Change can be exciting and positive. It promotes new ideas and ways of thinking. It breaks monotony. It presents new opportunities. And of course, it encourages new people to grow and shine.
NAWBO National knows this well. That’s why every year when we install our National Board of Directors, we’re so incredibly thankful for the women who have previously served and what they have accomplished together, but also excited for the leadership shift and what it will mean for the future of this great organization of women entrepreneurs.
Next month, the 2017-2018 National Board of Directors will be installed and Kathy Warnick, who has served on the board for many years as an officer and treasurer as well as on the National Presidents Assembly Steering Committee and the NAWBO-Columbus board, will step into the role of NAWBO National Board Chair.
Kathy founded Warnick Consultants after more than 15 years in increasingly responsible positions with organizations such as the Ohio Hospital Insurance Company, Ruscilli Construction Company and Matan, Geer & Wright, a criminal defense law firm. Based on her diverse background, she built her business on the core principle of refusing to believe that one size fits all and that every business has a unique set of needs for its financial and operational systems.
Here, we spoke to Kathy about her new opportunity to serve NAWBO and women entrepreneurs as well as why other women should consider getting more involved:
If you could change one thing to open more doors for women entrepreneurs, what would it be and why?
We cannot be afraid to be heard, to be seen. One of my favorite quotes is, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” I don’t advocate disrespect or outright defiance (except when it’s needed), but I do believe we have to raise our voices, support one another and create pressure. Only then will we effect change. I spent a great deal of my childhood not having a voice. I have not allowed that to define me as an adult woman, a business owner and a leader. I would hope that I model that for other women entrepreneurs, as well.
You’re about to make another change—stepping into the position of NAWBO National Board Chair. What are you most looking forward to achieving during your year leading the National Board?
Working for the past four or so years on the National Board has been a life-changing experience for me. I have met people I otherwise may never have had the opportunity to meet, such as political figures, Fortune 100 business owners and hundreds of women business owners across the country. Through all of this, the board has seen business from every perspective imaginable and we have worked very hard to implement policy, programming and member benefits that would increase the value of NAWBO membership. We have increased corporate sponsorships at the National level to infuse the organization with cash and resources to be able to support even more women business owners. In the past few years, we have added staff to support the growing organization, and also to increase our visibility and reach. We have overhauled the bylaws, and ramped up our public policy initiatives. We have come together as a rock-solid board. And we’ve activated NAWBO’s 501(c)3 foundation, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Development. We are currently building the curriculum for an online educational platform to aid WBOs in scaling to the next level. As Chair of NAWBO National, I am excited to continue this forward momentum and meet the strategic initiatives put forth by this same board.
How long have you served in NAWBO leadership positions now and what’s the greatest benefit you have received from doing so?
I’ve been a NAWBO member for almost 15 years. Within a couple of months of joining, I became a committee chair. Shortly after, I was asked to take on the role of treasurer, and then was asked to consider serving on the president’s track, culminating in being the local chapter president. The Presidents Assembly Steering Committee was formed during my term as president-elect and I was asked to serve on the inaugural committee, which led to serving for three years. I also served on the Nominating Committee for the National Board twice. From there, I was elected to the National Board, where I have had the privilege of serving and meeting women business owners all over the country. After being elected to the National Board for two terms, I am wrapping it up with a term as Chair. The greatest benefit I have received from serving in a leadership capacity is that I have a phenomenal network across the country that I can call on when I need to and they will take my call. I so love the positive impact that NAWBO has on the women’s business community here in the U.S. and now internationally.
What’s your advice to other women entrepreneurs who are thinking of getting involved in NAWBO leadership?
This organization has been amazing for my personal development and for my business development, but I do not do this simply to get business. I believe it is important to approach my roles in NAWBO as a servant leader. You must want to support the mission of NAWBO first—to help other women grow in their businesses—and what you need will come back to you. Sometimes the greatest return I get from my leadership roles in NAWBO is strictly personal, whether it’s something I’ve learned to make me a better wife, mother, friend or citizen, or whether it’s a friend. There are women in this organization who are more than happy with their own accounting and bookkeeping providers and we have never had a discussion about whether they should do business with me. They’ve simply become my friends.
When you were first introduced to NAWBO, what made you want to join, and what makes you want to remain an active member today?
As many of us do when we’re launching our businesses, I worked from a home-based office. I started Warnick Consultants 20 years ago, and it was only me in those first few years. I felt confident in my skill and the service levels I provided to my clients, but I didn’t always feel confident when dealing with the business of being a business owner. I felt isolated. Sometimes, okay, many times, I felt unsure of the decisions I was making. I needed someone to bounce ideas off of and share frustrations and successes with, someone who could relate. While my husband supported my business, he had a tendency to want to solve my problems, not listen to me as I worked through them. I was invited to attend a monthly NAWBO-Columbus meeting and discovered that I was not alone. I met a couple of women with whom I immediately connected and decided to attend the next meeting. I feel as if I have added to my family. I am passionate about assisting small business owners to be successful and I am doubly passionate about helping WBOs. I believe NAWBO has so much to offer the WBO community and I am honored to be a part of that growth.
What other women’s or community causes are important to you and what are you doing to support them?
In addition to my work with NAWBO, both nationally and locally, I am proud to have most recently been involved with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA). I am so passionate about the program, not only for what it does for young women, but also all young people, that I devoted a lot of time and resources to ensure that it had an engaged and equally passionate program manager. After lobbying to bring YEA to Columbus, I supported my office manager as the program manager, allowing her to do a lot of the work while she was “on the clock.” It was important to have someone be rewarded as much as possible, both intrinsically and financially. I also tapped into my contacts for speakers, instructors and mentors. Fifty young entrepreneurs and three graduating classes later, I am thrilled that we have sent three young women to the national competition to demonstrate their business concepts to a panel of judges for prizes and scholarship dollars.
I recently completed a three-year term on the board of the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, where I wrote the organization’s finance and accounting policies. Along with this, I also had the pleasure and privilege to meet so many wonderful women going through the WSBA’s programs. I had the opportunity to speak on the importance of having accountants and bookkeepers engaged in a business in the earliest stages, as well as mentoring and coaching many of the early stage entrepreneurs.
Because of the demands on my time in my national NAWBO role, I don’t get an opportunity to actively and physically support other organizations, so currently I am electing to support them through financial donations.
What’s something interesting or surprising about you that most people don’t know?
I believe education is the key to growth and opportunity. My husband and I want to join an organization like the Peace Corp when we retire so we can share all we’ve learned about business with those seeking opportunities. I believe we all have an obligation to share our knowledge. It is so important to reach back and help others move forward. It can be life changing.