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January 13, 2014 / Women Presidents' Organization

Why Exporting Matters For Your Business

Guest blog by Laurel Delaney

Think exporting isn’t for your business?  Guess again.   There are more than seven billion potential customers in the world, and 2.4 billion of them are online. How many of those customers is your company reaching?  In a world that is now connected by the Internet, being a successful businessperson means no longer confining your business by borders—whether those of the city, state, or country. Exporting—or sending goods and services out of a country—increases a company’s sales and profits, enhances its prestige, creates jobs, and offers a valuable way to level seasonal fluctuations. Exporting is also a powerful force that contributes to economic growth, development, and prosperity in our world.

The explosion of US entrepreneurs and small businesses—more than twenty-eight million combined—engaging in the world economy in the last few years is largely attributable to the Internet. This transition has taken place as businesses have sought new ways to grow and tap into the more than 96 percent of the world’s consumers and 73 percent of the world’s purchasing power that lie outside the United States. Surprisingly, though, less than 1 percent of these businesses and individuals operate in the US export marketplace, even though the amount of exporters has grown faster than the amount of nonexporters in terms of both goods sold and employment.

Exporting puts you in the driver’s seat, so you can sell more everywhere, get on the world stage, and grow. Other benefits to exporting include:

•    Improving your return on investments
•    Creating jobs
•    Overcoming low growth in your home market
•    Outmaneuvering competitors
•    Becoming more productive
•    Generating economies of scale in production
•    Exploring previously untapped markets
•    Making productive use of excess domestic capacity
•    Extending the product life cycle
•    Insulating your seasonal domestic sales by allowing you to find new foreign markets
•    Broadening your personal intellectual horizons
•    Enriching your country
•    Traveling to new countries

The Current State of Exporting

Export-driven entrepreneurs and small businesses play a significant role in the overall economic growth and prosperity of the United States and the world at large. They have the potential to improve productivity, achieve greater efficiencies, enhance world-class competitiveness, and create jobs. This is possible because:

•    Exporting lends itself to small business. More than 293,100 US companies exported goods in 2010, nearly 16,500 more than in 2009. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—those with fewer than five hundred employees—accounted for 97 percent of all identified exporters in 2010 (Source:

•    Exports generate revenue. The known export revenue of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the United States rose to $383.4 billion in 2010, up 24.1 percent from 2009. SMEs were responsible for 33.7 percent of goods exports in 2010 (Source:

•    Exports are growing. US exports reached historic highs in 2011, which represents an increase of 33 percent from those in 2009. That year, US exports reached a record $2.1 trillion and supported 9.7 million American jobs. US exports of services reached a record $606 billion, boosting the 2011 trade surplus in services of the United States to a record $178.5 billion. Total global exports were higher in 2011 than in any previous year (Source:

•    Exporting helps you find new customers and develop new markets. The International Monetary Fund ( forecasts that nearly 87 percent of the world economic growth during the next five years will take place outside of the United States.

The bottom line is whether you run a product or serviced-based business you need to be ready to take on the world, because the future of exporting literally lies in your hands.  Are you ready?  Let’s export!

Laurel J. Delaney is founder and president of Chicago-based, a management consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses go global.  She is the author of “Exporting:  The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably,” Apress, 2013 (

December 9, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Advancing the State of Your Empire

Guest Blog Post by Beth Bronfman, Managing Partner, VIEW

I believe in empire building. Especially when it comes to women in business. If you want power, I say go for it. But what happens once you get to that mountaintop that once seemed so unattainable? What happens when the hurdles that seemed so high are now considered nothing more than temporary speed bumps? When you have every reason to rest on a nice cushy bed of laurels?

Wake up. You are now at a make or break moment.

The care and feeding of a successful business is every bit as challenging and critical as the long climb it took to achieve that success. Thankfully, you are now in a position to delegate, draw on the support of longtime contacts, and get advice from those who once had no time for you.

Interestingly, Advancing the State of Your Empire was the theme and focus I chose as the chair of this year’s annual Committee of 200 (C200) Conference in New York City. C200 is an invitation-only membership organization composed of some of the world’s most successful female business leaders and entrepreneurs. I feel privileged to be a board member of such a prestigious group and to share ideas, experiences and visions for the future of our careers — and for all women in business.

Though women are quite savvy about the tools needed to start their careers, they are woefully deficient in understanding what’s needed to progress as leaders. Here are a few tips I consider indispensable, whether you’re in the corporate world or an enterprising entrepreneur:

  • Continue building your list of contacts. It is important to know people with a variety of skill sets you are able to draw upon at any point in time. You never know when someone in another industry might become the perfect partner for your next business goal.
  • Carefully select a board of advisors. It is the old adage: Two heads are better than one. And in many cases, multiple heads are better than a few. Having a trusted team of advisors to turn to for big decisions can help provide important perspective, drawn from combined years of experience in business.
  • Never stop networking. Learn about what other leaders are doing and how they think can only expand your own vision. Surround yourself with equally ambitious and successful leaders, and you will never lack for inspiration or guidance when you need it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised at how many other successful leaders have faced similar challenges, and can provide valuable insight into how to approach a problem to find a workable solution.

These tips are valuable at any stage of a career, including the CEO level! In fact, at the C200 Conference, our members, all corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, participated in panels where we leaned on one another for advice on all kinds of topics, including how to make tough choices — in life and in business, how to apply the growing field of big data to improve businesses in any industry, and how to get the most out of each stage of a career. The point is that you’ve never climbed the ladder far enough to stop climbing, or to look around at the scaffolding for support.

