Top Businesswomen of America

Between them, the top five businesswomen of last year represent a wide variety of skills and backgrounds.

From food and beverage companies to cosmetic product businesses, these modern leaders prove that success can manifest from multiple walks of life. This year marked a new face in the leading businesswoman spot, and some familiar faces closely follow. Though each powerhouse leader differs in decisions made and companies led, one thing all of them have in common is their presence on the Fortune 500 list.

Irene Rosenfeld

The Chief Executive Officer of Kraft Foods is the number one businesswoman of last year for good reason. The native New Yorker holds a PhD. in Marketing and Statistics, making her an expert ideal for any business team. She also holds a Masters Degree in Science of Business and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Rosenfeld may have once made her mark by acquiring new companies into the fold of Kraft Foods, but the 58-year-old took Fortune’s number-one spot when she cut Kraft into two entities. 

Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo’s Chief Executive Officer and chairwoman led the pack as 2010’s top businesswoman of the year. Her continued efforts to meet market demands for healthier options and nutrition-based beverages have kept her company well ahead of her competition. Nooyi , an Indian-American, routinely makes the annual list of the World’s Most Powerful Women. The business magnate joined PepsiCo in 1994 and holds a Master’s Degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management.

Patricia Woertz

Another food company Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Woertz also serves as president and chairwoman of Archer Daniels Midland. 58-year-old Woertz led oil company Chevron as Vice President and worked as an accountant before she took on this agricultural processing business. Big boosts in the demand of Archer Daniels Midland’s key products, such as wheat and corn, helped fuel Woertz’s company’s success this year, but the Pennsylvania native’s experience and education at Penn State University surely played a pivotal role as well.

Ellen Kullman

 Ellen Kullman is one of the top businesswomen of 2011 for good reason. This chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of Dupont has nearly tripled her company’s stock shares in just two years on the job. Kullman’s focus on nutritional content over the company’s previous chemical affixation has resulted in positive reception from the public as well. The Delaware native holds a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering from Tufts University and a Master’s Degree in management from Northwestern University.

Angela Braly

Wellpoint’s Chief Executive Officer, chairwoman, and president is the only top businesswoman of 2011 who works in an industry other than food products. The health insurance mogul provides services for more than 10 percent of Americans and has taken on Medicare customers this year as well. Texas-born Braly’s previous experience includes serving as a partner at a law firm after earning her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University School of Law. Braly also graduated from Texas Tech University.

As the business demands and economic climate continue to grow and change, so too will the women who earn spots on the annual top businesswomen lists. Food products and healthcare continue to be vital necessities for Americans, providing business leaders in these sectors security that other company leaders may only long to obtain. Experiences and strategies demonstrated by the top businesswomen of 2011, however, may serve both the women who executed them as well as future leaders who look up to these women today.

Convince Them in 90 Seconds by Nicholas Boothman

A useful book for those with no social skills

During the last three months, I’ve browsed through and read approximately 47 business self help-books (give or take three.) Most are full of crap: wear business casual clothes to an interview, be polite and ensure that you do not have any hang nails during job interviews. Other books offer more practical business and interviewing advice and still others offer advice that may be applicable in more than just business.

I just finished “Convince Them in 90 Seconds” by Nicholas Boothman and while I have yet to test out the principles in his book, I am confident that his ideas are more practical than those contained in most books. Nicholas Boothman’s idea is that people decide who they trust and like within seconds of meeting them. Instead of just analyzing yourself as most self-help books do, he suggests doing experiments on other people instead. In one chapter, he suggests that his readers go to a public place and rate the people they see based on certain personality traits without even talking to them.

The book “Convince Them in 90 Seconds” also contains a multitude of ways for people to increase their EQ by making sure that their body language is open and matches the communication that they are trying to portray. Crossed arms are supposedly a no-no and eye contact is a must.

Another strong piece of advice in “Convince Them in 90 Seconds” is the art of listening, which many in the business world and elsewhere have failed to master. Nicholas Boothman cites the example of a young woman who had dinner back-to-back with two accomplished men of equal intelligence in stature. One had her believing that she was equally accomplished and the other just talked endlessly about his own accomplishments. As Nicholas Boothman observes, no one really likes or trusts a blow hard and everyone likes to be listened to.

In “Convince Them in 90 Seconds,” the author also writes about four different personality types: the Dreamer, the Analyst, the Persuader and the Controller. Each type has their own strength and weakness.

The idea that social skills can be taught is relatively new and is important in today’s tech-driven society. People who haven’t interacted as much with others need to learn how to meet and greet others, whether it is for a job interview, a new job, or at a social engagement. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that social skills don’t matter.

"Dealing With People You Can't Stand"

I wish I had read this book YEARS ago!

I have always been a bookish girl. Which is why I'm so dismayed that it took me so long to realize that, if you don't really get what's going on or how to handle a person or situation in life, you can find a book to tell you what to do. If there's one thing I could go back in time and tell myself, that would be it: if you're stumped in a social situation, find a book to help you through it!
I found myself stumped in a social situation recently. After browsing through Amazon recommendations, I settled on this book. And I'm so glad that I did.

