Sunday, December 30, 2012

Women and Money – Do they mix?

Women make 85% of the buying decision in every household.  It is pretty well understood that we control the purse strings in most households.  Why is that women don’t understand financial planning?  Of course financial planning is very important. I hope our young daughters are more educated and involved in financial decision than women in my generation. 

I have to admit, I let my husband control that part of our marriage partnership.  Should I be more involved?  YES.  But why do I not take action to be more educated and involved?  There in lies the bigger question.  Over the next couple of months, FAMILY Magazine is going to explore the topic of women and financial planning.

A friend of mine, Mario Gabalda, sent me an article from Financial Planning Magazine this morning that I feel compelled to share.  Mario is a Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services in Tysons, Virginia. The article is talking to Financial Planners about women and how they make decisions. One particular quote from the article prompted me to action.

“… one in three women do not have a financial advisor but they are eager to work with an advisor to gain the tools and knowledge that they need.”
Do you have some thoughts on this subject?  I would love to hear from you.  Here is the article from Mario. 

By: Savita Iyer-Ahrestani

Financial advisors who think of women as a minority market segment probably need to think again.
Studies indicate that women are becoming a majority rather than a minority and represent one of the fastest growing client segments in the U.S.—a segment that both large financial firms and independent financial advisors cannot afford to ignore going forward.

Consider that 53% of women who participated in a recent Prudential Financial survey entitled “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” are now the primary breadwinners for their families.

“Whether it’s because of their partners losing their jobs, because of divorce or because they’re deciding to marry later, women are increasingly becoming the major breadwinners in their households,” says Caroline Feeney, president of agency distribution at Prudential Financial. “We expect that this trend will continue as women are also graduating from school at a higher rate than men, successfully getting into the workforce and then succeeding at their jobs and rising in the ranks.”

All these social shifts have resulted in a sharp increase in women’s earning power and wealth creation power, says Teresa Dentino, founder and CEO of The Financial 411, a financial education firm in Woodside, Calif. Women today make up just under half of the nation’s millionaires, she says, and some have forecasted that they will hold two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030.

Although many firms have recognized the great business potential that women represent and have begun to make serious efforts to better understand women and cater to them in a more productive and profitable way, Dentino believes that most still have a long way to go before they get a proper handle on how to really connect with women.

“While many firms are definitely taking note of the importance of women today, they still don’t quite know how to approach women in a meaningful way and to really understand women’s requirements,” she says.

Dentino believes that women need education more than anything else. As much as they may hold the wealth, most women have not had the direct experience needed to understand finance and financial planning, she says, so the onus is on financial professionals to give them the knowledge and understanding they need so that “women can connect the dots.”

“By educating women, you include them and this helps mitigate the lack of trust and fear they hold,” she says. “Education equals engagement plus empowerment.”

However, there’s a way to educate. More than anything, women don’t want to be talked down to, Dentino says, and the majority of financial advisors still feel like they have to “dumb things down” in order for women to understand them. Finding the right balance between bombarding women with technical jargon, graphs and numbers, on one hand, and “talking with them about their grandchildren or their kid’s school bake sale,” on the other, is the biggest challenge for advisors who want to reach out to women, Dentino says. 

According to the Prudential survey, one in three women do not have a financial advisor but they are eager to work with an advisor to gain the tools and knowledge that they need.

“Advisors therefore need move from a transactional-based model to more of a relationship-based model, with a greater focus on education,” Feeney says. “The only way that women can become more confident about themselves and their financial planning abilities is when they get the knowledge they need and when they feel they can trust their advisor.”

According to Feeney, trust is at the core of what a woman wants from a financial advisor and is paramount in the female-advisor relationship.

“Our study showed that women are more apt to stick with an advisor once they have that trust in place, and they are more likely to place multiple products and service with one advisor,” Feeney says. “So while it may be additional work upfront in terms of education – both educating advisors on the importance of recognizing women as a potential market opportunity and then teaching them how to approach women correctly – I do believe that at the end of the day, it will be more than worth it for advisors to help female clients.”

That’s what Dentino believes, too, and she’s working with numerous financial firms to help them develop programs and train their sales staff on the many levels of adjustments they can make to better engage and serve their female clients.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Inspiration for Motivation

Inspiration for Motivation

While the Thanksgiving holiday is a great occasion for feasting, I truly believe that we must not forget the reason underlying the celebration.

This week, I offered to substitute for a friend, Dr. Brandon Lemuel at a regular Wednesday morning meeting of local business people where FAMILY Magazine is a member.  Dr. Brandon (as we call him) provides a motivational quote every Wednesday to the group. I volunteered because he will miss the meeting this week. He is going to be with family for Thanksgiving.  I thought it would be enjoyable to search for a good quote to share with our Wednesday group.

Little did I know what an experience this search would be. Dr. Brandon is always in a great mood and greets everyone on Wednesday with such enthusiasm.  Now I know why.  Searching for a good motivating quote to give next Wednesday has been just down right FUN.  I have read some of the greatest quotes, I am in a great mood and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving so I can give a great toast at our family gathering.

