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Executive Presence?

Posted By Julie McReynolds, Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Executive Presence Matters?

By Vivian Hairston Blade

Patricia was considering the candidates from the final round of interviews for her open senior manager position. She asked Ron, her Human Resources partner, to review the applicants with her as she made her final decision.  Both candidates were well qualified with the skills and experience needed for the role, and had a track record of execution. But, the success of this person was largely going to depend on their ability to gain respect, trust, and influence.  As they discussed Shannon’s fit for the job, Patricia expressed her concerns. “Shannon certainly has the credentials for this role, but I don’t think she has the executive presence necessary to drive our strategic priorities.”  Ron tended to agree with her.  “Yes, I know. Something about her makes me feel she’s just not strong enough for this senior level position.” Though Patricia and Ron agreed on this gut feeling, they couldn’t exactly put their finger on why they felt that way.

“Executive presence” is a commonly used, yet nebulous term. Executive presence often is thought of as just your ‘presence’, or the way you carry yourself.  But it’s so much more.  People often use it without being able to articulate exactly what it really means or how to fix it. It’s so challenging to describe executive presence because it’s not a single dimension.

What is Executive Presence?

Executive presence is a combination of demonstrable outcomes and soft skills that come together to comprise your complete package.  Executive presence is the leadership or executive level capacity others see in you.  It is your package of business savvy, relationship savvy, and professional style.  Even if you are an emerging leader, others can sense your executive presence capability.

Executive Presence is comprised of four key dimensions:

·         Business Intelligence – Your application of business & industry knowledge in your work.

·         Business Impact – Your track record of impact on company growth and key priorities.

·         RelationshipsYour ability to build strategic relationships & influence others.

·         Reputation - Your personal brand around your outcomes, leadership style, and professionalism.


Why Executive Presence Matters

When the combination of these four dimensions are strong, your executive presence will be identified as strong. You also will feel confident, and be seen as both confident and competent. Leaders are expected to be well-rounded in their business acumen, meaningful contributions to business outcomes, and leadership skill.  Your executive presence shows your ability to fit the character of these expectations at successive levels in your career.  

Executive presence is critical in the success of your career.  The impressions you leave can directly impact your ability to move up in the organization, or to be trusted with important responsibilities. It impacts your ability to earn Invited Reach, where leaders reach out on your behalf as advocates and sponsors to make opportunities available to you.

Who can you think of that has strong executive presence. What are the characteristics that give you that impression?  How do you believe executive presence may have impacted their success?

Like your technical skills, executive presence is a skill that takes work, practice and commitment. Your executive presence will be evaluated. Make sure it’s on your list of things to work on. 

Attend my session at the NAWMBA East Region Symposium for insights on what’s missing in your executive presence, and for tips on making significant improvements. Register by going to 

Tags:  Business  Kentucky  leadership  Louisville  mba  MBA Women  NAWMBA  personal branding  Professionals  WomeninBusiness 

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The 5 M’s of successful investing and getting funded

Posted By Julie McReynolds, Tuesday, August 29, 2017

There is a direct correlation between an investor understanding the 5 basis principals of considering making an investment and an entrepreneur receiving the correct types and amount of funding to launch their startup. Therefore, for both funders and founders, focus on these 5 M’s in evaluating any successful entrepreneurial investment: (1) Management, (2) Momentum, (3) Model, (4) Motivation and (5) Market. As an active angel investor, Dr. Silvia Mah, founder of She Invests, a firm focused on giving a voice to female angel investors through a podcast, a snackable book, and investor circle opportunities to grow the number of active angel investors globally, knows intricately that these 4M’s are revisited by every angel group, syndication network, and angel conference in analyzing startups for investment.


