Member of the Moment: Chandani S. Radia

Chandani S. Radia
Managing Director, Spectrum Uniforms
Industry: Medical apparel and medical diagnostic equipment
Website: www.spectrumuniforms.com
Instagram handles: @csradia and @spectrumuniforms

How has being a WPO member helped your business?

I cannot think of a way that my WPO membership has not impacted my business. I joined less than a year after taking the helm of my father’s business. I had returned from ten years working across Europe, without a network, community or even the knowledge of local business norms. WPO has given me a community to stress test ideas, learn from others’ experiences, and most importantly a group that I can be vulnerable with during challenging times.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?

As a young woman of color, it has been hard at times to be taken seriously. Globally, we have not seen enough young people – much less young women in roles of leadership. This lack of representation and preconceived notions makes it challenging for some to reconcile your position and accomplishments with how you look. It does not help that I am a few inches over five feet tall and inherited youthful skin from my grandmother (it’s more of a blessing than a curse, but you can understand how it might not help my case!). Once someone pulled me aside after giving a presentation to a large audience, and said ‘Wow, what a great presentation for someone of your age!! Surely you must be about the age of just getting your driver’s license?’. Gracefully responding in those situations is a challenge. I also feel this sense of obligation to represent all of my minority checkboxes well, so that the next person that looks like me is not dismissed. In this instance I replied ‘Yes, I actually have a license to drive in two countries, and can drive a stick. What about you?’. If some cannot see you capable of driving a car, it takes them a while to wrap their head around your record of driving top and bottom line growth for organizations, and a stick-shift.

What inspired you to start your business?

My father started the business thirty years ago as an immigrant and a critical care nurse, his goal was to innovate uniformity, comfort and style for those who served others. Not all heroes wear capes, and we believe that if you cannot wear a cape, then scrubs are the next best option! I joined the business in 2018, after my father discovered theft of company assets by several employees. Feeling helpless from far away, I quit my corporate job in London, and returned to Houston to support the litigation and lead the rebuild. My decision was not just based on my family but my belief that small businesses have the privilege and ability to create positive ripple effects through their micro and macro environment. I could not stand by to wait and see what would happen to the community my father built of employees, clients and suppliers. I cannot say I felt fit for the job or even capable a lot of the time but I also knew things could not get much worse so that relieved some of the pressure!

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?

My second chapter meeting was a retreat in Napa valley. This is my favorite WPO event for obvious reasons. Looking back, it also gave me the opportunity to drink, travel, laugh, cry and even share toothpaste (not necessarily in that order!) with some of the ladies in my chapter. These intimate moments helped to build a strong foundation for some dear friendships.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

GSD: Get s___ done. This was a mantra in a previous organization I worked for. My manager at the time made sure we used this in every element of the way we operated. This sentiment has always stuck with me and transformed the way I think about productivity and accomplishments. In leading a business it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by a multitude of opinions or information to make decisions. The idea of getting s___ done drives progress over perfection. This simple, and crass mantra allows me to prioritize, let go of some things, and gauge our impact.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Think about the most judgmental and/or harsh thing you have ever said to someone, or about someone. Now compare it to what you have said to yourself. How often do you say those things to yourself? Most of us will find that it’s on a daily basis, and it’s much harsher than we would say to or about others. That means that your most challenging opponent is not across the arena, it’s yourself in the locker room. This revelation does not come overnight, you do not wake up the next morning singing Beyoncé lyrics into the mirror. However, the awareness helps you stop beating yourself up so much, so that when it is time to rumble with your opponent (investors, competitors or the patriarchy) you are not worn down by self-inflicted injuries. You enter into the arena (in the words of my dad) ‘prepped and ready to kick some a__’.

Pivot your business to survive the COVID-19 Pandemic they said…

By Leanne Dorrington, Managing Director, Eezipay Management Systems

WPO Cape Town I Member

My company Eezipay Management Systems, a software development company based in South Africa, pivoted, and it was fun, but it did not work!? 

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at our shores and it didn’t seem real, and we didn’t yet know what it would mean for our lives and our businesses! We played along, enjoyed being in lockdown and working from home, until it dawned on us that this was real, it was affecting our bottom line, and we needed to do something about it.  

‘Pivoting your business to survive the pandemic’ was already a phrase which was trending, and along with ‘PPE’ and ‘unprecedented times’ was one of the sentences which irritated us all. But, it was time to brainstorm our pivot, what could we do to create a new income stream while the world was on pause? What opportunities were there for us under this ‘new normal’. 

As a software development company we were one of ‘the lucky ones’ , as we were able to fairly easily transition to remote working and some of our customers stayed online and some were even able to pay us for continued service. However, this was a small percentage of our monthly income and we needed to create a new revenue stream if we were going to retain our staff and wait out the lockdown.  