But there is one problem, I found too many motivational quotes.  Now I can’t choose the best one.  So I decided to put my favorites on my blog and share.

When you gather around with friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner, think of all the wonderful time you have spent together. It is good to count your blessings, share your dreams and aspirations. Let those that love you know your inner most goals.

The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. If you want this tradition to continue, you must invest positive energy into the Thanksgiving dinner, and make it a joyous affair. Let your enthusiasm and energy revitalize everyone. Prepare a great Thanksgiving toast and inspire others with your positive words. Make this your best Thanksgiving dinner. Here are some Thanksgiving quotes to help you create a memorable Thanksgiving.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Anne Frank
I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.

Theodore Roosevelt
Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.

William Shakespeare
Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.

Robert Quillen
If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.

Johannes A. Gaertner
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.
Frederick Keonig
We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.

Alice W. Brotherton
Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast, And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.

H. W. Westermayer
The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts... nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.

Albert Pine
What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.
Happy Thanksgiving!

And,a big thank you to Dr. Brandon for the opportunity to share with our group on Wednesday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Annual Women's Leadership Conference

Last night I was privileged to attend the 4th Annual Women’s Leadership Forum held by the Washington DC Police Foundation at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington Cemetery.  Here is a picture of District of Columbia Chief of Police, Cathy Lanier and myself.

The November issue of FAMILY Magazine features Chief Lanier on the cover and includes a wonderful article about her and how she has been so successful in a male dominated world.  If you haven't read this insightful article written by our own Cynda Zurfluh, please read it today.

The event featured a panel of 3 great role models for young women:  Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Beverly Perry, Special Advisor to the CEO, Pepco Holdings and Alisa Ulrey, Group Director for Target Corporation in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

The evening started off with a bang when the two wonderful moderators (young DC women) asked each of the panelists what was their most difficult challenge.  Ms. Ulrey answered that balancing her life as a mother and a professional woman was definitely her biggest challenge.

I knew right then and there I was going to like this panel of influential women. 

Here are some significant quotes from the panel:

Beverly Perry, “I tell my team I won’t ask you to work harder than me.  Just try to keep up.”

Chief Lanier, “The decisions I made when I was young made my life much harder.  Consider every decision you make carefully.”

Alisa Ulrey, “My motto is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”

Beverly Perry, “I found my passion when I focused on helping my community.”  (Interesting information – Beverly is the highest-ranking female African American in the energy community) 

In case you are not aware of the Washington DC Police Foundation, the mission of the Washington DC Police Foundation is to bring together business, professional, civic and nonprofit organizations and individual citizens to promote public safety by providing financial and in-kind resources to the Chief of Police and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Their goal is to make Washington, DC a safer place to live, work and visit for everyone.

Last night Joseph Persichini, the Executive Director spoke about the Foundation’s summer mentoring program.  He was very motivating and I am going to explore having FAMILY Magazine participate next year.  Please look into this great organization that is definitely making a difference in the lives of youth in the District of Columbia.  The young women in attendance last night were really impressive and you can expect great things from them.


My Keynote Address

Today I was fortunate to give the keynote address for a group of about 90 local business leaders.  The group I spoke to is a networking group, and about 30 visitors attended as well. You have probably heard of BNI (Business Networking International). It is a great organization for networking and building business by word of mouth. And, the chapter that I belong to is absolutely fantastic. In fact, it is the largest BNI in Northern Virginia. They are like working with family. They really care about each other.

What is the purpose of the BNI keynote?  The purpose of having each member do a presentation is so we can all understand a member and their business. Because this group really wants to help each other, it’s an important part of our weekly meeting.

The mission of FAMILY Magazine is to help businesses that want to sell to our readers be successful, and grow.  We all know that in today’s cluttered marketing world, you really need to reach your audience 9 different ways and FAMILY Magazine does offer several ways for companies to reach our readers.  At this presentation I focused on our print magazine.

After the meeting, one of my guests, Ritzya, the Drama Coach, came up to me and offered presentation advice. I will share her top three tips –
1.    Make a strong presence. Keep their attention.
2.    Stay within the time you promised. Don’t go over.
3.    Tell stories, some at the beginning and some during your presentation.

Her ideas are great and certainly something that we could all do to make our presentations better.  Here is a link to her website if you’re looking to improve your speaking, your personal pitch or your image.

When BNI members conduct their keynotes, they’ll typically mention who makes a good referral for their company.  Since I went over my allotted time today (true to form), I wasn’t able to share this information with my group.  So, who is a good referral for FAMILY Magazine?

What is a good referral for me?
A good referral for me is a company sells a service or product to women who have children. If you are talking to someone with these attributes and they say, “We are putting together a new brand or new marketing plan” they are a great lead for me. You could say to them, “Have you looked at FAMILY Magazine? I am friends with the publisher.”

