Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Tom Baker of Baker Leadership

As the upcoming keynote speaker for this year's Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Conference and Trade Show, presented by WSBA, Tom Baker was gracious enough to answer some of our questions, and to give us a preview of what he'd be speaking about during the Honoring Extraordinary Women Awards on April 8th.

Tom Baker, MA, is the Vice President of Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, the President of Baker Leadership, host and producer of "Get Involved! Pittsburgh" on PCTV 21, moderator of the monthly "Get Involved! Power Hour" series in Pittsburgh, host of the monthly "Pittsburgh Morning Mix" series, facilitator for the Fast Track Pittsburgh Service and Leadership program, coordinator for the Baker Leadership Speakers Bureau, and founder of the annual Get Involved! Pittsburgh Service Summit. He is also a well-known speaker and author of two books: "Get Involved! Making the Most of Your 20s and 30s" and "Get Involved! Give Our Passion".

WSBA: Tom, much of your work is with young people. Have you always preferred working with that age group and why?
TB: Both of my parents had a background in education and working with children, so that is what I was accustomed to growing up. I truly enjoy helping others and really have a great time empowering and educating young people to dream big and set goals while also providing them with the tools and resources to do so. The work that we accomplish at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh enables over 1,150 children annually to have a dedicated and positive role model in their life.

WSBA: As you get older, do you see yourself focusing on other age groups? What resources are available to help people find good community organizations to get involved with, as they get older?
TB: Within Get Involved! we work with members of all backgrounds and age groups. Since 2008 I’ve spoken with about 125 groups and almost half of these presentations have been with community leaders of all ages. Our Fast Track program also consists of participants in different age brackets. Within Western PA, I am very fond of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership and Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. and am a proud graduate of both programs. My wife and I are both on the Coro Pittsburgh Alumni Council and I train a 12 week Running for Public Office: Emerging Leaders in Public Service at Coro in the fall.  

WSBA: Is there something about Pittsburgh that you particularly enjoy working around? What's special about this city?
TB: There is so much that is special about this city. I find a new way to fall in love with our city every day. I enjoy our rich culture and the pride that Pittsburgh’ers showcase about our food, our sports, our communities, and our beautiful city view. Where else can you eat fries in your salad and wash it down with a pop?

WSBA: What are some of your favorite organizations in Pittsburgh to work with?
TB: There are many terrific organizations that my wife, Erin, and I have enjoyed working with in Pittsburgh. I am the Past President of the Board of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project and Erin now is on the board. PUMP is a big piece of why we never considered moving from Pittsburgh after graduate school because it enabled us to get so entrenched in the community and play on dozens of Pittsburgh Sports League teams. I am also very proud of how the first annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge turned out last fall. I am the chairman of the Young Professionals Board for SOPA and we played a small, but meaningful role in raising $120,000 for all of the Special Olympics athletes.

WSBA: As I read your bio, I wonder, do you have any free time? If so, what do you like to do around the city? Are there things to do, perhaps one-day activities, that are both fun and also helpful to the community, from a volunteer perspective?
TB: I love playing sports and have been very active with the Pittsburgh Sports League since 2003. Saturday and Sunday morning 5K’s and Charity Walks are also a great way to start your morning on the weekend and I have enjoyed participating in dozens of those. Erin and I both also looking forward to running 13.1 miles on May 15 in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This will be my third half marathon and I am hoping to improve my time from last year. I would encourage everyone reading this to really consider joining one more organization or volunteering in additional way. I would love to talk to any of your readers about Big Brothers Big Sisters. My little brother, Preston, is 19 now and a freshman at Franklin and Marshall College. Becoming a big has been one of the best decisions in my life and Preston is like family to Erin and I. We are so proud of him and being there to witness him graduate from college last June was the best birthday gift I could have received. Our website for BBBS is if anyone is interested in learning more about the program.

