Q&A With Jeanette Armbrust, New NAWBO National Board Chair for 2019-2020

Jul 17, 2019 | Advocacy, Uncategorized

There’s truth to the famous Confucius quote, “Choose a job you love and you won’t work a day in your life.” The same can hold true for preventing burnout. When we enjoy our work, we’re more likely to feel inspired, energized and purposeful.

This certainly resonates with Jeanette Armbrust, who recently stepped into the role of our 2019-2020 NAWBO National Board Chair when we installed our new Board of Directors in June. Jeanette joined NAWBO nine years ago and has served on the National board as treasurer as well as on the NAWBO-Columbus board as chapter president.

Jeanette started her own business, Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio, in 2001 and grew it to an award-winning $7 million company. She was named as one of the 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year by Enterprising Women magazine and the SBA Small Business Woman of the Year. She is also a member of Executive Women International and WELD, and was the co-founder and director of the Columbus Young Entrepreneurs Academy. She has since sold her company and moved to Los Angeles, she continues to draw on her entrepreneurial spirit as managing director of Skyline Greater LA, and now as our 2019-2020 NAWBO National Board Chair.

As we welcomed Jeanette among our new National Board of Directors, we asked her about her aspirations for her term, and how she plans to stay motivated and inspired to lead the charge:

How has Immediate Past Chair Molly Gimmel and the work she’s done as part of the National Board inspired you as you step into your time as Chair?

Every Chair has their own challenges to face and issues to address, and I was impressed by Molly’s ability to handle every exciting opportunity with grace. Not only was she a strong leader, but she also left her thumbprint. We’re all fortunate that she left NAWBO better than she found it. I think that’s the goal of every National Board Chair.  

If you could achieve three things during your year as National Board Chair, what would they be and why?

I’m a future-forward visionary person. So first, I’m taking a look at where we are currently and where we want to be in five to 10 years. That means exploring how we will continue to stay relevant to our members of all ethnicities and ages. Our overall NAWBO membership is multi-generational now so we need to continue to grow with that in mind. Secondly, I want to further NAWBO’s stance in public policy and advocacy. That’s an important facet of NAWBO, and I want to carry on that legacy by advocating on behalf of all women who own small businesses. And finally, I plan to continue to serve NAWBO members on their path of continued success. Like Molly Gimmel, I want to leave a legacy and leave NAWBO in a strong position for continued growth.

Why do you think every woman business owner needs to be part of NAWBO?

There are two reasons that jump out in my mind. One is the relationships women can establish with like-minded women. Before I joined the organization, I didn’t have any friends who understood my professional life. My circle of friends were from high school and college or they were parents of my children’s friends. They never had to handle employees, cost of goods, payroll, etc. It’s like they say, “It’s lonely at the top.” Once I was introduced to NAWBO, I found my people. I was able to let my hair down and share ideas openly and honestly. The other reason to join is because membership provides a unique opportunity for women business owners to learn, grow and improve their leadership skills. Since I became an associate at the local chapter level and national level, my employees have noticed how collaborative I’ve become. I am a better leader because I am challenged by these women at NAWBO. Plus, women never outgrow NAWBO; many want to pay it forward and help those walking in their footprints.

What strengths or skills have you gained in your career that you are able to apply to your role as National Board Chair?

I believe that NAWBO gets the right leader when she’s needed. I started my company, Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio, from scratch, grew it to a decent size with multiple layers and divisions and then sold it. So, I relate to all levels of business, and I’ve gained the leadership skills to help run NAWBO efficiently. I thrive in an environment that brings out my talents—a conductor of people and projects. I feel that I have a unique capacity to manage many pieces and parts of an organization with a sharp, competitive edge. I stay focused and dedicated on delivering solution-based results. I think that people respond to my leadership style because I’m strong and fair, yet compassionate and collaborative. And I think that’s what motivates and empowers people.

The theme of this issue is “Avoiding Burnout.” How do you stay motivated and inspired?

I believe the saying is true—that at the end of life, no one wishes they would have worked more. I make sure to put family first and schedule time for myself. My “perfect day off” starts with coffee, then onto retail therapy (I’m the thrift shopping queen!), lunch and relaxing with a good book. I also enjoy working in my garden at home with roses, herbs and a dozen orchids that bloomed this past spring. From a professional perspective, I work from home every Monday, which allows me quiet time to strategize, think outside the box and view my business from 36,000 feet. Taking time to myself benefits everyone—my family, my business and myself.

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