Another good referral might be a company that is just starting and wants to sell to women, AND they have an advertising budget. You might be helping them with other aspects of their business, so you will be able to see if you, or your wife might purchase their product. You could ask them if they are putting together a marketing plan. Then suggest they also look at FAMILY Magazine.

Sometimes FAMILY can work with a very small company that is just starting when they have a small marketing budget.  They might not be ready to have Mary Kay with Blue Shamrock Communications step in, but we can be creative and help them get going. If they are looking to reach women, we can help them.

     You might listen for these key statements:
We are reaching out into the Washington market.
We are looking for ways to promote our business.
We are looking for a good way to communicate with moms.
We want to do more social networking to reach moms.

What would be a bad referral?

We really are not a good source for an in-home day care or companies that cannot afford at least $120 a month for advertising. To really work with them and promote them through our weekly newsletter and social networking (as well as a print ad), they really need to make a commitment towards marketing of at least $120 a month.

How do you give me a referral? A personal email introduction is a great way to give me a referral.  Be sure to include their name and phone in the email.

In case you missed it, here are the main points of my speech:

Women make almost all the buying decisions for almost everything we all use.  Readers of FAMILY Magazine make some of those decisions when they read our magazine.

You need to be persistent and consistent with your advertising because women keep information a long time.

You can count on FAMILY Magazine to help build business.  We have several different methods that reach our readers to achieve this.

A good referral is a company that is targeting women and ready to make a consistent investment into reaching women.

Because at FAMILY Magazine, WE REACH WOMEN

    If you have questions, please send me an email.  Brenda’s Email

I’ll leave you with my motivational quote for the morning –
“Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can't put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don't overlook life's small joys while searching for the big ones.”

-- H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Writer

Friday, October 19, 2012

WAFE Panel, Can Women Have it All?

(FYI-- This post was written before the program Morning Joe spread the word about Hillary Clinton's comments)

Wednesday I attended a luncheon presented by WAFE, Women’s Alliance for Financial Education.  Along with some great networking with other women from all over the region, there was a panel of women who spoke to the question, “Can Women Have It All?”

This conversation was prompted somewhat by a recent article posted on The Atlantic website by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Why Women Still Can't Have It All.

Can we? 

The feeling from the group at the end of the discussion seemed to be that we are not quite there yet.  Maybe women have tempered their expectations in recent years but we are still far behind where we want to be in regards to our professional combined with “motherhood” lives.

The panelist were Meredith Fuchs, Kathy Korman Frey, Frederique Irwin and Marissa Levin.  Each had their own view of were women stand and what it means to “Have It All.”

It was a great discussion.  Each of these women appear to be very successful both professionally and personally.  It was quite motivating to hear their thoughts.

Here are some of the gems I picked up from the conversation.

--The number one thing women want is support at home.
--Companies that have a formal program in place to promote women into leadership roles are more financially profitable (yippe).
--The number one factor in success for a young girl is a good role model.
--Family support is critical in a young girl’s success.
--Work life balance is one of the top 3 concerns of Generation Y and the Millennium generation.
--The United States has a strong culture for women entrepreneurs and this is really good.

Dawn Wilson, the moderator summed up the discussion with these points.

We have come a long way but we have further to go.

Support at home is critical.

There is no cookie cutter way to reach your own success.

Support from the government will help make changes.

Women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are few and far between.  For those who want to achieve this, it can be done.  And, for some mothers, this is not a real definition of success.  First we each have to define what success means to us, then set about achieving it.

A second step might be to start promoting a work/life balance by being honest with ourselves and our employees.  It is okay to want to be with your kids and family.  It is okay to be late to work or leave early to make family your #1 priority.  If we start telling people that family is important and we SHOW that our family is important by making these choices, maybe then our society (and government) will begin to see that family is important. 

If you ask any of my employees what is important to me, they are going to tell you my family.  They know because I am constantly doing things that show this is my priority.  My husband and my kids come first.  Does that mean I comprise on my job and my company? Yes, but I also work a great deal to make up for the time I am not focused on FAMILY Magazine.  I work weekends, mornings and nights.  It is not uncommon to see an email from me at 4AM.  But if my husband is leaving on one of his frequent out of town trips, I drive him to the airport (a great tradition we have).  I love giving him that goodbye kiss to remind him why he needs to hurry home.

Remember one of the success factors for young girls?  Role models.  We need to be role models to the rest of society.  Show people your family is important.

Walk the walk and talk the talk.  After all, it really is all about FAMILY.  In the end you won't be waving money or a fancy title from your death bed.  You might want to have your family around you so you know you have left the world a better place.

For me, the key to this is really defining your own definition of success. If I have the end in mind, perhaps you can map out how to get there.  If I don’t know where I want to go, how can I create the plan and follow the map?

As they say in the musical South Pacific, “You have to have a dream to have a dream come true.” 


