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Donna Cole to receive ALF's Joseph Jaworski Award

The American Leadership Forum Houston/ Gulf Coast Chapter will present the 2012 Joseph Jaworski Leadership Award to Donna Fujimoto Cole, president and chief executive officer of Cole Chemical & Distributing Inc., on Tuesday, April 24 at the InterContinental Hotel Houston. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by a big board auction, awards program and dinner.

Cole (ALF Class XXV) founded Cole Chemical over 30 years ago at the age of 27, divorced with a four-year old daughter and with $5,000 from savings. In 2010, the company's sales were in excess of $70 million providing chemicals and chemical supply chain management to a wide range of customers and industries, including ConocoPhillips, Bayer, Chrysler, Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, and Toyota.

Cole has served on several national and regional boards, including the Center for Asian Pacific American Women, Women’s Home Advisory Board, St. Thomas University, Children’s Defense Fund and the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council.

Her community involvement includes Building a Pipeline for the Sciences, The All Earth Ecobot Challenge, Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, and Building a Leadership Pipeline for Asian Women.

“Donna models the boundary-crossing, collaborative leadership style that ALF promotes and demonstrates ALF’s core values,” said Harriet Wasserstrum, president of ALF. “She embodies our goal of servant leadership – a way of leading in order to better serve others – and we are thrilled to honor her this year with the Joseph Jaworski Leadership Award.”

In addition to the Joseph Jaworski Leadership Award, the American Leadership Forum Public Service Award will be presented this year to Steven B. Schnee, Ph.D. (ALF Medical Class 1), executive director of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County.
Schnee oversees operations for the largest community mental health and intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) center in Texas. He has been with the agency for 18 years. 

The proceeds from the evening will go towards supporting operations of the American Leadership Forum, including granting scholarships for fellows from organizations not in a position to pay full tuition. 

Please contact Celene Keserich at 713-807-1253 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information on purchasing tables and tickets.

Leaders as Architects of Change focus of TDC symposium

More than 350 professionals, mostly women, gathered at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel recently for the Seventh Annual Gulf Coast Women in Leadership Symposium. Hosted by the Texas Diversity Council, the symposium focused on Women Leaders as Architects of Change.

Paula McHam, director of client and community affairs at Cigna, moderated the event, which offered attendees a unique opportunity to hear from a panel of six local, and highly successful, businesswomen about their experiences on the road to success. Panelists were April Bailey, Elizabeth Campbell, Shannon Grossman, Pam Gardner, Meera Naehr and Vi Phu.

Shannon Grossman, supply chain director for Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, oversees global procurement and strategic sourcing of U.S. project materials. Grossman spoke on the topic,  “Becoming a Person of Influence.” 

Elizabeth Campbell is an attorney, partner, and chief diversity officer at Andrews Kurth LLP and speaks frequently on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Campbell discussed, “Cross Cultural Leadership: Women Bridging the Racial Divide.”

Pam Gardner is the former Houston Astros president and current special advisor to the chairman of the Astros. Gardner was the first female executive inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. She discussed “The M (Male) Factor in Mentoring for Leadership and Success.” 

April Bailey, vice president of commercial banking at Amegy and mother of two young children, entitled her talk, “I’m a Woman. I’m Invincible…And I’m Exhausted!” She described work/life balance as a juggling act, where a ball — work, spirit, health and family — represents each area of your life.  

“Work is like a rubber ball,” said Bailey. “If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls are glass.” 

Bailey encouraged attendees to leave work on time in order to make sure the required attention is given to one’s family and personal life. Bailey recommended making daily lists to stay organized — one for work and also one for home. According to Bailey, many women do not take proper care of themselves and need to focus on their wellness as a priority.  

“If you are not healthy you can’t be there for your family or your employer,” she said.

Every morning Bailey wakes up to exercise while her family is still sleeping. Bailey also expressed how important nutrition is to her productivity, stating that she makes sure to eat healthy foods throughout her busy day. 

“Do things that energize you and avoid things that zap your energy,” said Bailey. “And proper rest is a priority that is not negotiable.”

Energy zappers come in the form of guilt, stress and worry, said Bailey. As a mother of young children, Bailey explained she often feels guilty about her demanding work schedule and spends a great deal of time worrying, which is counterproductive.

“The men in the office don’t feel guilty,” said Bailey. “You need to remember the reason behind your hard work.”

