Anne Deeter Gallaher on Small Business Digest on Blog Talk Radio

Anne Deeter Gallaher was thrilled to participate in a radio interview panel on Small Business Digest blog talk radio. Editor Donald Mazzella asked Anne about her path to entrepreneurship and what insights from Students in High Gear and Women in High Gear are making a difference for the 21 million U.S. college students and women, who comprise 45% of our workforce.

The Key to U.S. Economic Growth? Unleash the talent of women entrepreneurs

This post originally appeared Pennsylvania Business Central. 

We are officially in political rhetoric season, and I’m fascinated by the candidates’ economic narratives on how we can shift our economy into high gear. One fact stands tall above the opinions as a powerful common denominator—everyone agrees we need more jobs. What we really need is more job creators—entrepreneurs, producers and big idea people. How do we achieve that? The rocket fuel for our economic growth, and for U. S. competitiveness, is to unleash the entrepreneurial potential in women.

That’s why a conversation around “Celebrating Entrepreneurship” is a much-needed call to action. At 45 percent of the workforce we are more than a niche audience; we are the prescription to economic anemia. Our aspirations combined with our potential is the game-changer for our future.

Whether you’re a recent college graduate, in mid-career, or an on-ramper, your potential as an entrepreneur is in demand. The road to small business ownership is not limited to BA, MBA, Wall Street or board seat. I never took a business class in college nor imagined that I would pursue entrepreneurship.

 Gallaher is owner/CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group LLC and has co-authored two books with colleague Amy D. Howell: Women in High Gear and Students in High Gear. Photo Courtesy of Anne Deeter Gallaher

Gallaher is owner/CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group LLC and has co-authored two books with colleague Amy D. Howell: Women in High Gear and Students in High Gear. Photo Courtesy of Anne Deeter Gallaher

“Women represent 51 percent of the nation’s Ph.D.s, 51 percent of business school applicants, and more than 70 percent of last year’s valedictorians. Women are well equipped to become entrepreneurs and are primed to look at different ways of approaching challenges to find better solutions. As a nation, we must make sure we tap into this supply of able business leaders,” says Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia in “The Decade of the Woman Entrepreneur.”

My own path to entrepreneurship was non-traditional: I started my business at the age of 40 after spending 15 years as a stay-at- home mom. Two days after college graduation, I started work for a non- profit publishing house. Five years later, I went on maternity leave with our first son.

Unsure of what my future looked like, I negotiated a part-time at-home position so I could keep my hand in the business world. Fifteen years and two more sons later, I was deciding where and how to on-ramp. I could return to work at the publishing house, or I could dive into the deep end and start my own business. With unconscious competence, I decided to bet on myself.

I saw a need for professional communications in business and believed that the market would pay for quality writing and marketing materials. I was brought up in an entrepreneurial family, but no one had ever said, “Anne, do you want to start a business?” Nor, I discovered, do clients knock on your door asking to hire your services.

I had been busy volunteering in classrooms, leading Cub Scouts and directing Vacation Bible Schools. As I embarked on entrepreneurship and built my network, I leveraged these skills into the workplace: If you can put three boys to bed on time, you have negotiating skills. If you can plan and execute Astronaut Day for third graders, you have operational skills. If you can persuade 100 children and 40 adults—who have worked hard all day—to sign up for a week of Vacation Bible School, you have leadership skills and passion.

Regardless of your background, there are two co-existing realities that the successful entrepreneur must master:

1. The business reality: economic climate, business intelligence, business skills, barriers to entry, understanding market forces, creating competitive advantage and financial acumen.

2. Your personal toolkit: communication skills, emotional resilience, determination, drive, passion, contagious enthusiasm, collaborative nature, emotional intelligence and confidence.

From Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX, to Taylor Swift, the 26-year- old singer and songwriting phenom, to Tory Burch, queen of the lifestyle lines, to Julia Hartz, co-founder of Eventbrite, the high gear catalyst is their personal toolkit—the soft skills. And chief among them is confidence.

Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup, famously captured the essence of confidence by declaring her intention to be CEO at a young age: “In 2007, The Wall Street Journal did an article on our family, and they put in that I wanted to be CEO. I remember getting phone calls from people saying, ‘I can’t believe you said that. What if you don’t get it?’ And I’m like, ‘The thought never crossed my mind.’”

Successful entrepreneurs believe in themselves—against all odds. There will be barriers to success, business failures, and client disappointments. But the good news is the market is gender neutral and age immune. Great ideas and seized opportunities win.

As you take your idea from think to build, here are five principles that will help you shorten your learning curve and reach high gear entrepreneurial success in 2016.

Assemble a personal board of advisors. Surround yourself with executives who are accomplished and will advance your career— people who will give you honest, critical advice. Ask one or two to be your mentors.

Create your personal brand. People are buying you. As the face of your business, you are the director of first impressions. Kindness, graciousness, good manners, handwritten notes, sincere apologies—these are deal- making assets.

Build your network. Be a people broker as you expand your influence. Seek board seats, volunteer for fundraising positions, help others succeed, and connect people for their business advantage. It is said that seats at governance tables are by invitation, not application. If people of influence don’t know who you are, you’ll never reach a high gear network.

Be social media savvy. Whether you’re starting a retail salon, a music career or opening a law practice, you need to tell the world who you are. There are 1.5 billion users on Facebook and 316 million on Twitter. More than 93% of online experiences begin with a search, and one of the fastest ways to appear on page one of Google is to write and share compelling content—tell your story. The reality of business today is, “you are who Google says you are.”

Get uncomfortable and grow. Challenge yourself daily to explore new lines of business, introduce yourself to new people, travel to seminars in different states and countries and find your voice.

This is our season of opportunity, not only to celebrate entrepreneurship, but to unleash our potential and to become the economic engine.

Anne Deeter Gallaher is Owner/ CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group LLC, headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She is co-author of Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers, and Aspiring Executives with Amy D. Howell. In 2015, Anne celebrated 15 years in business, purchased a commercial building, and opened a second office in Nashville. She also published her second book, Students in High Gear, co-authored with Amy. She can be reached at adg@deetergallahergroup.com and @ AnneDGallaher on Twitter. .

How parents can help children choose their ‘digital tattoo’

This post originally appeared at ABC27.com.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Teens today are exposed to digital media everywhere they go, and most are always carrying it with them.

“Social media isn’t part of their life, it is their life. These are the digital natives. They have grown up with this device in their hand,” said Anne Deeter Gallaher, CEO and owner of the Deeter Gallaher Group.

Deeter Gallaher helps companies create their online profiles and says parents can apply the same knowledge to their teens because what they post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others could make or break their future.

It’s called a digital tattoo.

“A digital tattoo is on for life. It’s all the content that you create,” Deeter Gallaher said.

“As parents, we just have to make sure our children understand the potential for creating a negative reputation for yourself.”

Deeter Gallaher said if teens are using social media, their parents should be using it, too.

“You will understand the environment. They are sharing content in what are other teens talking about, tweeting about, posting, Instagramming, what are the hashtags they are using. You won be a guru, but you will be a better parent and better informed.”

“It’s overwhelming because the kids know more than you do,” said Kathy Anderson-Martin, a mother of two teen girls who use social media.

“I’ve been amazed, overwhelmed, shocked by what kids are putting on those site and what is being said; fake sites, fake posts,” she said.

What teens post now could affect their future employment and college scholarships.

“Penn State, they will go thru an individual’s social media channels, and based on those – either the undisciplined nature of the content or inappropriateness – decide do we want to bring them on the team or do we not want to deliver a scholarship to him or her,” Deeter Gallaher said. “It has serious consequences.”

Parents should be sure to check text messages, too.

