Monday, December 18, 2006

Are you ready?

That's the question I keep hearing as I rush around trying to finish my shopping. This year the holiday season seems to have crept up on us and I, for one, am WAY behind.

Usually I have the cards ready to go around the time of the Grey Cup, but this year I am still writing them. I always like to enclose a letter, especially for those overseas and equally enjoy getting one back. Some letters are so humourous and you can just picture the scenes described. Others seem like a testimonial and it leaves you wondering if anything real ever happens in those households. And others send photos which helps you visualize your friends in other parts of the world and they don't seem so far away.

It's a time for family, friends and fellowship. Yet, for those who have just lost a loved one, it can be a heart-wrenching period, with their loss so raw and painful. We have some friends who have just lost their second daughter, two deaths within a short period of time. It doesn't seem fair and you just know this will be a tough time for them. As the mother of two daughters myself, I can't even begin to imagine their pain.

For others, it may be job loss or a divorce that changes the family dynamic and for some people who are always alone, this time of year is no different for them.

Many of us can afford to do something beyond our own family. This year, we became the secret Santa for two children who'd stayed at Nellie's, the shelter in Toronto. It was fun to shop and choose gifts that you knew they'd enjoy and yes, it does make you feel good; that you're doing something concrete to make some children happy.

We can all do something - dropping change into the Salvation Army Kettle; helping a family in need or inviting someone on their own to join you for dinner... Whatever ... let's get into the holiday spirit, because the true joy is in giving, not receiving.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This week I had an ‘aha’ moment.

For a few months now I have been struggling to determine the best direction to take Company of Women. Of course, we could just stay the course, but I’ve never been one to stand still.

Expanding to other communities is one option and I certainly get my share of requests, or we could offer more programs to service the members we already have and to some extent this fall we have done that. But it doesn't seem enough.

It wasn’t until I was in a conversation with a couple of members about ATHENA, that the light bulb went on. As our talk evolved about the importance of young women learning leadership skills, I realized that what was missing for me in both my volunteer work and in Company of Women, was my need to make a meaningful difference.

Later in the week, when I was interviewing for new interns, I could see that we had a role to play in mentoring these young women, helping them to gain the confidence and skills to succeed. Powerful stuff.

End conclusion - Company of Women doesn’t need to grow bigger or broader – it needs go deeper. Personally I need to see first hand that our involvement is making a difference – whether it is through a mentoring program or a special award for a young woman entrepreneur or establishing a business hub that supports women new to business – the ideas are endless. So stay tuned… and if you have some ideas to throw into the pot… let me know.
Last week we had Marg Hachey of Duocom as our guest speaker. Her topic was adapting to change and as she outlined the changes in technology that her business has faced, you knew she'd walked her talk.

From selling overhead projectors to web-conferencing, Marg's company has transformed itself several times over, changing to adapt to the different needs of its customers and the growing reliance on technology as a global communication tool.

As she outlined her strategies, it was quickly evident why Marg is #11 in the top 100 women entrepreneurs in Canada - she's savvy, she listens and she stays ahead of the trends. But what the audience perhaps most appreciated was her down-to-earth, common sense approach.

Her story is inspiring. Married at 18, a mother of two sons by 23, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do when she had both the boys in school. She started off selling Avon and discovered she had a real talent for sales. Soon she was heading up a large team of sales staff but she knew she needed something more.

It was then that she started selling overhead projectors... for someone else. When she started her own business, it quickly grew and she now has eight offices across Canada and her technicians can be found at most of the major events in Canada. When her sales reached $52 million, she decided it was time to sell which she did to a US firm. Within three years, they had bankrupted the company and Marg knew she had to rescue her firm, so she bought it back.

The entire family now works in Duocom - her husband and her two sons. This truly is a family business and with Marg at the helm, you know they are destined to succeed once again