#SheMeansBusiness Presents: Women at Work

Recently, Facebook stopped by our office to learn more about our Co-Creators, Kristen and Catherine, for their #shemeansbusiness series.

Watch the full video below!

Diversity in Creative: The Power of Conversation

By Kristen Harris

Our business is to connect clients with the best creative talent, which means we’re working with candidates and companies in the creative space all day long. 

As we go about our work, we often notice a lack of diversity in race or ethnic background amongst candidates for creative roles. Let’s just say it here–we know that this conversation can be tricky territory. But if a company is focused on change, and it’s coming from the right place for the right reasons, we support that. Our job and the commitment we make to our clients is to find top candidates for the role regardless of how they look, their name, background, physical differences, or any other trait that has nothing to do with how well they can do the job. 

At Portfolio Creative we’re in a unique position because we work with both creative talent and employers, but we don’t have all the answers. Seeking input, ideas, and support from people with different experiences than our own, recently we tapped into the power of community and conversation by hosting a Diversity in Creative roundtable as part of the Columbus Foundation’s Big Table event

We invited creatives, marketers, diversity professionals, employers, hiring managers, and community leaders to discuss this topic. While nearly all of the participants were people of color, we knew each person would bring their own unique experience and perspective. All of the attendees were incredibly generous with their time, ideas and insights. 

They shared challenges and barriers they’ve seen personally and have observed in the workplace and discussed where there is an opportunity for change and how we might go about achieving it. While each individual’s experience is unique, there were common themes about how important contacts, access, sponsorship, preparation, and acceptance are to career success whether it’s within a company or starting your own business. 

How did we have a productive conversation about a complex and potentially awkward topic? We set the stage by asking everyone to be open, honest, and a bit patient with each other. Just by hosting the roundtable, we encouraged people to get involved in a conversation about a topic that is rarely discussed, and made sure everyone around the table was engaged. And we listened. We learned from others, heard their ideas, and asked questions to better understand the issue.

So, where do we go from here? We know one conversation won’t create change so we’ll keep reaching out to the community, inviting conversation, asking questions, and listening to learn. And, as it becomes more clear how and where we can be influential to facilitate change, we’ll take action. Because conversation is great, but action leads to change.

Networking Like a Shark

By Catherine Lang-Cline

People think that you need to be very aggressive to properly network. What networking really is, is building relationships, but there are some characteristics we could adopt from one of the most aggressive creatures on the planet to produce some very effective networking, I am talking about the great white shark. In honor of “Shark Week,” here is what we can learn from these bold creatures:

Sharks work alone. 
This is almost always true, but sometimes they work in teams. Networking works the same way, you throw yourself into a room full of people, alone or with a partner and start “swimming” around the room, looking for prey or comparing yourself to other sharks. With this in mind, walk in and take a quick pass around the room. Greet those you know and ask them if they know other people in the room, have them introduce you. Work in teams to change a conversation from a cold introduction to a warm one.

Sharks are intelligent, curious, and learn quickly.
Always have intelligent conversation when meeting people, first impressions are key. Then put yourself on hold for a bit and ask your new friend some questions. Ask about where they work, how they like it, what is their biggest struggle? Listen and learn quickly how you or your company could be of help. People love helpers and they will be more receptive to continue a conversation with you if they know it will be of some benefit to them.

Sharks have 500-pound livers.
Yes, the great white shark typically has a liver that weighs around 500 pounds, allowing it to go months without eating. Worth mentioning that networking events have alcohol and rather than always accepting the alcohol, you can preserve your liver and have water. Sharks like water. Also, keep in mind that you might also go extended periods of time without getting a “bite.” I would recommend really being strategic when it comes to the events you go to. Think about where your potential clients might be AND the events that have the people that know the people you want to meet. Chambers and rotaries have events that cover a wide range of businesses for a more broad reach, but you may find events that host people in the field you wish to target, just keep going and don’t get discouraged.

