distance between us and our friends. It can also sustain the illusion that a true relationship actually exists. Text messaging, email, Twitter and Facebook are all substitutes for being there in the flesh.

At least when you call, people can hear your voice. You can hear the inflections, hesitations and enthusiasm that are so very difficult to convey in writing. However, it does require more time and commitment to the relationship than a broadcast message.

I have no intention of stopping using social media, nor am I suggesting that you do. I just want you to stop and ask yourself what price you’re paying for the efficiency and “convenience”.

Sometimes nurturing your relationship with one or two friends over a cup of coffee can provide more nourishment for your soul and theirs than broadcasting spontaneous, empty, cotton candy updates to all of your friends.