Note:  While I was researching links for this post I discovered a pair of interesting articles. You really need to read both of these articles if are interested in this topic.  Very interesting.....hummm

Profile of Hillary Clinton by Ayelet Waldman on the Marie Claire website posted on Thursday.

I discovered the profile of Ms. Clinton after clicking on a link on The Atlantic that was promoted with these words:  Hillary Clinton Is Tired of Having the 'Having It All' Debate

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview with a Shark Feeder


A real life shark feeder?


How many people do you know that have had the privilege to interview a shark feeder?  I will bet not many.  Now you know one, ME!

Here is my interview with Andrea at Stuart Cove in the Bahamas.  This was recorded right after I went diving with the sharks with Andrea feeding them.  See my blog below for the details.  It was awesome!

Andrea was a very interesting person.  His main concern was always the safety of the divers.  He did a great job and really gave us the adventure we were looking for.

Cheers to Andrea!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Swimming with Sharks in Real Life - and In Business

I’ve been the publisher at Family Magazine for over 21 years.  We’re located in the Washington DC area so I can tell you I’m familiar with the rough and tough business of “business.”  There are sharks in these DC commerce waters.  Big ones, little ones, sneaky ones – all hungry.  I hereby admit I have acted shark-like myself as needed over the years.  Eat or get eaten as it were….

You’d think I’d be ready to swim with the real thing after two decades of business experience.  You’d think.  I just have to tell you, those underwater sharks with fins and tails are a different kind of scary.  They actually can and will bite your arm off if you make a wrong move (any move).  After my recent experience of being surrounded by real sharks, I have many new levels of respect – for sharks, myself, and even my business associates.

I learned a lot about myself sitting on the edge of the boat and on a rock at the bottom of the ocean that was teeming with hungry sharks.  I learned that:
1.    Preparation is everything – don’t jump off a boat into a shark fest without someone who knows what they’re doing (and a plan to get out).
2.    Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith – you gotta trust that guy with the shark bait.
3.    Research the dangers so you know what you are getting into – as much as that’s possible….
4.    Know your limitations.
5.    Be prepared for the unexpected – the aforementioned plan must be flexible.
6.    Don’t try to solve problems too fast.  Often, they can solve themselves with less danger.

How I swam with sharks and lived to tell you about it….

Here's our video and the story below!

On our recent annual vacation with my husband, our youngest daughter and her new fiancé, we did some scuba diving.  Scuba diving in shark infested waters.  On purpose. 

We are all experienced scuba divers and have been taking an annual vacation together for four years.  This year our goal was to swim with sharks in the waters of the Bahamas.  This particular area is very well known as a great place to experience sharks up close and personal.  Assuming you’re into that sort of thing.

Not to ruin the ending, but it was a truly amazing experience.  One that I almost didn’t experience.  I was scared to death.  So as I got ready to make my giant stride (scuba lingo) into the water, I paused and asked the Dive Master if he thought I’d make it.  He said I’d be fine since I was so petite.  I was liking that guy already – he said the sharks only seem to notice the really big guys when they move.  Score one for the little lady.

As “guests” at the shark feeding, our job was to sit as still as possible on the ocean floor in an Arena where the Master Divers (the hosts as it were) fed bait to the sharks.  Apparently sharks don’t really see what they’re attacking.  They’re attracted by smell and large moving objects.  They actually cover their eyes during a feeding frenzy with a special membrane to protect them.  So the argument goes that we divers, seated politely in the middle of their feast, won’t draw their attention. 

My daughters, Brittany and Amy, are always telling me how much I use my arms when I dive.  You’re not supposed to, but I do.  So I’m thinking I’ll never be able to sit still during a dive.  I’ll be the one down there stabilizing myself by waving my arms around.  I could just hear the voices in my head:  “Here sharky, sharky.  Come and get it!” 

The water around the boat was teeming with sharks – what was I thinking?  You could see them coming up to the surface and then swimming away from the boat.  However, when the photographers and two Dive Masters entered the water, the sharks seemed to move away from the boat.  I put that in the plus column.  The Dive Masters kept telling us we’d be fine and to take our “leap” of faith.

So I take a giant stride out into the water, and what do I see just as my mask hits the water?  A shark.  So the sharks had not gone away as I previously believed (or to be honest hoped for).  I can just see the look of surprise that would be on my daughter Amy’s face if she could see me now.  Me, her mother, the wimpy diver who panics when she thinks there’s a shark in the distance (usually swimming away from us).  Her mother has just stepped off a perfectly good boat into shark infested waters.

There were twelve of us at this shark dinner party.  After we were all seated or kneeling on the sand, the shark experience started.  The “feeding diver” arrived with a box of bait.  I wasn’t sure I needed an experience greater than what we already had - the sharks had been circling us from the very moment we entered the water.  So when the bait arrived they started swimming closer, next to, and (gasp) between us. 