This book, as I'm sure you can guess, is all about how to recognize and cope with difficult people. It is geared towards the business world, which means that (unlike some business self-help books) its usefulness in everyday life is limited. But as far as dealing with difficult people in office situations, Dealing With People You Can't Stand is exceptional. 

The authors take an analytical approach to the subject, and lay out specific strategies and scripts. They also make it clear that, in dealing with a difficult person, YOU are the one who has to change. This can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's true: the difficult person isn't going to change, so if you want the situation to improve, you have to take responsibility for it. 
I also like the fact that the book begins by deciphering what the deal is with each difficult personality type (they identify 10 basic tropes). Without using a lot of jargon or cutesy language, the authors break down what fundamental goals and beliefs are driving each trope. This alone demystifies human behavior enough to help bridge the understanding gap. The book then goes on to explain how you need to change in order to best cope with each trope.
Basically, this is a walkthrough and cheat code for each difficulty level.
It begins by breaking down each personality by where it falls on a Cartesian coordinate system. The X axis is Passive -> Aggressive, and the Y axis is Task-Oriented versus People-Oriented. Thus we learn that the Tank belongs in the Aggressive/Task-Oriented quadrant. Further explication reveals that the Tank is frantic to complete a task, and furious at anything they perceive as an obstacle, upon which they will open fire without discretion, in an attempt to shift the perceived obstacle. 
Your best strategy when dealing with a Tank, therefore, is to step aside and make it clear that you are focused on completing the task with a minimum of extraneous information or "noise." 
I am genuinely grateful to the authors for having written this book! And I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has to deal with difficult people. Which is to say, everyone.

Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy

If you feel like you're drowning, Eat That Frog feels like a lifeguard coming to the rescue - and teaching you how to surf your way back to shore!
When you get right to the heart of most business productivity books, it all comes down to procrastination. All of your "Getting Things Done" and Stephen Covey methods are all just a means to break your procrastination habit. In which case, I think it's well worth while to go straight to a book which addresses the problem head on. Subtitled "21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time," Eat That Frog is dedicated to giving you the kick in the pants that you (if you are like 98% of humanity) probably need.
Make no mistake: this book is boot camp. It doesn't coddle the reader, lead you gently to conclusions, or lavish you with testimonials and "Diane is facing a big project" mini-stories that are the convention in other productivity books. Tracy just lays it out: 21 ways to identify what you need to do, and which order you need to do it in. 

In many ways, this book is refreshing. I appreciate the overall lack of jargon, although I got a little queasy every time he drops a frog-eating reference. It's gross, but it gets your attention in a way a lot of the other, more touchy-feely books do not.
Like all great concepts. Eat That Frog's method seems obvious in hindsight. Put simply, you list all your activities for the day, week, month, and year. Then prioritize those tasks. Which ones do you have to do, or else something genuinely dire will happen? And at the other end of the spectrum, which tasks don't REALLY need to be done at all?
Then do your tasks in order of priority. End of story.
In my case, the book pegged me right off as being one of those people who can flit around endlessly doing the small, easy, yet meaningless tasks - while putting off the difficult, high-value tasks until the very end. This is not a non-judgmental book. In fact, in places it is very judgmental. Tracy calls people who get stuck in this pattern "losers." What can I say? The truth hurts.
Eat That Frog can seem a bit off-putting at times. But it's like medicine: it doesn't always taste good, but sometimes you need it. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone else who could use some motivation, or who feels overwhelmed by all the millions of tasks that seem to bury us on a day to day basis. If you feel like you're drowning, Eat That Frog feels like a lifeguard coming to the rescue - and teaching you how to surf your way back to shore!

Who Moved My Cheese | Tasty Advice

Sometimes business books are about the latest and greatest. Sometimes they look at a problem from a different angle or perspective. Sometimes they are just classic bits of literature that everyone should read at least once and take to heart. “Who Moved My Cheese” is one of those. One of the really good ones that you read and have an Oprah-esque light bulb moment. You can read and re-read it, gleaning another kernel of knowledge each time. Yup. It’s that good.

Written way back in 1998, before the Y2K scare, “Who Moved My Cheese” takes a look at what motivates people and what happens when things get turned upside. The author uses the story of two mice and two mini people in a giant maze. Life works one way with the cheese, but when someone moves it everyone reacts differently. Are you the type of person that handles change well or does it stress you out? Modern managers need to be flexible. They need to think on their feet, adapt and make quick yet wise decisions.

Change does not have to cause sweaty palms, faster heartbeats and a general sense of fear. Change can be good. Change can shake things up and make them better. At the very least, this book will give you the skills to see how those around you react to change and shed some light on how to best address the situation. At best, you will learn some things about yourself and improve as both a manager and as a person. 

Ways to Choose Your Next Business Book Club Book

Business book clubs are designed to benefit everybody, not just you. You probably already know that, but just in case you don't, today is a good time to learn. So how can you choose books that your entire staff will enjoy? Try some of the tips below.


Read business blogs and magazines to find out what other companies are doing. You can also attend seminars or hire a specialist who deals with this type of thing. If you aren't having any luck, Google terms like “The Best Business Book Club Books” and see what comes up. You might get some pretty decent results.


