Monthly Archives: January 2016


Start Up

When I started my consulting business a few years ago, I thought I knew what I was doing.  Starting my own business was an old dream conjured up every time I was sick of office politics and the roulette wheel of re-engineering, right-sizing, downsizing, layoffs. (Pick your favorite euphemism.)  After I was downsized yet again, I took the plunge.  That’s when I realized that no matter how well I had planned, there were so many things I didn’t know.  For example, I didn’t know:

  1. How hard it is to hone a marketing pitch. I went through dozens of elevator speeches and 60-second “songs” in the first year trying to find what resonated with potential clients. I believed in the services I was selling but seemed unable to convince potential clients that I was worth hiring.
  1. How hard it is to set a price for my services. Should I charge by the project or by the hour? If I charge an hourly rate what is fair to me and to the client? I’m still not sure I know the answer to this question.
  1. How hard it is to talk about money to people. When should I start talking about money with a prospective client? What if the prospect decides she/he can’t afford me?
  1. How quickly money runs out. I lived frugally but still blew through my severance package and savings before landing a big client. This is the part of starting a business that most of us get wrong, according to the pundits. It always costs more to start a business than we anticipated.

In spite of all the things I didn’t know when I started my company I recently celebrated another year in business. Along the way, I’ve discovered plenty of new things I didn’t know when I started my business.  One thing I definitely know: I want to continue this journey of business ownership.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website:

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The Other Side of the Couch – Lessons From My Mother


I woke up several days ago with an unexplained and surprising feeling of sadness.  I was down, and blue.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  As far as I knew, everything was all right in my life at the moment.  I was coming to the tail-end of a nasty virus, but I was feeling better every day.  I had taken an allergy medicine the night before, but it was one that was familiar and had never caused any odd reactions.  And yet – I was quite sad.  I had some cancellations that morning, and I decided to check in with my husband and daughter, who were meeting for lunch, to see if I could join them.

Sitting at the table, waiting for food service, I began to muse again on what was going on.  I talked to them about it – said I was feeling sad, and I couldn’t quite figure out why.  I was lonely, and I felt a bit tearful.  Talking about it brought a few more tears.  We talked of other things and then, all of a sudden, I knew.

It was my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 95 this year.  She died twenty-four years ago, six months before her 71st birthday.  Every year this time sneaks up on me. One would think I would remember, but there is something about these anniversaries that keeps us a bit unconscious.  The amazing thing is that the BODY KNOWS.  Even though I was not consciously aware, my body and emotions were telling me to pay attention.

As soon as I recognized what was happening inside, I felt a deep sense of relief and understanding, and an equally deep joy in remembering all the special things about my mother.  Tonight, as I write about those sweet memories, I came across a little scribble I wrote a while ago.

My mother taught me many things.  Some of the most precious are these:


Create beauty in unexpected places, for no reason at all.

Cherish your women friends.

Go to lunch!

Be sweet.

Believe in yourself.

You are beautiful; believe it.

Church matters.


I am so grateful for the love we shared, and for having her in my life for seventy years.  I hope that my daughter will have as many sweet memories of me when that day comes.

I love you, Mother.


About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at

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How an L.A. Girl Weathers The Storms of Winter

hot cocoa by the fireSome people claim there are no seasons in California. But having lived the majority of my life there, I can honestly say those people are wrong. Sure, the changes are subtle, particularly in Southern California. With the shorter days come frosty mornings and chilly, damp afternoons. The midday sun sticks around for just a few hours rather than blaze all day. Some days the fog hangs around only to lift at noon and reappear just before dusk, and some days it never leaves. The irony is not lost on us native, beach loving Californians. And yes, the trees lose their leaves, unless of course you can witness the majesty and grandeur of the evergreen giant Sequoias in the High Sierras. We even had a lawn that was…wait for it…Kentucky Bluegrass, meaning it goes dormant in the cooler months of the year. Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing?

Since moving to Nashville, I have made many changes and learned new habits. But the toughest, by far, is learning to adapt to the cold winters. It is all relative, I know. My friends from the Northeast and upper Midwest feel like they have died and gone to heaven. But for me, the cold months are my own private H#@@! In fact although I simply adore the Fall here, by October I am already counting the days until the beast of Winter will arrive and in January I begin the countdown until the buds appear on the trees.

But lest I sound like I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (at least I don’t think I do), I have developed some tools for getting through the dark cold winter:

  • Shopping: Yes, I will find just about any excuse to enhance my wardrobe and what better way than adding a splendid array of coats, jackets, sweaters, scarves and boots. I confess I do not love bundling up in layers but if I have to, I am going to look fashionable doing it! In fact, my favorite purchase is the plaid coat I found last year and absolutely adore.
  • Go outside: The first few years I avoided going out unless absolutely necessary. But a couple of years ago we brought home a new puppy, which necessitated taking him out for potty training and exercise. I learned that by braving the cold, I am actually adapting, just a bit, to the sensation. Last winter I even trained myself to bundle up for outdoor runs with the dog. It only really hurts the first few minutes until I start to sweat. I also find the time spent in the sunshine, even when it is cold, helps lighten my mood and I feel strong and brave.
  • Embrace cozying up inside: On those icy, wet days when I just cannot bear to bundle up, get out and face it, I hunker down with a blanket, a hot cup of coffee and some great music. On those days I find I am at my most creative and can spend hours at the computer writing. I have learned that rather than fighting what I cannot change, I can find the gifts in the opportunity to stay inside and lose myself.

Happy Winter everyone! And, let the Spring countdown begin!

How do you deal with Winter?  Are you like me, just getting through or do you thrive in the cold?  HerSavvy women want to know!  Send us your comments and suggestions.  

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