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Charley Harper tiles at Motawi Tileworks, Ann Arbor - Doug Coombe | Hide Photo

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Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw

Concentrate gets in touch with its anima. We've invited five local women, all movers and shakers, to weigh in on what it means for them to do business in the new economy. It's in recognition of the Women's Exchange of Washtenaw's May 15th annual forum, "Now We're Talking".

Post 5: Carole Baker - Taking the WORK out of Networking

I’m a company of one. I help other companies manage their finances, track them, understand them, put financial structure in place. I used to look at NETWORKING a little bit like ice skating. I could do it… get around the rink, get around a networking event. But I didn’t really like it (sorry all you hockey folks and figure skaters), and I didn’t feel terribly good at it. I was clumsy and awkward and a little unsteady on my feet. But about 18 months ago I started working with and attending events with the WXW and that changed.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t magically cured, and yes, I still suck at ice skating. But I discovered something about networking this way. The focus isn’t on the networking, or on being the audience at a big TALK. It’s on problem solving, which as a numbers girl, I totally get. A group of really interesting and talented women come together and talk about their business experiences around a particular topic. At one event, you might be the mentor because you and your partner have just written a brilliant vision for your company. But you’re having trouble developing a team to implement that vision, so at the next event on leadership, you’re a SPONGE.

Has this problem solving affected my business directly?  Yes. About two months ago, a client of mine purchased a new business and asked me for some counsel on getting started. He was going through the typical steps, business planning, deciding on an organizational structure, setting up banking relationships, establishing a web presence, creating his financial structure. He needed to do a fair amount of commercial printing each week. Not all of these things were exactly within my purview but as an Ann Arbor Lifer, I have been involved in the Washtenaw County business community for a long time and rattled off a few names of people he could contact on the various topics. It struck me after the fact that 5 of 7 names I had given him were people I had either met, or regularly came into contact with through WXW.

So no, networking hasn’t become a completely painless effort for me. But it is a hell of a lot less work...


Carole is an Ann Arbor native with a BA in French from Carleton College and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

"I’ve been drawn to and worked in the small business environment throughout my career and recognized that there is a niche between a firm’s internal accounting staff and its CPA that many companies do not fill. Their owners and managers have a technical expertise in their individual passion: software design, web development, chocolate making, custom clothing, but not necessarily in business management. It is into that niche that Solutions First fits, bringing hands on business and financial management skills to firms that may not have the need or the wherewithal to hire a full time CFO."

In addition to serving as the Treasurer of the WXW, Carole also sits on the Board of Directors of Lurie Terrace and Neighborhood Senior Services.


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