When the feeder started pulling bait out of the box, the sharks went crazy.  It wasn’t quite the huge feeding frenzy that would make it onto “SHARK WEEK” but it was intense!  These sharks weren’t just for show.  They were hungry, wild animals going for the kill - at the bait thank goodness.  The sharks actually bit the feeding diver a couple of times.  He casually pushed the sharks away or jerked his arm out of their mouths.  Needless to say, the chainmail covering his arms did its job.  Still, I can’t imagine a situation where I’d ever be “casual” about being bitten by a shark!

The feeder pulled the bait of a box and put it on the end of a spear to attract the sharks.  The sharks continued to come in and out of our circle.  When I say they were close, I mean close.  They actually bumped into us.  Mostly they bumped my head and regulator.  I clenched my teeth so hard my jaw was sore. 

When they came right at you, you could look them in the eye.  It reminded me of being on safari – you get to watch these great creatures in their world.  But being literally face to face with these sharks and feeling them swim by was such an intense experience.  When I saw a shark gliding in my direction, I would crunch down and grab the rock harder where I was sitting.  Once I was able to relax a bit, I started to see how beautiful and graceful they were.

Sometimes they came from behind, and you didn’t know they were coming until a big shark eye was in your peripheral vision.  Just turning and watching the full length of the animal glide by was so exciting.  I tried to see if my family were enjoying the show, but there were so many sharks in the ten feet between us that I couldn’t see them.

These were not small reef sharks; most were ten to twelve feet long.  That really surprised us.  We did not expect them to be so big.  The other surprise was that several of them had fishing line coming out of their mouth.  One even had a weight hanging on the line.  You could tell they had hooks in their mouths.  I asked about this later and apparently in Florida (not sure of the Bahamas, but they probably have the same guidelines), you have to use hooks that will rust so they’ll eventually come out of the fishes’ mouths. 

I did get to where I could appreciate the sharks and not be on the verge of a panic attack. However, one incident put me back on high alert.  Since we’d be on the bottom for 30 minutes, I sat with my legs out in front of me because I knew if I tried kneeling for that long would be uncomfortable.  Plus, as I mentioned, I had already made big plans to cling to my rock to make sure I did not move my arms.  My future son in law Randy told me he could see my knuckles were white.  I did grab the rocks as tight as I could.  I was appropriately scared by any rational standard.

While I was sitting there entranced by these fascinating animals, a large (bigger than a dinner plate LARGE) piece of bait flew off the end of the feeder’s spear and landed exactly between my legs.  So in my head, I hear the following thought stream:  “These sharks are going crazy biting and grabbing at this bait.  There is a piece of this bait lying between my legs.  If I use my arms to move the bait, the sharks are going to think I am holding food, or worse yet, that I am food.  The feeding diver is getting bitten on the arm when he feeds them this bait. My arm might get taken off if I touch this bait.  If I leave the bait between my legs the sharks might go for it and bite my legs.  I am in trouble.”  That entire thought bubble took less than a second to form over my head!

I froze.  Which turned out to be the right thing to do.

In addition to our friends the sharks, there were also many, smaller fish swarming about eating tidbits the sharks were dropping.  Several big yellow tail snappers spotted the bait as it landed between my legs and raced for it.  They swarmed the bait and started began fighting over it.  It was a bit of a fishy tug of war. 

As the snappers sucked and pulled at the bait, they moved it across the top of my legs, to my left leg, over to my right leg and finally (sigh of relief) into the sand beside my legs.  A big grouper came up and took it away from the snappers.  Needless to say I have a new found respect for yellow tail snappers.

As the feeding continued, a photographer and videographer moved around in our circle filming us so we would have pictures of our experience.  Brittany, Randy and my husband Doug also took some great photos.  I tried taking a few, but I was so nervous about putting my arms up to take pictures, I did not get very many good ones. 

I actually like our photos better than the still shots taken by the professional.  Because we were looking at an angle to each other, you can see more of the sharks in the circle.  Brittany and Randy also filmed some video that I’ve posted on YouTube – I’ll be taking public credit where due for this shark dive.  Randy’s favorite picture is where he touched a shark and actually ran his finger down the full length of the shark’s fin.

When the feeding diver finally ran out of bait, he ascended and the sharks followed him.  He swam away from our circle and pulled all of the sharks away from us. I spent a shark free minute on the bottom and dug through the sand. I actually found two shark teeth to take with us as hard evidence of our experience.  When we were back on board the boat and out of our gear, we agreed we had just had one of those experiences of a lifetime.

Helen Keller said it best, “Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.”  We definitely dared to adventure this week.  Surviving to tell the story is another plus.  Now we can spend the rest of our vacation relaxing in the traditional Bahamas way.  Lying by the pool, warming in the sun.  We conquered the sea and are already planning our next adventure.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

I was up this morning at 3:30AM.  Not because I wanted to be up so early, but because I am going on a scuba diving vacation.  This time next week I will be diving with sharks (yeek!) in the warm waters of the Bahamas. 

