This month, we got the chance to sit down with some of our NAWBO members who were honored among this year’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award winners. Every year, Enterprising Women magazine recognizes the world’s top women entrepreneurs for their business growth, support of women and girls in entrepreneurship and leadership in their communities.
We’re so proud of these inspiring NAWBO sisters and all they have accomplished so far. Read on for their business insights and top advice on how to grow your business to the next level.
Mary Lawrence, Richards Graphic Communications Inc.
Rochelle Rivas, DARTON Group Consulting
Michelle DeClerck, Conference Event Management
Kimberly Baeth, Golden Openings, Inc.
Sue Hawkes, Success Strategies
Elizabeth Blount McCormick, UNIGLOBE Travel Designers
Lenora Payne, Technology Group Solutions
Patricia Shall, Creative Benefits & Insurance Solutions, LC
Theresa Payton, Fortalice
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO PUSH FURTHER AS A BUSINESS OWNER?
Mary Lawrence: “The simple answer is…the past and the future! My grandmother ran our company for many years and filling her shoes is very motivational to me. Richards is celebrating our 93rd year in 2018 and I am driven to successfully hand off the baton to the next generation.”
Rochelle Rivas: “My motivation ebbs and flows literally daily. It waivers from working to be the best consulting firm in Charlotte to being the best mom on any given day. I try to make it a practice to not stay singularly focused around certain goals. I have a very specific set of criteria that I live my business life, my personal life and my philanthropic life around. I tend to be naturally motivated without external factors.”
Michelle DeClerck: “The ability to achieve more, to have my team be recommended by others, to be able to help provide a good living for my staff and their families as well as to assist others in their business ownership quest—these are some of the things that provide me with the ability to apply rigor and discipline to my work, knowing with confidence that I can lead my team to further successes.”
Kimberly Baeth: “Being better than the competition. Golden Openings invented the original, giant, stainless steel scissors that cut and Golden Openings was the only company to carve out the ceremonial products and event niche business. Over the past 20 years, several other businesses have taken a liking to all or some of our business, copying our scissors, ribbon, bows, gold- and chrome-plated shovels, ceremonial keys, guide books and more. We continue to set the standard and lead the way to earn our customers’ trust and prevent the competition from taking over. We are the first to come out with new products and protect, patent and trademark our original products and ideas. We focus on our customers’ dreams, values and missions. We had two former employees copy and start The Grand Opening store 4 miles from our office and warehouse. We did not have a no-compete form in place and a few companies have taken advantage of that. Now we do. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it is extra challenging to face when people you taught and trusted copy your original products, processes and ideas, in a few weeks, when it took us years. I followed the innovative advice given to me by Warren Buffet at one of our ribbon cuttings he attended. It became my mantra. ‘First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don’t. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. And then come the idiots, whose avarice un-does the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich.’ Time ran its course and the local couple is now out of business. We realize we must take time to ride the wave of success, but also to instigate further growth and change by choosing uncharted territories and blue oceans. I must be the trailblazer, the one who is constantly cutting through the forest and taking all the branches to the face. To remain successful and continue to grow, we must: listen to our customers and employees with their needs; recruit, reward and retain both of them; expand and reinvest in new products; improve our business performance and strategies; continue to give back and stay involved in the community on local and national levels; increase our number of partnership offices in the USA, Canada and Australia; update and expand our guide books; travel to China to meet vendors to expand/improve product options; and break $2 million in revenue by 2020. Our goal is to keep creating raving fans by being ‘REMARK’able (striving for 5-star reviews). This encourages our customers to call on us often, knowing that we always: beat or match any prices, deliver before deadlines, enthusiastically fulfill orders and offer free event advice. We must continue to execute operational excellence by developing trust with customers through quality service and products. We are always learning and trying new things, too. We continue to live and improve our purpose, mission and culture, which inspires our talented team to play an integral role in our continued success.”
Sue Hawkes: “Helping people and solving problems motivates me. If I can do those things, my work has a ripple effect. I see results beyond what I’ve done and what the people I’ve helped have done. I’m motivated by all the good things that happen as a result of the work I initially did, and how that multiplies.”
