Across the nation, nearly 10.4 million firms are owned by women, generating $1.9 trillion in sales, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. Utah is no different; the number of women-owned businesses in Utah has continued to lead the nation. Women shaping that trend gathered to discuss their challenges and mounting successes. The leaders discussed the role of women’s business groups, coping with ever-changing technology and how to successfully guide the next generation into the workforce.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Kate Reddy, co-owner of McKinnon-Mulherin, for moderating the discussion and Holland & Hart for hosting the event.
Back Row: Kate Reddy, McKinnon-Mulherin; Julie Tanner, Wells Fargo Bank; Jill Grammer-Williams, American Name Services;
Debbie Jacketta, Jacketta Sweeping Service; Cami Boehme, Digital Slant; Marilyn Beck, Recruiting Connection;
Hydee Willis, Creative Expressions
Front Row: Jamie Stum, Utah Business magazine; Annette Zimmerman, Mountain America Credit Union; Kim Jones, Verite;
Cindy Kindred, Vanguard Media Group; Mona Burton, Holland & Hart; Shelly Storey, The Storey Agency
What are some of the unique challenges for women in business and how are you overcoming them?
TANNER: We all know that we are heading into what might be a recession. Nobody wants to call it that but it looks that way. We are hearing that more than one third of the small business owners said that they expect to be worse off financially this year than last year. The economy is affecting our small business owners’ spending and savings habits. According to a national Wells Fargo report, half of them said that they have postponed a major purchase in the last three months. And nearly as many, 44 percent, say that they’ve reduced the amount of money that they’ve deposited into savings or checking accounts or CDs. And 31 percent said they’ve reduced the amount that they’ve contributed to a retirement account.
In spite of this, there are bright spots. The lending is still going great guns with qualified purchasers of loans and credit products. As we’ve known, credit has tightened up and it is not as readily available as it was in the past. So there are challenges, indeed.
I think one of the major challenges that women have when starting a business is really drilling into the numbers, really knowing the financial plan, really putting that together and getting a grasp, wrapping their mind around it. They have the passion, they have the drive and desire to run a business, but they don’t sometimes get the financial piece of it and I think that’s critical. That’s part of our role in women’s financial services, to educate and help develop those good, sound business plans with them.
WILLIS: Being able to staff your people is crucial. But our major thing is still being able to grow and be able to finance that growth, even in a tight economy.
JONES: I’m having to really step up on benefits to keep those employees. We have a lot of niche type employees that have skill sets that are not super easy to find, so that’s been a challenge.
Then to tie into that is the ever rising healthcare and benefits package costs. I provide health care to my employees and we are up to almost 30 people. So it becomes very, very challenging to manage that monthly “nut”, if you will.
BECK: I think the same challenges that face men face women. We are all, as business owners, facing the same challenges. I’ve always just thought of myself as a person in business, not just as a woman in business.
MITCHELL: Speaking from a corporate side of it, our costs have gone up exponentially, and we have had to find different ways of sharing that cost with our employees. Everybody has to pay something, and I’m amazed the percentage that gets pushed down to the employee level. My costs went up and my choices of plans have narrowed; you have the choice of A or A. That’s very difficult for smaller companies.
STOREY: We are thinking of getting some employees and right now, we’ve got a part time employee who doesn’t require health insurance, but if we wanted to move her into a full time position, that’s something she has asked about. And I know from talking to a lot of people that those costs can be pretty high.
WILLIS: One of the major issues for small businesses regarding health insurance is there is a huge discrimination for companies with less than 50 employees. Because if you have 50 and above, you qualify for a lot of the different things on a federal basis. You can get lower rates because you’ve got 50. You can work with a medical savings plan, which is tremendous for small businesses. But those aren’t available to us and so as a result, all of our premiums are twice as high as those with 50 and above.
KINDRED: We’ve experienced this too. We’ve had probably a 20 percent hike every year over the last five years so we are up 100 percent. You cannot push too much more on your employees. It is extremely difficult to plan because a 20 percent cost that is added to your expenses every year is huge, particularly if you are expanding your staff along with that.
JONES: You can do flexible spending plans, which are one creative way for a smaller business to manage some kind of benefit. We do that and provide a 401(k).