I have a great many associates who are also business owners and everyone agrees with me that vacations are hard.  You work extra, extra, extra hard to be able to be gone and then A LOT more work is waiting for you when you come back.  However, I love to scuba dive and I guess it is worth it.  Maybe, kind of, but... oh well…

One of my emails waiting for me this morning at 3:30 AM was a message from a member of a networking group I belong to.  It is a great message and I found it extremely motivating.  It was the perfect way to start my crazy busy LONG day. 

Daniel Sanders is the owner of Four Sales Ltd (, a professional estate sales company.  He is also the incoming president of Northern Virginia’s largest BNI network.  I am excited to share with my audience a part of the email I received from Daniel this morning to start my crazy day of preparation so I can go diving.  Have a great and productive day!      Brenda

(Taken from email written by Daniel Sanders, Four Sales Ltd.)
Attitude of Gratitude
Our Inspiration or framework. When I heard someone recently say that BNI was filled with chiefs, I had a moment of clarity. Read on for my Eureka Moment!

There are many definitions of the phrase Attitude of Gratitude, and even more interpretations. There is no right or wrong. I leave each member to do some research and determine what it means for them. I have already heard that some people think it is another way of expressing Giver’s Gain. I can’t argue since I want each of you to find the inspiration to move you and therefore our group along the path (quality growth) to the goal (platinum).

To quote Chief Tecumseh - When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.

In the spirit of disclosure, I want to share my inspiration (not my why, that’s different) with you. As a lifelong learner, I continue to immerse myself in topics such as leadership, responsibility and management that can help me grow. Shortly after agreeing to serve our BNI chapter, I read an article that resonated with me on many levels on the topic of Leading with an Attitude of Gratitude ( 

My revelation - To continue our growth track, we need to inspire all our members to be leaders with purpose and to focus that strength and purpose on each other.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Business Risks

I remember when I saw the first advertisement Denise David ran in FAMILY Magazine.  I thought, what a great idea to run a short story for moms that has that “shared experience” feeling to it. Moms love to connect with other moms. Her ads have always been very interesting and thoughtful to me. 

Denise is just starting out building her client base. She is an expert for insurance for small business and I thought readers of my blog might benefit from some tips for business when it comes to protecting your property.  I hope you learn something from her tips, or perhaps they motivate you to check out your insurance coverage to make sure you have what you need to protect your business.

Business Insurance Tips from Denise David
For the business owner, there are many ways potential risk should be considered.
Some of the exposure a business experiences has to do with property. Property at risk includes the premises, any improvements made to it, the inventory and equipment all need to be insured. There is monetary risk associated with money or the loss of ability to make sales during a certain period due to a loss. These represent the more tangible types of risk a business owner faces, when making an insurance decision.

A business must also consider risk of injury. Business liability looks at many risks involving harm to someone who is affected by the business. This could be a customer, a competitor or even an employee. Liability coverage works to coverage any physical or emotional charge brought against a business. Making certain proper coverage is in place should a business be sued if someone is physically harmed while at the business location or charged with causing harm through advertising, failure to uphold terms of a contract or slanderous statements is another area of concern. Having worker’s compensation can protect should an employee be injured while on the job.

A wise business owner will also consider potential risk to their future profitability.  Putting provisions in place should a key employee or partner pass away is one way to protect the future profitability potential of the company. Having a policy with provision to hire, train and replace a partner or key position in a company is often one of the most overlooked insurance options. Planning wisely can prevent a devastating loss from permanently derailing the future of a company.

Business ownership presents many risks. Stability and the future success of the business will benefit by considering each of the “what if” scenarios and making the investment to ensure these common situations do not interfere with the profitability and longevity of the establishment.

Denise David, Agent 
State Farm Insurance and Financial Services Specialist
42882 Truro Parish Dr. Suite 209
Ashburn, VA 20148
Bus 571-291-2804   Fax 571-918-4667
Licensed: DC, Maryland & Virginia

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quality Connections

Networking helps build any business.  Networking also takes place all the time, in everything you do. The person you meet on the soccer field might have a friend that is opening a new business that needs the product you sell. Of course, formal networking also happens all around us at planned events and regularly scheduled meetings.

As I said in my previous blog, the concept of “Networking” has gotten a bit of a “salesy” reputation. I will admit, some of the networking events I attend are a bit too much of a “pitch” party where everyone you talk to is trying to sell you something.  However, there is a lot of good networking also going on.  I have been to many events recently that were great and offered many good connections.

Networking is becoming more and more a big part of doing business. This week, I was formally inducted into a BNI group.  BNI stands for Business Networking International.  This is not a commitment I took lightly nor did I make the commitment quickly.  I first visited BNI two years ago and recently researched BNI groups all over our region.  If you are not familiar with BNI, visit their homepage.  It is a very interesting concept of networking.

Here’s the great thing about joining the BNI group that I am joining: I immediately have the following resources at my fingertips for my own use or to share with business associates, friends and family.  And, all of these businesses are extremely reliable, proven to be honest and provide excellent products or services.  I have 50 people I know will provide me with the best quality of business.  What more can you want?