Elizabeth Blount McCormick: “Running a team and being responsible for many people, including myself. I see opportunity everywhere and I accept the responsibility and challenge to grow this business for the people who work with me every day. I want my team to grow, purchase homes, travel and live a happy life.”
Lenora Payne: “Two big motivating factors for me are my customers and my employees. The corporations that choose to take a chance with a local, certified disadvantaged company have made a huge impact on our success and growth. As a result, TGS now employs 64 full-time employees with secure and stable jobs.”
Patricia Shall: “When you can make a difference for a client that puts them in a better place, it gives me energy. The same applies to helping our team members grow and making CBIS a place where employees call this ‘home.’ These things make you want to get up early in the morning and work late. It’s not just about the money. It’s about contributing to others and making a difference.”
Theresa Payton: “What motivates me every day is the ability to help people who are in need of our services or businesses that are dealing with the ever-changing world of cyber security. As a leader in the tech industry, I have a responsibility to my employees, my clients and the world at large to do my best to empower others and fight back against cyber criminals each and every day.”
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR PROUDEST BUSINESS ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR, AND WHAT'S YOUR NEXT BIG BUSINESS GOAL?
Mary: “Launching our online portal, Catapult, is my proudest business accomplishment. Catapult takes accessing, e-mailing, printing and downloading our clients’ marketing materials to the next level. Providing this tool to additional clients to help them better manage their marketing is my top priority.”
Rochelle: “My most proud moment was in 2016 when we were awarded Best Places to Work in Charlotte. Having a team who is primarily onsite at the client presents unique challenges for cohesiveness with our team. The firm has been widely recognized for multiple reasons, but this one was the BEST. Our next big goal is to surpass 65 employees, continue to create new jobs and be a relevant partner in our community.”
Michelle: “I was beyond humbled last spring to be selected by Goldman Sachs as the only Iowan to participate in their 10,000 Small Businesses program just after being named the Iowa SBA Woman in Business Champion and receiving the Inspiring Woman of Iowa Character Award. These recognitions and educational opportunities inspired me to want to do more for my business and my community, and led to a full company transformation, which ultimately resulted in hiring our first business development director and support team. Our next goal is to focus on our culture to provide extreme value for our clients and create extraordinary event experiences whether through additional hotel and cruise contracting services, diversifying and expanding our event management services or our gift suite division.”
Kimberly: “Our steady and explosive growth. We have averaged 31 percent annual revenue growth for the 21 years in business, every year. It was a very special honor to be recognized by the U.S Chamber as not only the Overall Dream Big - Small Business of the Year in 2017, but also with the U.S. Chamber’s Community Excellence Award. There are thousands of exceptional men and women business leaders in this country, and to be recognized as the best among them was very humbling. I’m also proud, thankful and happy for my team, as they deserve lots of the credit for Golden Opening’s success. They have all worked so hard over the past several years to deliver for our customers and grow our business. I am very blessed to lead such a fantastic dream team. For me, it is the culmination of a 21-year journey—I couldn’t be happier!”
Sue: “It’s hard to choose one. My proudest accomplishment has been successfully working in a healthy family business and also writing a book with my daughter, because they both mix family with the work I love. Because I base my success on my clients’ successes, every time I see my clients meeting or exceeding their goals, being named Best Place to Work or impacting our community, each one is a powerfully proud accomplishment. I see them being recognized and celebrate their successes with them; I have the champagne corks to prove it. My next big business goal is to achieve best-seller status for our book, Chasing Perfection—Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success. Along with that, we’re launching the Chasing Perfection Companion Toolkit, which includes a success journal and workbook to accompany the book. Our vision is to help people become the leaders they’ve always wanted to be by doing the practices to maximize sustained success.”
Elizabeth: “When we won our first client in California and I knew we were on our way to expand our business to the west coast. The time zone was not a deterrent, because we have the capabilities to provide excellent service to anyone in the world.”
Lenora: “Every day when I get to the office and I see the awards displayed in our lobby, it reminds me of all that we have accomplished since our humble beginnings in 2005. The expediential growth we have experienced since then has been a been a collective accomplishment for all of us at TGS, especially now as we expand to cities outside of the Kansas City area.”
