#45 Escaping the Email Vortex of Death via Auto Responder

By Kathy Korman Frey for the series Building a Million Dollar Part Time.

There’s a trend in our country: We’re busy, but we’re not accomplishing anything. This trend has actually been researched and written about.  Could you have been part of the research? I could have been.

The Email Vortex of Death

My worst enemy in this battle over time is the “Email Vortex of Death.”
Setting: My computer in the Garage Mahal
Me: Oh, I’ll just check this one email.
Me (35 minutes later): What was I checking again?
Email Vortex of Death: Ha ha ha ha ha ha
Me: D*&m You Email Vortex of Death! D*&m You!
Read the rest of this post on our main blog, HERE.

#40b – On dealing with business crisis.


Can you handle the HEAT? I'm throwin' it. Kenny Powers, Flama Blanca


You voted in the last post, and you’re getting what you want: THE HEAT. Below – finally- is the scoop on the behind-the-scenes crisis at #sisUdc.  I am sharing the real deal for the purposes of :

#1 Being authentic. I find it silly when people pretend everything is perfect.

#2 Learning. Crisis management is a legitimate skill. Keep it together under heat, and you just might be able to keep it together in general.


Scenario: On October 9, 2010 I am scheduled to deliver a “groundbreaking pilot seminar” called Sisterhood University (#sisUdc) to between 50 and 80 women at the George Washington University School of Business.  This is an important part of  “my plan.”    WUSA (news station in DC) is going to be covering it. I have promised a lot to attendees.

The trouble begins at 8.21 am

8.21 am Networking is from 8.30 to 9.00. My team has been there since 7.45 am.  I run upstairs to my office to grab materials which are supposed to be waiting for me on my chair.  This is a common routine I’ve repeated with the office staff over my nine years as an adjunct at GW. I’ll send materials for class via email, the office prints them, they leave the papers on my chair. All good, right?

8.22 am I unlock the door to my office. The materials are sitting on my chair. Whew. I fan through the piles just two be sure. There are only two piles. There should be THREE piles.  The most important thing is missing: The participant workbook.  The workbooks are THE central part of the entire workshop. The are NOT THERE. A “freak out” starts to rise within me, I suppress it so I can think straight. In case this is not crystal clear, the entire anchor of Sis U – the workbook – is MISSING.

The entire anchor of Sis U – the workbook – is MISSING.

P.s. For those of you who think “Oh, just get them to write on their own paper.” This is a techy crowd. I’ve learned through experience: Laptop, yes. Paper, no.

8.23  am In a “pretending-I’m-not-frothing-at-the-mouth” frenzy, I call the senior secretary for the Department of Management. It’s the WEEKEND, but,  I am desperate. She never got the workbooks. She printed everything she got.  My document must have bounced. My first thought is “I’m an ID-iot!” How could I not have noticed this?Many reasons, as we’ll discuss.


8.24 am I shift into some strange kind of business triage mode where I start quickly prioritizing and assessing what needs to be done (all the while with a horrible nervous feeling). FIRST, I run downstairs and announce to the team:

“You are going to have to hold down the fort, there is a major problem I have to deal with upstairs. Keep your phones on.”

Lesson: A team to “hold down the fort” is key.

8.25.00 am Attendees look at me expectantly as I zoom past, grab my phone, head over to the elevator bank of Funger Hall and press the “up” button. I can’t waste any minutes saying “hi.” Attendees probably think I have some kind of social anxiety disorder or something as I run around like a weird animal afraid to make eye contact.

I run around like a weird animal afraid to make eye contact.

8.25.30 am Over at the elevator banks, one attendee who has strayed from the crowd asks, “Can I do anything to help you?”  She must have seen my “inner freak-out” bubbling to the surface, and not been fooled by my “scurring rodent” routine.  I put on my best Stepford voice: “Thaaaakkknks hon, just have to run upstairs and deal with something real quick,” I say. HA! Understatement of the year.

8.26.00 am After much toe tapping and pacing, the elevator arrives. I hop on. I step in and press “3.” Nothing happens. “Is THIS how it’s gonna be?” I ask and look up at the florescent light grid. Sometimes, I seriously think WE are the rats in the maze for someone who is experimenting with us.

