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May 16, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

WPO Conference in Dallas Rocks the House!

Special Guest Blog

By Diane McIlree, Long Island Chapter Chair

The Columbus Chapter of the WPO celebrates the first night of the conference at Eddie Deen's Ranch

The Columbus Chapter of the WPO celebrates the first night of the conference at Eddie Deen’s Ranch

800 women business owners gathered at The Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas for the annual conference of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a non-profit membership organization for entrepreneurial women presidents with businesses that generate at least $2 million in gross annual revenue (or $1M for service-based businesses).

Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., President and Founder, kicked off the meeting by welcoming WPO members from 110 chapters and five continents and punctuated the theme of the conference, Fueling Economic Growth – Taking your Business to the Next Level. Setting the stage for three-day event, Firestone noted that 30% of U.S. businesses are women owned. She also shared that of the 1,600 WPO members, 25% comprise businesses generating $10 million or more in gross annual revenue; 25% have 50 or more employees; and 56% report that their businesses have grown since joining WPO.

The WPO conference, which was sponsored by a host of both corporate and member sponsors, featured four keynote speakers, including Lynda Applegate, Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Barbara Barrett, President & CEO, Triple Creek Ranch; Marshall Goldsmith, Author and Leadership Thinker; and Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

Lynda Applegate, the first of the keynotes, was introduced by Denise Evans, Vice President, Market Development, IBM Corporation on Wednesday, May 1. Applegate spoke about the characteristics of high growth companies and shared ideas for creating game-changing businesses through a combination of analytical thinking, gut instinct and a passion for tweaking and triangulating your business model.

The following day, Moira Forbes, President & Publisher, ForbesWoman, interviewed the next keynote speaker, Barbara Barrett. Barrett, who is President & CEO of Triple Creek Guest Ranch—and has also been U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Interim President of Thunderbird School of Global Management, CEO of the American Management Association, President of the International Women’s Forum and the first woman to land an F18 fighter jet on an aircraft carrier—delivered a clear message to conference attendees: take calculated risks, turn mistakes into learning opportunities and surround yourself with a strong team.

Marshall Goldsmith spoke next. Recognized as the #1 leadership thinker by Harvard Business Review, Goldsmith reported that extensive studies reveal a high correlation between satisfaction scores at home and at work. He encouraged the audience to focus on finding meaning, being fully engaged, building positive relationships – and most importantly – setting clear goals.

Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., WPO President & Founder, poses with the Wildcat Wranglers

Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., WPO President & Founder, poses with the Wildcat Wranglers

Excitement mounted as the conference moved closer to the awards night ceremony. Sponsored by American Express OPEN, the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies in North America awards recognized 50 of the top women in business. The audience was jubilant on behalf of the winners and the celebration continued well into the evening. (Click here for a full list of the 2013 winners).

The final keynote, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, spoke during the industry breakfast. A fiercely animated speaker, Dr. Cole stressed the business case for diversity, and the importance of mentorship.

Of course, the conference would not have been complete without the Diamonds and Denim Event at Eddie Deen’s Ranch—complete with live entertainment by the Wildcat Wranglers!  Mechanical bull riding, delicious ribs ‘n fixins’ and lots of networking made for a fun night, and it was the perfect touch for a memorable 2013 conference!

Diane McIlree is the Managing Director of Advisory on Call, a leading provider of coaching, training and writing services. McIlree is a business leader with significant experience working with early-stage through multi-billion dollar enterprises. McIlree formed her company with the express purpose of helping business owners and executives enhance their leadership and grow both professionally and personally. Diane’s record of accomplishment in leading people, developing winning strategies and growing both privately held and public sector companies has earned her a reputation for being a sought after trusted advisor. She is Chapter Chair of the Long Island chapter of the WPO. Connect with Diane at advisoryoncall.com.

May 10, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Why Protecting Intellectual Property Matters to Your Business and its Brand

Special Guest Blog

By Deborah Sweeney

In the rush to get your business up and running, it can be easy to procrastinate on creating a trademark or copyright for your brand. Or, in the case that your idea is incredibly outside of the box, it may be seen as unnecessary, since there’s no way anyone else can think of that idea… right?

Rather than wait and see, it’s important to view the intellectual property attached to your business in the present tense. Forming trademarks and copyrights to protect these areas of your business will continue to be the gift that keeps on giving.

If you’re on the fence about filing your trademark applications, here are a few reasons to motivate yourself to move forward:

1) A business’ intellectual property is often its most valuable asset.