She also added that an important component in her work/life balance is the ability to outsource certain tasks, such as childcare, to others when possible.“

A little bit of help can go a long way,” said Bailey, who recently hired a college student to help with her young children during work hours.As an ending note, Bailey encouraged the attendees to learn how to say “no” in appropriate situations.

“Practice saying, ‘this is something that I cannot do at this moment, but let me recommend someone who can help you,’” she said. 

Meera Naehr is president of the Mom Corps Houston franchise, a national staffing organization that matches local businesses with professional candidates looking for flexible work arrangements.

At the symposium, Naehr lead the discussion, “Personal Branding: Accessorize Your Assets.” Naehr described a personal brand as how one defines oneself both personally and professionally.

“Brands aren’t just for celebrities,” said Naehr. “It’s what others use to assign you relevance and value. It sets an expectation for an experience when working with you.”

With the ubiquity of social media, the importance and value of personal branding has never been more relevant, said Naehr, adding that “there is no better time than now for personal branding.”

So, what if you have never thought about your personal brand? According to Naehr, there are steps you can take to develop your own mission statement. First, you must identify what you are passionate about, and conversely, what you are dispassionate about. Secondly, you have to think about what your vision for the future is. Although technology and social media have made it much easier to connect with one another, Naehr warns that the line has become blurred online between professional and personal identities as a result.

“Some brands we consciously promote; others are thrown onto us,” Naehr said. “I have often had to discount a potential candidate due to what I have found online.” 

According to Naehr, you must represent yourself authentically and consistently through all outlets in order to be successful.

“I’ve had to walk away from some business partnerships because it didn’t resonate with my personal brand,” said Naehr. 

Vi Phu is a principal and actuary for Mercer Health and Benefits Consulting in Houston, Texas. Phu moved to Houston in 1980 with her family, who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Phu spoke on the topic, “Own Your Finances, Own Your Life.”

“Through hard work and mentoring, I am now living the American dream,” said Phu. 

According to Phu, financial self-sufficiency is an important skill for people beginning their career, as well as for those who are preparing to leave the workforce. At the top of Phu’s “Top 10 List for Financial Responsibility” is knowing your limits and not spending money you don’t currently have in the bank. 

“Do you really need that 50th pair of shoes? Is that more important than paying off your student loans or paying for your mortgage?” asked Phu. 

Phu also advised attendees to contribute to their 401k’s. “Besides the tax benefits, many employers match employee contributions, so if you don’t contribute that is money lost,” said Phu.

Phu explained a major component of financial security is learning how to budget. Vu added that one should always be prepared for the unexpected by adding a cushion or “rainy-day fund” into the budget. When making large purchases, Phu advised the audience to include maintenance costs into the price total. Phu also touched on the importance of shopping around and not to be embarrassed by coupons.

“If I won the lottery tomorrow,” Phu said, “I would still use coupons.”  

As an ending note, Phu encouraged the attendees to educate their children about personal finance by engaging them in discussions about money and showing them the family budget.

“As a mother of three, I know it is challenging to stick to a financial plan, but I never want to go back to the days when we barely paid our minimum payment on our credit card balance,” said Phu. 

Local businessman Dennis Kennedy founded the Texas Diversity Council in 2004. He launched the National Diversity Council just four years later. The council’s mission is to promote   diversity in business through community outreach, networking, mentoring opportunities and events. 

For more information, visit www.texasdiversitycouncil.org.

Bethany Redd is a journalism major at the University of Houston. She is working at Houston Woman Magazine this semester as an intern.

McDonald's franchisee proclaims: I'm lovin' it!

McDonald’s bright red ketchup courses through the veins of franchisee Debbie Adams. A 12-year career as an emergency-room nurse couldn’t wash the condiment out of her system. So, in 1989, she returned to her first love and first job.

She and then-husband Paul bought the McDonald’s franchise at 1920 Wilcrest. A month later, they bought another. In the 22 years since, they have bought 29 more. He runs restaurant operations, she runs the back office – banking, payroll, HR, support services, marketing – for Janus 1 Unlimited, a 50/50 partnership named after the ancient Roman goddess of doorways and arches and beginnings and transitions.

“I had always wanted to own my own business,” Adams said in her office, which is stuffed with fun trinkets and plaques from her years in the McDonald’s family and as president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston.

She had worked at McDonald’s in high school and college, rising to second assistant manager, and her enjoyment of that job almost pushed her into a business major.

“I’d always thought I’d be a nurse. When I went to college, I couldn’t decide: ‘Do I want to be in business or do I want to be a nurse?’ I went with the nursing thing. It was more altruistic.”