BOEHME: As a small company, we’ve chosen to do creative solutions for our benefits. We have profit sharing, an IRA and flexible spending, but we actually do not offer group health care because what the premiums cost through the company was double what it is for employees to get it on their own. So we’ve just chosen not to provide that as a benefit, which, when you look at the dollars, it makes sense for us. But from a recruitment standpoint, that’s a difficult question. It is a very big barrier to answer when we are trying to get a good employee with a certain skill set.
MITCHELL: Insurance costs and health care costs are always a chunk of your gross profit. It’s amazing and you don’t get those dollars back except by being able to keep the employee.
How do you feel about the funding opportunities in this state? Do you feel you have enough access to capital and loans?
TANNER: I think the capital is available to qualified applicants. We are loaning a lot right now in small business and commercial lending—that side of the market is still really strong. It hasn’t been as impacted as the consumer credit market. And I think there is plenty of funding for qualified applicants that have their financial plans together, and that really have their cash flow projections right. I just see that women in particular need to make sure that they understand the financial piece and have that presented well when they are looking for a loan.
WILLIS: I’ve been in business for 25 years and we buy a lot of very, very expensive equipment in order to keep our production going. One of the things I have found over the years is that so many financial institutions loan on history and not potential. And so it is very, very difficult because you know where you are going and you know what that particular piece of equipment will eventually get you. But that doesn’t put money in the pocket; the only thing that does that is your history. So if you have gone on the ups and downs, the valleys and peaks that most companies have, then your history is not necessarily exactly what you need in order to really propel you forward and say, “This is what I could do if I had this money.”
BOEHME: One thing I found is that there tends to be more money available in the larger dollar amounts. It’s the under $500,000, under a million, the very initial starting stage when you don’t have the history and you are going off of potential. There are a lot of bank loans, and then there are the larger venture capital firms, but there is a gap in the initially small, early stage funding.
WILLIS: In fact, there are a lot of people that won’t even talk to you if you call and say, “I only need $250,000.”
TANNER: The SBA Express product is pretty slick on some of those lower amount loans.
What is the climate in the credit union world?
ZIMMERMAN: We are the number one SBA lender among credit unions in the nation. We find that there are a lot of businesses that need that funding. If the SBA isn’t the tool for them, we also offer a business Visa to help them with their day-to-day costs. We find that there is a real need and we’ve been fortunate to be able to help many small business members.
TANNER: The SBA generally requires business owners to have a 30 percent capital infusion themselves, and so they rely on home equity loans or something else to get that initial seed money along with the SBA. But we are a preferred lender for SBA, so we can give it a look first before it is even submitted and get an idea of whether it will go through.
What have been some of your strategies for growing your business in Utah?
STOREY: Obviously you need to keep succeeding as you go along. Obviously, with needing more clients, you need the help to support those clients. I’ve hired a part time person to help with some of the administrative duties so that I can be using my time for the sales, finding new clients and actually servicing the current clients that I have. It’s just a matter of developing another business list and keeping that funnel full when you have a client that says, “Oh, the economy is killing me. My marketing is the first thing to go.” So it’s just this constant searching for new clients and selling and trying to get out there and build up the business so it is always flowing.
KINDRED: Some of our growth has actually occurred by acquisition. We have offices in Las Vegas and Boise. And we have grown our business here in Salt Lake by picking up other firms who have a client base and adding them, building them into our company and that blending of cultures is a challenge when you do that. But we’ve done the same thing in Las Vegas and we are currently looking for another firm down there that we might merge with.
WILLIS: One of the things we have found is that growth can kill you. A lot of people don’t realize it can kill you more than not having enough customers or enough business. And we have tried really hard to grow ours in very small increments so that we didn’t get to that point. It’s been a real challenge to look at some of the things that have been offered to us and ask, “Gee, I’d love it, but can we do it?” We have found that if we pace our customers and grow with them as they get bigger and we are available with our production capabilities and what we offer, then we continue to grow slowly.
JONES: We’re coming up on our 15 year anniversary. I think it’s safe to say I’ve taken the long, slow boat to China with regards to growth.
I’m at that point where growth is really driving me crazy because I’ve got a solid management team and great employees, but the larger you get, the more issues you are dealing with. My hope is to get acquired before we grow too much larger.
I like to curb growth, which is a weird thing for a business owner to say, but I agree with the sensibility behind growth. You need to make sure you are growing to service your clients and that your clients are happy with the service level they are getting.
WILLIS: We decided we just want to do more with less. So we have offered to a lot of our key people more money to do more, and we say, “This is what your opportunity is. If you want to meet that challenge, we’re glad to pay you more.” So rather than paying two people to get a mediocre job done, we pay one person more to literally step up to the challenge and do a whole lot more. And it’s been amazing the creativity that these people have come up with.
