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Women in Leadership

Women in Leadership

Heather Remer,  Owner, ComputerCare LLC.

  • How did you come into this business?
    I decided I wanted to open up my own counseling practice and agreed to help my husband in his business by “doing the books” while I built my practice. I realized soon after that I didn’t have the connections or the experience that I needed to build a practice yet, but saw quickly that ComputerCare was growing and that Mike was going to need help with building the long-term strategy, developing internal processes and hiring staff. I had no idea how to do it, but thought learning on the job would be one heck of an adventure, so I stayed on and went to work.
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business/coming into this field of work?
    My biggest challenge from day one was learning to trust my gut. I was coming into the position from a totally different field, had a steep learning curve and had to learn a lot on the fly. I am the type of person who likes to think things through and have all the facts, and I didn’t have that luxury anymore. I started seeking input from other people in similar roles but would find that their advice didn’t feel right. My biggest failures have been when I have implemented the feedback of others into my business despite my intuition telling me “no.” I still frequently seek out the feedback of colleagues and peers, but I’m learning to balance that with my intuition. If something tells me “no,” despite the information at hand, I listen very carefully to that little voice.
  • Do you feel being a woman has especially helped or hurt you in your industry?
    It depends. As my role in the company grew from part-time bookkeeper to full-time partner, it became more and more frustrating to hear comments like, “Are you still helping your husband out with his business?,” “How is it working for your husband?,” or, “So you handle the invoicing and he does everything else?” So people assume that I have a lesser role than I really do. At the same time, I suspect being a woman has given me a different perspective and approach than a man might have.  I’m sure there are other ways – I’m not even aware of – that my gender has affected my work experience, but for better or worse, I don’t have the time to put much thought into it. I will say that I am very thankful for the women who have gone before me that have paved the way so that I even have the option to do this.
  • What is your favorite thing about your job?
    I love stepping back, looking at the big picture and thinking of how I can make things work better. I love to ask, “How can we provide a better service to our clients, how can I make this a better place to work for my team, how can we improve the company, how can I improve as a leader?” And then I love implementing those changes.
  • What advice would you give to women who are considering starting a business?
    Stay on track by staying balanced. Give up the idea that you can and must excel on all fronts of your life at the same time. It’s not possible and trying will drive you insane. Remember the word “balance” and recognize that balance doesn’t come from day-to-day or even week-to-week. There will be some times in your life when you need to put in those long hours at work, but you must give yourself permission to swing back the other way in a reasonable amount of time. I have a “Life Plan” that I look at and update a couple of times a year. It reminds me what I value most. I use it to help me recognize when my life has gotten out of balance and to remember what’s truly most important.
  • Tell us about one of your mentors.
    What I’ve found is that most answers to my questions about business can be found if I approach the question from a place that is in line with my values. There are so many people who I can go to in the community—other business leaders, authors, etc.  What I sometimes need help with is getting that right perspective. My pastor, Sandy Reimer, is one of the wisest women I know. While I don’t know that she would recognize herself as my mentor (her career was spent in teaching, ministering and caring for others, not in private business,)  I do know that when I need help deciding on what the right question is and then developing the process on how to go about answering it, she is the one I go to. She can help recalibrate your values by just being in the room.
  • If you could describe yourself in three words, which three would you choose?
    Persistent, pioneering, improving.