WSBA: What about WSBA made you decide to do our keynote speech this year?
TB: I was touched when Sarah Mayer invited me to keynote the WSBA Conference this year. I think very highly of Sarah and was really enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate. As a big believer in small business I have been aware of the WSBA since its inception in 2007 here in Western PA. Providing women in our region with an additional network the work that WSBA does is vital in enabling members to grow their business and develop as professionals. By becoming part of a smaller community through joining organizations and associations, such as WSBA, it enables female business leaders to feel more at home and move their business efforts forward.
WSBA: Can you give us a tidbit of what you'll be touching on?
TB: We will be talking about the important correlation between service work and business. It is imperative for female business leaders to stay active in community organizations. As President of the Pittsburgh East Rotary Club I have come into contact with some of the most dedicated and committed woman business leaders in the region. While boosting your business is never why you should join an organization or serve on a board, it is undoubtedly useful. We’ll also be doing some goal setting for the remainder of 2011 and determining what organizations and volunteer opportunities are the best fit for participants. It will be a very interactive session so participants should come ready to share!

WSBA: Thanks so much for your time, and we look forward to seeing you on April 8th!
TB: Thanks Ceil. I am very much looking forward to it!

Interview questions compiled by Ceil Kessler of Polaris Marketing and Business Solutions.
The Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Conference and Trade Show presented by WSBA is sponsored by the following generous companies:

Signature Sponsor
Corporate Sponsors
Pittsburgh Business Times

Contributing Sponsors
3 Rivers Wealth Management Group
ABOARD  (Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders)
Baker Leadership
Beaver Valley Foot Clinic
Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship
First Commonwealth Bank
Remarkable Living by Design

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Changing Of The Seasons Warrants A Change In Your Perspective

Most business women wake up early to plan their day. They put an enormous amount of effort into scheduling meetings, making phone calls, attending to administrative tasks, and running errands. But, how many business women put as much thought and energy into planning their website, logo, brand identity, and marketing initiatives? In the early days of the Internet, it was a legitimate concept to simply have a website no matter how it looked or functioned. As long as you could say you had one, you were in good standing. Those times no longer exist. Now, it is imperative that business women devote themselves to creating a strategic plan in order to recover the highest return on their investment when utilizing the Internet as a marketing tool.

The latest statistics are showing that about 1/3 of all new small businesses are being created by women. The FOX Small Business Center Website in an article posted February 19, 2010 boasts, “Not only are women-owned firms contributing $3 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and accounting for 16% of all jobs, but new research shows women entrepreneurs will create 5 to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. by 2018. (Source: These stats prove that we must work harder than ever to stand out from our competition and that competition is now comprised of men and women.

It is estimated that in 2009, approximately 46 percent of small business owners do not have a website at all. (Source:  Not all of these business owners are women, but the nature of our culture today predicts that many will be.  So how does the new business owner make an impact in this fast-paced, ever changing world of Internet technology? Actually, starting with the basics is always a good first step.

Let’s focus your attention on this list of critical items all women entrepreneurs should consider concerning their websites:

  • Complements your business, is inherent to your industry, and is search engine friendly
  • Clean, concise, quality website design that is displayed correctly using multiple browsers
  • Has an updateable feature that allows you to control your content
  • Kept fresh with your new ideas, message, products, and services
  • Shows your expertise and your niche
  • Captures demographic and statistical information used to measure the site’s effectiveness
  • Incorporates social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, and News Feeds to keep your business relevant and visible
  • Builds a buzz about your site while using traditional network marketing techniques
Most business women just starting a site of their own can find this list a bit intimidating. No fear! You don’t have to go at it alone. My company, Affluent Concepts, prides itself on providing personalized website services to our clients, but we also help to educate business women on what works well for them on the Web.

In conclusion, the path to victory is not always paved in gold. It takes a lot of planning, work and focus to meet your business goals both online and off. Good thing we have one another, huh? The prospect of utilizing one another’s strengths and changing our perspectives can mean the difference between seeing your efforts being planted in the Spring and blossoming in the Fall while you watch the leaves change colors. I hope you are sewing in good soil today so that you can see the fruits of your labor very soon.

Article written by Tonia White
Affluent Concepts Web Design & Multimedia Services

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Choosing a business name that will help your customers to find you later.

