Women Business Owners: You Are Better at the “M” Word Than You Think | NAWBO

Women Business Owners: You Are
Better at the “M” Word Than You Think

By Jessica Bank Interlandi
Partner at Schiller Ducanto & Fleck LLP and
NAWBO 2017 Board Member


Moving up? Making it? M&A? Marriage?

No, I’m talking about mentoring. Women have a unique opportunity to embolden other women. In fact, I think it’s our responsibility. 

I’m a partner at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck practicing in the area of family law. Throughout my career, I have met many lawyers from my practice area and others who have served as role models and who facilitated my development as an attorney and the growth of my client base (my business). While being a partner in a law firm is a little different than an owner hanging out her shingle on the Magnificent Mile, there are similarities. We all need to promote what we do. We all want to drive growth and expand our client base. We all have business challenges that make us wonder why we signed up for this.

Giving and receiving mentorship makes a difference. 

This topic is very important to me. In my career, I’ve had many mentors – some men and some women. They have influenced how I practice law. They’ve saved me time and whittled down my choices. 

A mentor isn’t a person who checks in once a month. For me, it’s more about having a community of people who understand you, people who can help you get from point A to point B both as an attorney and as a partner in a firm. Of course, you have to have a vision for point B. It took me awhile to figure this part out, but it largely came from determining who in my firm I wanted to emulate. I’m not identical to them, but they inform my decisions of the lawyer and partner I am and want to become.

As women, we are wired to help others. We’ve all seen the research. But I’m not even talking about that. We can just look at who’s putting dinner on the table most nights, stepping up to help a friend battling cancer, or intuitively encouraging a colleague who clearly had a tough day.

NAWBO has been that community for me since joining in 2014, starting with NAWBO past president Michele Katz (also a classmate of mine at Chicago-Kent Law School). Watching her leverage NAWBO as a platform to accelerate her law practice and business growth was a game changer for me. I was intrigued by the different backgrounds of women I met through my connections with Michele. Every year, I was more involved. Then, this year, I joined the board. If you’ve ever considered it, I have two words of advice: do it! I’m running with women who have a lot of board experience. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn from a whole new set of mentors. 

NAWBO events provide a great opportunity to meet potential mentors. Smaller groups – like CONNECTS and NAWBO TALKS – bring women together in a more casual atmosphere. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where mentorship (both giving and receiving) loses its value. A mentor isn’t necessarily someone in a senior position in your field, but someone who offers something different than what you have. She teaches you something or provides a perspective you don’t otherwise have.

And isn’t that what it’s all about? Learning how to do a few things well so you can go to the next level? 

Years ago, a mentor said to me: “You need to understand the details yourself in order to run the case. It comes from the top down. Always make it your business to know the details.” 

As a woman business owner, you have the opportunity to make a difference by mentoring others – and welcoming what others have to offer to create a successful business.