JONES: I agree. Pay employees above market wages and really look at your head count rather than have an oversized head count of lower quality employees.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: One of the biggest things that’s helped us grow and actually manage our growth is technology. Three and four years ago, I couldn’t have imagined what we would be capable of based upon the innovation that has occurred just within the existing framework that we had. And that’s where our best dollars have been spent as far as managing our growth.
There were times when the sales manager was coming into my office telling me about a new account and I’m throwing things at him, like, “No, go away from me. I can’t take it.” So it is really very hard. The levels of frustration are so real when it comes to growth that if you are not ready to handle it, you can’t service the existing accounts that you have.
One of the things that we started to do was innovate for tomorrow’s customer so that when the clients come, we can handle them.
WILLIS: It’s mining what you’ve got instead of going out and getting more.
BOEHME: Being a small company in a service-based industry, I’ve made a very intentional decision not to grow in numbers but to grow the type of work we take on. For a boutique service company, it’s to my advantage to just be very selective about the type of accounts we take on, to be very careful about the projects we want to work on and make sure they are a fit for our core competencies. Our growth has been more by way of shedding the full service ideal down to our core of what we really do best, and then being able to command a premium for that service as opposed to taking on everything that comes in the door.
WILLIS: One of the other things we’ve found in the advertising and marketing that a lot of us are in is that within the last probably seven or eight years, you’ve seen people not do as much of the big promotions and the big advertising. We have found that more and more, people are growing their business one person to another rather than on a billboard. They are utilizing that network and they are calling each other and saying, “Cindy, who can I go to?” or “Who could you refer me to?” much more than they ever used to.
How useful do you think business groups are that cater specifically to women? Has their day past or are they still useful?
ZIMMERMAN: Women are very good at cultivating relationships in the marketplace. And I have seen companies out there that are really involved in NAWBO and the chambers and UWABC and they have grown as a result of that. Even Mountain America has received business as a result of being involved in the company, which has helped our growth on the business services side.
JONES: We started the Utah Women Tech Council and that has really gained a lot of traction. In about a year and a half, we have almost 300 members and probably about 400 opt into emails and other correspondence that we are doing. So there is a significant need for support, mentoring. And there is a significant need by business owners in this state for women on boards, management talent, things of that nature. They are really out there looking for that. So we see ourselves filling a very vital business need in the community as well.
BURTON: I’ve been practicing law almost 30 years and when I started practicing, you didn’t have women-owned businesses. You barely had woman lawyers. It’s been a joy to watch women grow.
Do I think that women groups are on their way out? Yes, I do. And I think that’s a good thing. It shows that we’ve been successful. To some extent, I think that women-based groups can be somewhat limiting because you are limiting yourself probably to about half the market if that is all you are doing. You need to make sure that you are members of the Chamber of Commerce and trade and industry groups. I think in 20 years you may not see women-based groups, but I think that is because we will have succeeded and graduated.
KINDRED: I do think that for a lot of women, women’s groups are not so much to generate business as to just simply be support networks. And I think that’s a kind of a different slant. I think women do still have some problems that are unique to women. Not that it’s a difference in terms of business; I’m competing against both men and women in my industry. But I do think that women seek other women for moral, emotional, and other kinds of support sorts of things, which doesn’t necessarily happen in a Rotary or a Chamber. That is not the purpose of those organizations. So I agree with you to some extent. I think women’s groups are going out but I still think there is probably some need or desire for organizations where women can share common experiences.
BURTON: And I agree with you 110 percent. There is a connection that women have with each other that is unique. I’ve even seen it here today.
JONES: I think that most organizations have a willingness to support women. If you can go to your male counterparts and show them the value proposition behind what you are trying to do in support of women, then you can really be successful, not only from the standpoint of supporting other women, but also from a business standpoint.
I think there is a lot of business opportunity for women in this state, and as long as the organization you are starting isn’t seen as feministic in nature, but more of an intelligent value proposition, you are going to have a lot more success with women’s groups. So I think women’s groups are here to stay and that they could get more powerful if they are approached correctly.
TANNER: I think women network differently than they used to. The membership of NAWBO has decreased over the years and the reason is because when women started becoming successful in business, they needed that more, and now they are getting networking through the Internet and different groups, and it’s not as needed to be specifically in a women’s group.