(1) Management (the team)

The passion of the startup individual or team is contagious when it is genuinely communicated and embraced by all involved. Is the founder / founder team experienced enough to take this startup towards creating value inside the company (culture) as well as execute on product deliverable? Is the founder coachable? Do they have the right board of advisors (scientific, technical or industry board) who have validated the startup potential and gotten in back of the mission? How credible is the startup team? Do you trust them with effectively using your investment dollars well? How experienced are they in the industry they are going into? How experienced are they in creating startups? One huge consideration and one that really makes the “female founder – female funder” connection really thrive, is the personality match between the entrepreneur and investor. They will be spending many hours and years together, so that that connectivity is crucial for a successful return on investment. The tenacity/grit of startup founders has been a deciding factor in some investment decisions.


(2) Momentum (traction)

The type of traction a startup can garner from their immediate startup ecosystem supporting their endeavors, advisors connecting them to great collaborators, and just a non-stop attitude is what investors want to see. Many entrepreneurs ask how do they show traction at early stages of launching their startup. Simple traction of presenting at conferences, meeting with angel investors (even over coffee), pitching at startup events, or customer interviews are great ways to show you are on the right track. However, the number one way that you can show traction is actually getting paid customers, the speed of early adoption by your target customers is crucial to your continued growth of happy customers.  

(3) Model (show me the money)

Model is as simple as the business model. The startup needs to be able to communicate the way it thinks it can make money, through BtoC, BtoB, franchising, licensing, etc. There are so many ways to build a business model, but those startups who are successful really understand the intricacies of their industry and innovate around how they can make sustaining revenues for the highest return of their stakeholders. A prime example of investing in a startup primarily because of the business model is one that understands how to create value and revenue at a very early stage to be able to fund the larger vision. This shows business acumen in the industry, value of the investors’ money and returns, and an astute business model innovation.

(4) Motivation (why now?)

For a product to penetrate a market, a certain market factor needs to drive a large component of the business model. The market driver might be that the technology is ripe enough in the industry to support a new way of delivering a certain product (Spotify) or that the customers are ripe for a new solution in the growing sharing economy (Airbnb). There is an urgency to capture the increased interest or leverage certain new technology to launch & receive funding for a new venture. Another consideration under “motivation” is the team-product fit. Why is this team best suited for producing this product and executing a flawless business model for optimal proof of concept validation (and actually having a startup survive)? If the product is so suited for the team as well as the market, does it have enough IP (Intellectual Property) protection to ensure long-term success?

(5) Market (are there enough customers to buy?)

There are two approaches to help define the market: Top down and Bottoms up. Top down takes a macro-economic view of how large the market is, competitors, and current market trends. Bottoms up takes the customer view of how many items will be sold to how many people while not taking too much notice on the larger drivers in the industry. The product-market fit is crucial in the successful launch of startup, connecting the passion-driven development of an impactful product with a market who is hungry for the solution. A typical VC would only look at Market of >>$500M, growth rate of >>10%, large pain point among customers (in numbers/size of customers and value to the end-user), and unique approach to solving pain.

Investing in startups is a high-risk proposition. These simple 5 M’s help demystify the most important aspects to consider and at least start the due diligence process with a business seeking funding. For entrepreneurs, being able to clearly articulate the unique the 5M’s to an investor will get to the next meeting, which is the only goal you should have when speaking with potential investors. It’s a delicate dance founders and funders take in increasing trust between them through genuine conversations, breaking down market drivers and investigating how unique the product is for the customer who is in desperate need of a solution.


Twitter: @silviamah

Facebook: @SheInvests

Linked In: silviamah

Instagram: sheinvests



Meet Dr. Mah in person and attend her session on entrepreneurial issues at the 2017 Conference and Career Fair. Register now! 

Tags:  Business  entrepreneur  leadership  NAWMBA  Professionals  women  WomeninBusiness  WomenMBA 

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Insurance is an Under-Valued Essential for New Generation of Entrepreneurs

Posted By Julie McReynolds, Friday, August 18, 2017

In the beginning, most startups have lofty goals and big dreams. Quite often, those goals involve bootstrapping your way through a few rough years with a lean, dedicated team, pulling in the investor interest, and eventually creating a profound space for yourself in the market. Whether that means spending some time in an incubator or running your startup from your living room, there’s a good chance you’re singularly focused on getting the job done, with little time for much else. Throw in the need for family time and—if you can find it—time to decompress from the high-intensity world of entrepreneurship, and there are often few other concerns to think about beyond the core essentials.


