After recent conventions in San Diego and Louisville, the National Association of Women Business Owners is holding its 2013 meeting in Miami. Beginning Oct. 3, as many as 500 women executives from across the country and outside it will gather for sessions on leadership and entrepreneurship training, business and funding strategies and expert presentations. Slated speakers include owners and executives in banking, real estate, communications, technology and design.
As president of NAWBO’s Miami chapter, Anne Freedman, owner of SpeakOut Inc, a consultancy, has been integrally involved in planning. We emailed her to find out more about her business, the local NAWBO chapter and the upcoming national meeting.
Q: What is NAWBO, and what does it do?
NAWBO was one of the first groups established that is entirely devoted to advancing the success of women entrepreneurs and now has about 70 chapters in the U.S. with international affiliations as well; our local chapter has about 40 members. The organization seeks to propel women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide through training, building strategic alliances, shaping the business culture and transforming public policy. We help our members expand their horizons through educational and networking events specifically geared to their needs and interests as business owners. We provide exposure with our local website: www.nawbomiami.org and the national site, www.nawbo.org.
Q: NAWBO is holding its annual conference here this year. Why Miami? How many people are expected, and what kinds of people will they be?
The national planners thought Miami would be a totally different kind of experience from the past two years, given Miami’s international flavor. Who doesn’t want to come to Miami! We’re expecting about 400 to 500 participants from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well. In Florida, the other NAWBO chapters include Fort Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Orlando and Lakeland, and all are sending members as well.
The NAWBO Women’s Business Conference is designed for business owners but open to men and women, regardless of their position. Many of the sponsors are also sending their high-level executives to speak on and moderate panels, and to share their expertise with us. For example, UPS is one of our big sponsors and they’re speaking on international panels and donating flip flops for our opening night reception at Nikki Beach Club.
Q: NAWBO is oriented toward women business owners, not women managers. Still, we’ll ask: there’s a perception that South Florida isn’t as fertile a place for developing senior women managers as some other parts of the country. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?
I believe the issues of management expertise and how it’s developed — or not — tie into the reality that we don’t have as many large corporations as compared to other cities. In most forward-thinking and successful companies, investment in management training is a priority. Especially since the economic decline starting in 2008, we haven’t seen much of this kind of investment happening locally in the larger businesses here, for either men or women. Lately, there does seem to be a small resurgence of commitment to management development and I certainly hope that women will get their fair share of this type of education, too. The universities offer some management courses and leadership programs, and that’s all good, but it’s not the same as on-the-job mentoring, in-house training, and long-term commitment to developing senior managers.
Q: South Florida doesn’t have a huge number of corporations, so naturally it follows that it also doesn’t have a huge number of women in senior corporate positions. Does that encourage more women to start their own businesses?
South Florida has always been a place that has attracted entrepreneurs. Remember that Miami itself was launched mostly due to the efforts of Julia Tuttle. Smart women get discouraged when they see their opportunities and earning potential limited within a company, and yes, I do believe that’s a strong incentive to leave and start their own business.
Q: What is the average size of the women-owned businesses that belong to the local NAWBO chapter, and how does that compare to the national NAWBO organization?
Our chapter has many small business members, mostly with one to four or five employees, and a few with more. Many use sub-contractors as needed. About half of our members are relatively new in business. The range of businesses include manufacturing, technology, wholesale and retail glass, event planning, financial advisors, legal and accounting professionals, consultants in security, communication, organization and a variety of other industries.
Q: How is being a business owner different for a woman than for a man? How are the challenges different?
Some of the issues have not really changed from one generation to the next! Most women remain the primary caregivers in their household, whether it’s for children or aging parents or spouses. The stress levels are generally higher for women business owners than men, in part, because of the breadth and depth of personal responsibilities in addition to the running of the business. Nonetheless, women business owners need to be experts, know how to attract and keep clients, manage their employees, and be alert to change and innovation in technology and elsewhere, just as their male counterparts.
Q: What skills or lessons should women be taught in school that you think they may not be learning?
I believe there needs to be more practical psychology including instruction on dealing with different types of personalities in the workplace, along with an earlier introduction to finance and the relationship of financial decisions to success. Also, I’m afraid the art of writing and its counterpart, face-to-face communication, are giving way to too much digital interaction, at the expense of human contact. Of course, I’m a bit prejudiced, given my own background and profession!
Q: There seem to be a fairly large number of local networking organizations for women, and that’s on top of the large number of networking organizations overall. What makes NAWBO different from the others?
We are the only local organization that is exclusively geared to helping women business owners succeed. Our focus is education, networking and forging relationships that happen nowhere else. It’s a supportive, noncompetitive environment that’s also enjoyable. Our members can find answers to tough questions and support among kindred souls who get how challenging and frustrating it is to be a business owner. Through NAWBO I’ve landed national clients as well as speaking opportunities overseas, invaluable education, exceptional friendships and so much more.
Q: How does someone become a member? What are the requirements and costs, and benefits?
NAWBO requires that you be a business owner, a partner in a professional firm, or own a percentage of a company. The cost varies from chapter to chapter. You can sign up and find the dues rates at www.nawbo.org. We accept 10 percent of our membership as non-owners.
Q: What are your top three tips for networking effectively, regardless of the organization or setting?
Don’t go to a meeting “hungry” to make a connection. While it’s good to go to a networker keen on connecting with potential clients or contacts, if you’re so focused on landing a new potential client that you overlook the value of talking with someone who doesn’t appear to fit that bill immediately, you can really lose out in the long run.
Spend as much time listening as talking, maybe more. That means when you ask questions, make them thoughtful, and really listen to the answers before you start talking about yourself.
Take time to introduce others to the people you’re meeting. By expanding your circle and theirs, everyone wins.
Q: You own a business. Tell us about it...what’s the name, how many employees do you have, etc?
My company is Speakout, Inc. We work with senior level executives and business owners to help them establish themselves as the go-to expert by helping them create non-boring and effective presentations and speeches, for external and internal audiences. Our group programs and one-on-one consulting also focus on reducing the anxiety and frustration often associated with public and persuasive speaking. Additionally, we provide customized team communication programs to increase creative capabilities and camaraderie, using personalized analysis tools and realistic role-playing. I’m the primary consultant and I contract with support services and other specialists as the work and opportunities dictate.
Q: How did your business start?
I founded Speakout in 1990. This company grew out of a previous business, which had included marketing and direct mail, that I sold to two other women. Then I started again. The original company evolved from my freelance writing, when clients asked me to start writing their speeches in addition to articles and press releases. That service evolved into presentation coaching and public speaking training workshops for corporations and nonprofits.
Q: How do you have time to attend to your own business and work with NAWBO?
You don’t really have enough time for everything, do you? It’s a constant challenge to spend time wisely and evenly! NAWBO has been a big part of my life for several decades, and this is the second time I’m serving as president of our chapter. What I learn from the other members of NAWBO, from our speakers here and from the national conferences, along with the introductions and opportunities that have opened up, makes the return on investment of time more than worth it!
Q: What’s the best business advice you ever got?
When in doubt, listen to your gut. Get still, get quiet, and ask yourself what you really want. Then, go for it!
Q: What have you learned in business that you wish someone had told you along the way?
My mother always said when you travel, “take half the clothes and twice the money.” In business, this advice has translated to the reality that whatever time you think getting something new completed will take, double it. And then don’t beat yourself up too much while you try to get it done!