Back in 1985, Paul was McDonald’s regional training manager when he suggested to his wife they buy the franchise. Adams was working as an ER nurse, a flight nurse and an instructor at Houston Community College. She loved being a nurse, but the opportunity to buy into the franchise was too good to pass up.

It took more than four years for the couple to get that first restaurant, though. The corporation didn’t want to appear to be showing Paul favoritism because he was an employee, and once they were placed in the queue, they had to wait for an appropriate restaurant to open. They wanted anything in the South, and it just so happened that the perfect restaurant opened in Houston, were they lived.

They paid $45,000 for the franchise fee and financed the purchase through Chase’s Golden Mac program. To get the loan, they had to have a large sum in cash on hand. Adams thinks it was about $70,000. For their investment, the Adamses own the right to use the McDonald’s name and everything inside the restaurant. They pay rent for the building, service fees, a percentage for national advertising and a percentage for regional advertising.

Because Paul worked for the corporation, McDonald’s didn’t put the Adamses through the usual two years of training, when new franchisees learn everything from how to mop the floor to bookkeeping the McDonald’s way. Adams consulted with other owner/operators to learn how to run the business.

“I really thought I’d just do it until Paul got it launched, because I knew it would be a lot of work. I was a nurse. That was my identity, and I didn’t want to give it up,” Adams said. 

For two years, she worked part-time as a nurse and full-time on the Janus 1 business.

“Then I started having more fun with McDonald’s and just started heading in that direction,” Adams said.

Janus 1, with its 31 stores, is the largest McDonald’s franchise in Houston. It does about $64 million in business annually and employs 1,500 people.

“I loved being a nurse. But I really like owning my own business. I like leading my own path,” Adams said. “And, I really love the product.”

“When Debbie puts her mind to something, she goes all out for it,” said Nelly Quijano, who owns 19 McDonald’s and has known Adams for 28 years. (Quijano was one of the owner/ operators Adams consulted with early on.) 

Quijano continued, “She’s a very hard worker, extremely focused. She had such a passion for nursing, and she brings that same passion to McDonald’s.”

When Adams, 50, worked at McDonald’s the first time, she just had to be taught how to do the job.

“Now,” Adams said, “you have to teach people how to show up on time, how to talk to customers. You’re not just teaching the job. You’re teaching basics about how to behave in the world, how to speak up, how to speak clearly and make eye contact and be polite. That’s kind of surprising,” she said.

They’ve discovered some gems along the way, though. Most of their managers have advanced through their restaurants.

“We’ve got a really good infrastructure built. We give our folks the leeway to do their jobs. We don’t micromanage," said Adams.

Adams was interviewed and hired on the spot when she applied as a 16-year-old.

“That’s an important thing to do,” she said. “When someone hands you an application in a restaurant, if you think they look promising, you interview them right then. You don’t say I’ll call you in week.”

Working in the restaurant taught her how to thrive in a fast-paced environment, to think on her feet and deal with people, even when the quality of those people changes every day, Adams said. 

She said, “I’ve learned to listen better. When people are telling you something, they can be saying one thing with their words, but body language is indicating something else. And I’m like, ‘No, there’s something else. There’s a different story here.’ I learned to see the story that’s behind their words. And to not be so gullible when people are trying to sell me on something. So, maybe I don’t get taken as much anymore.”

A third or more of the restaurants Adams bought were “F” restaurants when they bought them – meaning, low-performing. 

“The first time, I was panicked,” said Adams. “But then you get them turned around, and the next time you walk into them, you just see opportunity.”

The common thread among those stores, she said, is that they were understaffed and didn’t repair or replace broken equipment. 

“Because they didn’t have the tools, the employees created a different way to do their jobs, and in their minds, that’s faster and easier and better. But it wasn’t. You’ve got to follow proper procedures,” she said.

When the Adamses took over those restaurants, they increased staff, which is more expensive but leads to a better experience for workers and customers. They promoted the overlooked hard-working employees. They retrained the employees and gave them the tools to do the job correctly. 

“It’s our business, and we get to do a lot of things the way we want to, but there’s no option on when we’ll be open,” she said. “They set the guidelines. You will serve these products, and you will get your products from here and this is how you are going to cook the product. Which, I’m not going to argue with it. It works.”

Working with a strict parent company can be frustrating, Adams admits. They get frequent announced and unannounced visits, when corporate representatives time how fast customers are served, and mystery shoppers send them grades every day.