Although one of those “core essentials” is often the potential risk for different lawsuits, many startups may need to expand their view of what legal hazards exist, even in the early stages. Despite some misconceptions, it’s not just patent infringement or employee treatment that need your attention and risk mitigation early on. Particularly for a new generation of entrepreneurs, risks associated with cyber security, misconceptions about general liability, and the need for professional liability all exist as well.


Cyber Threats Are Nothing to Ignore

The name Yahoo keeps popping up in the news when it comes to cyber security threats. It’s easy for a small startup to assume that cyber risks are just a problem for large enterprises. One day your business may be big enough to make it on the radar of cyber criminals looking to hack servers, steal data, and make off with large paydays from ransomware attacks against your company. For now, that’s not a concern. Right? Not quite.


The 2016 Internet Security Threat Report found that while only 1 in 40 small businesses are at threat of a cyber attack (a stark difference compared to the 1 in 2 for large enterprises), 43% of cyber attacks targeted small businesses. How do we reconcile those numbers? By considering volume. There are over 27 million SMBs in the US, compared to just over 16,000 companies in the US that might qualify as “large enterprises.”


Meanwhile, some data appears to reveal that small businesses are at a far higher risk than what the above numbers might indicate. A 2015 report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission referenced a 2014 version of the Internet Security Threat Report which found that 60% of cyber attacks were against small businesses. Did the threat against small businesses somehow drop 17 percentage points between 2014 and 2016? Unlikely. The more likely scenario is that this information is painfully hard to track, making the actual threat difficult to predict and measure fully, and therefore, makes it a dangerous problem to ignore.


But let’s say your company does decide to gamble a bit on cyber security threats. That’s perhaps the most dangerous game to play for a startup. Part of that is due to the high costs associated with recovering and handling cyber attacks, as well as the hit your startup will take to its reputation.


According to the Allianz 2016 Business Risk Barometer, 69% of a company’s economic loss following a cyber incident is due to reputational loss. For a startup trying to attract investors, reputation is everything. Such a hit to your reputation may knock the steam out of your growth, permanently.


Such risks can be mitigated by cyber insurance, which is designed to help businesses recover from these incidents. Cyber insurance often includes valuable business interruption coverage, as well as coverage for cyber extortion, a growing threat more commonly associated with ransomware.


Misconceptions About General Liability Abound

Perhaps the biggest problem with general liability is not in what it does cover, but what it doesn’t. Many startups tend to assume that general liability insurance operates as a sort of “catch-all” for far more types of risks it than it will actually mitigate.


For example, a 2013 Chubb survey found that 52% of businesses assumed that their general liability policy protected their business against risks more commonly associated with errors & omission insurance. (A further 65% incorrectly believed it also covered directors & officers liability, while 32% also thought it included cyber liability.) The reality of general liability is that it’s fairly limited in scope. Perhaps the name “general liability,” is a bit misleading.


To be clear, if your business is providing more than just products, but services and advice to clients, you’ll need coverage such as professional liability. This policy is designed specifically to mitigate the risks associated with providing advice that will lead clients toward some kind of independent action. Increasingly, these kind of services are a boon for businesses, but even a small oversight, such as failing to add a legal disclaimer in the right place, can result in consequences for your business.


Additionally, it’s important to recognize just how all-encompassing that advisory role can be. Even startups that operate entirely online, and that don’t offer advice for a fee can be at risk. This is where those legal disclaimers, or more importantly the lack thereof, can get some startups in trouble.


Still, if advice and services are what your startup is doing in general, some form of insurance to help mitigate the risk of accidentally providing erroneous advice or not meeting service expectations is a necessary purchase.


There’s Value in Risk Protection

Beyond cyber security threats and potential lawsuits that may arise from providing inaccurate advice, startups need to consider the possibility of the many unknowns associated with running a business. Your startup may be on the bleeding edge of its niche but it may end up doing more bleeding than anything else if you’re unprepared to handle the increasingly 21st-century-themed risks associated with entrepreneurship.