Appliance Repair
Auto Service
Building Restoration and Cleaning
Business and Office Services
Commercial Banker
CPA for business or individuals
CPA for estates and trusts
Chiropractic Services
Computer Support
Divorce and Family Mediation
Estate Sales
Executive Leadership Coach
Exercise Physiologist
Exterior Home Maintenance
Financial Planning
General Contractor
Gift Baskets
Handyman Services
Hardwood Floor Refinishing
Hotel Consultant
HVAC service or replacement
Insurance – Life
Insurance – Property & Casualty
Insurance – Supplemental
Junk Removal
Landscaping & Maintenance
Marketing & Graphic Design
Moving Company
Oriental Carpet Cleaning & Restoration
Payroll Services
Portrait Photography
Professional Organizer
Residential Real Estate
Residential Property Management
Search Engine Optimization
Specialty Advertising
Tree Care
Wedding & Event Venue
Windows, Doors & Siding
Writing and Speaking Coach

WHEWW… what a great list of businesses to associate with!  I am excited and can’t wait to see if I can contribute as much to this great group of business people as they do to support FAMILY Magazine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are you a VIP in the Club?

Great news!  We started our first three VIP Clubs this week and they are rolling.

Want to know what a VIP Club is?  Of course!  It’s a group of people who like a business or a particular product and want discounts or special information from time to time about that business or product.

Let’s say you have a favorite bakery that serves the most wonderful cakes and pastries.  You love going by there to pick up a special treat for Friday night dinner on the deck with the kids at the end of a long week.  Would you want to know what their newest flavor of cupcake is?  Would a 10% discount on a dozen make your mouth water?

So, you sign up for the VIP Club for Sweet City in Vienna.  They are building a VIP list to receive discounts and offers by text messaging.  If you have not been to Sweet City yet, you are missing a great experience.  They have wonderful treats and a great area where kids can watch the bakers and decorators at work.  They even hold “Cupcake Birthday Parties.”

Now Sweet City isn’t just a bakery, they have a karaoke open mike night, display the works of local artists and offer a great area where you can sit, visit and enjoy the sweet smells from the kitchen.  YOU SHOULD JOIN THEIR VIP CLUB.

On your phone, text “Sweets” to 90583 to join.

Our second new VIP Club is for Pure Chiropractic also in Vienna.  Dr. Brando Lemuel is well known in the Vienna community for his upbeat and motivating attitude.  He strongly advocates healthy lifestyles and works closely with many other groups to promote and encourage people to live to their full potential. His patients aren’t just patients, they are friends and he is their motivator.

The VIP Club for PureChiropractic will offer motivational tips and information about events going on in the community.  This VIP Club will be a bit different and will really be fun.  YOU SHOULD JOIN THEIR VIP CLUB.

On your phone, text “Pure1” to 90583 to join.

The third VIP Club is for Jerry’s Sub’s and Pizza in White Flint Mall.  They have a great reward for signing up for their VIP Club, a FREE Cookie. (Who wouldn’t want a free cookie?) Their cookies are fabulous and you are going to love the sweet treat to go along with your sub or pizza.  When you join their VIP Club, you’ll get discounts and special offers, so be sure to get in the club soon!  YOU SHOULD JOIN THEIR VIP CLUB.

On your phone, text “JWF” to 90583 to join.

Isn’t that fun?  These are great opportunities to get discounts, have fun and be motivated.  Is there a VIP club you think should be created – maybe one for your favorite restaurant?  Tell me about it.  We will work with them to create a “VIP Club” just for you!  After all, the readers of FAMILY Magazine (and my blog) are already VIPs.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Snowmen Fall from Heaven…Unassembled

Networking is something we all do – whether it’s joining a mom’s group or building a business. For some reason, the concept of “Networking” has gotten a bit of a “salesy” connotation. I will admit, some of the networking events I attend are a bit too much of a “pitch” party where everyone you talk to is trying to sell you something. 

However, at a recent networking event sponsored by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, I came away with a new appreciation for networking. At this event, we settled down and discussed our shared experiences and future plans. No pressure to hawk your wares or force your business card on fellow attendees.  I met several interesting people and learned about what they were involved with.

Of course these days, networking is more than just cocktails and chit chat. It’s about being present online and putting yourself “out there” (wherever that may be!). During a recent visit with friends on the west coast, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Mick Ukleja. We had a great conversation about reaching out past the old comfort zone – the fact that we were drinking wine on a beautiful patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean was only part of the charm.

Mick’s job is to teach business leaders how to “live on purpose.” He has such great insights in how to invest in growth – our own physical, mental, emotional, and financial growth. It’s a personal vision that readily translates to business. It fit my interests perfectly. I am publisher of a magazine that’s all about providing for our DC area parents. We grow our business to help you grow happy, healthy families.