WILLIS: We’re more visible than we used to be. We were just this little nucleus that was afraid to come out of our houses and then all of a sudden, we blossomed. We have shown the power of women in business and exactly what we can do. And we’ve finally gotten the credibility and what we really have to show the world. It’s accepted now and it wasn’t 25 years ago.
MITCHELL: It’s hard to see the effectiveness of some of these organiza-tions because people outgrow them and we are not backfilling to keep them going. What I’m hoping is that by not backfilling, we are not losing any of that mentoring, that caring. I hope we are passing it on to the next generation.
I wonder, though, because I have a daughter who started a business a year ago. She comes to me for advice. She doesn’t go anywhere else. And that kind of bothers me that she doesn’t have a network of her own to go to. So I’m wondering, are we really ready to make that jump? It’s going to take a few more years because we are not filling in the ranks with younger mentors yet.
KINDRED: The other place that I think women haven’t gotten to yet is taking more seats on the corporate boards. I think there is a place, particularly in this community where women in business can make a big contribution to the larger corporate boards.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: How do you know where you could actually find those kinds of opportunities? I was the chairman for a year at the Better Business Bureau for Utah and it was a great place for me to be, but yet even in that capacity, there were very few other opportunities that were presented to me as board opportunities.
KINDRED: The Lieutenant Governor’s Office does have a list where you can submit your resumes and that is sort of a starting point. But on the more private boards, I think it’s more difficult.
JONES: You are going to get it from your colleges. You are going to get it from other boards you are on.
LEWIS: The National Association of Corporate Directors¬—the Utah Chapter is very active. They have a posting board online for public and private boards that are looking for board of directors, and there is a great interest in finding qualified women directors. It’s a director posting board that you can go and look for opportunities.
How do you grow your own workforce so you don’t have to constantly keep training new people?
TANNER: I think it has to do with that multigenerational thing. The millennials and the Gen Xers and Gen Ys all relate differently than the Baby Boomers. It is totally a different mindset that we, as baby boomers, may have had.
BURTON: We have about 200 partners in the firm. About a third of the partners in this firm are 55 years of age or older. And there are a lot of them who are approaching age 55, so we actually formed a task force to help us determine how to do succession planning within the firm so that as we have these larger numbers retiring over the next decade or two, we have the backfill and the institutional knowledge remains with the firm for our clients.
WILLIS: I think we need to find different ways to connect because you are seeing an Internet generation that has evolved. We picked up the tail end of it in our generation, but you are seeing them go to the Internet to find a lot of the things they would have called, asked a question, gone to a meeting or found in a networking situation.
Are we going to create isolation in some ways? Because a lot of my staff uses remote and I only see them every couple of weeks.
KINDRED: How many people do you work with now that you’ve never seen face to face? I have a copywriter who I’ve met three times. He’s worked for us for seven years.
BOEHME: Playing devil’s advocate here, maybe it’s not creating isolation so much as redefining interaction. There is definitely less person-to-person interaction, but I think that it is just a different type of interaction. I think that actually the communication that occurs on the Internet is in some ways more interactive and more personal than other types of interaction.
What ways has technology im-pacted your business?
WILLIS: We spend a lot of time educating our clients. Where it used to be that they would call and you would send them out a catalog, now you get them online and say, “You are going to go to this Website and go here and there.” Sometimes we’ll spend an hour on the phone just educating a client on how to find what they are looking for, but it just eliminated a catalog.
JONES: Technology has definitely helped our business from a sheer revenue perspective. It really enabled us to grow. From my perspective, you need to be competent in all office applications. I recently moved from the PC to the Mac for a variety of reasons. So it’s kind of nice to understand multiple platforms. All of our employees have to be extremely well versed in a variety of different technologies.
Technology so rapidly changes. How do you deal with this big expense to stay up to date and to keep your IT systems running smoothly?
JONES: We focus on supporting technology organizations, so we’re really in a position where our technology has to be state of the art. And it’s not just the hardware and things, it’s the knowledge base as well. Web 1.0 is kind of passé today. And there is a whole new approach to new media and social networking and things of that nature.
I couldn’t tell you how much I spend on hardware and software every year. It’s like, “Do I have to do that again?”
KINDRED: It’s every two years for us. You just figure you are just rolling your technology over every two or three years because it is changing so quickly.
