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You’re valuable, but only worth what’s in the budget

posted Feb 28, 2014, 9:13 AM by Tia Karelson   [ updated Mar 14, 2014, 3:42 PM ]

This week I was waiting for an appointment at a mid-sized corporation. Another woman was waiting too, an employee.  Soon, an HR person came out to greet her with a warm hello. They proceeded into a meeting room off the waiting area. It turns out the walls were thin. The HR woman thanked the employee profusely for stepping up and taking on a project, and now wanted to offer her a job…at a lower rate of pay than she currently makes “because that is what is budgeted.” My stomach lurched. I could not hear the employee’s response, but I thought this business just lost a good employee, not yet physically, but emotionally and mentally.  It was time for my appointment, and I heard no more.

The business is one that is experiencing increasing competition, and needs to make wise decisions to stay relevant and profitable. The business has a very real, tangible budget. There are executives making significantly more money than this woman who are sweating out the financials. They probably know nothing about this particular circumstance, but likely made firm statements to their department heads to keep costs down. Success. Not only did they keep costs down, they cut them. Those few thousand dollars will mean nothing on the next quarterly spreadsheet, but they will mean a great deal to the employee who just took on a role with more responsibility for less pay.

Employees understand that budgets dictate their salaries and perks. However, they also understand that there are limits on the sacrifices they should make for the employer and its shareholders.

I hope this employee will negotiate to ensure she is paid her worth. If not, may she find an employer willing to appreciate her value, and pay her for that worth.

May the business build financial success while supporting its employees with more than hollow words.

3 Words for 2014

posted Jan 2, 2014, 12:33 PM by Tia Karelson   [ updated Mar 14, 2014, 3:43 PM ]

January 2, 2014

A new year is a time for fresh starts. Reading Rob Hatch’s and Chris Brogan’s blogs, they recommend that instead of making resolutions, decide upon three words as guideposts for the year.

I’ve never been great at making resolutions. Sometimes I make them, but then promptly forget them. Shoot, I wasn’t supposed to eat all that chocolate. Three words are appealing, and on the surface, require less effort. Perhaps I’ll even write them down, unlike the resolutions which never saw paper.

The tough part is deciding the three words. Given the current Minnesota winter, I’m tempted to put “hibernation” on the list. I seem to be doing this anyway, and what better excuse than consistent below zero weather?  

On Christmas Day, my gift to myself was listening to a session I had with an astrologer back in 2006. Yes, an astrologer. Many friends have heard me reference this before, and while I am a strategic and analytic person, this session was profound. The stars offered more guidance than I could have imagined.

The astrologer summed up the session by sharing that while my chart says “self-reliance,” my destiny is “relying on others.” Despite hearing this message years ago, I still forged down the self-reliance path. It’s my default position. I prefer working alone to the messiness of group projects. As a group leader, I will take the burden off others. Delegating is not a strong suit. I launched Market Karma on my own rather than partnering with someone else. The examples go on and on. But you know what? This self-reliance business is tiring.

Along with listening to the astrologer tape, I stumbled across a leadership presentation with two columns of words:











I ripped out the page to carry it with me as a reminder of the importance of looking outward rather than inward, particularly when catching myself doing the things in the first column. Stealing the words gratitude, forgiveness and abundance would be easy, but disingenuous, so while I’ll still remind myself of these words, I’ve chosen my own three words:

·         Trust

·         Intuition

·         Now

Learning to rely on others means trusting others. Trusting that their intentions are good, and they will keep their word. It also means trusting in the universe that all is as it should be.

The astrologer recognized that my intuition is often strong, but then I second guess or overanalyze the situation. In 2014, I will trust my intuition.

As a person who loves to think (see paragraph above), I am prone to frittering away the now.  The present moment is now. Enjoy it.

When we see each other this year, please ask how I’m doing with these guideposts, and remind me to trust you, trust my intuition, and be grateful for the now.

What are your three words for 2014?

Reflections on Turning 44: Live a Legacy

posted Aug 19, 2013, 10:53 AM by Tia Karelson   [ updated Mar 14, 2014, 2:53 PM ]

August 19, 2013

Like everyone else, I wonder how time moves so rapidly. Wasn’t I just 22? I like the symbolism of double 4s. It feels apt. In many ways, I feel like a 4-year old, or perhaps an 8-year old (4+4). The world is wide open, and I have much to learn.