8.26.30 am I step out of the broken elevator, and press “up” again. I fear ALL the elevators are broken. A bum elevator is a known occurence from time to time in Funger Hall. I feel lame when I realize, even in my 9th year teaching here as an adjunct…I have no idea where the stairs are.  Finally, a new elevator arrives. I press “3.” The doors close. With my luck, I’m going to get stuck in the elevator. Then – at least – I’d have the perfect excuse.  Ding….ding….third floor, doors open.  NEXT, time for a serious Workbook Plan B.

Time for a serious Workbook Plan B.

Copy Room in Funger 315 “No One Gets into See the Wizard.”

8.27 am I quickly walk from the elevators over to the Funger 315 (copy room is in Funger 315). I try to open the door. LOCKED. I try another entrance. LOCKED.  I mysteriously start channeling a sailor; a sailor with very bad language.

8.28 am I call 994-1000, the main GW number, and ask for security.

  • GWU Security: “George Washington University Security.”
  • Me: “Hi, this is Professor Frey in the School of Business. I need to get into Funger 315. It’s an emergency. I ‘m supposed to speak to a group at 9. Can someone please let me in?”
  • GWU Security: “Okay, we’ll put in the request.”
  • Me: “Does that mean they’re coming now? What does that mean time-wise?”

Please Note: I am  trying to act like a normal person when – in fact – I am getting ready to pull a full-fledged Shirley MacLaine.

  • GWU Security: “It’ll be about five, ten minutes.”

At this point, the difference between five and ten minutes feels like the hugest time swing in the world.


Shirley MacLaine Freaks Out in "Terms of Endearment"


8.29 to 8.35 am I wait. It’s painful. Like root canal painful. Security still doesn’t show up. I wind up channeling the sailor with very naughty language. Again.

I wait. It’s painful. Like root canal painful.

8.35.00 am I called security again. “Oh, it’ll be about five minutes.” I totally don’t believe them, just like I don’t believe Diamond Cab when they say they’ll have a driver at my house in “about 10 minutes.” I am going to have to enact a Plan B. A very, very lame and desperate Plan B.

8.35.30 am I grab a ream of copy paper and a stapler from my office and crouch in the hall outside of Funger 315 (where the copy room is). “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven”…I am counting out – by hand – seven pieces of plain paper and stapling them together.  “This is just pathetic,” I say to myself. I watch the door to Funger 315 , crouching with paper and stapler, looking like some weird corporate cavewoman.

I am…crouching with paper and stapler, looking like some weird corporate cavewoman.

8.40.00 am Security shows up. Hallelujah!

8.40.15 am Not so hallelujah is when the guard says, “Do you have your GW ID?” Eeek! I dont’ carry anything with me on event days. Nightmare! I start fumbling with my phone, getting ready to call someone from the department to vouch for me. This person could be “my other brother Daryl” and even as I raise my phone I am highly skeptical about security buying this.

8.40.30 am In a stroke of crisis-brilliance, perhaps the ONLY brilliance of the day, I notice a photo of me on the wall…”Oh oh! This is me!” I waive him over to a display case that has all the faculty and their pictures, I point to my picture. He nods and lets me in the office. I love you Stephanie Gresham! (Who did this display board.).

8.42 am By this time, I have 18 minutes, a lobby full of attendees, no workbooks for the attendees, and no guarantee that I can even work the copy room stuff to make this happen. I seriously feel like my reputation is on the line here. This is a social media crowd and, if I mess up, it’s going viral. I turn on the computer outside the copy room, find the password. I look at my email to see if I can print out the workbook from the bounced email file. No such luck.  Nada.

8.43 am I open PowerPoint, and realize I am going to have to make an entirely new workbook…in 10 minutes.  I try to focus on the screen in the dark office, because it’s CLOSED for the weekend, and work fast.

8.44 am I quickly type “Section 1”  on Page 1 of the workbook. I try to add a new page.  This is PowerPoint 2007.  All the computers have been upgraded. I can’t figure out how to add a new slide.  Click, click click. Pointless. Zero idea what I’m doing. And I’m pretty techy. This is very anxiety-provoking.  It seemed like everything was working against me. I thought:

“This is TOO close.  There is a VERY good chance I am going to fall flat on my face here.”