WILLIS: I think leadership is a lot more than just results on your bottom line, and the leadership we are looking at today is dealing with commitments and loyalties and people’s lifestyles. We are talking about workplace flexibility and understanding that the staff that we work with today is entirely different than it was 20 years ago. They are more in tune with their family and balancing life and work. And as you look at gaining employees, you have to understand that their life comes first and you are just a job, and you’ve got to be able to give them the opportunity to balance those back and forth and be really happy at the same time.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: When people are healthy and happy at home, whether it’s that they are well rested or they have a great balance between their work life and their family life, then they are more efficient when they get to the office and they are happier about doing their job. And that’s one of the things that we’ve found to be true as we’ve initiated certain types of employee benefits that are not normal. Weekly yoga was a really big thing for us because we found that yoga was actually initiating some great brainstorming sessions. It was also making it a priority that mental health and physical health was our concern as the leaders of the company because without that, you have missing links in your team.
WILLIS: Along with that, society has to change. I’ve been well known for the fact that we have our own daycare onsite. And what it has done for our employees is immeasurable. There is no downside. It has been something that has allowed us to retain people because it has given that emotional balance of saying, “My kids are upstairs. I don’t have to worry about where they are today.” We’ve got anywhere from 10 to 20 kids at any one time.
JONES: We have a skateboard ramp. We allow some pets, within reason. I, myself, have a little cocker spaniel that occasionally comes to the office.
When you’ve got programmers and creatives all working together, that is a hard animal to manage. You’ve got to give them lots of perks that are a little different. We’ve got a music DJ and we work with instant messaging so if they are in social networks, we’re incorporating it into our culture anyway. And it’s been awesome. Talk about an efficiency booster. It’s phenomenal.
KINDRED: I do think being a woman does make you more concerned and responsive to things like daycare. Like, if you have an employee who has a sick child, I just think you react differently as a business owner to those kinds of things. I just simply wouldn’t object if somebody brought their dog or their child to the office. That’s just not a big deal. Being a mother of four children and having worked all my life, I can completely relate to somebody who has a sick child. If you can work it out, you are a lot more responsive to some of those personal issues.
TANNER: Wells Fargo has job sharing within certain fields. We have remote access so we can work from home a lot of times. In our group, we all have laptops with roving abilities. Wells Fargo has really good plans for the whole family on maternity leave so the father can take time off as well as the mother and it’s really flexible. And I think in most positions, they are willing to give leaves of absences for certain things that are going on or family leave. And it has been really great for people that have had crises in their family and they’ve needed to take some time off and not worry about having a position when they come back.
BECK: What I like about owning a small business is that I can cater to the needs of my specific employees. I don’t have to be under this big umbrella that this is our policy and this is what we have to do. I can individualize: this person might need to work from home a day, this person might need to bring their pet, this person needs benefits. To me, a benefit of working with a small corporation is that we are not governed by this huge law that it has to be equal opportunity for everyone.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: While I see a lot of Internet involvement among the young people today, the concern that I see specifically among young girls is that females are not pursuing careers. Or to the degree that they are pursuing a career, it’s something they are going to fall back on. And that devastates me because while I see all of this technology that exists in their infrastructure, how are we as female leaders talking to these young people about what a career is? Are we truly to a point where we have to chose a career or to be a mother? I didn’t have to make that choice. I got both. What are we doing as females so that these young people understand what a career is about and the importance of having a career?
What can we do to teach people skills to a generation that is mostly online?
ZIMMERMAN: I find that our daughters learn differently than our sons. I think that our educational system could take a different approach to gender teaching. I think that there are different things we could do, number one in how we teach, and number two, in what we believe. I think that we need to teach our daughters and our young people in schools that you can learn anything you put your mind to. I think our kids today don’t have that belief always that they can do it. They get comfortable online. They don’t learn the interpersonal skills.
WILLIS: One thing I have found is that these girls can now look and say, “I can have a career and a family.” I couldn’t do that. When I started working, the only thing that was less credible than a woman in business was a woman who did business in her home. It just didn’t happen. And now these women know they can do it. And to talk to some of these college kids and have them say, “You bet I’m going to do it,” and, “This is what I can do,” It’s exciting to see that there is a segment of our group of women coming up that are raring to go and start businesses on their own.
