Sunday, June 26, 2011

Carve Out Time for the People That Matter Most

"No man on his death bed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" - The late Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts

Dear Friend,

When I moved to Maryland in 2003, my father serendipitously received a promotion to move from Colorado to nearby northern Virginia. We had not lived in the same city since I graduated from high school and I was excited that he'd be just 20 miles away. Despite the close proximity, we both noticed something: We didn't actually see one another as often as we'd thought we would.  

Have you ever noticed that life sometimes gets so busy that it gets in the way of what you say is most important? It's in those moments, that you must reassess your priorities and make sure your schedule reflects them. If you aren't intentional about how you spend your time, it will slip through your fingers without bringing you some of the experiences that make your life rich and fulfilling.  

To make sure we made time together a priority, Dad and I decided to set a standing appointment. On Fridays, we met for lunch. Same place. Same time. And on the occasions when one of us couldn't make it, we made it a point to see each other at some other time. Our lunch dates ensured that we never became so busy that we'd go for weeks, living in the same metro area, without visiting with each other face to face. We visited at other times, too, of course, but we didn't rely on happenstance and special occasions to see each other regularly.  I now live in Atlanta, and I am intentional about spending time with my family here. 

This week, I invite you to take a moment to consider the people with whom you most want to spend time with on a regular basis. Then carve out some time and put strong boundaries around it. There is so much vying for your attention that you must be intentional about making time for your relationships. I make it my rule to visit with my family here in Atlanta and South Carolina regularly.  I also have a few friends with whom I get together once a month or so. If we don't set a date, one of us calls the other to say, "Hey, it's time for us to get together."  

To some, it may seem ridiculous to set appointments with yourself and the people you care about. Instead, I see it as a way to honor your most important relationships. In a world in which there is always something calling for your attention, it is essential that you take control of how you spend your time and put boundaries around the time that's meant for your most important priority - your relationships. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 
  • Invite friends or family over once a month for an old-fashioned Sunday dinner.
  • Eat breakfast or dinner together as a family.
  • Choose a weekly "date night" for you and your spouse or significant other.
  • Have a "game night" with your children or friends.
  • Choose a favorite pastime and schedule regular time to enjoy it with someone you want to spend time with consistently.
  • Set a standard for how often you want to see loved ones who do not live in your area. Honor your standard by taking out your calendar and marking the dates.
  • Carve out regular time just for you. Just as it is important to make time for the important people in your life, it's important to make time just for you, too!
  • Come up with your idea by brainstorming with the person you want to carve out time for!
Living an inspired life means aligning your true priorities with your day-to-day actions. When you make time for your relationships, you'll notice that other less meaningful activities may fall by the wayside. Take a deep breath and let them go. You can't be all things to all people. Carve out time for the people who matter most to you. Enjoy!

Journaling assignment:  
With whom do you need to be more intentional about spending quality time? When, how and how often would you like to spend time with them?

My challenge to you this week: 
Carve out time in your schedule for the people who matter most to you. Make that time sacred by setting boundaries around it that cannot be infringed upon by work, other people or less significant priorities.

Until next time...

Warm wishes, 
Valorie's Signature

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who Am I Meant To Be?