This year is starting off with many new adventures. I began a consulting gig with a software company, and am teaching for the first time, Marketing Management to MBA students. I am also a graduation coach to a Minneapolis Public High School student.

The best thing about this age is that it still feels possible to try many new things, but there is the benefit of past experience. It is also a time where the past can come back to support you in unexpected ways. It is Market Karma.

Back in 1993, I started clerking in the Family Law Unit of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), a legal aid organization in St. Paul. I worked for an amazing woman, Sue Cochrane, who went on to become a Hennepin County Judicial Officer for 18 years before retiring to fight Stage 4 cancer. Through random circumstances, Sue and I reconnected, and she is now a Market Karma client. Her mission is to inject love and compassion into the court system, and also serve as an inspiration for others encountering difficult situations.

The other day I woke up in a terrible mood. I wasn’t feeling good about much of anything.  Sue came over that morning to work on a project. It is extraordinarily selfish on my part, but there is nothing like being inspired by a woman who is battling circumstances that most can’t fathom. Her energy and spirit are incredible. As we were working, I was supposed to type the words, “Leave a Legacy.” Instead, I typed, “Live a Legacy.” That typo turned into the biggest revelation of the day.  Sue and I looked at each other, and said, “That’s it!”

Living a legacy ties closely into a question I saw in a blog post, “Are you proud of the choices you made today?” I am proud of many of my choices over the past 44 years, but there is certainly room for improvement.  My goal for this year, and the years to come is to make choices of which I’m proud, and in the process, live a legacy. 

Business Card

posted Jun 9, 2013, 9:26 AM by Tia Karelson   [ updated Jun 9, 2013, 9:27 AM ]

June 9, 2013

What would it mean to you if someone held onto your business card for more than thirty years?

I recently saw a family friend for the first time in decades. This fifty-year old man made a point of sharing that he became an electrical engineer largely due to the influence of my father. He still has my father’s business card. My father conveyed his passion for the field, and took the time to explain to a teen-age boy what engineers do.

A few years ago, I ran into this friend’s brother at a party. He shared the same story. I don’t know that he has a business card, but he opted for engineering, albeit software engineering, because of my father.

These stories resonate with me so much because it’s my dad, but especially because he passed away in 1983 at the age of 59. I had just turned 14. My own memories are cloudy, filled with random tidbits. Daddy was handsome, smart, witty, a tennis player, a skier, a fisherman, a neatnik, and quite stoic. He had high expectations. He got annoyed if my eyes looked up at the ceiling when he asked me a question. Now, I would explain that’s a natural function of the brain. It means a person is thinking. Oh, and daddy was an electrical engineer. He worked at FMC, and rode a bicycle at work because the plant was so large. That was the extent of my knowledge. Daddy is still daddy because he passed away before I could adequately resent him as teen-age girls must resent their fathers. He never turned into dad or father. He always stayed daddy.

When I was in the sixth grade, daddy tried to explain the concept of pi to me, but I wasn’t interested. As I kid, I wanted the quick, easy answer while he tried to explain concept and theory. In high school, once I hit the more difficult math and science courses, I felt his absence acutely not just emotionally but intellectually. I still wanted the quick answer, but now he was not there to provide short or lengthy answers. I took calculus pass/fail to preserve my GPA.   

There are very few people in my life who ever met daddy, so the connections that remain are quite special. I am happy to know that daddy liked being an engineer. He did not have the opportunity to attend college until he was in his thirties. A thing called WWII, and fleeing his homeland of Estonia, got in the way. Once he arrived in the United States, he made a deliberate choice to pursue an education, and was wise enough to understand what he wanted to do. It’s wonderful to know he inspired a few teen-age boys at the point in their lives when they were ready to listen, even if his own daughter didn’t care for his lectures.

If we do things right, we can remain an inspiration long after we’re gone. Who in your life will hang onto your business card for 30 years? Maybe you know. Maybe you haven’t met them yet. 

Leaning In - Been There, Done That

posted May 28, 2013, 10:33 AM by Tia Karelson   [ updated May 28, 2013, 10:56 AM ]

April 23, 2013

Leaning In - Been There, Done That

Sheryl Sandberg deserves applause for writing “Lean In.” I’ve read it twice now, and both times came away feeling conflicted. Clearly, so have many others based on all the discussion the book has generated. Life is messy. You have to live with your choices.

