Monthly Archives: March 2018

Building the Boat While Sailing It

When I began my human resources consulting business in 2011, I had limited experience running a business.  I am a lawyer so naturally I believed that I could become competent if I just did sufficient research. Research meant reading a lot of business books, a category I normally ignore on my to the history (specifically military history) section.

I knew I needed help after doing countless coffee meetings but closing few deals. So I began reading books about sales and marketing.  Two of my favorites in this category are Integrity Selling in the 21st Century, by Ron Willingham and Getting Naked, by Patrick Lencioni.  The gist of these books is that fairness matters and it’s important to focus on what the client needs.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it?   A few months ago, I went to a meeting expecting to talk about how we could do referrals to our respective businesses. Instead, the other guy and his boss ran through a PowerPoint of their company’s brilliant services. They never asked about my priorities. They insisted on doing the presentation as they’d rehearsed it.  I’m still annoyed at them for wasting my time.

My biggest business challenge has revolved around money.  I witnessed incredibly poor money management skills while growing up. I was also raised in a conservative Christian community where money was denigrated as the root of all evil.  In a nutshell, I have lots of misconceptions and phobias about money.

To overcome this handicap, I read Drive, by Daniel Pink which explains that higher skilled workers value autonomy more than actual pay. I also read You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero. Her book is hilarious, scatological and blunt. I’ve re-read her chapter on money phobias several times.   I found it more helpful than Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.

At the moment, I’m reading Good to Great, by Jim Collins with my savvy women friends. The book explains the importance of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus so that a company can evolve into being great.  I enjoy our weekly discussions of each chapter because we are a diverse group with varying perspectives. It inspires me to become more creative solving challenges with my company.

I’m also reading Traction, by Gino Wickham, which I consider a companion piece to Collins’ book. Traction provides step-by-step instructions in honing a company’s vision, marketing strategies, and administrative processes so that it can become successful. I had a lot of the pieces discussed in Wickham’s book. Now I’m organizing them into a coherent format that can be understood by the rest of my team.

The learning curve in business ownership was steeper than I realized but I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.  I’ll admit, though, that sometimes it feels like I’m building the boat while trying to sail it.


About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps 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.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Losing a Friend

It all happened gradually – so gradually that until it had been going on for months, even years, it was hard to notice.  Taken individually, the changes could be explained.  Lost keys.  Forgotten purse.  Trouble with managing a smart phone.  Struggling with finding a word on occasion.  Each one of those experiences has happened to all of us at some time or another.

However, suddenly, all those things were significant, because more things began to happen, more often.

Someone who had been the most fastidious of people had hair that needed washing.  Someone who had always been full of ideas seemed to have lost her interest in others.  Someone who knew her city well began to be confused about how to get from one place to another.

When the day came when she tried to write a check and didn’t know how to do it – when she sat at lunch with us and forgot there was food on her plate – we knew.

We knew what we hadn’t wanted to know, that we had written off as depression, as Attention Deficit Disorder, as just growing older – we knew that our friend was facing progressive dementia.  Because of her family history, we also knew that this was most likely early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Our friend is fortunate in that she has a caring family who intervened, who helped her make the changes she needed to make.  She will be loved and safe.  Although she will no longer be in this city, she will be with people who love her.

Others who live alone and/or who have no family are not so fortunate.

We are facing an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and other dementias as our population ages.  What I have learned by going through this process with my friend is that it is all too easy to dismiss the visible signs of early dementia because we don’t want to know it is happening.  This denial does a disservice to the person who is suffering, because early detection and early use of the medications available that slow the process down are essential to preserving the functional parts of the brain.

This terrible illness that ultimately eradicates the person’s memory and ability to function can be treated (not cured, but treated).  If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.  Don’t wait; don’t live in denial.  If you see a friend struggling, speak up.  In the end it serves no one to pretend that all is well.

This link discusses some of the early signs of dementia.  It is worth reading. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a wonderful resource and support for caregivers.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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Business 101: A Savvy Woman’s Book Club

Book Club

A few of us savvy women are currently part of somewhat unique book club. Rather than reading the latest bestseller, romance or historical fiction, we are reading a business primer of sorts, focused on learning how some major US companies grew into some pretty great ones. The book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins was written in 2001 and while some of the businesses profiled are no longer with us, the deep dive into the successes of these giants is proving to be both fascinating and moving.

The book details a multi-year study into 11 industry giants, which over a 15-year period, grew from being a good, solid business into a truly great company. Collins compiled a team of about 20 researchers who helped develop benchmarks against which to measure their subjects. They painstakingly defined the concepts of, “good,” and, “great,” compared the subjects to other similar companies, and what resulted is this book. It may sound dry, and I confess I was skeptical it would hold my interest, but to date I am about halfway through and I cannot wait to get to the next chapter.

One of the things that surprised me is how the characteristics, principles and practices that Collins and his team have uncovered in the great companies can be applied to most facets of life. Chapter Two, for example, looked at the five levels of leadership and defined what makes up each level. One by one, each member of our group began measuring herself against the top level and found herself coming up short. Our discussion that morning centered around how people in general and women in particular, judge ourselves harshly and often fail to see or acknowledge our own strengths and successes. The discussion led me to reflect on my own tendency to set a high bar for success and then when I don’t reach it, I feel like a failure. And this concept does not only apply in business. I can see it in my relationships with my children, my husband, friends and colleagues. I can see it in how I evaluate my own concept of success and failure.

The best part of reading this book, though, has been the group itself. Each of us has found something that resonates either personally or professionally and often, both. Our discussions are deep, funny, interesting, educational and sometimes frustrating, as we learn more about ourselves and our individual journeys. It’s exhilarating to be learning new things and facing new ideas in concert with others.

This savvy gal highly recommends you find a similar outlet. Books provide a springboard for so many wonderful discussions. Let us know your experiences with a book club or new experience. And if you haven’t already read it, try, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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