“Seventy-five percent of them are texting as their major form of communication, so the parents, we have to educate ourselves, and that begins with a very simple Google search and understanding what those acronyms are in their text messages,” Deeter Gallaher said.

A Google search turned up the following text codes:

Sex:

– IWSN: I want sex now;

– GNOC: Get naked on camera;

– WTTP: Want to trade pictures?

Drugs:

– 420: Marijuana;

– CID: Acid, LSD;

– DOC: Drug of choice

Parents:

– PIR: Parent in room;

– 99: Parent gone;

– KPC: Keeping parents clueless.

“You have to do your best to stay on top of it, just like you would anything else to protect your kids and their future,” Deeter Gallaher said.

So, the next time your teen wants to post something on social media, they should ask themselves this question:

“Are you OK with that being on the front page of the Wall Street Journal? If you are, click send,” Deeter Gallaher said.

Deeter Gallaher suggested parents set up a Google alert with their child’s name. That way, if their name starts trending in a conversation, the parent will get an alert.

Hilton Worldwide Celebrates Women

HiltonWorldwideToday I (Amy Howell) had the honor of serving on a panel with incredible women from Hilton Worldwide as well as a few women in high gear. The lovely and talented Mearl Purvis from Fox 13 Memphis was on hand to facilitate and entertain and as usual–she did a fabulous job and I promise you Mearl gets more gorgeous every time I see her! As the room filled with women from Hilton’s Women’s Team Member Resource Group, we took our seats and introductions were made. In honor of “Women in History” Hilton’s theme today was “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”  Program leaders, Denise Carpenter and Sherry Smith made introductions and we talked about key issues women face in business. Tweets were flying, using the hashtag #HWWCelebratingWomen for the discussion. (You can see some of the tweets there.)

Key messages for the panel included the importance of finding mentors as well as avoiding the “chip on the shoulder” attitude. One of my favorite messages of the day came from Roquita Coleman, Solutions Manager, CN Railroad who said that “instead of trying to be smarter than everyone and trying to prove it…often it is better to try and get along with other co-workers in order to get things done.” She described a tough lesson she had to learn the hard way and that added so much value to the discussion. Without the problems and challenges we cannot learn and grow.

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Kathy Beiser, EVP, Hilton Worldwide Corporate Communications who is definitely in high gear and told the group that sometimes in a career you have to make hard, deliberate choices and sometimes that means really having to “gut it out and work hard” to get ahead. I loved her remark about never wanting to be the mom that baked cookies for her kids’ school. I totally relate to this and appreciate her tough-minded, high gear will and iron clad belief in herself. Another favorite comment she made was that women shouldn’t tell men things like “I have to go run the carpool but I’ll be back…we give them too much information sometimes that isn’t necessary.” Very good advice from someone in the executive suite!

Another Hilton Worldwide executive on the panel is a fellow Texan named Judy Christa-Cathey, VP Hampton & Hilton Garden Inn Brand Marketing. Judy is an inspiration and example of a woman in high gear who has been given a real red cape for her superpowers in the corporate world. Today she gave that red cape to a woman in the audience who commented on the difficulty and pressure on working women to be all to everyone and do it all. A very awesome moment and I need someone from Hilton to email me that photo so I can add it to this blog! Judy is someone I will be following up with and hope to get to know better. Plus, she’s from Texas and likes cowboy boots!

Finally, it was awesome to see my friend Felicia Suzanne Willett, chef and owner of Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant who trained with Emeril Lagasse–a fact I had once known but forgotten! Felicia told us she knew she wanted to be a chef by the time she was 7 years old and would read food magazines and cookbooks as a teenager. Her passion for cooking and her depth of experience is reflected in her wonderful food and what I find even more exciting is her ability to continuously re-invent herself and her restaurant. She told me she has just re-vamped the patio to include farm tables in front of the fountain to accommodate family style dining or groups of 10 and 12. Not only has Felicia become a famous chef, but a savvy restaurateur. Congrats on your high gear journey Felicia!