Sandberg encourages women to make the choice to lean in at all stages of life. I believe she wants to believe that if we just lean in, women will ascend to leadership ranks.  She states up front that there is a chicken/egg issue when it comes to this issue. On the one hand, the egg (aka society) needs to change. On the other hand, the chicken (aka the woman) has to fight for the change. “I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations. I know it is not a perfect answer but a means to a desirable end.”  

Sandberg and I are the same age, born nine days apart. I am envious of her. Not of her education, status, or wealth. No, I am envious of her early life obliviousness. She acknowledges that in her youth she would never have labeled herself a feminist. She believed that the heavy lifting was done. Wow. Really? How did she get by unscathed? How did she not notice her surroundings? Sandberg says, “I figured if sexism still existed, I would just prove it wrong. I would do my job and do it well. What I didn’t know at the time was that ignoring the issue is a classic survival technique.”  

I recently listened to four successful women speak at a leadership conference. They ranged in age from 30-50+ with jobs as company presidents, media broadcasters, and financial services executives.  Every single one had stories of blatant sexism in the workplace. The 30-year old president of a multi-million dollar company shared that when she asked a client what the company could do to better serve its clients, his response was that she could raise her skirt.

Each woman said that the negative experiences made them stronger. They worked harder to earn respect. This makes me so angry. Working harder is not the answer to ending bad behavior. The idiot who behaves badly does not deserve that power. Guess what? If he’s an idiot with you, he’s an idiot with others. We all end up playing our individual games of whack-a-mole and the damn moles just pop up in someone else’s game. In high school, there was a social studies teacher who winked at the girls, but never the boys. Several of the girls discussed it, decided that we did not like it, but didn’t know what to do about it. One day in class in front of everyone, I asked, “Mr. D, can you help what you’re doing, or is the wink an involuntary response?” He never winked at me again. He still winked at the other girls. The whack just helped my game, not theirs.

How many times have we heard phrases like, “We’ll let them play if they can prove themselves?” or “Sure. If they think they can do it, then why not?” It’s put forth as egalitarian, but it’s asking girls and women to perform above and beyond without support, coaching or camaraderie. If we can’t produce immaculate results, then we do not deserve to play. In middle school, I joined the school chess club. I was the only girl. I was intimidated out of the club by a boy two years older and twice as big as me who deemed, “No girls allowed.” If memory serves correctly, he threatened physical harm if I dared to keep coming to meetings. I was a mediocre chess player, but wanted to get better. I thought joining the club would be fun and a good way to improve. I stuck it out for a few weeks, but the torment became too much. My parents bought me an electronic chess computer. His name was Alex. He let me play with him.

There were countless episodes in middle and high school of overt sexism. During senior year, I was up for a $1,000 scholarship, a significant sum in 1987. Two scholarships were to be awarded – one to a boy, one to a girl. Four men conducted my interview. Three were middle-aged probably in their 40s, maybe one in his 50s. Then there was an older gentleman who kept falling asleep. I do not remember any other question, except for this one: Did I plan to work or stay at home with the children? I was confused. What did this have to do with winning the scholarship? Were the boys being asked the same question? I rambled some answer that straddled the line. Like Sheryl Sandberg, I too would rather be liked that disliked, and didn’t want to offend any of them. I was behaving in the classic female mold.

After the interview, the other three girls in contention confirmed that they too were asked the question. The guys, however, were not asked whether they planned to have careers or stay at home. Surprise, surprise. This gnawed at me, so I asked my history teacher Mr. Sandberg (no relation to Sheryl), an incredible man, whether the question was acceptable. I never knew what happened behind the scenes, but the girl awarded the scholarship was the one of the four who told them that the question was not appropriate. I was so proud of her bravery. She did was I afraid to do, and she won the $1,000 scholarship. I received a $200 scholarship for an essay about the golden rule….do unto others.

I believe many women of Sandberg’s generation, my own generation, leaned in. I have a deep sense of sadness that sitting in the middle ranks of corporations are many women with enormous talent who for whatever reason did not fully realize their potential. They are not the women who stayed home, or held themselves back, or did not ask for assignments as Sandberg would have us believe. They are the spines, the backbone of corporate entities. If they stopped doing their jobs for just one day, their organizations would crumble. They are not the queen bees, but the worker bees.

Over the years, they’ve heard statements like, “You’re too valuable doing what you’re doing. We need you in this role.” Or, “You don’t want that job. It’s really not that great. You don’t want to be in all those meetings.” They were told to wait for a tap on the shoulder that never came. Maybe they were even slipped an under-the-table bonus occasionally to keep them going. Not that I’d know any of this from personal experience.