Naomi Whittel, Owner/Founder Reserveage
  • How did you come into this business?
    You might say that I was born into this business, as I come from a family of natural living enthusiasts and world-renowned scientists. My father is a chemist, and both of my parents espoused “clean,” biodynamic eating, and put health and wellness above all else. During meals growing up, they would talk to me about all aspects of nutrition, from foods’ colors and flavors to their cellular compounds. I cherished that knowledge—felt empowered by it—and knew very early on what I wanted to do with my life. After high school, I moved to South Florida, apprenticing myself at my grandmother’s health food store, while studying business and biology in college. Within a few years, I took over the store, and with the contacts I had made, developed my first line of healthy aging supplements.
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business/coming into this field of work?
    My biggest challenge in starting my company was the transition from my previous life, in which I had unlimited time for friends, family and volunteerism. Between the sale of my first company and founding Reserveage, I spent several years devoted to raising my daughter, while on the side researching nutritional science and developing my business plan. So when, at last, I launched my first line of products—out of my home, with fewer than a handful of employees—my life significantly changed. In many ways it was harder for my loved ones, who did not always or easily understand the vision I had, and thus the time, focus and energy it took to see it through. I think that because, in general, women prioritize relationship-building and caregiving to others, it can be especially difficult to explain our ambitions and drives in the professional capacity. This is true of all mothers, wives and friends, regardless of their jobs; but it inevitably increases farther up the executive chain.
  • Do you feel being a woman has especially helped or hurt you in your industry?
    I would not say that being a woman in this industry has hurt me in any direct or measureable way, but rather that it has certain pitfalls and benefits. On the one hand, I am very often the only female at the boardroom or negotiating table—a fact that is perceptible to all. As well, I do think that because our numbers are still so small—currently, only 3 percent of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women—the business world on the whole remains unsure about us, our vision or management style. But at the same time, the support and inspiration that I receive from other industry females, from the C-suite on down, spurs me on, and in that way provides a benefit.
  • What is your favorite thing about your job?
    My favorite thing about my job is the power I have to help people. As a CEO, I have the rare opportunity to provide jobs—meaning an income, on the one hand, and self-confidence and skill building, on the other.  Plus, being a female CEO in particular, I’m in a position to leverage professional women in a way they are not always afforded. And then of course, through developing my company and its products, I’m able to provide our customers and their families with efficacious, science-based tools that improve their health and their overall quality of life. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling line of work.
  • What advice would you give to women who are considering starting a business?
    For women contemplating or just starting a new business, I would advise them, above all else, to be confident in their idea and their own voice. As women, we are the purchasers—or major influencers of—85 percent of commercial goods sold across all industries today. Contained within our own lives and experiences, therefore, are incredible business plans for successful products and services. From there, one needs only to hone her vision, and build a talented, mission-driven team to execute it every day. Everything begins and ends with her self-confidence and the high standards she sets for herself.
  • Tell us about one of your mentors.
    One of the most influential mentors I have had since starting Reserveage, four years ago, was herself a female CEO at the time. In many ways she took me under her wing, offering great advice on everything from how to position Reserveage in different spaces to how to manage motherhood as my company grew. She was the CEO of a very large and prominent industry corporation; and though she never would have given me or my company special treatment, she truly believed in both at that very critical, formative time. Still today, I continue to draw on her wisdom, either by recalling her words or by making a quick phone call.
  • If you could describe yourself in three words, which three would you choose?
    Bold, Positive, Focused

Rachael Lewis, Service Writer, City Auto

  • How did you come into this business?
    My father has owned the business for more than 32 years. He was looking for someone to take it over. We discussed the possibilities and decided to give it a try. I started out keeping the shop clean, and moved my way up to the vice president.
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business/coming into this field of work?
    I’d have to say coming into a male-dominated field, and having little knowledge of automotive technology. It was hard at first to gain respect, especially being the “owner’s daughter.” But after the business was turned around and sales went way up, it was a little easier to gain the respect.
  •  Do you feel being a woman has especially helped or hurt you in your industry?
    I feel that it has helped me. Being a woman is so powerful in my opinion. I feel that I am able to communicate with my customers in a way that they understand, without speaking over their heads.
  • What is your favorite thing about your job?I love to educate my customers. It is so rewarding to have customers walk out of my shop with a great sense of confidence, knowing that they are at a shop that is run with honesty and integrity.
  • What advice would you give to women who are considering starting a business?
    I would say to remember you are stronger than you think you are. My dad has always told me, “If you’re not scared, then something is wrong with you.” Having those butterflies in your stomach should drive you—not hold you back. And to always run your business with honesty and integrity; if you don’t, you won’t last long.
  • Tell us about one of your mentors.
    I am part of a group of 50 shop owners from around the United States. We meet three times a year as a group. We share everything— knowledge, our profit and loss statements, advice… you name it. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. This group has given me knowledge, confidence, advice—and I know that no matter what questions I could have, everyone is willing to help me find the answer.
  • If you could describe yourself in three words, which three would you choose?
    Driven, Cognizant, Empathic

 

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