KINDRED: That is so wonderful because when I was in college, you had three choices. You were a nurse, a secretary or a teacher and that was always something to fall back on. I look at my daughters and I feel like they don’t have that limitation. They believe they really can be anything. All of us are role models for other young women. They look at us and say, “Well, if you can do it...” we still may be doubting whether we can do it ourselves. It doesn’t really matter. They believe it and that
JONES: I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to mentor younger women to get into technology. I’m on Westminster’s MBA Advisory Board for Technology Commercialization and we looked at the numbers of female applicants compara-tive to male applicants and it is still staggeringly low numbers, even though there is much more access to scholarships. So I still see it as a big dilemma as far as getting more women interested.
The thing that I wish women would understand about technology is that they don’t have to be a programmer. They don’t have to be a mathematician necessarily to be completely engaged in a technology career.
What industries or areas of business do you see as being hot for development right now?
TANNER: I think the companies that
have to do with oil drilling and the cleaning of the water, any of the green consulting companies are going to do well. I have a client that opened a woman-owned business that consults big corporate companies on how to go green and they have been really very successful.
STOREY: One of the biggest challenges is how to educate our clients on using those new mediums and myself on how to use those new mediums for my clients. I think a big opportunity for new people coming into business is how we use these social networking sites to our benefit.
What steps have you taken in your business to become more green?
TANNER: One of the innovative things that Wells Fargo has done is become the largest purchaser of wind power in the U.S. of any corporation. And they even allow our employees to buy green energy in blocks.
BURTON: Our law firm is unique because we are probably the premier natural resources and energy firm in the country. It is really our strength, which isn’t surprising since our base is the Rocky Mountain area. So we deal a lot with our clients on climate change issues and on green and environ-
ZIMMERMAN: We’ve set up carpooling for employees and we also have telecommuters and flex schedules so people can work from home part time to keep the air pollution down and help with the energy.
What skills do you find that it takes to lead your company effectively?
JONES: It takes leadership and management skills. Your leadership philosophy is really important to bringing that human element to a bunch of people who are on machines all day long. So I tend to try to lead by example. I’m a firm believer that you earn respect, you don’t demand it. You have to convince people in a positive way to get them to do what you want them to do.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: I’m right there. Leadership by example. That is a big part of my methodology because I want everybody to know that I’m not asking them to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. And there have been times where there have been some crazy situations where I’m down there with them doing exactly what they didn’t think that I was even able to do. And it was those situations where they looked at me and said, “Wow, you can roll up your sleeves and get dirty.”
JACKETTA: I hire a lot of immigrants and less educated people. I remember when I took my first management class, I didn’t realize how much psychology was in management and trying to figure out how everybody works is an ongoing thing.
KINDRED: I think there is always a balance between leadership and having the vision of where you want to take your company but also providing an environment that is collaborative enough so that you are learning from your employees. Everybody has a unique niche in the company, and they see it from a different prism than you do. And that helps you to better see sometimes where you have weaknesses in your company and things you need to change.
BOEHME: Motivate your employees to all have a common goal and a common purpose. That creates a situation that is very gratifying for your people. The more you can create a job situation that is meaningful for your employees and is something that they enjoy and feel excited about the growth and potential of, that is really what can help lead your company.
What about in a company where you don’t have a lot of employees? Are there more client management skills that come into play?
STOREY: It’s definitely client manage-ment. It’s also putting systems in place such as when you meet someone at a networking event, how do you follow up with that person? I use a lot of freelance graphic designers and writers, and keeping them motivated and communicating that these are important clients to me and they need to be important to them and trying to help them make sure that there are deadlines and we need to meet those deadlines can be a challenge.
The management skills do come into play with those people, as well as the motivation because they are just working from home and maybe they are not as motivated about your client because they’ve got another client that they are working on. So it’s trying to keep them motivated to know that you need the best work out of them as they are giving their other clients as well.
WILLIS: One of the things I think we all face right now is the communication skills. We have found the facelessness of emails and we see employees that do not know how to communicate because of different cultures and language barriers.
One of the things we fight daily is managers that do not understand that emails don’t have emotions and they have got to learn to utilize that as a communication skill and not as just words on a screen.
What advice would you give to women starting a business today?
ZIMMERMAN: I would tell women to network and find mentors in the marketplace, especially if they are an independent business owner. Get to know them and share ideas. The University of Utah has a great women’s roundtable where we share ideas on different women’s topics. There are a lot of neat people out there that are very willing to share and help you learn the ropes.
STOREY: There are a lot of great groups out there, a lot of good places to meet mentors and to find people to help you. My advice would be just to do it, to not be scared or not feel like you can’t succeed because you are a woman or that you can’t start a business. There are a lot of great women out there who want to help other women.