We worked with what we had and we created some fantastic solutions, we worked with friends in our industry and promoted each other’s solutions too. This was new terrain but it felt good! Eezipay has always built solutions to meet our client’s needs, and under the COVID-19 pandemic, our purpose was the same. We didn’t pivot who we were or what we did, but we pivoted to meet new, mostly temporary needs, or so we hope!  

Ordinarily we offer fully integrated management solutions which include but are not limited to Access control, Time and Attendance, Point Of Sale, Meal Booking, Laundry, Transport, Cashless environments and online wallet and App payment services. During COVID, we customised our laundry services to assist in the washing of masks and uniforms, we adapted our access and attendance modules to include automated mask detection and temperature taking. We on-boarded a hand sanitiser unit from a fellow software company and we built a COVID screening app and a Delivery app. 

We created a specific COVID website and brochures, video’s, a social media campaign and other marketing material. We advertised for, onboarded and trained a COVID sales team of 11 people who were homebound with no income, it was all going according to plan!  

As the days went by, we kept on at our ordinary business and we worked at this new avenue, but it was eerily quiet!? Individuals were not spending and businesses had either rushed in and bought the first option available or were hoping to wait out the pandemic and not have to spend on COVID solutions for their business. Not one sale was closed by our sales team and startlingly few responses were received from our online marketing efforts. Were we doing it all wrong!? 

We held internal discussions with our COVID sales team and our existing team, and we agreed that it was just all too much for people! The balance between survival and compliance was the tightest of tight ropes and there were so many varying and contributing factors which negatively impacted our success. COVID fatigue was and is a real phenomenon, everywhere you looked there were sanitisers and masks on special, foot-pumps and questionnaires and thermometers being pointed at your head. The market was saturated, not necessarily by competing products but by media hype and advertising and people seemed to have shut down completely.  

But all was not lost, we pitched our COVID solutions to existing clients and contacts, and this initiated new interest in both our COVID solutions and in our ordinary solutions. Go figure, all that pivoting, and we had the ‘bird in the hand’ all along!?  

The lesson we learnt here is how important it is to have a brand and a business with integrity, and to keep in touch with your contacts, because you never know what opportunities may be waiting for you to find them! Although our COVID solutions haven’t been a huge success, we have learnt so much from this process. We have been reminded of the true value of our team, we have built some fantastic solutions which will be customised for use long after the pandemic has passed and may yet become a success. We have been very fortunate to have managed our cashflow and to have survived with our full staff contingent, without the income we envisaged from our pivot!  

2020, the year to pivot but also the year to stop and really look at what’s important and what makes for real success…

Play the Retirement Catch-Up Game

From our sponsor, Prudential Financial

Key takeaways

•            The longer you wait, the harder it is to make up lost time.

•            Show your age (and save even more) if you’re 50+.

•            Move the goalposts at work: more saving, less spending.

It’s the golden rule of retirement saving: Start early. The advantages are well-documented. Thanks to compound interest, the sooner you begin, the more your money can grow over time, and the less pressure to save you’ll feel as retirement nears.

 But, for various reasons, not everyone manages to start funding their futures when they’re young. The Federal Reserve reports that fully one in four non-retired Americans have no retirement savings at all, with those under 30 (38%) leading (or trailing) that pack. And many others are saving—but not enough to handle their future financial needs.

The good news: If you haven’t begun to save, or you haven’t been hitting your savings targets, there’s still time to make up lost ground—as long as you begin now. Don’t let worry over missed opportunities stop you from acting now to secure your financial future.

After all, the worst thing you could do is to let yourself fall even further behind.

No time like the present

No matter your age, retirement savings must be a priority—and the sooner, the better. But even if you’ve passed your 20s, there’s still time to build up a healthy retirement fund.

Consider: A 35-year-old who starts saving $8,000 a year—$670 a month for the next 30 years could end up with more than $750,000 at age 67, assuming 6% annual returns on average.

But if the same person waited just five more years to start (at age 40), putting away $8,000 a year may yield only $543,000 by 67, assuming the same rate of return. As you can see, a small delay can make a big difference.

The task of saving grows harder with each passing year, but it can be done. So, don’t waste another minute.

 Turbocharge your savings

Save as much as you can in tax-favored retirement accounts, which can grow tax-deferred and give you other tax breaks when you contribute (traditional) or withdraw (Roth). For example, you can save up to $19,500 a year ($26,000 with “catch-up” contributions if you’ll be at least age 50 by Dec. 31) in workplace retirement plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s or 457s. Outside of work, you may also be able to contribute up to $6,000 a year ($7,000 if you’re over 50) to an individual retirement account (IRA). (The IRS usually raises all those savings limits every two years for inflation.) You might face income and other limits on certain accounts, so consider talking to a financial advisor before making a move.