Many of these women are overstressed, overtired, and in some cases, overmedicated. They are done. They leaned in, and got nowhere. Their reward for doing their jobs well was more work, not a promotion or a pay raise. The image in my head is that they’re crunched up against a corner with their faces pushed against both the ceiling and the wall. They ran out of places to go.

Sandberg concludes the book by encouraging women to bring their whole selves to work. “I think we benefit from expressing our truth, talking about personal situations, and acknowledging that professional decisions are often emotionally driven.” The “Lean In” conflict is that she spends much of the book offering helpful advice about changing the world by changing how we respond to the existing framework, but then tells us to bring our whole selves to work. Be yourself but not too much of yourself. That is a delicate balancing act.  

The healthier you are, the more productive, and happier you are. While Sandberg does call on men to do their share, she does not take on our 24/7 work culture. What is the cost of never stopping? I’m glad Mark Zuckerberg plays with her kids when she brings them to the office. That’s awesome. But bringing kids to the office is not a realistic option for most folks, moms or dads. Redefining our work culture will go a long way toward feeling as if it’s worth leaning in. This part of the book was so disappointing. Sandberg made headlines when she shared that many nights she leaves the office at 5:30 p.m., but she feels the need to justify her actions by declaring that Facebook is available 24/7, and so is she.  If you are available 24/7 to an entity, what hours are you available to the humans in your life?

Despite my own experience, I want to believe that the current and up-and-coming generations will fare better. Sandberg concentrates on leaning in to corporations and government entities. Those are the worlds she knows. An opportunity for women is to lean in to start their own organizations. Perhaps working for well-known entrepreneurs, Sandberg will find ways to encourage and support women with founding their own organizations. Starting from scratch is a way to thwart institutionalized barriers and the 24/7 work culture. Sometimes you don’t have to just change how you play the game; you have to change the game.

TED Talk Link:

Sheryl Sandberg – Why we have too few women leaders

Women’s History Month

posted May 28, 2013, 10:32 AM by Tia Karelson   [ updated Mar 14, 2014, 3:44 PM ]

March 26, 2013

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month.  It’s been a busy month. The conversation about Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean in” has been going on for weeks. My Amazon order will arrive soon. PBS aired the documentary “Makers,” a history of the women’s movement.  Watch it. You will be alternately inspired and frustrated. And sadly, March saw the death of Bonnie Franklin who portrayed single mom Ann Romano on “One Day at a Time.”  Find a rerun.

Each of these events is a reminder that the conversation continues. The personal is political.


Women’s History Month -

Makers Documentary -

“Lean In” – Sheryl Sandberg -

In remembrance: Bonnie Franklin -

Flailing Companies Choose Wrong Target

posted May 28, 2013, 10:31 AM by Tia Karelson

February 28, 2013

Flailing Companies Choose Wrong Target

Letter-to-the Editor appeared in February 28, 2013 Star Tribune

Vengefulness, Despair, Celebration

posted May 28, 2013, 10:30 AM by Tia Karelson

February 1, 2013

Vengefulness, Despair, Celebration

I just finished reading Nora Ephron’s “Wallflower at the Orgy,” a collection of articles she wrote in the late 1960s. It is a wonderful time capsule covering fashion, food, literature and movies. My favorite piece is the December 1968 Mike Nichols interview. Fresh off directing “The Graduate” he says, “I think when people do things, they do them out of a variety of motives. Let’s say, arbitrarily for a minute, you can divide why people act into three motives: vengefulness, despair, and celebration. Dig?”

First off, how long has it been since you’ve heard someone say, “Dig?” Love that. But in all seriousness, I’ve shared and thought about these words every day since reading them.

What is that drives our behavior? What is that motivates a business? Businesses struggling to transform have difficulty acting from a place of celebration. Often, they are transforming not because it is invigorating and exciting, but because it is an economic necessity. There are elements of vengefulness since they are fighting the competition, and despair because the change is forced.

I started Market Karma as a way to transform my life, not just to build a business. I was tired of corporate life. The idea of doing something until retirement because it is what I know, and theoretically provides economic security was no longer enough.

I also questioned whether I could find happiness in yet another corporate environment. I asked a friend who recently retired how many truly happy moments she had had at work. She was stumped. Another friend said work and happiness aren’t supposed to go together. Sadly, part of me agrees with that. I grew up with the notion that work is drudgery. It is something you do because you have to do it.  It is not about growing, learning, creating, socializing, laughing, discovering, and certainly not having fun or being happy.   