Copyrights protect the “original works of authorship”, so if you create anything that is artistic, musical, or literary based, a copyright ensures a public record of your work and the copyright claim. Should anyone attempt to violate that copyright, you may have the right to sue for copyright infringement.

For a business, trademarking the name or logo through federal registration offers legal presumption of ownership nationwide on said brand name and logo. There is notice given to the public on the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, and the registrant is given the exclusive right to use that mark within connection on the services set in registration. By doing a trademark search, you’ll be able to make sure that the name of your business is available for use and registration.

Keep in mind, however, that registering a corporate name with the Secretary of State (for your corporation or LLC) is not the same as a trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Many business owners believe that once they have incorporated their business, the business name is protected. In fact, the state filing does not have trademark significance.  Instead, filing a trademark application with the USPTO is the right step to protect your brand name or logo on a national level.

And finally, you’ll want to establish your website domain name, which is often one of the hottest pieces of intellectual property real estate to acquire for your business.  Domain names often get snapped up early on, so when choosing your brand name and corporate name, check the domain name availability as well. Once you’ve purchased the domain name to go along with your company, it becomes easier for customers to find you online and prevents others from buying your business name at “.com” or “.net” addresses.

2) Once trademarks are created, they must be policed.

Once you have registered a trademark, it is important to police it.  In the event someone tries to use said trademark or brand name, seek legal guidance and perhaps a cease and desist. Creating a trademark for your business— but not policing it—may result in yielding your trademark to a third party, and you definitely don’t want that for your company!

The Next Web recently reported a recent example of this, where Randolph Divisions, the company behind the HearPod digital hearing aid, sued Apple over trademark infringement, alleging that Apple’s “EarPods” earbuds infringed on their trademark. It turns out Apple owns the trademarks for EarPods and Apple EarPods, but it has yet to secure the domain name Earpod.com, which is owned by Randolph Divisions.

The implications here are significant.  Specifically, one of your most valuable assets – the name by which consumers identify your company – can be diluted by third parties making use of your name.  If this does happen, a court may even decide that the two companies using it have ‘peacefully co-existed’, thereby allowing both companies to use what was once exclusively your trademark.  The moral of the story is, don’t just register your trademark, but make sure you are taking the right steps to maintain your ownership of the mark.

3) Remember to take care of your business slogan or logo, too!

Oftentimes it’s the catchy slogan (Nike’s “Just Do It”) or instantly recognizable logo design (Apple’s apple) that bring in customer recognition faster than the name of your brand. You want to make sure that your customers associate your logo or slogan with your brand and not someone else’s. Take care of these areas of your business and protect them as much as you do your trademark.

Conducting a trademark watch can be of great help to ensuring that your brand identity stays yours and not someone else’s. By signing up for a trademark watch service, you will receive detailed reports of pending applications and have your trademark monitored against infringement at all times.

Just as filing for a trademark or copyright can be the protective gift that keeps on giving for your business, the exact same can be said for trademark watches which continually work to benefit the business and its brand.

When it comes down to it, keep in mind that it is important to establish a strong, identifiable brand, protect that brand by registering your trademarks and logos and police them to ensure you maintain sole ownership.  As you build your business and customer base, grow the business outside your home state, or even position the business for sale, the effort to protect these valuable intellectual assets will prove to be time and money well spent.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

April 19, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

The Role of Entrepreneurship in the She-conomy

Special Guest Blog

By Intuit

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Of all the trends shaping the future of the global economy, the role of women has proven to be a key driver for growth. An excerpt from the Intuit 2020 Report, co-authored by Emergent Research, envisions a She-conomy where women will attain greater leadership roles in the workplace, politics, health and education.

By 2020, women around the world will enter the workforce at an unprecedented rate. Close to 1 billion women, many of whom have either never worked or worked at a subsistence level, will be contributors in the world economy. Because of urban migration, increased access to education, mobile technologies, micro-credit and low market entry costs, women will create work and start businesses more readily than ever.

Between 1997 and 2009, the number of majority women-owned firms in the U.S. grew at nearly twice the rate of all privately held U.S. firms. Throughout this decade, the trend will continue as more women choose entrepreneurship.

By 2020 :

  • Globally, about 870 million women who have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own business.  Most of these women – 822 million – will come from non-industrialized countries, while roughly 47 million will come from North America, Western Europe and Japan.
  • In countries with limited support services, such as viable childcare, many women will start their own businesses to provide flexibility for their families and avoid traditional constraints that once kept them out of the workplace. Others may choose a hybrid solution where one spouse works for the benefits and job security while the other starts a business.
  • Women will overcome the legal or traditional barriers that prevented them from participating in some regions by using virtual, mobile and Internet technologies to run businesses without having to be physically present.

