January 5, 2015
Biz Books

Women partnerships can make businesses more effective

"Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together" by Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $16.95).

When starting a business, partnership isn't for everyone because sharing decision-making and working through issues can lead to contentious moments. That said, the authors, co-founders of The Mulberry Partners, found that women working together brought a shared perspective of the business and an appreciation of the importance of the time needed to raise a family. Using the input of numerous women who successfully partnered, the authors focus on the intertwined benefits derived from partnering:

Flexibility — Women understand the need for work-life balance better than men because they have two jobs — work and family. Having someone you trust to step up or step back when these jobs intersect makes it easier to do what the moment requires.

Confidence — Being able to play off the strengths of each partner makes the whole stronger than the parts. Decision-making improves because of knowledge-sharing. The author's state: "Whenever we've faced a task that seemed challenging, all we had to do is remind ourselves that together we were sure to figure it out."

Freedom — Expectations in work world are often set by men. Women working together level their own playing field. They can bring their whole self to work knowing they won't be judged by a female peer who grapples with the same issues. They feel comfortable about acting and expressing feelings in ways that many males may question.

Steady support — It's more than knowing that someone has your back. It's about shared leadership, and knowing that second-guessing diminishes when there's give-and-take about ideas, as well as problems and potential solutions.

Mutual accountability — When people count on each other to make things happen, a business develops a laser focus on outcomes. Fear of letting a partner down provides ongoing motivation.

Key takeaway: Women's partnership relationships tend to zigzag between professional and personal and back again. The zigzagging makes collaboration more of a shared-life experience than a business arrangement. Success comes from investing trust, managing egos and sharing control.

• • •

"Fizz — Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth" by Ted Wright (McGraw Hill, $25).

When it comes to buying decisions, a Nielsen study reports that the vast majority of consumers trust recommendations from family, friends and colleagues versus TV advertising and online brand pages where the corporate voice dominates. The clear message: Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) works. Yet, the message isn't getting through; according to a marketing industry study, only 17 percent of large companies describe WOMM as a major spending category.

To capitalize on word of mouth marketing, businesses must create a story that's "talkable," and then find influencers to carry the message. Who are these influencers? They are people "deeply involved in their community, however that community is defined." They collect information about their passions in order to share stories. Trying new things keeps their stories cutting edge.

Once you have a "talkable" story, how do you locate influencers? Wright cites Internet forums as a great source. They mimic the face-to-face interaction of a community. They go online to learn, comment and share. There's pro and con interaction and unvarnished authenticity. You can tell by the comments whether your story resonates. It takes time to engage with these people — time that's not really ROI measurable because you don't know how fast or how far they're spreading the word.

Your story can't be one-off. You need to constantly feed new stories to the community in order to keep the influencers engaged. Comments give you clues as to where to focus content.

The bottom line: Everyone online can be a reporter, advocate, critic, publisher — and influencer.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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