It might be time to ask all of the right questions that you’re avoiding asking yourself. Seek advice from others who have been at it longer than you have. Do a bit of research on the type of risks most common with your industry. Getting a handle on risk mitigation early can keep those risks from creating unexpected and painful disruptions to your startup as it takes off.


About the Author

Rashmi Melgiri is the COO & Co-founder of, a company reinventing how people buy and manage insurance.

Rashmi has over 10 years of experience in the technology & media sector. Prior to founding CoverWallet, Rashmi was a strategy consultant in the Technology, Media and Telecom sector at the largest North American TMT consulting group (AltmanVilandrie & Co.). In that position, Rashmi advised companies on go to market strategy, new product development and M&A transaction. Rashmi has also worked a number of start-ups including Visible Measures and portfolio companies within Comcast Interactive Media.
Rashmi has a bachelors degree from MIT and an MBA from MIT Sloan. 

Tags:  Business  insurance  leadership  MBA Women  NAWMBA  Professionals  technology  women  WomeninBusiness  womenintech  WomenMBA 

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The 4 Paths Out The Paradigm (Or, How Not To Have A Boring Brand)

Posted By Julie McReynolds, Saturday, July 29, 2017

Recently I met a potential client at their law office. As I creeped through the downtown traffic and entered a parking garage, I had a a deja vu: I’d done this before. Not in another life or in a dream, but this exact situation. After all, aren’t major law firms ALWAYS downtown?

I entered the elevator, selected their floor, and made my way to their lobby. There on their double doors, just as I expected, was their big ol’ law firm logo (also the firm name followed the typical use of surname, surname & surname). Entering, I immediately spied another expected and oversized logo, this one partially obscured by their receptionist, also expected. Then to my mock astonishment, I was asked to sign in.

I signed my name “Harry Potter” and looked to see how comfy the chairs looked, and right on cue was instructed to have a seat in a very waiting-area-like waiting area. Guess what? They even had magazines! I was two sentences into an outdated Bennifer article when my contact appeared. He was attired in grey suit, blue tie, white shirt. He led me to a conference room lined with law books. I think the date on the spine was 1982. Or 1882. He offered me coffee or water.

Downtown digs, receptionists, law books, scales, justice statues, corporate art, mahogany desks, suits and ties — with tie tacks. Yep, even their accessories had accessories.

This, my friends, is the law firm paradigm.

Call it whatever: prototype, model, template, system, pattern.

I call it cliched, vanilla, stereotypical and boring.

Not to pick only on law firms. I work with companies in hundreds of verticals, and I see lots of instances in which they've innately adopted the cliche model. My job is to break 'em out of that mold.

Not all paradigms are bad: There are literally dozens of transactional paradigms we encounter every day, from the coffee shop to the gas station to the bank. Think about it: No matter which coffee shop you walk into, you know how the transaction is gonna go down: Wait in line, order a coffee-based drink and maybe a scone, pay, wait for your drink (probably staring down at your phone while doing so) and either sit down and whip out the Macbook and jump on the free wi-fi or skedaddle because you have more important places to be. If it didn't, and we all had to learn a new custom of ordering, it would take forever to get that latte.

Paradigms are a necessity for everyday activity, like traffic patterns; knowing red means stop, green means go, and yellow means “floor it.” We know we drive on the right side of the road, we know to yield, we know to look both ways at an intersection. We use our turn signals to indicate a turn or lane change (well, the civilized among us do). In this case, the paradigm is critical.

In brand strategy and customer experience, however, not so much.

Not to say one’s brand shouldn’t appeal to certain expectations. A brand often must appeal to to them on some level. After all, when a potential customer seeks you out as a possible solution, they don’t jump on Google and search for what you’re not. But the vast majority of organizational brands don’t adhere to the paradigm in order to appeal directly to their client base. They do so because they modeled their business after others in their field, who previously modeled their business after others in their field prior to them because they were successful. And so on and so forth. Kinda like Darwinism, but without the actual evolution.