8.47 am I try to keep my brain under control and keep forging ahead. But, apparently my mouth was still moving….

  • Me: “Oh no, oh no, oh no.”
  • Security Guard: “Is everything okay?”
  • Me: “This is PowerPoint 2007. All the terminals have been upgraded. I can’t figure out how to add a new slide.”
  • Security Guard: “Oh, I can help you. I’ve done tons of PowerPoint presentations.” (Hallelujah plays in background).
  • Me: “Seriously, I you are the best. I cannot thank you enough.”
  • Security Guard: “This is much better than a typical call of dealing with a homeless person who has wandered onto campus.”

Lesson: Hire security guards who know PowerPoint.

8.53 am I finish the seven page workbook.

8.54 am I figure out how to send the document to the printer, left staple, 80 copies.

8.55 am “The printer is warming up.”

8.55.30 am I use the “spare time” to pull up the presentation that I am giving downstairs. Since they just upgraded all the computers to PowerPoint 2007, I better just make sure.

8.55 am Gobbeldygook!  All of the letters looked like symbols. The presentation is unreadable.

8.55 am So, at this stage, I have no workbook as I’m not sure the copier will really work., my presentation is Gobbledygook, and I am supposed to start talking in five minutes downstairs to a group of women participating in the pilot – some of whom have traveled from out of state!


Fun enough for you yet?  Stay tuned for Part II of this post to see how we successfully excavated ourselves from this mess, and pulled off this successful event. Subscribe to this blog at the right via email or Facebook. Lessons learned thus far include:

So far, here is what I’ve learned based on the above:

  • Crisis Management: Practice suppressing your inner “freak out” – it will help you some day.
  • Font-astrophe: THIS is why people say “Don’t use weird fonts.” My guess is Times New Roman serves up just fine no matter what your Microsoft office version.
  • Time management: Bad time management during the week of created this pressure cooker environment. Having all materials ready WAY ahead of time is how I normally roll. But…..there was a White House Council on Women and Girls event. I launched two classes. My husband was out of town (we have two kids that cannot be raised by wolves and require human care and feeding). Was it worth it?

#33 Giving Myself a Wife for Mother’s Day

Traumatized? Spent? Overwhelmed? Don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. In a presentation I gave to the Entrepreneur’s Organization a couple of years ago, I told them the tale of “What Women Want” based on research from the Hot Mommas Project. The goal was to better understand and support their female employees. By the time I was finished, and explained the multiple directions in which women are pulled, how they feel responsible for everything and everyone, and that no one supports them, one of the uber-successful male entrepreneurs raised his hand and said:

“That’s exactly how I feel.”

What? Multi-million dollar male entrepreneurs feeling the same as stressed-out, multitasking women? No way!


And as “Zurg” in my kid’s Buzz Lightyear cartoon says:

Very much way.

When busy is good!

As the Hot Mommas Project has taken off and become the world’s largest women’s case study library, many many requests are now starting to flood in. See our list of 2010 winners HERE. I am very very proud of these amazing women who’ve shared their stories in a teachable format to help the next generation and each other.

When Busy is Bad. My Mother’s Day Resolution: A wife.

For Mother’s Day I’m making a resolution.

The resolution has to do with  getting in front of the chaos. Not 100% in front of the chaos, just getting in “the zone.” In some of my outside classes with female executives, I teach women that you need to be okay with work-life balance in the 40% to 70% range. I need to get back into that range. Here are a few signs that I’m not (maybe you identify with these?):

1. Mounting emails. (Spending time coordinating details of meetings when I’d prefer to get the one, single ‘here’s when the meeting is’ email.)

2. Having lists of things that never get done, but are important.

3. Feeling that the above things are starting to make me look bad.

My resolution is to get a personal assistant.