Thank you Hilton Worldwide for supporting women, celebrating success and commitment and for hosting such an important panel discussion. I also appreciate the purchase of our book, “Women in High Gear” for those who attended and hope I have the opportunity to celebrate with you all again soon! Cheers to your high gear journey!

#BanBossy Campaign Is Not High Gear

WiHG book event NYC 2013By Anne Deeter Gallaher and Amy D. Howell

As women business owners and co-authors of Women in High Gear, we invest a lot of time and attention in writing, speaking, and encouraging women to “Find Their Voice” and “Tell Their Story.” Our own stories represent a tapestry of experiences, and that makes us each unique. We have benefited from the examples of strong men and women in business, and we challenge women to discover and reach their own high gear.

Last week the Girls Scouts teamed with LeanIn.org to launch a #BanBossy PSA campaign. Using celebrities like Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham they make the case that “bossy” is a pejorative, a disparaging term, and as such should be banned (yes, you read that correctly) in reference to girls. Their assumption: if young girls are called bossy, perhaps they will be disinclined to pursue leadership roles. We haven’t seen data or Pew Research stats to quantify this claim, and Googling the term “bossy” to see what images appear based on gender is not scientific evidence.

Women will never advance by telling others—men or women—how not to perceive them and what language to use to describe them. As children, we were both called bossy—by our siblings and classmates. Our parents probably called us bossy too. Why? Because we were. We had ideas and weren’t afraid to share them.

The idea that we women will get ahead and reach new career heights, or see new doors open, because a word is banned is disingenuous to our gender and our individual leadership capabilities. Are we that sensitive? Is our emotional resilience that tenuous and delicate?

Just because someone is considered powerful, influential, politically connected, successful, or entertaining doesn’t mean we jump on a bandwagon to sign a petition to ban a word in the English language. The idea of banning a word like “bossy” is silly and a waste of our greatest resource–time. While many have asserted that this campaign has been positive for raising awareness, we believe it further isolates women from achieving the skills and experiences necessary to reach the C-suite. We all want opportunities for women to advance at work. We need women to open doors, to mentor, to advocate, to introduce young women to CEOs, to help connect the dots for success. This campaign belies the strength of women.

In fact, it’s condescending for an influential and elite group of women to create a video telling us what to do. Words are words. Actions speak louder.

At @WomenInHighGear, we want to make sure young girls and women celebrate what we can become. We need strong women who can boss (Margaret Thatcher), women who can nurture (Ruth Bell Graham), women who can lead with courage (Marie Curie), women who can explore (Amelia Earhart), and women who can negotiate (Condoleezza Rice). We need every type of woman who can recognize her high gear potential and take action. That won’t happen by telling others what words to use.

In an interview on Fox News last week, Penny Young Nance, President and CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA) said, “True strength is being bossy in a way that empowers others to greatness, not to degradation.” Well stated.

In our experiences as mothers and women in business, High Gear means working hard and smart at the same time and not being afraid to tell your story, to rise to a business challenge, to recognize opportunities for professional development, and to seek support to reach goals. We believe that leadership, success, and profitability know no gender. The #BanBossy campaign diverts our attention from the more productive conversations of women in #STEM, Wall Street Journal Women in The Economy Task Force, and many other national women’s initiatives.

Being bossy can be a positive character trait. Bossy need not hold a negative connotation. We have known many men and women who are great at being bossy while leading others to success and high performance. Women in High Gear understand that our gender differences are also our strengths as we work together on teams. There are times to be assertive and there are times to be attentive. High gear means knowing the difference.

Finally, High Gear means selecting role models that possess the character, integrity, wisdom, and intelligence that young girls and women are seeking to learn from. It’s ironic that we would listen to an entertainer–who sells lyrics using profanity and intense sexuality–tell us what not to say to young girls. We do need real examples of everyday men and women leaders who work to help others, provide for their families, and care for aging parents while raising children and working.