Market Karma grew out of this despair, and to be honest, a bit of vengefulness. Or to be crasser, “Fuck you.” This is the feminist rant part of the post. Skip to the end if you prefer.  A few years ago, a male executive advised me to be “male and territorial” before presenting to a group of male executives. If I could put on an objective hat, I would realize this says much more about him than it does about me. But it still threw me, and needless to say, it was one of my poorer performances. A friend of mine who does talent management was appalled. He kept asking, “You know this is bad, Tia. Don’t you?” I did know it was bad. I also knew that it was not the first time I had received that message. It was just more overt than usual.

In the interview, Nichols goes on to say that much of his behavior has been driven by “I’ll get you bastards” but feels it is changing, although he doubts he’ll ever achieve celebration.  I wonder how he feels 40+ years later?

It is hard for me to write that Market Karma emerged partially from vengefulness. I am not a naturally vengeful person. I do not spend hours plotting revenge against those who have wronged me. If someone brings up a story of a particular person who caused me aggravation in the workplace, I have forgotten that person exists. My revenge is ignoring their LinkedIn invitations.

While Market Karma may have emerged from a combination of despair and vengefulness, it is moving forward in a spirit of celebration. The current Eels song “New Alphabet” has a fantastic lyric, “When the world stops making sense, I make a new alphabet.” Market Karma is my new alphabet. It can be yours too. Let’s have some fun while figuring out ways to grow your business. Maybe we’ll discover some happiness too. And it is ok if you are male and territorial. Just recognize and respect that I am neither.

On a side note, I just started reading “Love Goes to Building on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever” by Will Hermes. The five years are 1973-1978. The New York depicted is a world away from Nora Ephron’s late 1960s New York. I wonder if Nora ever got to CBGB’s? 

Lessons Learned in 2012

posted May 28, 2013, 10:30 AM by Tia Karelson

December 26, 2012

Lessons Learned in 2012

2012 saw the birth of Market Karma LLC, a strategic marketing consultancy that specializes in identifying new revenue and product development opportunities for growing businesses. These are the lessons learned during the first year of business. Some relate to business, some relate to life.

·         A well-written proposal gives away just enough, but not so much that they can proceed without you

·         Get paid a portion up front. Clients, whether small businesses or billion dollar corporations need prodding to pay invoices

·         Ignore the noise – find a few things to do well, get rid of the rest. And remember you have the freedom to change

·         Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary (blatantly stolen from a few wise women)

·         Remember why you’re doing it

·         Volunteer

·         If you meet someone you don’t like, but feel she could be a good connection, walk away. Listen to your gut

·         Avoid large group networking events that are not specific to your expertise or interests.  Waste of time, money and energy

·         Pay attention to what is working more than to what is not

·         Get out of your head

·         Twitter is fun (Check out Twitter handle @MarketKarmaLLC)

·         Little goals are easier to achieve, and can lead to big accomplishments

·         Believe

Finally, 2012 saw the death of a dear friend, a close friend’s spouse, and my godmother. While work was mentioned at each memorial, it served as a reference point. When the world is turbulent, and the economy uncertain, it is easy to work, work, work. That is a path to a shorter existence, and less time to create memories with friends and family. There is another bonus to pulling back. The work gets better.

If your business needs to identify and execute new revenue opportunities, Market Karma is available.  

Giving Thanks for Dignity

posted May 28, 2013, 10:29 AM by Tia Karelson

November 16, 2012

Giving Thanks for Dignity

Last week I spent a day at our beautiful, LEED-certified Central Library in downtown Minneapolis learning about economic development. A fantastic video touted the many wonderful reasons to live in and bring business to Minnesota, including our bike paths, theatres, high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, and high quality workforce. By the end, I was sold. I wanted to live and work here. Lucky for me, I do.

But during a break, where I perused the library’s fiction section, I overheard a troubling non-fiction conversation. Two men discussed their living situations in local shelters. One lamented the deplorable conditions of the shelter bathroom, full of urine; with an odor so strong he could not bring himself to open the door.

The contrast of his circumstance with the economic development conversation is a startling reminder that, promotional video notwithstanding, all is not picture perfect.

November is a month of giving thanks. As I contemplate all the things for which I am grateful, big and small, I now add basic dignity to that list. Moving forward, a personal goal is to do more to improve the lives of all citizens in our community. 

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