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Cara Good, NAWBO OC

Click Here for Cara Good's Bio
Putting hope into action
My prediction: 2009 will be the year of more not less.

In my previous bloggerie, I shared my view on why hope is a business strategy. Thinking more about it, I wanted to turn my belief into actions for my personal life, business success and professional pursuits.

Then that bold statement entered my mind – and I haven’t been able to dodge it: 2009 will be the year of more not less.

Sure, there’s a lot to be fearful about right now. And that means some people are thinking about how to get by with less. Less money. Less work. Less control. Less life.

Not me. I refuse. I want more.

My Depression-era grandparents taught me the value of hard work and the magic of optimism. They instilled in me respect for a dollar as well as respect for my neighbor. They told me it was my responsibility to become self-sufficient as well as my obligation to help those who weren’t. I refer to their lessons as the economics of hope.

Like any good economic plan, the economics of hope requires some resolutions. Here are mine:

•    Learn more – The world is changing faster than ever before (or maybe it just seems that way because of the speed at which information is shared). Nonetheless, what I know today won’t serve me tomorrow. I’ll seek out formal and informal ways to boost my knowledge. I’ll visit the NAWBO-OC Education Center this year and seek out the advice of fellow business owners.

•    Share more – What I learn, I’ll share. Sure, there’s a danger in some competitor swiping my great ideas. However, I think there’s a bigger danger in hoarding knowledge that could make my company, employees, partners, clients and friends smarter and more competitive. Social media and social networking are a great way to share more.

•    Engage more – It’s tempting to “hunker down” right now and pull back on volunteer activities with professional organizations and charities. We all lose if we do that. Yes, I’ll prioritize, but I’ll also give more time to professional networking and charity volunteering. NAWBO-OC, of course, provides me with many ways to engage more, and I will be co-chairing a charity fundraiser for Mercy House.

What more do you want in 2009? I’d love to hear your thoughts.   

Why hope is a business strategy.
Hope. It applies to more than this year’s presidential election. Hope also applies to how we in Orange County manage our businesses and lives during these uncertain times.

There is a lot to be fearful about right now, from the state of our anorexic 401k retirement funds to the job losses fueling foreclosures. Political, social and economic forces are at work beyond our control that, well, control our fortunes and futures.

As I sit down to write this post, I am still reflecting on e-mails I exchanged today with a client based in India.

“We’re concerned about the American economy right now,” my client wrote to me in an e-mail. “The customers we want to market to are delaying their spending. Maybe we should postpone any marketing campaigns for a few months. What do you think?”

During times like these, advice on how to make your business and household recession-resilient is readily available. A lot of it merely reiterates trite phrases. (“Cash is king.”) Some of it warrants further consideration or action. (“Cuts are a must.”) Most of it only serves to further speculation based on fear and indecision. (“Spend every dollar as if it were your last.”)

So, I am advising our clients – and leading my company – on the economics of hope. Nope, playing ostrich doesn’t serve anyone. We can’t wish ourselves out of this precarious situation. However, making the tough calls that every small business across America must make every day without losing faith in the American dream serves everyone. This is a brilliant time for companies that have the will to succeed. It’s the time to cut fat but not to cut marketing. It’s time to form alliances with other business owners and professionals who can serve as extensions of your sales force. It’s the time to network, network, network. (Women business owners: sign up for the next NAWBO-OC meeting. A year from now, those connections will be golden to you.) As with every other economic downdraft, the companies left standing will be the ones that charge forward when a bear market returns.  

How advocacy accelerates the agenda...
Politics and public policy are dual passions of mine. I not only see advocacy as my right as an American, but also my responsibility as a business owner. A growing number of small- to mid-size business owners like me now realize the importance of garnering government support to doing business. Long held as a function necessary for large entities and publicly traded companies, entrepreneurs and chief executives at companies of all sizes are beginning to see the value in building strong relationships with local, state and federal governments, and taking an active role in shaping public policy.