So take a long, loving look in the proverbial mirror. How guilty are you and your company of modeling your brand after others in your vertical, without question, just because it’s always been that way? Have you inherited, of your own accord, something exciting or something stale?

If it’s the former, beat it, you’ve got other problems to solve. If the latter — and odds are that it is — read on. I’ll tell why you need your brand to evolve, a few ways to do so, and explain how to know which way is the right way for your organization.

Your Brand’s Effect On Your Customer’s Psyche

  We’re all chemical creatures. In the decision making process we are often conflicted and we attempt to make a choice logically, weighing the pros and cons. But I postulate that our logical decisions are anything but, and our want often overrides our perceived need. We want what we want and we justify with logic. In the sales process, any leg up on our competition can be the difference between landing the gig and landing on your butt.

The opposite of boringness is novelty, and novelty is a powerful tool in your sales arsenal, so diverge from the expected and stimulate your customers’ brains. When people experience something new and exciting, the SN/VTA (Substantia Nigra/Ventral Segmental Area), or “novelty center”, of the brain is activated. The SN/VTA is closely linked to the amygdala and the hippocampus, both of which play large roles in learning and memory. The amygdala responds to emotional stimuli and strengthens associated long-term memories, while the hippocampus compares stimuli against existing memories.

In a nutshell, novel experiences stimulate the SN/VTA, causing it to produce higher levels of dopamine — that infamous neurotransmitter that gives us feelings of pleasure. (That’s why they call it dope.) When people encounter your brand, are you making them high or making them bored?

Four Paths Out of The Paradigm

The path you take out of the boring box depends on what you can get away with in your industry, your specific niche within it, and the personas of your desired clientele. Clearly, a gutsy advertising agency can get away more of envelope pushing than a CPA firm, at least from a sum total perspective. However, there is an opportunity for all brands, even in the most conservative vertical, to push that proverbial envelope an equal percentage. In other words, in a sea of beige, even gray can stand out.

Path 1: Disrupt the Paradigm

The riskiest (and therefore possibly the most rewarding) brand strategy is to do things completely different than others in your field from the giddy-up. Not for the risk averse, this approach requires that the end product or service is so stellar, so world class, that you can get away with doing things your way. You’ll question every single process and platitude that you were supposed to inherit. Most of the .01 percent of entrepreneurs with the guts to go this route are either immensely wealthy or complete failures. Not for the squeamish.

Path 2: Mash-Up The Paradigm

This creative approach requires borrowing the processes and experiences from other industries and combining them with your own. Many major law firms have borrowed ideas from architecture firms and ad agencies (think replacing the mahogany desks with glass and steel or bauhaus-era industrial design and edgy art in their offices. Or, movie theaters that serve cocktails and gourmet food). The advantage of this path is you’re able to stand out and be familiar at the same time. You get to be novel, but not confusing.

Path 3: Acknowledge, Then Switch The Paradigm

Utilizing this brand strategy takes some finesse. If it looks like a skunk, and smells like a skunk, it must be a skunk, right? Not always. On the outside, your brand seems like the very pinnacle of an organization in your field. But once they engage a little more, they find that you actually do things a bit differently and better. Once in the door, be sure to pepper your customer experience with unexpected delights and they’ll be hooked on your brand and your lame competitors just won’t do.

Path 4: Be The Paradigm

If you’re on the risk averse side and insist on playing by the rules set by your industry, then you better own it outright. That mahogany desk? Make it bigger. Make it even more mahogany-ier than any of your competitors. You wanna be vanilla? Then store bought ice cream will never do, you gotta churn your own. Gotta grow your own vanilla beans, make your own cream. Hell, make it French vanilla! Own that arial font. Be the archetype. Be the epitome. Be the perfect example, the gold standard, the ideal, the exemplar, the model. Be the beige. Come see me if you need more help. You won’t have to go downtown, sign in, or read Bennifer articles. We’ll serve the sorbet, and it won’t be vanilla.