Sharks are relentless.
Definitely not saying to grab onto a potential client and shake them until they will work with you, that is a bad thing. Being relentless, when you know you can help someone, is not a bad thing. In most cases, the person you are connecting with does not have an immediate need. What you can do while you are patiently waiting, is to see if they know anyone else that could need their help. Think if there is another way to help them, a person you can connect them with, a book or restaurant you could recommend, be more than “the taker.” Be the “giver.” Join a board or committee in your area of expertise. Not only will it make you feel good, but people will remember you. Also, keep at it. Timing is everything and you want to be there when they need you.

Sharks like tropical and subtropical temperatures.
Who doesn’t? Vacation is the payoff for all of this hard work.

Networking like a shark may help you feel a little more powerful in the room. It may help you not give up on that client you know that you can help. It may make you feel pretty cool, too.
Keep refilling that business card holder, shake a lot of hands, and happy hunting!


Change Your Life By Helping Other Lives

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Let's be honest. Sometimes after doing everything that you need to do to keep your own life on the rails, it seems that you are too tired to help another individual, or there's simply, not enough time left in the day. But that's not true, you're just thinking too big. You can start helping others and in return, start to reap more happiness in your own life.

When I was growing up, my family didn't have much. My parents stretched their one income to cover themselves and their five children, but when things got really tight, they relied on others to help. Not sure if it is why I am charitable, but I am immensely grateful for everything that I have worked for and do believe that if you work up to a certain point it only becomes greedy if you don't give back in some way. It starts with determining what you can do.

The three "T's" of charity are; time, talent, and treasure. If you have absolutely no time, start simply by writing a small check. Many organizations can take all the small checks they receive and do some really big things with it. The size of the check does not matter, but where you put it may. Even a small amount to a cause that you believe in will make you a part of that cause. A few dollars toward someone's goal for a race or drive will make you feel part of the team. Your donation can go toward things that are even more game-changing. Buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a family, Christmas gifts for a small family or individual, there is no end to the giving that can be done to immediately change the life or lives of people. Yes, I have bought Christmas gifts for a family. On the list, socks, towels, blankets, very basic needs that are sometimes just an impulse buy for us. Do one of these acts once and year if that is all you can do. It does make a difference.

Do you have a particular talent? Organizations are in desperate need of skills that you are not only good at but really love to do. Maybe you have skills in IT, cooking, accounting, cleaning, driving, marketing, design, planting a garden, you get the idea. Many organizations need you! Think about causes you believe in, diseases that have affected your family, things that bring you joy. Contact one of those groups and see what they need help with. It does not have to be a big commitment, maybe it is just a one-time thing. One of my favorite gives was painting a plate that would be auctioned off for a local charity. I have artistic talent and love painting so it was perfect. It took about two hours but the joy I felt doing it lives on and I wish I had the time to do another plate!

Time is a big luxury. It is very precious and very difficult to just give away. But this kind of giving back could be the most rewarding. If we plug it into that talent you have, some of the things we just mentioned, spending the time to do things that you love, that ends up benefiting others, is the pinnacle of rewarding. For example, I serve on boards that aid the arts, business, and women in leadership. I am passionate about all of them and make the time to serve on those boards. It is replenishing my soul just as much as it is giving back. If you don't have the time for board work, think about activities in which to get involved. Maybe extra hands are needed for planting an urban garden, mowing lawns for the elderly, stuffing envelopes, being a ticket-taker at an event. It could be minutes or hours. All of it is rewarding and will make you happier. Stack up a couple of activities throughout the year. There is also mentoring. If you have fought adversity, if you have life lessons to share, or maybe just want to give a person better perspective, think about becoming a mentor. You would be surprised how much you can help an individual and how rewarding that feels. Still not feeling a connection? Maybe you can contribute in a way that is all on your own?

This Chinese proverb says it all--
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help others.

