Core Purpose specializes in building solutions that enable clients to focus more of their resources and energy on what they are passionate about and best at in a way that makes financial sense.
See? Joan and her organization help their clients find their core purpose, connect that with their clients’ employees and execute in a sustainable fashion.
Joan was the CEO of Arizona Small Business Association where she worked with the talented team of staff and volunteers tackling challenges like health-care, workforce development, and growing local businesses as an economic development strategy. And before that she was successful in the Big Corporate World.
Joan, how are you? Thank you for being on our show. How are you? What are you working on?
When we spoke last summer we talked about we were in a recession, a depression and how were we going to tackle all the challenges that impact business at every level.
We’re still bumping along the bottom. Companies, start-ups or big global companies are still struggling with the question of why are in business...what are we trying to accomplish and who will we get to the yes that gets every team member to sparkle.
And when you get to the yes that’s when you’re following your core purpose.
You live in Arizona. How is Arizona's economy now?
Arizona was hit hardest by this economy. We’ll take them as a leading indicator for the rest of the country for receiving from this economy.
Arizona’s economy was based on two areas hit hardest by this recession. We had two primary streams of income:
- Income stream #1: real estate.
- Income stream 2 was retail, consumer, spending.
When we had banks collapsing, real estate construction coming to a halt and foreclosures rising then retail spending came to a halt.
Budget cuts but not enough to balance it. Tax increases were approved to keep key ares of the infrastructure then
When government can’t solve the problems their self then citizens come up with creative ideas to solve these problems.
There’s been pretty high profile legislation in the recent 12 months. We’ve seen everyone coming together on a critical issue to find a way to come work out what’s come to be a national issue.
That’s the Arizona Immigration Law, SB-1070. It pertains to jobs, business growth, what’s your thoughts?
It’s been very momentous piece of legislation. From a small business perspective, it’s the first time a state is boycotting another state on this issue. That’s how divisive it is.
The important thing about SB-1070 is that it’s not an immigration bill. It’s an illegal immigration. It’s focused on people breaking the law.
The challenge is that it’s based on federal law. And not all federal laws are that great. And it’s like a patchworked quilt where not everything lines up right.
It has ramifications for law enforcement, business, current residents.
Hundreds of small business people gathered and shaped themselves in a big SOS asking the Washington to please help. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have these patchwork solutions in each state.
Arizona is a gateway where these problems come through and they don’t stay here. And they show up in places like...Iowa.
We have to remember that there are different issues that have to be addressed. Issue one is we have to secure the border. Equally important is the crime statistic you hear about. They are not the guy coming across the border to find a job. It’s the people in the business of bringing people and drugs over the border. Very often instead of taking cash back across the border they take guns. That creates problems for our partner south of the border.
The reason you see laws like this...holding employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers, penalties for aiding and abetting bringing people over the border and checking people for citizenship when they break the law.
The reason they go after employers is that if there’s not that opportunity for a job then less will come over.
Now, dealing with SB-1070 is like closing the barn door. You still have the situation of all those people here now. Some of it is generational. And it gets difficult when both sides start screaming at each other.
It goes back to a post I wrote, Answer or Hypothesis, where you need a place to test a solution. Thinking about your own career, our roles as leaders, it’s really important we remember we rarely have a perfect solution. We have a hypothesis and we test it. We take a step forward.
The reality is that when you have a complex answer you have to start with a hypothesis and test it, take a step forward, test the parameters.
Compare this conversation about the SB-1070 bill to that of a company needing a solution to a complex problem. Every department has their stand, their perspective. It seems like there was no real clear purpose leading that discussion.
No, no. Their purpose was clear. They were going to act because the federal government had not. They had specific things they needed to stop. And they had only a few things they could do.
The reality is that the states do not enforce federal law. So, they created a state law that mirrored the federal law.
They had to do something and that’s the best they could do.
Let’s say we talk a year from now. And Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, has made you Immigration Czar. What are the three things you’ve implemented that move this conversation forward.
That’s tricky. It’s tricky because the reason we’re talking here is that the conversation is very diverse. We’re a nation of laws. The reality is that we can’t restructure a state or federal law and implement it in a year.
Whomever is given the job will fail, if they are measured on a 12-month forecast.
Let’s bring that back to having a core purpose, understanding why you are doing, what you are going to do and how you are going to do it and getting a consensus on yes among all the members.
Everyone’s going in their own direction instead of one unifying goal.
SB-1070 is addressing a challenge we hope can be solved in our lifetime.
The first thing is everyone on board has to agree why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you cannot as a leader clearly explain why we’re doing what we’re doing...it’s highly unlikely a consensus will follow.
If you have the wrong core purpose you get the wrong results.
We saw that in the banking community, the Wall Street debacle. If the reason you’re in business is to make more money and that’s it....you’re going to make a bad decision.
Those things we talk about are the results of making good decisions. If you’re in the business to make life better for your customers or make a better widget...to prevent pain and suffering...those are reasons to be in business. You can find people who truly believe in your purpose and you can hire those people and you’re not going to have to motivate them because they come to you motivated. You just need to give them direction.
The first question that I ask is why are you in business. Why are we having this meeting? What do you want to accomplish by following the path you’re following.
If they can’t answer those questions then they’re not going to get the results they want.
Let’s talk about what you do with Core Purpose. What are the catalysts that bring a client to you? What are the events that let them know we’re not on track on moving towards their common goal.