Forget your career. Forget your role as a mother or a wife. Forget how much money you make or how successful you are. If you're struggling with the question "Who am I meant to be?", this quiz can help you figure out what really defines you. Based on personality science, I have identified seven "striving styles," modes of thought and behavior that direct us to seek satisfaction in different ways. Although everybody is wired with all seven styles, most people have one that dominates. When you engage this innate style, you've got the best shot at fulfilling your potential; when you don't, you can feel stuck.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Career Women Can Learn From Oprah Winfrey the years, one of the role models I’ve eagerly observed from afar has been Oprah Winfrey. Her abilities as a female entrepreneur are what inspired me to leave the confines of corporate America and start my own consulting company focused on helping women succeed in their careers. And there are a lot of lessons career women can learn from Oprah.
Ms. Winfrey defied the odds stacked against her in life and used her abilities as an entrepreneur to take Harpo, Inc. from a small, five-person production company to a 430-person multimedia conglomerate. “Today, she is one of a handful of black billionaires across the globe; her net worth estimated at $2.5 billion” (Alleyne, 2008).
Born to unmarried parents, a miner father and a mother who worked as a maid, Oprah’s early years were filled with abuse, loneliness, and heartache. But what she was forced to overcome became a driving force for making Oprah what she is now, an incredible entrepreneur and mentor to women and men around the world.
“Her unprecedented success in American business serves as the undisputed blueprint for many minority entrepreneurs. Her leadership has broken down barriers; her business instinct the stuff of legend; and her innovation unprecedented. She has spent her entire career beating the odds – and has inspired millions of business-minded minorities in the process” (Allyne, 2008).
What career women can learn from Oprah:
  • Sometimes it pays not to “over plan” things: Oprah claims not to be much of a strategist; rather, “she asserts that divine inspiration, not strategic planning, is the key to her company’s success: ‘I haven’t planned one thing – ever. I have just been led by a strong instinct, and I have made choices based on what was right for me at the time’” (Allyne, 2008).
  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic: While Oprah worked as a news anchor she also took on the responsibilities as host of a morning television talk show. Throughout her career, Oprah has never shied away from hard work, she welcomes it.
  • Don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur: Her entrepreneurial mind-set and willingness to take risks has paid off by propelling her forward throughout her career. She sought out opportunities as an actress, invested in start-up businesses, such as Oxygen, an independent cable network for women, and most recently, launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
  • Create a moral-support network: Oprah created a cheering squad with people such as her best friend, Gayle King, and Stedman Graham, who helped her during difficult and lonely times in her career.
  • Create a professional-support network: Over the years Oprah has built up a professional network and been able to reach out to some of the most successful business people in the world for help or advice. In turn, she has also given back to others such as helping Barack Obama with his political campaign for president.
  • Lead and inspire others: Oprah’s leadership style demands that nothing be taken for granted. “I don’t yell at people, I don’t mistreat people, I don’t talk down to people. Treating people with respect is the most important thing to me. It’s not just talk” (Allyne, 2008).
Oprah has been a wonderful role model for myself and for women all around the world because she has demonstrated the key traits necessary to achieve your dreams. She has proven that it does not matter from where you come; what matters is where you want to go, how you get yourself there, and how you treat people along the way. She has shown me that to be a successful entrepreneur takes courage and the ability to try new things, even in the face of uncertainty.

But what I will probably always remember is that she has become more than a talk show host and more than a business woman – she is a mentor to women around the world.

Follow Your Passion, Not Your Fears

How I learned to thrive in my midlife crisis.



One year ago, I found myself at a midlife cross-road and almost-crises. After 15-plus years working at PR Newswire, one of the largest commercial newswire services, I had come to the end of the professional road. Reaching a vice presidential position a few years earlier, I was left with zero opportunity for personal advancement, nearly no challenges and, not least, a company-wide feeling of questionable growth ahead.
To be fair, the company was an incubator of many years of passion, growth, learning and exploration; it would not be fair for me to describe things as negative. But, the time had come for me to make a major leap of faith and choose a new path.

Naturally, I was terrified. But why? I was someone who somehow survived losing a mom at 20 to a hotel fire, recovered from a defeated marriage of 11 years by packing up and planting myself in a new city where I knew no one (New York), and witnessed the two-year slow-death of my father, which was caused initially by a root canal infection.

For years, I had been an accomplished sales, business development and marketing professional. When not working, I poured myself into various causes (women's advancement and leadership, entrepreneurship, environmental programs), as well as always being a go-to person for those looking for new jobs, connections, nonprofits to support and even potential life partners.

There was absolutely no reason I couldn't grasp what my future could be. The question was how could I take this turning-point, bottle it up and somehow monetize it? For the previous few years, I had taken an active interest in corporate social responsibility and in my spare time I kept up-to-date with the industry and attended conferences when possible. My last position at my old employer was helping the company determine what CSR communications services to offer its corporate clientele.

Thankfully, due to (1) solid and wonderful friendships; (2) a very supportive partner; (3) my ability to reach out to, and connect with, anyone online; and (4) with my voracious appetite for research, I was able to form a new path and strategy. Today, looking back at the last 12 months, I feel at peace with the decision and road I chose.

I've found my new direction and its one of excitement and challenge each and every day. Currently, I am a senior vice president at Fenton, the country's leading public interest communications firm. The firm has a 30-year history of helping make positive social change happen working with organizations, NGOs, nonprofits, government and individuals. My role is to lead our corporate responsibility practice and help market our good work to the overall public interest sector. Each day I'm blessed with working alongside some of the most passionate and brilliant thought-leaders, each making a difference in the work they do.

My thirst for creating innovation and developing new initiatives is satisfied. I feel challenged and motivated and look forward to continuing the enriching work we have ahead of us. I'm now paid to do what I'm passionate about. How rewarding is that?