Helping others has brought me happiness and a full heart and I am pretty sure that it could work for you too. Why? You are doing something that gives you joy. You are being a part of something you believe in. You are making a difference in someone's life, in a big way or in a very small way. It will not only make you feel amazing, but it will be your own impact in this world. Not only do you tell others that they matter, but that you matter. Volunteering and working with charities has changed my life. Even the smallest of investments I hope that you will find it in yourself to find the same happiness. Give.

Networking: Don’t Shake Hands, Build a Network

By Kristen Harris

Do you cringe when you hear the word “networking”? Get invited to a “networking event” and suddenly have an unavoidable conflict? Often say “I hate networking”?

If all you can think of when you hear that word is a room full of fast-talking people handing out business cards and shaking hands, I challenge you to think differently about what networking really is.

Consider these definitions of network, as a noun:

  1. a group or a system of interconnected people or things

  2. an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance, helpful information, or the like

  3. any netlike combination of filaments, lines, veins, passages, or the like (e.g. a network or arteries; a network of sewers under the city)

Think about that visual of a net. An interwoven web, where people are connected to you and each other, building a fabric that is fluid but strong. Nets may have many strands or a few, and are made from relatively thin thread; the strength comes from how they are woven and knotted together.

Or, this definition, as a verb:

  1. to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position

Cultivate, that’s an interesting word. A network might be like a beautiful flower garden filled with people you like and care about. You choose what gets planted, and spend time tending to it, adding water and fertilizer to help it grow.

None of these definitions talk about giving a 30-second elevator pitch over and over, handing out business cards to anyone who will take one, or trying to shake hands with 100 people in an hour. That’s what gives “networking” a bad name, and makes people cringe. Don’t do that.

The activity and purpose of networking is truly to build a network.

Whether personal or professional, you’re creating a strong, vibrant, useful network of people of who know you, care about you, and are willing to help. And that you know, care about, and are willing to help as well.

How do you do that? Try just making friends. Go to places or events where people you might want to meet are likely to be. Be friendly, talk to someone, ask questions, learn about them, and tell them about yourself. Be a nice person, and ask for their card so you can connect later. After the event, decide who should be added to your network and invite them in through LinkedIn, email, or an invitation to get coffee. Purposefully spend time with people you like and find interesting, they’re likely to feel the same way about you.

Weave your net, or plant and tend your garden. Focus on quantity over quality, and person-by-person you’ll create a network that truly supports you.

For tips on networking for introverts, check out one of my previous blog posts.

Scholar to Graduate: My 10KSB Experience

By Kristen Harris

Apparently people in Boston like to hide valuables under a mattress. Earlier this year I found a treasure in Boston too, although it wasn’t $20M in cash (and thankfully doesn’t require federal investigation).


For the past twelve weeks I was a scholar in National Cohort 7 of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program (10KSB). Funded by Goldman Sachs, with curriculum developed by Babson College, 10KSB is a program with the goal of helping 10,000 small business owners grow their business. I participated in the blended learning program, a combination of online classes and face-to-face sessions at Babson College, outside of Boston.

The 10KSB curriculum focuses on assessing where your business is today, identifying opportunities for growth, and putting together a solid plan for pursuing those growth opportunities. Throughout this program I spent a lot of time thinking about and working on (not in) our business.

It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done. I’m not sure I’ve worked as hard on anything, or maybe ever, in my professional life. And it was totally worth the effort. I learned so much about our business, and even more about myself. Looking under the mattress and in all of the dusty corners, while I didn’t find $20M, what I did find was amazing.

A few takeaways from my experience with the 10KSB program:

You can always learn more.

I applied for the program because a trusted friend recommended it, and the curriculum sounded interesting. Like many situations, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was committing myself to, but figured I can always learn something new. And did I ever! Never stop learning, there is always something new to discover.

Don’t underestimate.