She said, “Sometimes, with McDonald’s being on you all the time about service and the restaurant experience, it can be, ‘Oh my god, give me a breather,’” she said. “But they’re really serious about brand trust and delivering a good experience to customers.”

And the reinvestment that is sometimes required – like when the restaurants are redesigned – can be frustrating, she said. But, she recognizes the value of the McDonald’s brand, and she’s genuinely enamored with the corporation’s high-ethics culture.

“We wouldn’t be where we are if we were trying to sell a Debbie Burger or Paul Fries or something like that,” she said.  “And there’s still room to make it our store. We do that by how we interact with the public,” Adams said.

“No, no, no, I wouldn’t open a restaurant that wasn’t a McDonald’s. I love our product. I love our system,” said Adams.

Dave Schafer is a free-lance journalist and reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Pink Ribbon House continues to raise funds for breast cancer research

The Pink Ribbon House project was established in 2003 by the Breast Center Advisory Council at Baylor College of Medicine. It raises funds for breast cancer research and patient care at the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at BCM through the design, decorating and touring of showcase homes. Since its founding, the Pink Ribbon House project has raised nearly $2.5 million for breast cancer research at BCM. 

The 2012 Pink Ribbon House, the sixth in a series, is located in at 10619 Fairlane Drive in Hunters Creek Village. The house will be open to the public for tours on the weekends of April 25-27 and May 4-6. Tour hours are slated for Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 10 a..m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door. 

House Details and History
The 2012 Pink Ribbon House, designed by Hollenbeck Architects in a French Country style, is being constructed by Levitt Partnership. The 5,000-square-foot home features a stone and stucco exterior with shutters, five bed rooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms, two studies, three fireplaces, a summer kitchen, playroom, three-car garage, game room and dining room that opens up to a courtyard with a water feature.

This Pink Ribbon House is the first ever built for actual homeowners, instead of “on spec.”

Homeowners Jeff and Amy Miers said, “We’re thrilled to be building the home of our dreams while also supporting a cause that makes a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of so many women and their families.” 

The house is being built on the site where Jeff’s grandparents once stood and where they lived for more than 50 years. The couple salvaged several features from the previous home, including wood from a tree Jeff’s grandparents planted when they bought the house in 1959. The homeowners are also repurposing hardwood floors for an office and 1950s pink tile and hardware for a bedroom and bathroom. The entire structure of the orignal house — including slab, appliances, light fixtures and more — was donated to Habitat for Humanity. The organization will either recycle the material or use it in the construction of a new home for a family in need. 

Designing for a Cause
Among the designers who are giving of their time and talent to bring this “hope-filled” home to life are: Julia Blailock and assistant designer Rachel Reppond of Blailock Design. Christine Ho of Cho Interiors, Trish and Julie Dodson of Dodson & Daughter and Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes.

Blailock, now in her third year of supporting the Pink Ribbon House, said, “My mother, who was my best friend, had breast cancer twice, and ultimately lost her life to that dreaded disease. Any help this show house brings to the fight against breast cancer is well worth all of my efforts.”

Julie Dodson, who has been working on the Pink Ribbon House project for the fourth year, commented, “Cancer is a disease that we are all affected by at some point in our life, and for me, it’s a way to give back...to honor those who have fought this awful disease...and to help get one step closer to a cure.”

Sinclair said, “Having been involved in five Pink Ribbon Houses, I always look forward to contributing to this cause as it  impacts so many lives in such a wonderful way!

”Ho, working on the Pink Ribbon House project for the second time, said, “It is such a great pleasure and honor working with such a wonderful team; everyone’s goal is the same - to work for a great cause.”

Smith Breast Center
The Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center is the cornerstone of the National Cancer Institute-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center of Baylor College of Medicine. The Smith Breast Center is one of only a few comprehensive breast care centers in the country focused exclusively on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and breast disease, all in one location. Patient care is supported by an internationally recognized research program, ensuring state-of-the-art treatment based on the latest scientific findings and expediting the search for a cure. The Smith Breast Center offers more than just exceptional patient care. With leading clinician-scientists (doctors who see patients and also work in the research lab) such as Dr. Kent Osborne and Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi, the breast center also runs a comprehensive clinical research program.  

“Clinical trials are the most critical stage of translational research, or the application of basic research to the improvement of patient care,” said Rimawi, medical director of the breast center. “We test investigational treatments, new combinations and new strategies to see if they are safe and effective in patients.”