Mick teaches his clients that much of our growth comes from what we contribute. That meant a lot to me. I’ve been thinking for some time about making some changes, and his ideas seemed ready-made for where I was. I had already started doing more networking of the face-to-face variety and have been considering upping my game for my online presence - namely focusing on my blog. 

Before I struck out into that web wilderness, I wanted to make sure I had a clear picture of what my blog would be, AND that I had a plan to make it happen. Blogs take time. Good blogs take a lot of time. Time is something I’m not long on….

So it’s about setting priorities, and I’m familiar with tough choices. Change is scary for all of us – and the process of change, the transition, is where we separate the “just do it” from the “maybe later” mentality. Stepping out of our comfort zone into a commitment isn’t about taking a leap. It’s about landing that leap over and over again. I’m so glad I had the fortune to talk with Mick that afternoon. His approach really inspired me to take my next step, and the next, and the next….

At the magazine, we do a lot of work with our advertisers (most of whom are fellow parents), and from our discussions, I know we’re all looking for opportunities for growth. We love being face to face with the advertisers. We learn what challenges local businesses are facing, and we are prepared to help. As I reach out more in my professional ventures, my goal is to grow by contributing. I’ll spread the word (many words) with the hope that I can contribute to the benefit of our readers. 

In the spirit of reaching out, I wanted to help other professionals looking to make connections. I did some research into local networking opportunities and am sharing some of my favorite finds. I have listed several sites below. There is also a link to the FAMILY Magazine web site for future networking opportunities. 

Or better yet, you can find information about great growth opportunities by tuning into my new and improved blog! I’ll keep a link at the bottom of my intro page where you can find up to date information on local networking events. Be sure to email me with information about your favorite local networking events. I’ll add them to our list.

So as Mick Ukleja says “Snowmen fall from Heaven…unassembled.” I guess all those letters on my keyboard are my snowflakes. I’m intent on building a blog out of those letters. A meaningful blog that enables me to reach out and grow with intention. Carrot nose and all!

For more information about Mick – and to follow his most excellent blog - check out his site:

To visit my blog (and hopefully sign up to receive updates) go to:

For local connections, check out these organizations: 

Regional – events all over the region for power networking

Good Morning Rockville Chamber of Commerce

Mix & Mingle Rockville Chamber of Commerce

Bethesda Chamber of Commerce

Vienna Chamber of Commerce Events

Dulles Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do you brag about your business awards?

My husband and I recently took a fun trip to Atlanta. It was a business trip, however we did have some fun along the way. In looking back on the years when my children were younger, I wish we had done more “fun along the way” experiences.

We found our fun in Atlanta when we attended a special dinner held at the Georgia Aquarium. Their Aquarium is one of the best I’ve experienced. They have a giant tank filled with all kinds of fish including four whale sharks. If you’re a diver, they offer the opportunity to go diving in the tank with the sharks. It would have tempted me, but given that I’m scuba diving with my daughter this fall, we’ll be finding our sharks in the wild – so even with grown kids, fun trips are still on my calendar.

My official purpose in going to Atlanta was the National Convention for the Association of Free Community Publications (AFCP). These conventions can do wonders for my editorial ego. This year, the AFCP awarded FAMILY Magazine a First Place Award for Editorial Excellence. We are just so proud of ourselves! But the pride didn’t start with the Award (though none of us is planning to give it back…). For the past year and a half, we have really focused on improving our editorial - so we thank the AFCP for noticing! We have a great group of writers who do a wonderful job for us, and we are extremely proud of what they produce.

The changes we’ve made to our editorial content have been all about giving our readers what they want. Each month, we present a Theme of Articles that speak to our reader moms’ interests. Our goal is that every issue features articles that speak to moms and their personal situation. One of our readers’ favorite themes is the “Best for Families” issue we do each July. We answer the question “what moms want” throughout the issue – with lists of readers’ favorites from ice cream to vacation spots. Recently we’ve begun incorporating our mom recommendations into the editorial content as well.

One of our favorite editorial additions is a fun series called “Ages and Stages.” We know moms like to check in on their kids’ developmental milestones and peek ahead to the next Age and Stage. Our Ages and Stages articles feature the First Year (pregnancy to baby at 12 months), Early Years (toddlers), Middle Years (elementary years K through 5th), and Tween Years (junior high and beyond). If there is a topic you would like us to cover in Ages and Stages or elsewhere in the magazine, please send me an email at I always love hearing from you!

We work hard to be sure our magazine is at its best for moms every month. Their opinion is what matters most, but we have to admit that we don’t mind the pat on the back we get when our peers recognize our hard work and dedication. It is great for the staff of FAMILY Magazine to be rewarded for all the great work they do. I’m always so proud to be able to go to these professional conferences and show off everyone’s great work.

Not to be outdone by the print magazine, our online version of FAMILY Magazine was also recognized at the AFCP convention. So if you ever find you are out and about without your printed copy of FAMILY Magazine, you can always access us online. There is an easy link to our eMagazine on our homepage (