I discovered value in myself and our business that I never realized. Re-discovered beliefs and ideals that I’d lost sight of. And saw the needs of our clients, talent and internal team from new perspectives. I also noticed when my fellow scholars played down their expertise, value, or the larger contribution they make to their communities and the world. Don’t underestimate the value you bring or the impact you make.

Peer learning is powerful.

Our lead faculty was wonderful, the section instructors were great, and the curriculum was excellent. But the real power was in how much we all learned from each other. We came from different locations and all walks of life, but all shared similar challenges. Every single scholar in the program was fantastic and impressive in their own right. In just twelve short weeks I learned so much from these people, and plan to continue learning from them in the months and years to come.

Passion trumps strategy.

I love the quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Each scholar’s business was completely different, but everyone in the program was truly passionate about what they do and who they work with. At the end of the day they’ll be successful because they truly care. Passion wins.

You have time.

Think you don’t have time to commit to something like this (or whatever would be the equivalent in your career)? When it’s important, you find the time. Say no to unimportant things for now...or maybe forever. What are you doing that matters more than growing your business, advancing your career, or pursuing your dreams? Take the time, or make the time.

Have bigger dreams.

Speaking of dreams…each scholar had to select one growth opportunity to focus on for this program. They were all smart ideas, good opportunities, and I imagine most people will go home and pursue what they presented. But, when I chatted with people at lunch, after dinner or on the bus, nearly every person said “that’s the idea I presented, and I’m totally going to do it, but what I really want to do is…” We all have bigger dreams below the surface. Perhaps their current business needs to grow to support the dream, or the new concept isn’t even clear enough to pursue (yet). But it struck me how important it is to pursue ideas and keep dreaming big.

I feel privileged to be able to participate in this program, and to connect with such an amazing group of people. It’s amazing what can be learned, discovered, and created by focusing your time and energy. I plan to keep it up, and challenge you to do the same. Who knows what treasure you’ll find under the mattress?

Find out more about the 10KSB program or apply for a future cohort.

Place: Be Everywhere Without Being Everywhere

The 4 P's of Marketing Yourself: Place, Part 2

By Catherine Lang-Cline

There are many ways that people can advertise their services. Think about product placement in movies, commercials and magazines. The company needs to be very strategic to make sure their product is seen. Sometimes it needs to be seen in seconds and sometimes it needs to be seen in the time it takes for the consumer to flip the page. Yet products get found and purchased all of the time without having to advertise everywhere. You can do the same with some focus on where you need to be. I get told all of the time that “I see you everywhere.” In fact, I am not everywhere. I am just very strategic in where I need to be seen.

Creating your strategy for marketing yourself can be as easy as the 4 P’s; Product, Place, Promotion, and Price. Here we are going to talk about Place and how you can get connected to the right people in the right place. These are some ideas as to how you can be seen:

Show Up

Think about where your customer might be and focus on being there, too. Are there events or groups that draw the crowd that you wish to meet. Attend those events, shake hands, collect cards, and then follow up with the people that you met. People like working with people that have similar interests as them. Events that I attend or that my company sponsors are the ones where I want to build relationships with the attendees.

Provide Insight & Establish Expertise

Publish articles on LinkedIn that people can like and share. Speak to things that you are an expert on. If you get people to pass this around in your network they will see you more and more as the best in what you do. It was awkward for me at first, but I was rather surprised all of the knowledge I had gained over my years as a business owner and how what I’ve learned can help others just by writing it down.

Be Vocal About What You Want

Tell everyone you know what you are looking for. If you are looking to sell something or to find work, make sure that everyone in your network knows. What this does is expand your scope. You now have other people helping you and when they reach out to the people they know in their network, those potential clients are getting a testimonial about you. Nothing works better than to have someone else refer you. Think about how it works when you read testimonials on websites, about how it sways your opinion. Or when a friend refers you to a great restaurant they just ate it. This is an opportunity to get a 5-star rating from a friend or relative!