Running clinical trials requires an important partnership between investigators and patients, Rimawi said.  “Every new treatment or drug combination might not prove successful when a trial concludes, but with each trial we learn something new that helps us narrow our focus on finding a cure,” said Rimawi. “We are so appreciative of our research teams’ efforts and our patients’ dedication to maintaining our clinical research program.” 

The Smith Breast Center has a very comprehensive program with approximately 30 clinical trials – open for all subtypes of breast cancer and all stages of treatment.

The different types of breast cancer include: 
• Hormone-receptor positive: tumors expressing one of the hormone receptors estrogen receptor or progesterone receptor, 
• HER2-positive: tumors overexpressing a protein called the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2,
• Triple negative: cancer that is negative for estrogen, progesterone or HER2 receptors – all three identified receptors known to cause cancer.The stages include: • Neoadjuvant: treatment before surgery, 
• Adjuvant: treatment after surgery,
• Metastatic: treatment when cancer has spread beyond breast,
• Preventative: treatment to prevent breast cancer.In one highlight, the breast center is conducting a clinical trial for patients with HER-2 overexpressing breast cancer that could change and improve on the current standard of care.

Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at BCM, said, “The funds raised this year (by the Pink Ribbon House) will go towards research that will help treat and maybe one day cure breast cancer, as well as towards patient care and community outreach.

For more information, visit www.bcm.edu/breastcenter.

Six Lines a Boss Should Never Cross

Most working adults have experienced an uncomfortable situation at work; that’s the reality of interpersonal relationships in a professional setting. However, while no work situation is perfect in every respect, your workplace should be more positive than negative, and never a place where you feel distressed or ill at ease the majority of the time.

This can be difficult if you have a boss who frequently crosses the line of professional behavior, according to the employment experts at Allison & Taylor Reference Checking.

Your boss is crossing the line if he/she:

• Makes references to your salary in front of others. This is private and confidential information, not public. Other employees don’t need to know what you’re being paid, and it’s true regardless of the type of comment that’s made. Whether the boss is saying, “I don’t pay you enough,” or “I pay you too much,” this type of comment will lead to resentment among staff members. Broadcasting your earnings undermines your position with the rest of the staff. They’ll either think you’re willing to work for peanuts, ruining their chances of earning more or that you’re overpaid.

• Reprimands you in front of other employees. This is a form of bullying, and it’s never acceptable. While you may have made a mistake or error that deserves discussion, a good employer will handle this professionally - and in private. A good boss should never denigrate your skills, either, with comments like, “This job is so easy; anyone could do it.”

Has unreasonable expectations. Managers need to communicate their expectations for work performance clearly, assist employees when needed, and set reasonable deadlines for projects. This one can be tricky. At times every employee has probably felt he or she has been dealt an impossible task. But, if you’re consistently receiving unreasonable demands, you need to speak up. It could be a communication issue; perhaps something as simple as unclear directions are bogging you down. Or it could be a case of micromanagement (in which case, you were hired because the boss felt you were qualified to do your job, and it’s fine to remind him/her to let you do it). Just be sure you address it in a courteous and non-confrontational manner.

Shares too many personal details. This is a work situation, not the therapist’s couch. A good boss shouldn’t share problems or inappropriate personal details. If you find the conversation often veers in this direction, lead the way by being very brief in your responses; then change the subject back to business. And, don’t bring your own problems to the office.

Makes inappropriate references. Any comment that makes you squirm is one that shouldn’t have been made in the office. This includes water cooler jokes, emails or comments about your physical appearance. Include in this category any type of implication that the boss is interested in a relationship of a personal nature, even if it’s not something you’re entirely opposed to. Workplace romances are never a good idea, and it’s beyond unprofessional to even make the suggestion. All of these things are a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.

Implies that sex, race, age or religion is a factor in work performance. None of these things have anything to do with your ability to do the job you were hired for. The suggestion that it might is not only unfair, it’s discriminatory. Address any such implication immediately.

If you find that you’re experiencing one or more of these problems with regularity, you need to speak to your boss about your discomfort. This isn’t always an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary to maintain a professional working relationship. Keep in mind that he/she may not even be aware that it is bothering you. The key is to open up a dialogue that can deal with the issues. Approach your boss in a free, calm moment, and let him or her know that you feel there are some issues that need to be addressed. Then calmly discuss the issues in an open and honest manner. If discussing with your boss does not change things for the better, then consider going up the chain of command or to HR for help.

Information courtesy of Allison & Taylor, a company that has been checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984. For more information, visit www.allisontaylor.com.
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