Even if you can’t max out on saving right away, try hit your target gradually by raising your contributions each year by, say, 1% or 2% on your birthday. Some workplace plans even let you set up automatic annual increases. You won’t feel much pain in your paycheck (especially with traditional pretax contributions), but it can mean big gains in the long run.

Coming up with the cash

You may need to adjust your household budget to redirect money toward retirement. Some possible sources of extra savings:

• Smarten your phone. Shop around for mobile carriers with cheaper packages for the voice and data services you use.

• Cut the cord. Research potentially cheaper alternatives to your cable package, such as streaming services.

• Boost your deductibles. Higher deductibles for your home, renters or auto insurance can lower your premiums. But only do this if you’ll have the cash to cover the higher amount if you file a claim.

• Unsubscribe. Scour your credit card bills or bank statements for subscriptions you don’t use but still pay for.

 Rethink retirement

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your savings may need more time to grow before you can stop working. Consider postponing retirement by a year or two if you can, or make work a part of your retirement plan.

Delaying retirement offers two (and maybe three) financial benefits: You’ll have more time to save (and for your account to grow). You’ll have fewer years in retirement to save for (and less need to draw down on the account and reduce its principal). And for each year you delay starting your Social Security benefits (until age 70), your monthly check from Uncle Sam will be 8% larger—for life.

And even after you call it quits on the 9 to 5, you may not want to close the door entirely to work. A few hours of consulting work or a home-based business can add significantly to your retirement income—even if you’ve started taking Social Security.

What you can do next

When it comes to funding your future, there really is no time like the present. Even a small bump can make a big dent over time. Look for ways to scrounge up extra cash, take advantage of tax-advantaged savings plans (“catch-up” rules if you’re over age 50), and even consider working longer if you can. Of course, you should consult your tax and legal advisors for guidance on your circumstances.

Here are links to additional information and tools that can help you plan for a secure retirement.

Retirement Calculator

Make Smart Choices in Your 40s

Firm Up Retirement Planning In Your 50s

Secure Retirement In Your 60s

Build Your Action Plan

Nearing Retirement? A Roth Conversion Could Be Your Silver Lining

Footnotes

This article was originally published on Oct. 12, 2016, and has been updated occasionally to reflect cost-of-living increases to retirement account contribution limits as well as Social Security assumptions for younger workers.

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Member of the Moment: Leslie Gallagher

WPO Member since 2019      

CEO & Founder, Two Hands Four Paws, Inc.

Website: www.twohandsfourpaws.com

Twitter: @2hnds4pwsrehab

Facebook: TwoHandFourPaws

Instagram: @twohandsfourpaws

In Leslie’s words…

How has being a WPO member helped your business?

WPO has been extremely important in helping me solve business related problems. Having such a competent group of professionals who have all “been there, done that” to help me resolve issues has been huge for me. I felt so alone for so long and now I feel so much more confident when I have a challenging decision to make because I was able to run it past my brain trust!

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?

How much time do you have?…… For starters getting a very male dominated veterinary industry to take what I do seriously. This is an ongoing problem but fortunately it’s getting better as women are starting to take over the vet industry and they have a much better appreciation for the importance of the work that we do. And almost as frustrating is having employees occasionally giving me attitude when I know that if I were a male CEO they probably wouldn’t say a word…

What inspired you to start your business?

I was working in the television industry when my boss died and the business shut down in LA. I adopted his German Shepherd and several weeks later took her to a groomer, an event that left her paralyzed. Every veterinary specialist that I took her to told me to euthanize her. I thought that was insane. Just because her back legs didn’t work wasn’t a reason to end her life! So I started swimming with her, got her walking again and decided that I needed to start a business to help other people with injured animals. At 35 I went back to school (multiple schools actually) and put a little pool in my backyard, set up a treadmill in my garage and hung out my shingle. The phone never stopped ringing! Now I have 30 employees who treat approximately 60 animals a day and we are the oldest and largest animal rehab facility in the state.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended?

Last year we had an amazing retreat at a beautiful hotel right on the water. I was still fairly new to WPO (and not just a little bit intimidated by my amazing peers) and to be able to spend several uninterrupted days surrounded by some of the smartest and most interesting women in Southern California was such a gift. Linda Applegate from Harvard did a day long presentation which was very informative. But the best part were the hours spent with the women in my chapter creating Vision Boards of what we hoped the upcoming year would look like. It was like being at summer camp with my cleverest friends! Unfortunately none of us factored in a global pandemic!!!

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

I hope this doesn’t sound terrible but honestly it was when the CEO of my last company told me to “never ask for permission, just ask for forgiveness later”. I can’t tell you how many times that has served me well. Following and trusting my gut has never steered me in the wrong direction but I used to think I had to be “polite” and ask first. Not anymore!!