In my work with entrepreneurs and business owners, I’ve seen first-hand how companies that set aside the time and funds to build their corporate reputation through public relations and government advocacy accelerate faster than those that don’t. It’s with good reason: We live and work in an innovation economy, especially here in Southern California, in which the ideas we produce yield greater competitive value than the goods we manufacture.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan said it another way: “In today’s world, where ideas are increasingly displacing the physical in the production of economic value, competition for reputation becomes a significant driving force.”

You might think that getting involved will be cumbersome or tricky. Let me tell you, it’s not. You can join many groups that subscribe to an advocacy agenda designed to advance member businesses. NAWBO takes a stand on the top issues affecting women business owners across the country and in our home community. Especially important in this election year, federal and local legislation has an impact on the bottom line as well as your ability to do business.

Get involved. Find your voice. Together, we can influence public policy issues that are vital to economic growth and quality of life in our region. And that’s a winning formula that not only builds corporate reputation but also achieves our operational and strategic business goals.

Go on a "stratcation" instead...
By now, you’ve heard the term “staycation,” a vacation spent close to one’s home.

I’d like Urban Dictionary to add another term: stratcation. That’s what I called my one-week vacation this summer. I not only stayed at home, but I used the time to conduct strategic planning for my business and life. The timing was right: I was embarking on my second term on the NAWBO-OC board of directors, and we had just celebrated the sixth anniversary of WunderMarx|PR.

Okay, okay. I admit that I snuck in a few good Orange County dining experiences and spa appointments, but I used the balance of my time off to think about the direction of my company and chart a course for the upcoming year.  

After six years in business, I can say with great pride that we have accomplished a lot. I am proud of the success we have achieved, but I can’t say that all of it was planned. I also know that most of the bumps we encountered could have been prevented with some forethought. (And by “bumps,” I mean Olympic-scale hurdles.)

So I took time off to do something that every business book tells business owners to do: plan. I didn’t handle any day-to-day work during my stratcation. I checked in with my office, but I let my very talented staff do what they do so well and stayed out of their way.

The result: clarity.

I not only emerged from my stratcation truly excited about our business, but re-engaged in how to make it stand out and re-committed to the great people who work for us. I not only have a road map for the next year, but the energy to execute it. With my NAWBO-OC colleagues holding me accountable, I know it’s going to be a great year.  


Nine Ways to Create a Super-Charged Referral Marketing Program
One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my involvement with NAWBO-OC (National Association of Women Business Owners) is that networking and referral marketing is a mainstay of business development. I’ve also learned that I need to create a process for getting the most out of networking. So, here are the nine principles of referral marketing I’ve identified. I’d love to hear how you’ve used these principles or if you have other techniques for building strong referral partner relationships with your contacts.

1.    Cultivate a Referral Mindset — Think relationship networking and look for ways to add value to every conversation… conversations lead to contacts that lead to connections. Don’t be afraid to glow!

2.    Know What You Want — Invest the time and resources to identify your ideal client. Then invest the time to identify the right referral partners for your business.

3.    Create a Referral System — Now that you’ve identified a client profile and referral partner program, create a system to market to them. Identify the process you’ll take when you give and receive referrals.

4.    Make Yourself “Referral Worthy” — Simply being in business isn’t enough. You must make yourself worthy of referrals. Why should someone trust you? What’s going to happen after the referral? Promote your referral system.

5.    Work It — Do you wait for referrals or do you actively seek them? You give what you get — and you can’t get unless you ask! Consider a letter-writing campaign or use social networks.

6.    Search for Referrals in All the Right Places — Make a list of all current and past clients, partners, employers and employees, networking partners, etc. Businesses today — especially small businesses — count on people connecting them to resources and contacts.

7.    Network, Network, Network — Keep the referral pipeline filled by networking constantly. Treat each encounter as a networking opportunity and identify “formal” networking groups where you can get involved — be sure to take a leadership position.

8.    Thank Referrals Publicly — Gold stars worked in kindergarten. They work now, too.

9.    Create Buzz So Referrals Happen Naturally — Consider launching a PR campaign, which can lead to broader exposure and more clients.

These steps have helped me create a sustainable sales channel based on personal testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing. What has worked for you? 


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