About the author: Mark Palmer

Mark may very well be a mad genius. He is the mastermind and co-founder of OOHology, and has been putting his smarts to work for clients for over a decade. Combining high-level strategic thinking with a fine artist’s attention to detail, Mark deftly juggles multiple areas of expertise. Mark boasts an eclectic background, including a degree in Art & Sculpture, and several successful startup ventures.

Meet Mark at our 2017 Annual Conference and Career Fair. Register now!

Tags:  Business  leadership  management  NAWMBA  NAWMBA2017  personal branding  Professionals  women 

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Houston Professional Chapter: NAWMBA Family Leadership

Posted By Nadia Alhashimi, Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Karina Larsen Evers: Developing as a Leader Through the NAWMBA Family 

President, Houston Professional Chapter

Former VP of Marketing, Rice University Chapter

Marketing Manager at Arundo Analytics, Inc.

“What I’ve realized in my professional career is that you really need that network of people around you to fulfill your potential.”


Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in NAWMBA.


I became a member of NAWMBA at Rice University in 2007 and was in the chapter until 2009 when I graduated. My second year I sat on the board as the VP of Marketing. That year we had our local chapter conference at Rice and in conjunction held all sorts of interesting events in professional development and cultural development as well. For example, once we held a wine social where an Argentinian native sommelier taught us how to understand wines. That was one of my first bridges into the professional world culturally. We were pushed to a national scale when a large contingent of us went to the national conference in DC. There our leadership was involved in with case competitions and all sorts of activities that pushed us on a platform nationally.


Is that what encouraged you to come back to NAWMBA as a professional member and then move into leadership there as well?

Yes, I moved away from Houston from 2009-2011. Upon my return in October 2011 I re-engaged with NAWMBA and by March I was nominated as Secretary of the Houston professional board! At that point, I was part of the history of NAWMBA in Houston. There was a familiarity to the organization because I was in it when I was at Rice University and it helped me get through school and bridge that connection into the professional world. It’s an organization where you form personal relationships with people and continue to foster relationships with women from different industries and with widely varying interests. In Houston, we really focus on the variety of experiences from professional women.


You work in oil and gas which is a male-dominated industry. What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry? And how have you navigated your way in that world?

Arundo is an anomaly in the industry, but just like any industry the difficult parts as a woman are salary negotiation and how to educate yourself on things that guys know and that they connect over. But the way that I deal with it is to dive into the world that I don’t know about. For example, I’m not an engineer but I still manage to talk the talk and walk the walk by diving into that world. Rice was instrumental in building a base in teaching me how to do that. Also, I’ve had fantastic managers at all of the companies I have worked at who really believed in me. I was able to learn things that I didn’t even think I would have the opportunity to dip my toe in. That’s where I realized that I was successful because of others. That concept was new to me because in school I was an athlete and it was a ‘rely on yourself’ situation. But what I’ve realized in my professional career is that you really need that network of people around you to fulfill your potential. The older you get, it might be tempting to take a position with more prestige or pay although it may not be what you want culturally. But that may mean that it’s not necessarily the fit for you. Just because a big brand wants you, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t want to go with a startup that fits better with what you want to learn. You can be at the best brand, but if that’s not where you fit it won’t work.


How has that helped form the ethos of the Houston NAWMBA chapter at this point of leadership?

We have a board of people who want to leave a legacy where future boards can build on the infrastructure that we put in place. We also want to help women reach more of an equal playing field when it comes to cultural knowledge.  That’s why we hold events such as the lessons with the Executive Women’s Golf Association and on salary negotiations, etc. We want to give women the opportunity to ask questions that they wouldn’t ask in their company and get mentorship from women they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The women we meet from being in this organization have such alternate views of the world. These different perspectives are refreshing and teach us so much. The friendships that we form and the education that we receive from each other are invaluable.  

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Tags:  Arundo Analytics  Chapter of the Month  Houston  Leadership  MBA Women  Oil&Gas  Professionals  WomeninBusiness 

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