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§ September 6th, 2011 § Filed under small business § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , § 2 Comments

Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them. – William Arthur Ward

I started my business in April 1999 as a desktop publisher. I had a contract with my former employer to write and layout newsletters and search for and write grants.  As I met more people, I discovered a niche in writing, training, and desktop publishing for small businesses as well as non-profit organizations and government agencies. That morphed into doing consulting for small businesses, especially with their marketing plans.

But now, an opportunity has come along that has me truly excited.

Starting September 19, I will be a Business Advisor for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Small Business Development Center (UTSA SBDC.)

I am thrilled about this chance to do much of what I already do under the umbrella of one of the most respected organizations for small businesses. I get a chance to work with small business owners to help them start and grow their businesses. I can help new business owners figure out whether their business idea is feasible, guide them in putting their business plans together, and work with them on their financing options. I can work with existing business owners to determine their next steps in increasing their size and scope and whether it is time to add employees. In addition, I can help businesses figure out the best way to market their products and services.

The fantastic part of this is that I get to do what I’ve done, but I won’t have to charge for my advice and guidance.  The one-on-one confidential business advising is at no cost to the business owner. The local SBDC is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and UTSA. The services are highly effective. Business owners who use the SBDC show sales growth that is three times that of the average Texas business.

I have long been a staunch advocate for the SBDC and have been a client as well. It will be an honor to work alongside people whom I so completely respect.

So I need a favor from my loyal readers. If you know of anyone who is starting a business, or anyone who needs advice on growing a business, please refer him or her to me. I’ll be at my desk at UTSA Downtown on September 20 and ready to meet with clients soon after. Please contact me.


§ June 2nd, 2011 § Filed under small business, training § Tagged , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life. – Henry L. Doherty

Anyone who has been looking for a job knows that there are few openings, especially for people with college degrees. Seventeen million college graduates are doing jobs that don’t require a degree. Additional folks are working at jobs that require a four-year degree, but they never get a chance to put into practice the skills they have learned. Further, many skills that are needed on the job are not learned in high school or college. So many of our students have been taught to take tests, but not to think critically or actually learn the subjects.

Add to that the fact that student loan debt is at an all time high, even higher than what we owe on credit cards.

Maybe it’s time we rethink how we handle education.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of college. I hold both a bachelors and masters degree. At the University of Texas I took courses that helped me discover what I really enjoyed. But for a long time, I have been among a group of people who think that for most students a two-year program makes more sense. For many students, landing a job after those two years with companies that value their employees is a much better plan. Some of those companies may provide tuition reimbursement so that students are not left with massive student loan debt. See this TED Talk by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson for more about how much a degree is worth now.

I am so excited about a new venture – Skillshare, a community where anyone who has information to share can pass that knowledge to others. There are plenty of places where you can take classes online, but as someone who has taught both traditional classes and online classes, I believe that something truly magical happens when a group of learners get together with a teacher who genuinely enjoys helping. Everyone learns from everyone else.

I have been selected to be a Community Ambassador for the San Antonio area for Skillshare. I am recruiting people who want to share their knowledge and people who want to learn. Skillshare classes are primarily about the things we are passionate about, the things that make us want to get up in the morning. Some of us are lucky enough to have jobs that meet those needs. Some of us have jobs that meet other needs, and we fulfill our passions outside of work. Skillshare will give us the opportunity to test out our interests.

Why is it so important to find our passions? We need to shift education in order to produce creative thinkers. I believe that Skillshare may be one of the steps to achieving this radical shift.

Want to help me create this shift as a teacher or a learner? Join me at our first quarterly Show & Tell  event on Tuesday, June 14 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. (I’m still working on the venue; details will be forthcoming.) Get a taste of training, have some drinks and some fun, meet other learners and teachers, and help start a revolution. If you can’t make the event, but still want to be a part of the effort, drop me an email or call.

With Gratitude to My Mother

§ May 8th, 2011 § Filed under Uncategorized § Tagged , , , § 2 Comments

Today is Mother’s Day, a perfect day to reflect on the lessons my mother taught me. Let me tell you about Maggie Ward.

My mother, Marguerite Evans Weis, was born in 1913 in West Virginia. Her mother died in the Swine Flu epidemic of 1918. Her father, who spent some time in trouble with the law and with numerous girlfriends and wives, took Mama to live with his mother in Missouri. My great-grandmother was strict and verbally abusive.

My mother was a brilliant woman. She graduated from high school at 16, and went on to college where she tried to major in mathematics. She was denied that major and forced into a Bachelor’s in Education due to her gender. She worked as a bookkeeper at a company, where her supervisor admonished her that she needed to wear a girdle. She worked for her father in his insurance business in Baton Rouge, and ended up having to answer to auditors when her father disappeared suddenly.

She was married for a few years to a man who died while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany.  With her widow’s preference, she secured a Civil Service job to teach electronics to Air Force personnel. During her training, she fell in love with her instructor, Kenneth Ward, who had college training in electrical engineering, and had recently finished a tour with the Navy. They were engaged in December 1946 and married in February 1947.

By 1952, when I was born, she had already had two pregnancies. One resulted in stillborn twins. The second one was my sister, Wendy, who lived for only 90 minutes. My mother’s doctor advised her not to try again due to risks to her health. She, however, wanted a child desperately. She spent most of the pregnancy at home with her feet elevated and two weeks past her due date, delivered a healthy, 10 pound baby (me!)

She had abandonment issues, but never let them define her. She had never been given much affection, but she vowed to overcome that lack, and diligently worked to show her love to my father and me. She was a voracious reader and self-help aficionado. In addition to a dog-eared, well-worn Bible with her notes in the margins, the books on our shelves included authors like Norman Vincent Peale and Eric Berne. There were books on yoga, meditation, and on the life of Jesus. She was so far ahead of her time. She took Silva Mind Control classes and taught me the techniques. She and I practiced the lotus position and walked up and down the hallway on our buttocks for exercise.

In 1968, she became involved in the programmed instruction movement. She had taught junior-high school math for years. She was teaching at Ursuline Academy and put the self-paced concepts to the test in her classes. Her students experienced huge successes. She volunteered at a high school completion program, a night school being held on the St. Peter Claver High School campus. She was asked to teach at the day school when St. Peter Claver transitioned to Healy-Murphy Center, the first alternative school in the State of Texas (before any of us knew what an alternative school was.) Her classes were all self-paced, which worked well for the school population made up primarily of pregnant teenagers and high school dropouts. Her legacy is that all the courses at Healy-Murphy High School are now self-paced.

My mother taught me that information and education were inherently good. She instilled a curiosity in me that has been a guiding principle in my life. She asked me questions rather than issuing edicts, and she taught me to think for myself.  She was excruciatingly honest, but never negative. If I asked her how I looked in a particular outfit, and she thought I needed to change, she would say, “I’ve seen you look better.”

She adored her grandson and thought he was the most adorable child on the planet. She had less than three years left when he was born. If I had any idea we would lose her so soon, I would have spent more time with her and find a way for her to spend more time with him. She believed my son was exceptional. She was right.

She died in 1982 at the age of 69. I think she wanted an early exit. She had outlived her mother and father, a husband, and three children. I often felt she did not want to outlast my father. They were still in love when she died.

She was, at her core, a teacher, and I wonder how different her life (and mine) would have been if she had not been blocked by the sexism that existed in the 1930s. I know that my ability to coach, teach, and facilitate comes from her consistent example. That was an extraordinary gift. But the most fundamental treasure she provided me was the ability to love and show that love. Had she not worked so hard to be a warm and affectionate mother, I would not be able to enjoy today as a mother and grandmother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. Thank you.