  1. Make it easy to remember and spell. Making the company name easy to remember and spell will help customers to find your business in the phone book or on the internet.
  2. It should have a strong visual element. People should be able to SEE what they READ. Include a visual element like a logo and it will help customers to remember and identify your business. This can become a very valuable marketing tool for your business.
  3. Choose the correct connotation. Many words have literal and emotional connotations. They also have a positive or neutral connotation. I like to use the example of "Home" which is a positive connotation vs. "House" that has a neutral connotation. Bob's Home Repairs gives off a different emotion than Bob's House Repairs.
  4. It should include information about what your business does. If the customer reads your name, then they should be able to figure out what products or services your company will offer. This will also help your customers to remember your company name! An example would be "Pittsburgh Candle Company". Most people reading this name can figure out that this company manufactures candles in Pittsburgh, PA.
  5. Try to keep it short. Having a long name may cause problems when you are trying to put the company name on marketing or promotional items. It can also create a long web address if you choose to use your long company name.
Article written by Susan Miller
Owner and Founder of the Women's Small Business Association (WSBA), LLC.

Basic tax preparation for small business owners.

As a small business owner, your focus may be on making money day-to-day. It may be hard to make time for tax preparation, or it can become overwhelming if you wait until the last minute. A small business owner can learn to do it themselves, but hiring the right people can save you valuable time and money, and avoid costly mistakes. Here are a few tips that will save you time, money, and help you to keep your focus on making money.

1.       Use a professional. Using a tax professional will ensure that you get every deduction that you are entitled to, while still keeping your books according to regulations. A tax professional will also make you aware of any rules that have changed and keep you up to date with the newest tax laws. Make sure to choose a professional that is right for your business. Trusting a professional to handle this aspect of your business could offer you larger tax savings.

2.      Know the basics. Knowing the basic for tax preparation will help you to keep the required records throughout the year, and also help you get prepared for your tax professional.

3.      Set up a filing system for all your receipts and taxable documents. There are great programs like QuickBooks, that make this very easy for small business owners. Develop a Tax Preparation Checklist with your tax professional that will include everything that will be needed for tax time. Going through your checklist monthly will keep this task to a minimal versus tackling this task at the end of the year.

4.     Keeping good books. Consider hiring a bookkeeper. The bookkeeper will record all your receipts and taxable documents, track accounts payable and receivable, and create a balance sheet for your business. A bookkeeper is going to be focused on properly recording the day-to-day financial activities of your business. Your tax professional will not be able to do their job properly without good bookkeeping and good books. Depending on the size of your business, a bookkeeper can work with you monthly, weekly, or daily.  Make sure that your bookkeeper works well with your tax professional.

Article written by Susan Miller 

- Owner and Founder of the Women's Small Business Association (WSBA), LLC.

5 tips for effective networking!

As a business owner, your time and energy is valuable! So your networking efforts should be effective and efficient. Learning a few networking tips can help maximize your time and efforts at the next networking event. Networking is an essential business tool, and a skill that every business owner should master. Networking helps create, maintain, and utilize interpersonal connections. 

1. Come with a goal! Are you looking for new prospects, wanting to form possible collaborations, create a mutual referral partnership, develop a name recognition for you and your business, or learning about the latest news and trends you can use? Look through the RSVP list and develop a list of people that you specifically want to network with.

2. Knock their socks off! Your 60 second commercial should communicate how others can benefit from your business. You have been given a 60 sec. window to knock their socks off. Be sure your message tells them how you are the next best thing since the wheel!

3. Come prepared! Have a networking checklist: pen, updated business card, accurate hand out material, double check the professional appearance of your materials and yourself, and a notebook for follow up comments or to schedule appointments.

4. Be prepared to educate! Be prepared to let others know what you are looking for, and what your goals are for the event. Are you looking for referrals? If so, be prepared to educate others on what type of referral you are looking for your business.

5. The importance of follow up! It will reinforce your original intent for that contact, it delivers a message of enthusiasm, and it is the first step toward scheduling the next contact with this person.

Happy Networking!

Article written by Susan Miller
Owner and Founder of the Women's Small Business Association (WSBA), LLC.
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To learn about the next WSBA networking event, please visit our WSBA Calendar