Create an anonymous poll and hand a copy out to each member of your team. Ask questions about specific book titles, as well as topics and ideas, that they would like to read and discuss. This is one of the best ways to find out what your staff actually wants.


If you don't trust them to choose appropriate books on their own, create a large list of business-friendly books and pass it around. Each month, a different employee gets to pick the book that the entire company will read. Consider making it a reward, like the employee of the month gets to pick the book.


Every time your team finishes reading a book, ask what they thought about it. Did they like it? Why or why not? Would they recommend it to a friend or coworker? If the answer is no, you should probably avoid similar books in the future.

Fish | Morale Booster or Office Divider

When the book, Fish, came out in 2000, it was an instant best-seller. It had all the pop culture lingo that people loved and was a fast-paced read, which always helps business people perpetually short on time. I worked in a real estate office back then. A very cut throat real estate office. My boss found Fish one Saturday afternoon while wandering through a bookstore. She read it and the next thing you know our whole office was “going Fish”. There were Fish balloons, Fish groups, Fish meetings, Fish you-name-its!  

 It was supposed to build morale. I mean, it said so right on the cover. It didn’t. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the book. It was great and hit all those key points that need to be covered if you want to run an effective and, more importantly, a cohesive team. However, in our case, it happened so fast. People were being “instructed” to read the book, whether they had time or not. Whether they wanted to or not. They got offended because they did like being told what to do. Unfortunately, the people that read it and understood the excitement ending up getting offended as well. They couldn’t understand why the other half did not want to play along.

So, review: great book, great ideas, great read. Warning: if you want to introduce the Fish concept to your office, try not to do it in the course of just one week. It needs to happen slowly to allow everyone to adjust. And, really, being forced to do something isn’t part of the Fish philosophy anyway.


Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

No matter what type of business you are in, chances are you have a website and you are using social media to help you promote it and increase your business.  But do you actually know what you are doing and how to be successful?  Maybe you have done a bit of research, but maybe you haven’t. 

I highly recommend checking out a book about social media to help you.  Likable Social Media seems like it is a good place to start as you want to be liked on social media and not be seen as spamming those who may be following you – that is one of the surest ways to lose your readers.  While this book focuses on Facebook, you can use a lot of these techniques on other sites.  And of course, you can always link to those other sites back to your Facebook if that is your preferred sites to use.   You will get real life examples that Dave has used himself in managing a variety of social media accounts so you know that you are getting information that works.

One thing to keep in mind is that even though it is current, July 2011, social media sites are always changing.  Facebook has made several changes in the last few months as to how the site works and how it displays your feed to those that follow you.  But this book will still help you get started and give you a lot of advice to help you get your social media accounts running well and hopefully helping your business to be more successful.

Raving Fans | A Good Place To Start


It seems to me that a book like Raving Fans should be where all business students should start. Start the learning process. Start the understanding process. Before they try to influence people, work for just four hours and develop some effective habits for themselves, they should read a book like Raving Fans and think about their customers.

That’s right. One of the best books for business in print educates you not on how to make money, but on what you can do for your customers.  Obviously, without a little thing called customers there would be no business and treating them well, scratch that, treating them like kings should be top priority. Somewhere along the way this minor detail was forgotten. I think we can look at things like Enron, Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers to realize that.

From small business to big business, it’s all about the customer. Always has been, always will be. Written almost 20 years ago, Raving Fans has just as much to offer today as it did in 1993. In fact, the concept of customer service is probably more needed now. As our economy forces consumers to make tough decisions about where they spend their hard earned money, more and more of those decisions will be based on not just price, but also service.

Another point this book drives home is the concept of the “internal customer”. Reminding everyone that your co-worker is also a customer creates a friendly work-environment, which is a much needed break from the horrendous work environments that end up on the evening news.

Do yourself a favor, whether you are an old hat or a newbie, read and RE-read Raving Fans. Today.

Liar’s Poker

A book about the people behind Wall Street

Liar’s Poker” is yet another book about Wall Street in the 1980s. Movie, music and books have depicted this time of crazy profits, wild stories of the men of Wall Street and how in their own way the whole group was setting the country up for some failure in the future, and yet “Liar’s Poker” is in a whole class of its own. The book is written by Michael Lewis and is a firsthand account of his time in in the 1980s in Wall Street. A graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, Martin was a prime candidate to quickly rise through the ranks at Salomon Brothers and he tells of it all in his book “Liar’s Poker”.

Lewis focuses a lot on what it is like to be lower on the totem pole in Wall Street and uncover the stuff you would never be told about in an interview if you ever considered working on Wall Street. He describes layoffs in 1987, conflicts, management tactics and more. Although Lewis did eventually become a successful producer, his stories are more about the view from the bottom which makes his book unique and interesting.

Another thing I particularly liked about “Liar’s Poker” is that every page and story is trickled with humor. It is nice to be able to laugh along with the author as he describes a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Fortunately Lewis is a very good writer and fun to read which is not true of all Wall Street books. Don’t worry about being swept away in lingo. If you pick up a copy of “Liar’s Poker” you are in for a treat.