Save Time By Being Decisive 

Narrow down who you want to work with and focus on those companies. Rather than spend a lot of time or money blanketing your message everywhere, take the time to decide who you want to work with. If there is a company you have always wanted to work with or for, start connecting with the people that work there. Maybe you know someone there or you met them at an event? Do the research to determine what needs they have, how you can contribute and help problem-solve for their company and talk to people with that in mind. Once you have gotten as far as you can with the narrow search, expand it just a little and approach those companies. Then the next tier, then the next. The idea is not to take too much on at once.

Clean It Up

Finally, get your social media presence together. Professional photo on LinkedIn, update all of the information and make sure that it is consistent. If necessary, clean up your Facebook— people will check you out, make sure that you have it covered.

Don’t ignore the idea of casting a wide net. Opportunity can occur everywhere. Some people might say that it is all about being “in the right place at the right time.” What I am saying is that the right place to be is in relationships in your industry and your community. That way when the need arises, when opportunity knocks, they already know who you are.

Read Part 3: Place from our 4 P's of Marketing series. 

Appreciation: A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

By Kristen Harris

Quick, what are two words you can never overuse?

Thank. You.

My parents called thank you the “magic words”, and I still think they’re magical today. Showing a little appreciation goes a long way. It makes the world a nicer place, and never makes things worse.

Show gratitude by thanking people in a way that reflects the level of what they did for you. If it was a simple favor, a sincere thank you will suffice and is always appreciated. You can thank them in-person, via email, in a call, or with a handwritten note. Say thanks freely, and say it often.

Ten reasons to say Thank You more:

  1. It’s simple and easy.

  2. It’s free.

  3. It’s always positive; at the minimum, it never makes things worse.

  4. It makes the recipient feel good.

  5. It makes you feel good too!

  6. It’s only takes a second, or a few minutes at the most.

  7. It’s memorable and sets you apart from others who are not appreciative.

  8. No one dislikes being thanked or appreciated.

  9. It’s hard to misinterpret or take the wrong way.

  10. It reminds others to thank someone too, maybe you.

Appreciation is definitely a case where it’s the thought that counts. However, when you are really tuned into people, you’ll realize that we all respond to different expressions of appreciation. There are five key ways that people feel appreciation: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, and Physical Touch. We each have preferences from this list, and tend to show appreciation to others in the way that WE prefer. The key is to show appreciation in the way that THEY prefer. That is when people start to really feel valued.

If someone went out of their way or did something very impactful for you, maybe they would appreciate a thoughtful gift. Depending upon the person, a short note or letter sharing how they helped, the impact it made, and how much you appreciate their help could also be affirming and meaningful to the recipient. Others really appreciate your time and would like to meet you for lunch or would love it if you helped them with something in exchange. And yes, some people do like physical touch, and that is when a workplace-appropriate gesture like a handshake or high-five can make the difference in how one of your colleagues feels valued.

When you show appreciation to others, it comes back tenfold. If you’re saying thank you and genuinely appreciating what people have done for you, others will show appreciation to you as well. It feels good, and who doesn’t love a few seconds of feeling good? Thank someone today and bask in the glow!

Mentoring — Getting Help and Giving Back

By Catherine Lang-Cline    

If you are an entrepreneur, I am guessing that you started your business with a great idea for a good or service that you really believed in. You may or may not have gained some business knowledge along the way before creating your own business but regardless, there is no way you could have been prepared for all of the nuances involved with running a business. So what can you do? You can get help.

The first thing you need to do is admit that you need it. And just so you are aware, everyone needs it. That is why large corporations have Boards of Directors and advisors, they get the expertise they need. And you can too.

To get started, think about where some of your weakness are. These are the first areas that you must seek help for and you could start with finding an advisor, or better yet, create an advisory board for your business. You can ideally pay this board or just buy them lunch, but meet quarterly and discuss the issues of your business and the areas that are not your strengths. Is there someone on your list that you would love to have as an advisor? Ask them. You will be surprised as to how much people are willing to help if you respect their time and their expertise

You can also find a mentor or maybe a couple of them because more than one opinion on something is always better. But a mentor is more like someone you aspire to be like in business, in your personal life or both. They can share how they achieved their status and guide you around some of the potholes that they encountered. There is nothing better than someone who can help navigate you to your goal.