And when it comes to second stage entrepreneurs – women whose businesses have reached the million dollar revenue mark and who qualify for membership in the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) – the news is equally impressive. According to the Growing Under the Radar study, commissioned by American Express OPEN, the number of million-dollar women-owned firms has grown 31 percent over the past decade.

This trend will likely accelerate as a greater proportion of women entrepreneurs continue to accelerate their business growth.

Intuit is an annual WPO Corporate sponsor.

March 6, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Here’s How to Make Sure Your Business is Complying with the Affordable Care Act

Below is an infographic detailing the different penalties and consequences employers may face for not offering affordable healthcare coverage to their employees by 2014, as required by the Affordable Care Act. The infograph depicts the different scenarios that could occur depending on the nature of the business — ie the number of people the business employs, the coverage options for employees, the business’ insurance plan, and the responsibilities of the majority of the business’ employees.

(Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation)

employer__penalty_flowchart_1

February 11, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

The 6th Annual Search for the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies™ Is Now LIVE!

The race to be one of  the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies™ in North America is on!

Sponsored by American Express OPEN, the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies™ in North America will receive media attention and recognition, and will be honored at the 2013 WPO Conference in Dallas, Texas!

To be eligible, companies must be…

> privately-owned

> women-owned/led

> must have generated $500,000 in annual revenue by year end 2007

> must have reached revenues of $2 million by year-end 2012

You do not have to be a WPO member to apply.

Any questions may be sent to fastgrowth@womenpresidentsorg.com.

Applications must be submitted by February 25, 2013.

Click here to apply, and be sure to check out the list of last year’s winners!

February 1, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

An Increasing Number Of Women-Owned Businesses Take In $1 Million Or More

According to a recent report from WPO Corporate Sponsor American Express OPEN, women-owned businesses that take in $1 million or more have grown by 31% in the past decade.

Here’s what Womenable CEO and research adviser for American Express OPEN Julie Weeks had to say about this increase in multi-million dollar women-owned businesses:

“I think it’s a natural progression in the growth of women in business in the first place. In terms of looking at the growth of the very highest levels…that has to do with a growth in peer networks, a growth in role models and mentors. I think there’s more for a woman who wants to grow to that level to find in the way of support these days.”

As a membership organization specifically geared towards helping women business leaders of multi-million dollar companies take their businesses to the next level, how has the WPO and its network accelerated your company’s growth?

January 18, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Instant Messaging: Is It Productive?

Special Guest Blog

By Jill Vitiello

The once-popular AOL Instant Messenger may be in trouble, but the world of instant messaging (IM) is still buzzing. With all the different ways to transmit IMs (public vs. enterprise, software vs. web-based, PC vs. mobile) and the number of programs available, it seems that IMs have increased in variety and frequency. According to one study, IM use will continue to expand, with accounts worldwide growing to over 3.8 billion by 2016.

Among all the other forms of communication we balance daily, do IMs help or hinder our productivity?

Psychology Today reported on a study showing that students who were interrupted by IMs took 46 minutes to finish reading a five-page article online, while students who received no interruptions took 37 minutes to read the article. Interestingly, those allowed the opportunity to answer IMs before reading took the least amount of time of the three groups, just 29 minutes.

IMs can help improve productivity and engagement:
  • IMs let you send files and “discuss” in real time. There isn’t always enough time to filter through email to find an important document.
  • Some IM programs let you share your screen with team members when consensus agreement is needed right away.
  • Certain free IM services, like Salesforce Chatter Messenger, integrate IM into social networking. If you don’t want to interject in a group brainstorm post, you can quickly IM someone to ask a question.

If IMs are disrupting you while you’re at your desk, here are some ways to combat the distraction:

  • The constant “pinging” may interrupt your train of thought, so try silencing the chime to allow you to give your full attention to what you’re working on.
  • Many IM platforms allow you to be “invisible” to contacts while you are online. That way, you can choose if you want to message someone, rather than everyone messaging you.
  • Block work hours on your Microsoft Outlook calendar. If you’re using an IM program such as Microsoft Lync or Cisco Jabber, these will automatically show on your profile that you are busy.

You decide: Do IMs add another layer of distraction to our hectic workloads, or can the immediacy of this technology enhance our ability to get things done?

Jill Vitiello is a recognized expert business communicator, strategist, writer and thought leader.  She is the founder and president of Vitiello Communications Group and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization. Follow her on Twitter@jillvitiello

This post originally appeared on Vitiello Communications Group’s blog.

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