We don’t need censorship of silly terms; we do need more high gear women and men to demonstrate confidence, courage, hard work, and emotional resilience–even to #EmbraceBossy if need be. The fortitude and productivity of future generations depends on it.

Women Progress, But Still Seek Change

Daily News/Andrew J. Breig

Daily News/Andrew J. Breig

By Don Wade – This post originally appeared on memphisdailynews.com.

Amy Howell understands the assumptions. Co-author a book with the title “Women in High Gear” and it is easy, she says, to imagine a book that is “anti-male.”

Attendees of The Daily News’ Women & Business seminar network after the Thursday, Feb. 27, event. The seminar and panel highlighted the present and future of women in business.

But as Howell delivered the keynote address at The Daily News Publishing Co.’s Women & Business Seminar, she made clear – as did others – that a woman succeeding in business is not about defeating men.

“I’m not a male-basher,” Howell said at the Thursday, Feb. 27, seminar. “I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

Howell is CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies. And she dreams of the day when there are more women CEOs out there. At the Fortune 500 level, only 4 percent of CEOs are women.

“We’ve got to change that,” she said.

After her speech, Howell and her fellow panelists – Robbin Hutton, a senior attorney with Jackson Lewis PC; Leslie Johnson, assistant director of Hutchison Leads at Hutchison School; and Linda Lauer, managing director at CBIZ Memphis – took questions from the audience.

Hutton said the legal field has changed greatly, noting that in the 1970s, it was only about 5 percent female. Now, she said, it is 33 percent female, and almost 50 percent of law school graduates are women. Numbers like that are encouraging at Hutchison.

“We focus on instilling confidence in the girls,” Johnson said.

There also was much discussion about the importance of steering young women into STEM fields – referring to science, technology, engineering and math. It’s in those fields, Howell said, where women’s pay is about 90 percent of men’s pay. Progress is also being made in the legal profession.

“We’re catching up,” Hutton said.

“I’m not a male-basher. I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

–Amy Howell
Co-author, “Women in High Gear”

One audience member asked the panel about a woman one day being president.

“I certainly think our country would be a lot better off if it was run by a woman,” Howell said, generating the loudest applause of the day from the female-majority audience. “Men aren’t doing so well.”

Johnson added, “At Hutchison, we tell (the girls) they can do anything they want to do, be anything they want to be.”

Flex time is becoming more common and acceptable for both men and women as they look to balance career and family, but Hutton said women who take time off from their careers are responsible for catching up with the technology when they return.

Howell’s hope is that more companies will realize the value of flexible schedules, saying she knows some CEOs and managers still aren’t comfortable with it because they don’t want to give up “control” over employees.

“If you’re productive,” Howell said, “what does it matter if you work 8 to 5?”

Lauer said seminars such as this can only further the cause of equal opportunity in the workplace, adding, “The fact it’s being publicized will lead to change.”

The Daily News’ Health Care Reform seminar – the second in the six-part 2014 Seminar Series – will be held April 3.

Women Progress, But Still Seek Change

By Don Wade 

This post originally appeared on The Daily News.

Amy Howell understands the assumptions. Co-author a book with the title “Women in High Gear” and it is easy, she says, to imagine a book that is “anti-male.”

Attendees of The Daily News’ Women & Business seminar network after the Thursday, Feb. 27, event. The seminar and panel highlighted the present and future of women in business. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But as Howell delivered the keynote address at The Daily News Publishing Co.’s Women & Business Seminar, she made clear – as did others – that a woman succeeding in business is not about defeating men.

“I’m not a male-basher,” Howell said at the Thursday, Feb. 27, seminar. “I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

Howell is CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies. And she dreams of the day when there are more women CEOs out there. At the Fortune 500 level, only 4 percent of CEOs are women.