BECK: I think that you should start a business that you know a lot about. I worked in the business for 20 years before I started my own business. Obviously, the relationships I built carried over and that’s probably important. It was for me.
KINDRED: I would personally just say, “Go for it.”
BOEHME: Do something that you know well, that you love and are passionate about and that you can be proud of. Never compromise on your quality and that will build every step that you need to build.
TANNER: I’d tell them what I tell my daughters: dream and dream big because the sky is the limit. There are so many resources in our community and people that want to see you succeed. I really believe that. And knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you are going to succeed. The resources are there. There are people that are backing you and watching out for your back and want you to succeed. So dream big.
JONES: Maintain an open mind and also think about the possibilities of being in business when you least expect it, because that happens a lot.
I would say tenacity and perseverance have got to be really strong skills within that person because you can get hit a lot and have to crawl back up again. The most important thing I would say is if you are forging ahead, make sure your value proposition is clear, whether you are dealing with men or women.
JACKETTA: Get involved. Whatever your business is, there is a trade association and it might be some national association, but with technology, you can meet people and learn a lot about whatever it is you want to do that way.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: Mine is a four letter word and it’s called “work.” That, I think for me, has been my ability to do all the things that just got said. When you do fall down, you are just as fast as you can getting right back up and recognizing that your rejection today is going to be rejection tomorrow and the next day and the next day. And if you can get rid of any kind of negativity that might come along the way, because it’s there, and we can dwell on it if we so choose. Or we can dwell on that little crumb that gets presented to us. A lot of it is attitude and hard work.
WILLIS: That old saying that, “Failure isn’t falling; it’s never getting up,” is true. And one thing that I would give as advice is know where you are going. There are so many people that start businesses and jump out of airplanes with no parachutes, no plans, no goals, no idea where they are going or how they are getting there. They wait until they think they can afford the right person instead of getting the right person. Know where you want to go and have your goals. A goal written down is something concrete enough to go after.
I would have never dreamed I would have a business as large as we’ve got with 50 employees. It just happened with that hard work and tenacity and knowing that quitting isn’t an option. You can convince people that you can do it. You can dream, you can take it all in and make it happen.
BURTON: I’m in a unique situation in that the women I work with all have professional degrees. And the advice I give them is, you can’t just be a lawyer anymore. You have to really know how to brand yourself and focus on a specialty. And my advice to them is to focus on that specialty early so that people know that if they need a bankruptcy lawyer or a trademark lawyer or a benefits lawyer, they know that your name is on the list of people with the expertise to go to.
Then the second piece of advice I give them is that a law career is a long haul. It is a decades long commitment and you have to learn to enjoy the journey a little bit.
What are some milestones or successes your business has had recently?
TANNER: Wells is doing well in spite of the financials being hit hard. We have retained our triple A rating, the only bank in America to have that rating. That is something that is attracting a lot of new business to us. People know that their money is safe there. They can count on us. And we are picking up a lot of mortgage business. We’re doing well on business loans, just hitting our numbers still and working through the down market at this point.
JACKETTA: Our company is 40 years old this year and I am proud to be a second generation business owner. I keep hearing that that doesn’t happen a lot, so then I keep wondering, at what point are you a successful second generation business owner?
JONES: We have a service and a product model in that we have Web based applications, so our business is really growing. Historically, we’ve had probably 65 percent of our business out of state, with a smaller percentage in state and I’m happy to see that is growing to more like 50 percent out of state, 50 percent in Utah. We had about 35 percent growth last year and we look like we’re on track to beat that number this year.
ZIMMERMAN: We’ve recently re-ceived the Work Life Balance Award for the third time, I believe. So we’re just getting awarded with that and also as one of the top companies for training in the nation. I think it was out of 75 top training companies. So we were excited about that.
WILLIS: We have been able to see my daughters take over and watch the growth and excitement that they have now, and that I can actually sit back and I don’t have to do it all anymore. To me, my biggest accomplishment is to watch these children partners become powerhouses of their own.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: Last year, I was a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. And that was a really cool thing to have and also again this year. And I think that I speak for women, but I know that I fall into this category where I have a difficult time talking about my accomplishments. I know that the big part of what happened to me last year, as I was a finalist, is that it gave me an opportunity to open my mouth and with some confidence say, “I’ve done this and I feel pretty cool about it. And what can I do to help you accomplish your dreams?”