I often dream of having a wife, but, will settle for someone to help me deal with email, errands, and my calendar. I am a pretty hyper-organized person, however, with bandwith GONE we all must go to the next level. I am doing this, also, to up my game – in advance – in preparation for being even MORE busy.  So, in addition to my wonderful team at the Hot Mommas Project, and the excellent,  supportive folks at the George Washington University, I have decided to get myself a little gift. A personal assistant!

What Busy Women Want: The Research.

BUSINESS (aka BUSY-NESS), the irony of that name.

Before asking you how you find and use personal assistants, let’s look at the facts. Hot Mommas Project research shows a few things that busy women want and need to be successful in multiple facets of their life, including:

1. Support – from home (spouse/partner #1) and work (#2). It’s where you log the hours.

2. Control – over work schedule, and location.

3. Focus – what do you REALLY want to achieve. Focus on it like a laser. Sometimes, this even involves a pre-step of thinking about what you REALLY think of as “success” and what makes you happy.

Now, here is a question for the readers.

Exactly how does one use a personal assistant. Can you help me?

I am hoping you folks out there can share with me how you use personal assistants and what tasks are most helpful.  In exchange, I plan to share the top things I’ve done over the past several to help save time, take care of my family, and take care of myself all of which make me feel like I CAN DO IT. Doing something is so much better than whining!

Good Guys & Gals: Helping busy women.

Below are “businesses that get it”: They admire, respect, and support women.  We make 80% of household purchasing decisions ladies, so, here’s where to channel that power.

Alchemie Forever – This is a great skin care line run by a female entrepreneur who brought her family’s products used in their swiss medi-spa over to the states. Think “Swiss Family Polla.” See their great Mother’s Day packages at this link: http://www.alchimie-forever.com/

SEPHORA – A 2009 and 2010 Hot Mommas Project sponsor. We heart SEPHORA, doesn’t everyone?

Ted Gibson Salon & Hela Spa – This power duo is offering discounts to DC Hot Mommas between May 1 and 9. Contact them to take advantage of this special promotion offered to Hot Mommas! Love people who have our backs!

Okay, so, maybe I’m a little bit spa obsessed. We can’t forget our official “sleep away” spa GREEN VALLEY SPA in Utah. Delicious. Maybe you can take your wife there. 🙂

What is the Hot Mommas Project?

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business.  We make women’s stories teachable using our “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org . The Hot Mommas Project library is the first of its kind, providing scalable, global access to role models and virtual mentors that can be used by educators, trainers, and parents. We’ve been featured in Prentice Hall textbooks, the Washington Post Magazine, NPR and are the winner of a national Coleman Foundation case award.

How you can get involved: Write your story, or nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older.

Our call for 2011 nominations has begun. While the contest runs through January 31, 2011 – Start now! There will be prizes this spring and fall for early bird publishers.

How it works: Nominated women come online, write their story using our “case wizard,” and click “publish” to be permanently archived in our case library.  Winners will be published in a leading Prentice Hall textbook in addition to other honors and prizes. To participate, nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older (yourself included) here or find us on Twitter. No, you do not need to be a mom. To inquire about sponsorship, email us.

#30 Would You Read This? My Book Outline for Women and The New Sisterhood of Success

It’s that time again. Time to stop messing around and throw down the gauntlet for myself, much as I did in the first post in March, 2008. At that time, I could not see what lay ahead. All I saw was fear, no money, and a bunch of to-do lists and ideas that never seemed to get done. Piece by piece – and while being incredibly cheap aka “resourceful” – I recruited help, enlisted partners, built the Hot Mommas Project story-telling software, and then…the clincher: THE WOMEN. Women came from everywhere…from Twitter…from HARO queries…from mail blasts…from blog posts….from media appearances…from the George Washington University School of Business newsletter! They showed up, ready to fight. They said:

“We are here to fight to make the next generation better, and more prepared, and self-confident. I am here to share what I have learned, good and bad, so that we may have options in life, instead of being told what our options are.”

They told their stories, and the ripple effect never stopped. Stay-at-home moms inspired corporate execs. Victims of abuse inspired start-up entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs who lost, and then found, their way inspired students. Cancer survivors inspired everyone. I didn’t grow up with sisters, but, I got over 100 sisters last year. These incredible women who told their stories to help the next generation, and each other, are my Everyday Revolutionaries.