Patricia: “I have had some significant milestones in my career. Transitioning the Illinois Public Risk Fund (with 30,000 employees) from one program to another and helping the City of Detroit (29,000 active employees and retirees) transition some of the benefits insurance and risk management programs. To watch their passion and commitment and how much they valued my work ethic and knowledge was incredibly rewarding! In late 2017, I took our team through a “Preparing for change team building process.” 2018 is a year for growth. CBIS is targeting larger customers. Most of our team members came from the big houses. With that depth of knowledge and the ability to provide boutique services, it’s a win-win for the larger client. We can deliver services our competitors cannot.”
Theresa: “I would say my proudest business accomplishment thus far lies in my company’s growth—we quadrupled revenue between 2014 and 2017, and went from three employees to almost 30!”
WHAT’S YOUR #1 PIECE OF ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS SEEKING TO TAKE THEIR BUSINESS TO NEW HEIGHTS?
Mary: “I begin every week by reading this quote from Kathryn Heath, “I have made it my mission to show up with confidence and to be my true self. I have found that influence and authenticity are inextricably linked. Only by being truly self-confident can we influence others to follow us.”
Rochelle: “This advice will not make sense to a lot of people: Stop networking so much. I think as business owners, we can fall into the trap of being seen, being at so many different places and with different groups that we tend to burn time for nothing. If there is not a direct link for me to a client or team member, I will decline offers to network. I use other measures to fill my cup, if needed. Networking can be a trap to buying a lot of coffee…losing time and gaining no ROI.”
Michelle: “Operating a business can sometimes have one feeling like they are operating in a silo, so having the ability to seek out other women business owners who have gone before you to help pave the path, shorten the learning curve, and to make new friends who will be there for you when, not if, you run into challenging situations. The opportunity to deep dive with others who share your same concerns and challenges also helps you understand what future opportunities may exist for your business and this group can quickly become the best support system you may ever find. Besides, other women business owners often enjoy talking business, something not everyone finds satisfying.”
Kimberly: “Success in small business is never guaranteed. It takes all of the time-tested foundational skills: ambition, drive, leadership, vision, creativity and a strong work ethic. It means getting knocked down and getting back up again, many times. Small business owners must exemplify the spirit of innovation, passion, entrepreneurship and individual initiative. They must strive for 5-star reviews and support their community, as well as master customer and employee relations. However, today more than ever, owners need to embrace change. Markets, products, people, technology and customer expectations are changing faster than ever. Small business owners need to continually track changes in their industry and aggressively adopt new ideas and technology. In some cases, owners may need to re-invent their entire business to stay relevant and/or ahead of their competition. Additionally, owners should make sure all team members are part of the journey. Everyone should be empowered to innovate and look for ways to advance the business.
Sue: “Help others first, the rest takes care itself.”
Elizabeth: “My motto is a ‘no’ leads to a better ‘yes.’ Stay humble and hustle every single day.”
Lenora: “Join as many clubs and organizations as possible; there are several Chambers of Commerce to get involved with, and many other groups that are specifically for women business owners. Be active, seek advice and really absorb the wisdom that comes from those who have been in your shoes. And don’t forget to get certified for anything you can!”
Patricia: “There will be good days and bad days. Allow the goods days to carry you through. Do not dwell on the bad days. Learn from them and forge forward. Update your marketing plan and strategy every year. Always let your clients know how much you appreciate the trust they have placed in you. Same for your employees. And…the best advice I can give, is hire slowly and fire quickly. This is a lesson every business owners learns eventually, but it is always better to know early on.”
Theresa: “My first year into growing the business was also my first year as a brand-new entrepreneur. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken more risks that first year. I never want to fail anyone counting on me, which meant in that first year, I often held back on growth to make sure I could self-fund it myself. Additionally, I would have been more bold when communicating our vision, I would have said “no” more often to client projects that did not fit our core strategy and I would have accelerated our desire to create an insanely different cybersecurity consulting experience for our clients. We are not just doing a cybersecurity and intelligence assessment at Fortalice, we’re in the business of changing lives based on our unique approach to protecting nations, business and people.”