“We’ve got to change that,” she said.

After her speech, Howell and her fellow panelists – Robbin Hutton, a senior attorney with Jackson Lewis PC; Leslie Johnson, assistant director of Hutchison Leads at Hutchison School; and Linda Lauer, managing director at CBIZ Memphis – took questions from the audience.

Hutton said the legal field has changed greatly, noting that in the 1970s, it was only about 5 percent female. Now, she said, it is 33 percent female, and almost 50 percent of law school graduates are women. Numbers like that are encouraging at Hutchison.

“We focus on instilling confidence in the girls,” Johnson said.

There also was much discussion about the importance of steering young women into STEM fields – referring to science, technology, engineering and math. It’s in those fields, Howell said, where women’s pay is about 90 percent of men’s pay. Progress is also being made in the legal profession.

“We’re catching up,” Hutton said.

“I’m not a male-basher. I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

–Amy Howell
Co-author, “Women in High Gear”

One audience member asked the panel about a woman one day being president.

“I certainly think our country would be a lot better off if it was run by a woman,” Howell said, generating the loudest applause of the day from the female-majority audience. “Men aren’t doing so well.”

Johnson added, “At Hutchison, we tell (the girls) they can do anything they want to do, be anything they want to be.”

Flex time is becoming more common and acceptable for both men and women as they look to balance career and family, but Hutton said women who take time off from their careers are responsible for catching up with the technology when they return.

Howell’s hope is that more companies will realize the value of flexible schedules, saying she knows some CEOs and managers still aren’t comfortable with it because they don’t want to give up “control” over employees.

“If you’re productive,” Howell said, “what does it matter if you work 8 to 5?”

Lauer said seminars such as this can only further the cause of equal opportunity in the workplace, adding, “The fact it’s being publicized will lead to change.”

The Daily News’ Health Care Reform seminar – the second in the six-part 2014 Seminar Series – will be held April 3.

Telling Her Own Story: Amy Howell blazes path as business owner, leader, author

By Don Wade – This post originally appeared on memphisdailynews.com.

Long before she was running her own business and co-writing a book, “Women in High Gear,” Amy Howell was a little girl in overdrive.

“I was a tomboy,” Howell, CEO of Memphis-based Howell Marketing Strategies, said of her earliest days in Austin, Texas. “I’d tell the neighborhood what we were going to do, whose house we were going to go to. They kind of looked to me to figure out what we were doing.”

In a way, those neighborhoods kids – especially the boys – were her first clients. Not that it was a straight shot from organizing the kids on the block to running a business. It wasn’t.

Howell will share her story – and the larger story of women attaining new heights in the working world – when she delivers the keynote address at the Women & Business Seminar Feb. 27 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The 2014 Seminar Series is presented by The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc. The Women & Business seminar will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. To register, go to seminars.memphisdailynews.com. A wine-and-cheese reception will follow the event.

In the book, “Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers, and Aspiring Executives,” Howell wrote: “High gear for me is the point where you attain confidence that comes from staying power in the business world. It’s that voice deep down that calls you to action and keeps you focused on your goals. Some people have tried to define me, but I refuse to allow others to define my journey.”

Her mother, of course, would be the exception to that rule.

“I was a lifeguard in high school and a swimming teacher,” Howell said. “My parents teased me about always having a clipboard and a whistle. And I say in the book, somebody had to be in charge, it might as well be me. My mom told me, ‘you don’t need to be following; you need to be leading.’”

That’s more easily accomplished in the neighborhood than in a corporate setting. Howell, 49, who came to Memphis to attend Rhodes College, knew early on she would have to meet men where they were to better understand them and the business world.

She says in the book, which she co-wrote with Anne Deeter Gallaher, who is CEO of her own marketing firm in Harrisburg, Pa., that she used the acceptable role of “note-taker” to sit in on board meetings and strategy sessions.