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up no matter how many obstacles are thrown in your path. Use them to make you stronger. If you believe in what you are doing and are passionate about it you will succeed. Losers and haters are always going to be out there wanting to put a halt to your success. Don’t give them the power. 

Racial Equity and Inclusion are Core Business Imperatives

Companies everywhere are grappling with implicit bias and using all aspects of their business – from policies and practices to products — as levers to promote inclusive growth, particularly for people of color. Prudential shares strategies that other companies can tailor and adopt as a part of a broader commitment to racial equity.


By: Lata Reddy, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, Prudential Financial and Ben Hecht, President & CEO, Living Cities

Not long ago, we saw a national dialogue around race jumpstarted by the unjust arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks. In response, the company closed more than 8,000 stores to conduct a day-long racial bias training.

In the wake of this – and other – recent cases of corporate brands grappling with implicit bias, companies everywhere are watching and taking note about how to proceed. However, corporate trainings and policy tweaks alone, although important, aren’t enough.

To effect lasting change, companies must examine how individual, structural and institutional racism impact all aspects of their business—from policies and practices to products—and use these levers to promote inclusive growth, particularly for people of color. To ignore this important work puts both corporate reputation and long-term sustainability of the company at serious risk.

Many companies at the vanguard of this movement are motivated by troubling economic trends, such as stagnant wages, an increasing wealth gap, and persistent un- and under-employment – all of which are felt more acutely by people of color. What’s more, leaders in such companies recognize that by 2030, we will be a nation with no racial majority. Greater diversity should mean vast new opportunity for economic vitality benefiting a wider range of people.

Yet systemic racial inequities persist across nearly every indicator of well-being, maintaining steep barriers to economic success for America’s growing communities of color – the consumer and employee of tomorrow. Disparities are not just a moral crisis; they pose an economic threat.

Here are three strategies businesses are successfully implementing that other companies can tailor and adopt as part of a broader commitment to racial equity:

  • Build a talent pipeline. To advance its mission of eliminating barriers to financial and social mobility and promoting inclusive growth, Prudential is focused on building a talent pipeline that both contributes to and draws from underserved communities. One example is Prudential’s real estate investment business, PGIM Real Estate, and its partnership with YouthBuild USA, an organization that helps out-of-school, unemployed young people find pathways to meaningful employment. Through YouthBuild, young people can earn a diploma, GED or other credential while learning valuable work and life skills by building affordable housing and other community assets. PGIM Real Estate has a broad network of relationships with developers and construction firms around the world, which creates access to quality jobs and apprenticeships for YouthBuild students.
  • Ensure that products meet the needs of diverse customers. Authentically engaging with underserved customers could result in tomorrow’s most in-demand product or service line. Target Corporation’s Takeoff program, a startup boot camp, identifies emerging companies whose sustainable products solve for previously unmet needs of diverse consumers. The ten-company cohort includes brands like Iya Foods—marketing authentic African food products—and Asiya, an activewear brand creating hijabs for sports and physical activities. Participating founders have met with mentors, taken a crash course in retail, and pitched their products to experts, ultimately helping Target access new consumer audiences in the process.
  • Invest in your own backyard. Chicago’s many anchor institutions—universities, hospitals, major corporations and more—generate constant demand for the varied supplies and services needed to function. Sixteen local public and private companies formed a network dubbed the Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE), to help more local businesses—particularly those based in the city’s lowest-income communities—build capacity to meet anchors’ supply needs. By reexamining procurement channels, institutions can spur job growth and contribute to the vitality of the community.

Business leaders must do what they do best: recognize risk and seize the opportunity. Black and Latino Americans wield almost $3 trillion in combined purchasing power today, and that’s projected to grow. Already, companies concentrating on racial equity have created new business value and improved their bottom line, according to research from PolicyLink and FSG. Focusing on unique needs and barriers of historically marginalized communities can spark innovation around new products and services, broadening the customer base and strengthening the local talent pipeline. Bringing the same lens to internal policies can reduce employee turnover and increase engagement.

Companies like Unilever and Patagonia have long demonstrated how social impact and values like environmental sustainability could be interwoven into all aspects of their brand and business practices in a way that increases overall competitiveness. We argue that all companies can take a similar 360-degree view of traditional corporate social responsibility, beyond any one program or initiative, to place the values of racial equity and inclusion at the center of the business.

If we don’t address current disparities, our future majority—people of color—will be less financially secure than today’s population and will face persistent barriers to full economic inclusion. That’s devastating for an economy like ours, where growth is close to 75 percent reliant on consumer spending. Today’s competitive advantage rests in racial equity; business leaders should reassess their companies from the inside out accordingly.

Below are links to additional information that can inform your approach to advancing Racial Equity.