For those prone to doing some reflecting on their summer weekends and vacations, I highly suggest that you consider following your passions and don't throw in the towel continuing with a job that is less than enriching or invigorating. We are blessed today with amazing technological resources and social media that provide us the opportunity to connect with almost anyone on the planet. Whether through the power of Twitter, Skype or Facebook, or joining one or two of the thousands of professional groups on LinkedIn, we now have the ability to gather new information and insight in minutes and hours rather than days.
I'm not saying its easy, but it is possible. There are webcasts, webinars, podcasts, conferences and symposiums presented on every subject imaginable. You have the power and tools to make change happen. Although one year ago I may have argued on this point, it is truly never to late too pick up and start-over.

Susan McPherson is a senior vice president at Fenton, the nation's leading public interest communications firm, where she focuses on corporate responsibility programs for the firm's clientele and regularly writes and speaks on sustainability communications and the value of public/private partnerships. She also serves on the board of Bpeace, an organization dedicated to assisting women in regions of conflict and post-conflict start businesses. She also is a member of Echoing Green's Social Investment Council and the New York Leadership team for 85Broads.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Got an M.B.A.? Great, but I Prefer Uncommon Sense

This interview with Byron Lewis Sr., the chairman and chief executive of the UniWorld Group, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Comcast Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program

DreamIt Fall 2011 in Philadelphia will include a special track, the Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP) sponsored by Comcast. The MEAP has been created to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. Up to five qualifying companies / entrepreneur teams will be selected by Comcast and DreamIt for participation in this track. The MEAP will feature Comcast employees and others from the minority business community as mentors, as well as special events and curriculum specifically designed for minority businesses, in addition to all of the benefits and services provided to other participants in DreamIt Fall 2011. You can read more about the MEAP here. In order to be eligible to participate in the MEAP, your company must be at least 50% owned by members of your founding entrepreneur team who are African American, Asian American, Latino American or Native American (before taking into account the equity interest to be issued to DreamIt and Comcast in connection with your participation in DreamIt Fall 2011 - for more information on that, please see our FAQ), and such founding entrepreneur team (including their relative ownership interests, again without taking into account the equity interests to be issued to DreamIt and Comcast ) must be maintained throughout the duration of DreamIt Fall 2011. Accordingly, you will be required to provide information regarding the ethnicity, race, citizenship and ownership of your founders in your application to the MEAP; provision of this information is entirely voluntary, but you cannot be considered for the MEAP without it. If you choose not to provide this information, your application will still be considered for participation in DreamIt Fall 2011, but not as part of the MEAP. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Breathe" Based on the life story of Angela Burgin Logan

WITS is proud to announce the film based on the life story of Angela Burgin Logan - “Breathe” has been selected to the American Black Film Festival! The film stars Robin Givens, Elise Neal, Miguel name a few You can also see the film's trailer at And please visit the Official Breathe Website at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The First 3 Stages of Starting a Business

Starting a business is a big deal—a big, exciting deal that comes with an endless to-do list and a steep learning curve. And as a new entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the process, overwhelmed by the details, and lose focus of the big picture. You can make a whole business out of setting up your business, but too much detailed planning can seriously get in the way of really getting started!

The biggest favor that you can do yourself is to focus your time and energy on getting through these three critical stages, and learning as you go.

1. Get Your Product Out There

It’s tempting to fuss and fret until your offering is just right—a perfect package of your talent, vision, and potential. Guess what? It’ll never happen. Or at least not at the start. And here’s why: your product or service won’t be perfect until you get some honest feedback from the marketplace.

You need feedback from real customers and actual sales data to validate your assumptions. So, just get it out there! There’s no point in perfecting something people don’t want, or a feature they won’t use. Until you’re in the marketplace, you’re flying blind.
→ The Lesson: It won’t be perfect, but that’s OK!

2. Get Someone to Buy It

You may be crystal clear on why your goods are much better than the competition. But knowing that fact yourself and getting someone else to realize it are two completely different things. People will only pay for your product or service if they believe it’s worth it, which means that you need to demonstrate the value you offer in a compelling way. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and understand their pains. How does your offering help them? And what’s the best way to show them that? Fleshing out your key messages and how to communicate them in a clear and relevant way to your clients will be crucial to your success.
→ The Lesson: It must be valuable and it’s up to you to prove it!

3. Figure Out How to Improve It

This is the most important stage of all. It’s all about using what you’ve learned to make your offering even stronger. Being a successful entrepreneur means being comfortable with refinement and reinvention. There’s no room for pride, and there’s no point in trying to have all the answers.

So open yourself up to feedback. Solicit input and ideas. It’s important to be committed to the idea and not the details. Receive good suggestions with enthusiasm, not reluctance. In a fluid and fast-moving marketplace, learning to be adaptable will be your best tool for survival.
→ The Lesson: Your work is never done, but that’s what makes it FUN!

These stages may take one week or one year, but not until you’ve done all of these steps are you truly “in business.” So,what’s the hold up? We can’t wait to see what you’ve got!