She also stretched herself.

“I learned to play golf,” Howell said. “I didn’t like it. But in the ’80s, that was the only way to meet men in influential positions and figure out what was going on in the business world. Even if I just drove the cart and passed out beer, I was meeting people.”

Frank Ricks, one of the founding principals of LRK Inc. architectural firm, employed a young Howell. Today, his firm is one of her longtime clients.

“She’s clearly an extrovert,” Ricks said. “She has a knack of making connections which, in my mind, is different than making introductions.”

Howell introduced Ricks and Dr. Scott Morris, CEO of the Church Health Center in Memphis.

“We hit it off,” Ricks said, and that connection has led to LRK doing some pro bono work for the Church Health Center.

Howell is simultaneously intuitive and bold, which might seem like a contradiction, but really isn’t. She is, after all, a CEO, a wife, a daughter, a mother, a sister and a friend.

“You have to wear different hats when you have different tasks in front of you,” she said.

Howell tells a story in the book of being in a meeting – 12 men and her. The meeting bogged down over minor details. It was late in the day. Her instincts told her to order coffee and cookies and so she did – without asking.

“The negotiations had come down to something so ridiculously small I felt like they were little boys arguing over about who got to ride in the front seat,” Howell wrote. “I wanted to yell, ‘I call shotgun!’ Instead, I fed them.”

And in a short while, all was resolved.

Danis Fuelling, CEO of Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment in Memphis, who is a client and a friend of Howell, said: “Amy just kind of puts it all out there. If you know her, you know.”

So it should come as no surprise that Howell and her co-author decided to self-publish their book, which is available through amazon.com and locally at The Stovall Collection and The Booksellers at Laurelwood.

“We didn’t want anybody telling us what to say and how to say it,” Howell said.

Or as she wrote in the book: “I have a saying in my firm: ‘Tell your own story or someone else will.’”

Worth More than Whac-A-Mole

WHACK-A-MOLEI’ve heard it said more than once that the twenty-something years can best be described as one long game of Whac-a-Mole. A huge fan of the game when I was eight, I’m starting to think it loses its grandeur when you’re waist deep in your twenties.

The object of the game is simple: strange, slightly creepy, animated moles pop up all over a board. Using a mallet, the player is meant to “whack” as many moles as possible, forcing them back into their holes and earning a high number of points.

For my generation, graduating college can feel a little bit like stepping into the line of a fire hose. After years of focusing only on the next test or the next project, suddenly we are faced with The Rest of Our Lives. We have opportunities, yes, but these possibilities can be paralyzing: a sea of moles, luring us in every direction and distracting us from our true passions.

All my life, I have wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first novel in fifth grade. Late at night, I labored under the glow of a flashlight, agonizing over how to write the sinking of the Titanic from the perspective of a mouse. In college, I went to career fairs and seminars, reading pamphlets about teaching, nursing, and other “sensible” careers, knowing in my heart of hearts that I wanted to write for a living.

After graduating, though, I seemed to lose my focus. I turned the tassel on my cap and found my world transformed into a life-sized game of Whac-a-Mole. I had no definite career path, and no form of income. Suddenly, less-than-perfect jobs and opportunities became more appealing simply because they were there, in big black fuzzy costumes waving their arms at me.

Two years after graduation, I found myself in a minimum-wage job, exhausted, deflated, and with little-to-no energy to write on the side. My dreams of becoming a published author were fading in the real world, where my only objective was quickly becoming to make ends meet. 

It was around this time that Anne Deeter Gallaher gave me a copy of Women in High Gear. In the book, Anne and her co-author, Amy Howell, encourage readers to define their goals, and to list the steps they need to take to get there. Anne encourages readers to get uncomfortable, saying that “to reach your high gear…you’ll need a lifetime vaccination of a healthy disregard for the impossible. Getting uncomfortable is the best thing you can do to reach your high gear!”