The time that people normally come knocking at my door, the people I spend my time with are Boards of Directors, Executive leaders, General Managers, people who are leaders. Leaders need help. They don’t have people they can turn to for help.
Normally when there is a challenge, it’s marketing is changing, it’s customer base is changing, there’s a problem the leadership has looked around the room and said we don’t have a solution.
Then someone in their organization will say “Someone needs to call that girl. And approaching 50 I like being called a girl.”
Most of the time when they say ‘we have this problem we need to solve.’ normally that’s not the problem. That’s the symptom of the problem. We keep going and asking why this is happening. And we’ll follow the why’s all the way back to the root causes.
When we go in and start asking those questions and that root cause can be anything...
The main thing is that being in business for over 30 years Core Purpose has a network of over 200 experts we can bring in to address those root causes. We can do triage but we can also bring in the best experts from around the country who can not only stop the bleeding and start getting the organization healthy again.
Our goal at core purpose is to help companies make the most of who they are...for the people who matter: their shareholders, their employees, their customers and partners.
Just imagine if every company focused on doing what’s right then we wouldn’t have an economic downturn.
That’s a great economic recovery program. It sounds so simple. How do companies get off-track?
We have to separate it into public and private companies. When you look at public companies you are only as good as your last quarter. And the markets adjust. That drives us to short-term decision making so that our stock price doesn’t tank and we have a ll sorts of problems from that.
We drive public companies to short-term, opportunistic, decision-making. That’s what effected our economy.
John Talton wrote an incredible piece talking about Apple, specifically about the iPad.
- 25,000 employees working at Apple here in the US.
- 250,000 working for Apple overseas.
Is there any question why we have a competitive challenge here at home.
On the other side, let’s look at small business. Small business is very much in survival mode. It’s only as good as its last bank statement. If that business starts runs out of money it’s going to come out of the small business owner’s pocket.
Where is the capital coming for small business in his downturn? It’s coming from the small business owner. Banks, angels, VCs are all on the sidelines. It’s coming out of the personal life saving of the small business owner. They invested their entire life savings in this company.
The challenge that faces big and small companies goes back to short-term decision-making rather than going back and looking at the root causes with a team that shares a common goal.
My friend Erika Andersen coined a favorite phrase of mine. That’s reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. She used it in her book Being Strategic. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future when you created Core Purpose? Has it changed in this past year?
That’s a tricky question!
Core Purpose is one of the things I’m involved in. In the case of Core Purpose, we started in a downturn. Core Purpose started in times like these...It does best in times like these because people see they need help. Our purpose in starting Core Purpose was in helping people grow.
We’ve continued with that focus. That’s served us well.
I love being involved in multiple projects. I serve on the Board of Directors of a bio-tech firm in San Diego. That’s personally when I look at my RA it’s that not only my core purpose as an individual but find organizations whose core purpose I can believe in and help them get there.
I hope that I can do that for awhile.
What are some of the metrics, other than longevity, that show your progress towards hoped-for future?
Our customer base has expanded and we’ve learned over time who our customers are.
The small businesses in the community, we’ll work with in a seminar format and through our blogs and giving back to the community. Many of the problems we work on are too expensive for small businesses to pay for.
I personally find it very rewarding to work with small businesses. That’s why I work with organizations that help small business in disadvantaged communities. That’s why I write the Core Purpose blog which doesn’t sell anything. That’s why I’ll talk with any small business for an hour for free. And then I’ll point them to the resources they need.
That’s how we move forward.
I was going to Tweet about this but then I thought maybe you don’t want a lot of quirky people talking with you for an hour.
I have 5 public Twitter profiles:
Each of them is focused on those subject areas.
Tweet me a question and I’ll see if I can find a solution or articulate a hypothesis.
All entrepreneurs face and overcome challenges along their journey. What have been the 3 biggest challenges you’ve faced and overcome since starting this journey.
The biggest challenge I faced when I started was being alone. All of a sudden when I left corporate American was how do I survive on my own. That’s rebuilding an infrastructure that’s cost effective. Understanding what was the right working structure.
Marty Zwilling wrote a post about Corp executives who leave. If you’re over 40 don’t, because you’re too set in your ways. That’s a real challenge from being part of an eco-system to being on your own.
#2 is understanding capital budgets. When you get into start-up mode, if you think you're going to be cash-flow positive in a year, you need the money to run it for a year. You get paid last. You have to have enough personal capital to pay your own bills during this time, while you’re building that business.
If you can’t finance your business and your home life then you are dangerously under-capitalized.
Make sure you understand what you need to live and support your business. You have to enough for both.
#3. It’s going right back to where we started this conversation. Know why you are in business. You may change the how. You may change the what. But stay true to why you started your business.
Jim Rohn said Leaders are readers. You’re a leader. What are you reading? What’s been your favorite books this year, fiction or not, business or not?
Actually this Fourth of July I read two trash novels with no redeeming values. Leaders, sometimes, need to regroup.
I also was re-reading The Recipe: a recipe for leaders that Core Purpose recently published.[can't find the link. sorry.]
I just got a preview copy of Bob Sutton’s new book Good Boss, Bad Boss.
Where can we find you on the web?
Thanks, Joan, for another great conversation with insights, tips and solutions not only on business challenges but on the tougher challenges facing us.