Driving Business Breakthroughs
The Women Presidents' Organization (WPO) Annual Conference took place in Canada (Toronto) from April 7-9, 2005 - the first time the event was held outside of the U.S. The theme, Driving Business Breakthroughs, focused on the area of sales and marketing. Four of the winners of a new entrepreneurial award of distinction, "Playing by Their Own Rules: 25 Women Entrepreneurs Who are Changing the Game," presented by the WPO in partnership with Fast Company Magazine participated in a panel on "Most Successful Business Strategies."
According to John Byrne, Editor, Fast Company, over 600 applications were received for the awards which recognize the top 25 women business builders in North America. And applications came from very diverse businesses - ranging from sheet metal manufacturing to commercial diving. Applicants were scored on a variety of measures, including revenue, real growth, profit level and consistency of growth. All winners have revenues over $5 million, with one company totalling over $1 billion annually.
The award-winning panelists included: shoe manufacturer Taryn Rose, President, Taryn Rose International, who ranked first; Cordia Harrington, CEO, Tennessee Bun Company; Kathy Sherbrooke, CEO & President and CoFounder of experiential marketing firm, Circles; and Nina Vaca, CEO, Pinnacle Technical Resources, Inc., an IT solutions consulting firm. Here are some of their business strategy tips:
On effective branding:
- There are three key rules: find the message that will resonate with your audience (for Taryn's company: 'Be stylish with ease.'); the message must be clear (this is where a marketing company can help you refine it); and be consistent with the message to reinforce the integrity of the product. Taryn built her brand without a lot of advertising dollars because of the clear message that resonated with customers.
- Think of other ways people experience your brand, such as through your employees and develop an elevator pitch for them so they can deliver a clear, consistent message.
On creating a positive workplace culture:
- Listen to ideas of your employees and implement them. This will make an incredible difference.
- Respect all employees, but hold them to the highest standards.
- Let your team know that you are in it for the long term. Nina sinks all profits back into the company year after year and her employees know that.
- Look at compensation surveys and ensure your staff - as well as you - are paid fairly. "Women tend to underpay themselves."
- Emphasize fairness in all decisions. For Taryn, this carries through to her bonus structure, which is based on a percentage of profit, with everyone sharing equally.
- Consider open-book management. Cordia opens her books to customers and employees, and some of her best mentors have been her customers because of this approach.
On finding the right mentor:
- Find mentors through women's organizations like the Women Presidents' Organization, as well as through community and charitable work.
- Make sure you have a banking relationship and a line of credit in place before you need it.
- Not all bankers are created equal. Find the right match for you. Don't judge a banker by rates but rather by the relationship - does he or she understand your industry and the risks?
- Cash is king…and fast growth can kill a company quicker than anything else. Think about how you manage your cash flow. Be sure to get some payments in advance on big projects.
For more information about the Women Presidents' Organization in Canada, contact Angela Balan, (416)762-1990, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and in the U.S., telephone 212.688.4114 or e-mail email@example.com