I feel very fortunate to have the parents I do, and since Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d talk about some lessons my mom has taught me over the years.
The first, of course, is about love. It might sound a little gross, but when we were kids, my mom used to say: “I would take the food out of my mouth to feed you.” My mom came to the United States from Greece when she was 20, so it helps to hear that line with the appropriate accent -- and hand gestures.
My mom is a very demonstrative person. There are lots of hugs in my family. When my brother, Dennis, and I would fight, she would stop us, and then make us kiss each other. Dennis really hated that.
The second lesson is toughness, and I don’t think I’ll ever match her there.
We had a restaurant outside of Luray, Va., just where the highway starts to curl up the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to the restaurant, we had a couple of gas pumps, and a sign that said "Last Gas Before the Mountains." It was a scare tactic for the tourists.
Our house was separated from the restaurant by a gravel parking lot, and one day, I came out of the house to walk to the restaurant when my mom burst out of the back door of the restaurant. She bent down and picked up two handfuls of gravel, and ran around to the other side of the building.
I ran after her, and caught up just in time to see her chucking gravel and yelling, “You sonavabitch” at some guy trying to urinate behind a shed.
Believe me, you don’t mess with Katina.
But the lesson most appropriate for this audience is her business acumen.
Nearly every executive I talk to mentions at some point how change is constant in this market, and that’s true with the food industry as well. There are new competitors and food trends as well. And for the 20 years Mom and Dad were in the business, my mom was in a constant state of study.
What are people eating? What’s the competition doing? Why didn’t this special work? Let’s try this.
She also had a keen operational sense, including how to peel a potato. Too much potato with the skin adds up to pounds of potato lost, especially when you are working with 50 pounds at time.
Slow periods were an opportunity for deep cleaning.
And, of course, there was her record keeping, which wasn’t just about numbers of meals served, but also about weather conditions and information on events happening at the time. Multiple factors could impact business, and she kept diary of sorts to keep track.
My parents have been out of the restaurant business for 20 years, but they never have really retired, with several apartments that they rent, and with the community service work that they do.
Mom doesn’t like computers, but give her a piece of paper and a pencil, and she’ll figure it out, whether it is what to charge per meal at the hospital fundraiser, or how to finance a new line of credit for the apartments. Her methods might not be textbook perfect, but you can’t argue with the results.
She and my dad set a high bar, especially in the area of hard work. I tried to match that when I went to work full-time for them at the restaurant. I was in my 20s, and they were in their 50s. I could barely keep up. I still marvel at all that my mom is able to do as she approaches 80.
Even though I didn’t stick with the restaurant business, I want to say thanks to my mom for the heart, the passion and the lessons.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Posted on May 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM1 comments
Usually, appointments to corporate boards aren’t real big news. If the company is big enough, and if the person well-known enough, we might write about it, we might not.
But the appointment of Vincette Goerl this week to the board of advisors of FedBid is noteworthy because, not only is FedBid getting someone with stellar credentials, but she also represents a milestone for Women in Technology, a professional group for women in the IT industry.
You see, there’s a problem in corporate America with poor representation of women on company boards.
In 2011, WIT created the Leadership Foundry program to bring training, networking and mentoring opportunities to women looking for spots on corporate boards. Goerl was in the inaugural class, and is the first from the program to land an appointment.
New FedBid board member Vincette Goerl
I spoke with Nancy Lamberton, president of WIT, and she explained the foundry’s three prong approach:
Training: WIT brings in the National Association of Corporate Directors to provide training on board specific skills, such as the fiduciary responsibilities, compensation, governance and risk oversight.
Networking: “We need to introduce these highly capable women to those who are looking to fill board seats,” Lamberton said. This includes connecting them with recruiting firms and current board members, so that “they are top of mind when there are openings.”
Mentoring: The foundry has a steering committee comprised of men and women currently serving on boards. They helped shape the program and serve as a resource to help women prepare, particularly for the arduous interview process for board positions.
I’ve never given much thought to how people get on boards, and Lamberton said that this is an issue for women as well.
“You have very qualified women on one side, with experience running business units and [profit and loss] responsibilities, who want to get on boards,” she said.
On the other side, WIT has reached out to companies to advocate for gender diversity and the companies respond that they can’t find them.
“Our goal is to bring these two groups together,” she said.
It’s hard to argue with Goerl’s background; she spent one career in government, and served as the chief financial officer at the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Forest Service. She’s also worked in industry at the CGI Group, and now has her own consulting practice focused on federal financial management.
She also has served on non-profit boards, and has chaired a couple. Friends and colleagues pointed her to the foundry program as a way to move onto corporate boards.
“The board dynamic is very interesting to me, and it’s a great way to add value to whatever entity you are involved with,” she said.
The concept of adding value is what drew her to FedBid because improving procurement processes was part of her role as a government CFO.
FedBid runs reverse auctions for agencies looking to buy commodity products. More than $2 billion in transactions will be handled by the company this year.
The networking aspect was critical to landing the spot at FedBid, and was a key component of her training at the foundry, Goerl said.
“You can never undervalue the networks you have,” she said.
Goerl reached into her network, which include FedBid founder and CEO Ali Saadat.
In fact, when she was a government CFO, her agency was a customer of one of Saadat’s companies before FedBid, and she later worked at the company, he said. He has known her for more than 20 years.
Her value-add for FedBid will be helping to raise awareness within the federal CFO community, Saadat said.
“We’ve been pretty much coming from the operations and procurement side,” he said. “We realized we needed a campaign on the CFO side, so they understand more of what we do and the benefit we can bring.”
While from a social aspect, more diversity is a good thing, there also has to be a business payoff, and Saadat clearly sees that. He already has women on his board of advisors and on his board of directors.
“Diversity is phenomenally important. It’s critical,” he said. “We have to understand our client base and the client base is very diverse.”
Different perspectives improve thought processes and “our ability to strategize and execute properly,” he said.
On FedBid’s board of advisors, Goerl joins a former congressman, a couple of retired military leaders and a Harvard professor.
For the Leadership Foundry, it’s a good start. So far, about 30 women have gone through the program, and the third class is being formed. I’m sure more board appointments are on the way.
Posted on May 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM1 comments
Joseph Jordan, administrator for federal procurement policy at the OMB, has turned to Twitter for insights on the best ways for agencies to get information on prices paid when making their contracting decisions.
The issue of pricing is a hot one these days, as many agencies use lowest price, technically acceptable as their criteria for making award decisions.
Best price also has landed several companies in hot water with the General Services Administration’s inspector general, to the tune of millions of dollars paid to settle allegations that they didn't give the government their best price.
Jordan hasn’t gotten a ton of responses to his tweet, but I get the sense that there is a need for better tools such as improvements to the Contract Business Analysis Repository, known as CBAR, that captures information on contracts for the Defense Contract Management Agency.
The acronym PNM was mentioned, but frankly, I can’t figure out what that is. Apparently, it is something that is going to be added to the CBAR tool.
So far, Jordan has two people responding to him, @necessityschild and @acqtrailblazer, though several others have retweeted his question.
Others should join in. You should grab every chance you can to engage Jordan and OFPP in a conversation.
Jordan’s twitter handle is @OFPPJoe and he used the hashtag #govcon.
Posted on May 09, 2013 at 7:24 PM1 comments