But, I STILL remember that feeling…sitting there in my office, writing my first blog post, and not seeing ANY of that. It’s sort of how I feel now. I should be writing a book, I should be getting more nominations for the Hot Mommas Project 2010 case competition, I should, I should, I should. So, once again, I humbly turn to my invisible…yet not so invisble…audience. Here is my idea for my book. I have lots of people ready to run with this and help me when I finish my outline, which I never seem to be able to do. (Who is helping me? Aside from friends’ connections to book agents, I have to give MASSIVE shout outs to pitch and media experts Sam Horn, and Marc Silverstein).

Book concept/Title:

How to be a Hot Momma

The New Sisterhood of Success

Enduring message: Here is HOW to do it based on how Hot Mommas do it (life, career, etc.). Hear it straight from the mouths of your sisters, friends, mothers, and aunts…because we care. Oh, yeah, and we also want you to rule the world.

Why you should listen: This will be the Belly Laughs mixed with Four Hour Work Week of business/life books. Not only will this be immensely fun to read, and possibly contain some profanity depending on the author’s coffee levels and general level of crankiness, but – also – there are actual FACTS and HOW TOs based on:

  • The largest library of teachable role models in the world (they taught, we listened, and now we bring those lessons to you).
  • Cutting-edge, inside-look research detailing the practices of hundreds of driven AND happy women.
  • Highlights from the award-winning Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class at the George Washington University School of Business.

[This part makes me cringe, but, I’ve been told by my husband and others I need to go ahead and pimp myself out]

Author: It is I, your humble So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance-watching, kid-chasing, husband-raising, coffee-drinking author who also happens to have a Harvard MBA, teach college students, and have an illustrious career (entrepreneur and former corporate wheeler and dealer and nonprofit executive in the aging sector). In the “for what it’s worth” category I am a DC Twitter Elite, write for Maria Shriver Women’s Conference site, and have been dubbed “one of the nation’s top business bloggers” by HSM’s World Business Forum.  Bio link.

If you choose to believe the above, please read on … we’re almost to the good part.

The following has been said about “How to Be a Hot Momma” author, Kathy Korman Frey:

“You have something in your teeth.”

Oh, wait, wrong quote …this is it:

“Kathy is like a modern day guardian angel, without a God complex.  She navigates us through stories and helps women apply them to their own lives.”

Mysterious and Powerful Entertainment Industry Corporate Communications Executive

Now that I’ve paid the nice lady five, crisp, $100 dollar bills…here’s the outline:


Foreward…Hopefully by one of the Hot Mommas extremely impressive judges from 2009 or 2010.

Intro: Who is a Hot Momma? Hot Mommas think being perfect is boring.  Hot Mommas are entrepreneurs of life: Making their own rules, and finding their own way, and having the self-confidence to do that. And the number one trait of a Hot Momma that distinguishes her from all others? A Hot Momma helps her sisters. She learns, and doesn’t stop there; she pays it forward so that others may learn.

Major steps in becoming a Hot Momma (in the book, I plan to use Sam Horn’s IDEA framework: I = Idea, D = Detail, E = Example, A = Application).

1. Self confidence – First, a Hot Momma must believe she can do it. Tips for building life-long self-confidence are discussed in this section.

  • “Grey boxes” (fun stats) will include research showing the self-confidence differential between women and girls, and our male counterparts.
  • Resources: Examples of Hot Mommas who have been through the self-confidence building process, how they did it, and links to templates and tools.

2. Idea generation – A Hot Momma’s GPS is constantly on the lookout for the intersection of “Passion Ln.” and “Idea Ave.” When those two meet, BINGO. But, the Hot Momma also knows that the journey is part of the trip.

  • Grey boxes: Stats on idea creation, and neurological information on women.
  • Resources: Examples of Hot Mommas who have been through the idea generation process and how they did it. Mind Mapping, Opportunity Recognition, and Passion Inventory exercises used in GWSB’s award-winning Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class are included.

