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VOL. 126 | NO. 180 | Thursday, September 15, 2011

Orgs Discuss Power Of Women In Business

By Sarah Baker

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The U.S. has more than 7 million women-owned businesses, representing 28 percent of firms nationwide.

In 2009, average revenue in female-owned firms was $60,264, according to the Kauffman Foundation. That same year, average revenue of male-owned firms reached $118,987.

“Men aren’t afraid to ask for help, for people to come to their vision,” said Christine Munson, executive vice president and head of corporate banking at First Tennessee Bank. “Many times, men are more willing to take a risk. Even high-achieving women want to do things perfect. Unfortunately, in owning a business, that’s not the best trait to have.”

That was the message delivered Tuesday, Sept. 13, at a seminar hosted by the local chapters of three national women’s business organizations at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis.

With the tagline, “When great women come together, great things can happen,” the National Association of Women Business Owners, Commercial Real Estate Women and Women’s Business Enterprise Council South discussed the power of women in business.

The idea behind the conference was that women are poised for success through marketing and strategic networking. In NAWBO’s breakout session, “2010 to 2019: Decade for the Woman Entrepreneur,” attendees learned the No. 1 reason women are not making their way is “lack of cockiness.”

“You have to know what your worth is and ask for it,” said Deidre Malone, CEO and founder of The Carter Malone Group, who moderated the session.

Meanwhile, CREW brought the real estate aspect to the table, discussing “Commercial Leasing 101: Best Decisions for Your Business Location,” in its breakout session.

CREW Network exists to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women. Its research indicates 72 percent of members nationwide gave business referrals to one another within the past 12 months.

Among the panelists leading CREW’s session were Jill Singer Schmitt, principal with Corporate Real Estate Service Advisors Partners. Schmitt has more than 11 years of experience in tenant representation. She had one piece of advice for female tenants when comparing rents – read the lease.

“Surprises are never fun,” said Schmitt, while stressing to hire an attorney. “You don’t want to be thinking you’ll be paying your landlord $2,000 and then be hit with common-area maintenance, taxes and insurance – anything that’s increasing over the lease term. You need to understand what you’re getting into at the very beginning.”

Other breakout sessions included WBENC Certification: “Opening Doors of Opportunity” and the FBI’s “Protecting Your Brand From Internet Predators.”

Following a tradeshow, the day concluded with a corporate lunch panel, including Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of WBENC; Cheryl Kern, director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at International Paper Co.; and Patricia Reed of Renault Nissan.

On the topic of “maximizing professionalism,” Reed defined professionalism as a synonym for trust.

“A professional person has a bias for results,” she said. “Personal integrity is all they have. A professional person aspires to instill value in others.”

To leverage partnerships, Kern advocated, “coopition” – a combination of the words “cooperation” and “competition.”

“Partnerships are another word for relationships,” Kern said. “Who’s always done that well? Men. We need to embrace this new term and walk the walk.”

The reality, Easton said, is the road ahead is about growth for all women and it’s crucial to study unfamiliar areas.

“We’re the ones making the buying decisions, taking our children to the grocery, instilling that brand loyalty to future generations,” Easton said. “Invest in yourself. Invest in your business. Whether you call it innovation or strategic planning, that’s the difference you can make every day.”

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