Now that you are well on your way to growth with your new advisors and mentors, start to think about how you can pay it forward. Once you have been in business 5, 10, 15 or more years, your experience to someone that is starting up will be invaluable. And by this time, you really know more than you think. Think that you don’t have time for that? Well, someone else did make time for you and I am guessing that they were busy as well. Which means it can be managed and scheduled a bit on your terms. After all, they are coming to you for help. Maybe you meet with your mentee quarterly to discuss problems and give them a to-do list to walk away with? You will be amazed as to how much you know and how much you can guide them through the issues of starting business. And an added bonus— you just might get a free lunch out of it.

Having done both, I can tell you that the power to give help and get it is incredible. If you start working with a mentor or advisor, be on-time, be courteous, and really listen to what you are being told. Ultimately, it is your business and your choice to move forward with any advice, but really take the knowledge to heart. And if you are mentoring or advising someone, be on-time, be patient, and speak about your own experiences because it is those life-lessons that teach the most.

Mentorship: Ten Tips for a Successful Relationship

By Kristen Harris

Recently I participated in a Business First panel discussion about mentorship.

Here are Ten Tips for a successful mentor/mentee relationship:

  1. Take charge. If you’re the mentee (the person being mentored), you need to take charge of the relationship. Your mentor has agreed to share their time, experience and ideas with you–it’s your job to coordinate meetings and do all of the follow up.

  2. Be flexible. While it’s your job to coordinate, be as flexible as possible. Meet at the best time and location for your mentor, even if it’s less convenient for you. Also be flexible in the content of your meetings. You should have some questions or topics in mind, but if they head off in another direction go along for the ride. You never know what you’ll learn!

  3. Be receptive. Mentors can help you identify issues, problem-solve, brainstorm ideas, make introductions, and so much more. They will also challenge you, question assumptions, and suggest alternatives. Listen and be receptive to their ideas, then filter against what is best for you or your business to make a final decision.

  4. Show up. Figuratively and literally. Always show up for your meetings, don’t be late, never cancel especially at the last minute. Also show up mentally. Be awake, charged up, ready to think, ask questions, and listen. Time with your mentor is precious, make the most of it.

  5. Be appreciative. Whether you use their ideas or not, always be appreciative of efforts to help you. Most mentors do this because they genuinely enjoy helping people. Say ‘thank you’ early and often. Always buy if you meet over a meal (or at least offer every single time).

  6. Give feedback. Let your mentor know how an issue turned out or what decision you made with a quick update at your next meeting. It’s helpful for them to know what happened, and they may have more input based on the outcome.

  7. Ask questions. Again, it’s your job to lead this relationship. Come to meetings prepared with questions, listen to what they have to say, and answer any questions they ask you as well.

  8. Be helpful. Even if your mentor is much more experienced or connected than you, there are ways you can be helpful. Introduce them to new people, share technology or an interesting article, talk about their business or career, invite them to an event...just ask how you can help them too!

  9. Be respectful. Sometimes you won’t agree with your mentor, don’t like their idea, or decide not to take their advice. That’s fine. They’re trying to help, but should have no expectation that you’ll do every single thing they suggest. They’re an adviser, not your supervisor. Always be respectful, consider what they’re saying, and thank them for the advice whether you take it or not.

  10. Pay it forward. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a mentor, pay it forward by mentoring someone else. No matter your age or experience level, there is someone who could use your advice. Offer to mentor a student, a budding entrepreneur or a more junior person in your company. Giving advice and helping your mentee can be equally as rewarding as getting help from your mentor.

Applying these simple principles to any mentor/mentee interaction will help build trust and mutual respect, leading to a more successful and rewarding relationship.