3. Okay, that was too many ideas – Focus, implementation – Sometimes, the brain of a Hot Momma is in overdrive. There can be ideas, then too many ideas. There can be to-dos, but then too many to dos. This chapter focuses on how to reign in the brain of the Hot Momma, and use its power for good…using…”The F Word” (FOCUS).

  • Grey Boxes: Stats from Hot Mommas Project mentor survey on traits for success, including focus.
  • Resources: Examples of “master focuser “(is that a word?) Hot Mommas, their tips and tricks, and a daily action-plan template.

4. Stocking the toolkit – Key tips for women only, communication, negotiation, and more. Did you know that women engage in certain behaviors (by accident) in communicating and negotiating with people, bosses, roommates, etc? This chapter deals with the most important things Hot Mommas try to improve on to get out there and take on the world.

  • Grey Boxes: Statistics on communication, negotiation, resulting salary differentials, and other key facts.
  • Resources: We draw from outside the Hot Mommas Project data pool for this section as most women don’t even KNOW they are engaging in these behaviors which impact their success.

5. Be a game changer – Hot Mommas are entrepreneurs because they have to be, they are miserable where they are, or they hear the distant call of “Passion Ln.” and “Idea Ave.” However they became entrepreneurial, Hot Mommas just ARE. At home, at work, in their communities. They take the pieces of the puzzle and don’t just put them together WELL, they put them together DIFFERENTLY.

  • Grey Boxes: The Hot Mommas Project literally created the data set on women as game changers. We reveal our previously unpublished data, and compare it to existing “traditional” data which shove women into traditional categories (part-time, full-time, etc.).
  • Resources: Case studies on game changers from the Hot Mommas Project survey and case library will be highlighted. Tools and templates on “how to be a game changer” will be included.

6. Balance – This is high on the radar screen of women and families everywhere.  We take on the concept of balance with three critical topics: Perspective, Organization, and Delegation.  Many women treat balance as if it is an end in and of itself.  The evolved Hot Momma treats balance as a MEANS to an end. Something to achieve, and move on, so that they can get onto number 7, back to number 3, or go rogue with some other activity like bathing. The topic of managing expectations (self, and others) is also addressed.

  • Grey Boxes: Former Harvard Business School Professor and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Dennis Hightower states: “A good manager can make decisions with between 40 and 70 percent information.”  We apply this statistic to balance, encouraging women make sure that achieving balance is a hurdle, not a brick wall. We validate womens’ concerns about balance by revealing data on dual income couples, and common responses and attitudes about balance from our Hot Mommas Project survey and previously unpublished “Balance Snapshot” database.
  • Resources: Tips from Hot Mommas Project “Master Balancers” – the top 10 percent of our survey-takers who are highly driven, and highly balanced both personally and professionally. If they can do it, we can do it.

7. Mentoring and support systems. Hot Mommas not only HAVE mentors, they ARE mentors. Hot Mommas have an internal call to action that leads them to pass on their learnings to others both formally (through the Hot Mommas Project and other outlets) and informally. They mentor, because they have been mentored. Hot Mommas have a large support network, and are more successful because of it.

  • Grey Boxes: Hot Mommas Project research on the hierarchy and scale of support networks will be shared.
  • Resources: A Five Minute Mentor template will be shared that can be used with mentees, mentors, and at work or at home. Did you know your whole family could serve as a mentor? Learn how in this chapter.

Thank you for reading. The last step is to fill out this poll (I’ll use it in my book proposal!). Thank you, again.

Want to get involved with the project? Go to www.HotMommasProject.org and NOMINATE a dynamic woman you know to share her story, and help the next generation. Winners of our annual case study competition will be published in a major Prentice Hall Textbook.  Here is our 2010 press release.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part-Time #16: How to do a Mass/Blast Email Campaign


Let me start this post by saying: I am not a huge fan of mass emails.

Exception: When someone has opted in, as I have for two of the best newsletters I know (from Harvard Business School and Julie Weeks’ WomenAble, also listed at bottom of this post).

Sections of this post will cover: Popular mass/blast email programs/campaigners, how to write a blast email, challenges of blast emails, and other fun stuff. Everything in this post is totally opposite @TheMogulMom’s summary of Seth Godin’s advice on “How to Write a Personal Email.Continue reading