I thought about these words in light of my own life. I was so busy trying to get by, seizing whatever opportunity came my way, I hadn’t stopped to define my goals and think about where I really wanted to end up. I realized when I looked at my situation more closely, that I was avoiding stepping out and doing what I loved because I was afraid of failure. It was more comfortable for me to scrape by in jobs I didn’t really care about, head down and whacking at opportunities, than it was to take a step back and rethink my dreams. In reality, I was working at these part-time, minimum-wage jobs because, after stepping into the playing arena and trying to survive, I no longer knew what I was worth. 

After reading Women in High Gear, I made a list of high gear goals for the next five years. With Anne’s help, I started thinking strategically about how to attain these goals. It’s amazing how much easier it is to listen to yourself when you’re not chasing after moles. Today, I am a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Chatham University, and I’m working on a novel again–although this time, there are no mice involved. I’m stepping out into the world of freelancing–not because I’m grabbing whatever comes my way, but because writing is what I love, and I am worth pursuing something that I love.

We are all gifted with unique passions; with talents that make us come alive. We are worth more than the game of Whac-a-Mole can give us. Reaching High Gear is about realizing this, and pursuing the thing you are passionate about. It may be more uncomfortable at first, but is well worth it in the long run.

Thank you, Anne and Amy, for encouraging us to define our goals and to get uncomfortable in order to reach our own High Gear!

About Rachael Dymski

Rachael Dymski

I’m a freelance writer living in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. I love few things more than travel, interior design, running, literature, and a good cup of tea. I blog at RachaelDymski.com.

It’s Time for a Personal Board of Advisors

Building a busineBoardofAdvisorsss from scratch is hard work; and it’s even harder if you’re an On-Ramper—a person who took time off work to raise children, enjoy a sabbatical, or care for aging parents.

At the age of 40 I started my business and one of the first, and smartest, things I did was assemble a personal board of advisors. To succeed in business, it’s important to be self-aware. That includes knowing that you don’t know, as my father always said.

I didn’t have 20 years to figure out the art of doing business, so I needed to surround myself with the most successful people that I could connect with and ask if they would kindly serve as my personal board of advisors. How did I do that? I reached out and asked. Fortunately for me, each one said Yes.

What did I ask of my board? If they would be willing to be accessible, to listen, and to guide me in the best direction for success. They helped me answer the following types of questions:

  • Should I pursue a WBE certification?
  • Should I invest the time to compete for a state contract?
  • Should I volunteer service on another board?
  • How do I approach a client who is 60 days past due?
  • How should I respond to a company who wants to co-brand?
  • How do I navigate the hiring process?
  • Should I negotiate a 3-year or 5-year commercial space lease?

As an entrepreneur, I had to make good decisions the first time, and my board was critical in helping me grow.

I felt it was important to have diverse industries and ages on my board. I wanted people who could help me think of unintended consequences and bring skills that I didn’t have. One advisor is a successful family practice physician who is leading the country in electronic medical records implementation; one is a business owner who founded an institutional bond firm; one is a mother who started her IT firm after leaving IBM and ramped up to crest $5 million in revenue; one is a 30-year veteran in land development and the automotive industry leading a company with $80 million in revenue; and one is a business owner of a commercial mortgage banking firm.

All have deep experiences with growing their companies, making decisions based on the bottom line, navigating workplace challenges, and rebounding from recessions. I soon realized the value of that level of guidance—priceless. In fact, it’s probably worth more than an MBA.

Dr. Robert K. Nielsen jokes that he’s still waiting for our annual board meeting to be at The Greenbrier. That’s an aspirational goal for me, but every day I look at the picture on my desk and am thankful for how much each one has played a role in my high gear journey.

Whether you’re just thinking about your business idea or ready to launch a new service, I strongly encourage you to assemble your own personal board of advisors to capture decades of business wisdom and the objectivity to send you to the next level.