*This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on December 4, 2013

November 22, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization


Are you a small business owner? Make Nov 30 one of the biggest days of the year for your business by taking part in Small Business Saturday®. Check out resources that can help you stand out on the big day at
• SPREAD THE WORD: Download marketing materials that can help you attract new customers on the day
• PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS: Apply for free personalized online ads. Eligibility restrictions apply; see Terms of Participation for full details. Registration for free ads closes on 11/4/13 or while supplies last.
• GET INSPIRED: Visit to see what others have done in past years to make the day a success
This is a day no small business would want to miss. Make sure you’re a part of Small Business Saturday 2013.

October 18, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Interview with Andrea Mendez from Standard Bank at the Women’s Forum

The WPO will be posting a special guest blogging series from the Women’s Forum on the Economy and Society in Deauville, France from October 13th to October 16th written by female alumnae of iLive2Lead (iL2L) from 5 continents. The authors of these blogs are all young women and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The following blog was written by Beatriz Castro, iL2L Global Ambassador from Brazil.

About: Five iL2L alum from 5 nations have been invited to give the youth report on the findings at the annual Women’s Forum in France.  This year’s program’s theme is competition, cooperation, and creativity.  Delegates will look at open digital innovation and the role women uniquely play in this arena.  The program also examines the digital effect on Europe and what the future holds.  The following Gen Y report comes to you from the Women’s Forum.

“I had an amazing opportunity to interview Ms. Andrea Menezes, CEO of Standard Bank in Brazil. With 21 years of experience in finance, Ms. Menezes was appointed CEO in April 2012.

In an interview in Paris on October 15, 2013, Ms Menezes told me about her views on women in the labor market, their competitive advantages and features that make them entrepreneurs.

According to Andrea, the competitive advantage of women as leaders is that they think differently, and have different perspectives than men have; but she also highlights how important the complementary visions of both sexes are to the success of the organization, as well the need to have global expertise and specific knowledge in certain subjects.

When asked about the main characteristic of an entrepreneur, Andrea introduced me to a feature which she says is present in many women: the ability to carry out various activities at once, to be multidisciplinary; in other words, they have the ability to work, take care of children, run a house, as well as to be successful businesswomen.At last year’s Forum in 2012, Andrea participated in the CEO Champions, begun in 2010 for the purpose of promoting the advancement of women in the private sector, and to discuss topics such as the importance of their perspective and vision within organizations.

I asked Andrea if the project would succeed in making improvements in women’s leadership. Andrea tells me that the project has been helped along by McKinsey & Co., which since 2007 has provided data that show the importance of the role of women as leaders in the market. The CEO Champions has provided a valuable space for discussion of these issues and sharing of ideas among CEOs around the world, as they search for new ways to initiate change.

An event like the Women’s Forum is critical to help bring focus to the importance of women’s leadership in the business world. It creates an awareness that helps seek equality for generations to come, and highlights what has been achieved in the search for the rights and opportunities that we enjoy today, says Andrea.

Asked if she felt there were barriers to her in her career, or any kind of prejudice expressed against her as a CEO, leader and business woman, Andrea said she never felt anything like that. “Barriers exist when you put yourself in barriers; when you feel there aren’t barriers, the opportunities will appear,” says Andrea.

Andrea said that she feels very fulfilled with the business and the daily challenges provided by her work at the Bank. She emphasized how important it is for career women to maintain a balance between their personal life and their professional life.”

iLive2Lead is a youth leadership-training program based in Washington, D.C., that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world. iL2L brings the most exceptional young leaders together for International Leadership Summits and works with them to develop social initiatives which they lead back in their home nations, thus creating global examples of social responsibility and a ripple effect of impact worldwide.

About the Author: Beatriz Castro is 20 years old and comes from Guaratingueta in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She’s a hard-working, energetic young woman who has achieved many things beyond her family’s expectations. She is always ready with a  smile and makes a great effort to meet new people and develop herself. Two years ago she participated in an international program sponsored by the state government. She was chosen for this by her teachers and headmaster as the best student at her technical highschool. The program offered her an international cultural exchange. She lived one month in the United States, took an English course, and lived with an American family, where she developed her intercultural skills. Currently, she is taking Business Administration at Unisal College and is working as an import/export trainee for Stollberg of Brazil, part of a Greek group called S&B Industrial Minerals.

September 13, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Female Entrepreneurs Go Beyond “Cookies and Crafts”

WPO Founder and President, Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. post on Harvard Business Review HBR Blog Network:

Published on Monday, September 9, 2013

In the 1990′s, if you asked most women business owners what their dreams were, they’d say they just want to be able to support themselves and their families. The times have changed. Today, women have bigger dreams and seek to grow their businesses to the maximum level. However, many are still saddled with an outdated perception about their roles in business and contributions to the economy, despite tremendous growth over the past decade.

The old perception is that women-led and -owned businesses are micro-enterprises; companies run out of the home with fewer than five employees. But most women outgrew the “cookies and crafts” stereotype a long time ago, and have their sights set on bigger goals. Many have found success in industries like technology, mining, and construction.

Progressive thinking is being pushed forward by new data that showcases the undeniable impact of women-led and -owned businesses on the economy. Consider these datapoints:

  • American Express OPEN’s latest Growing Under the Radar report details just how strong these businesses have been over the past decade. Perhaps the most surprising data is that women-led and -owned businesses experienced 57% growth in revenue of $10 million or above. That is actually a growth rate of 47% more than their male counterparts. This data is even more impressive in the context of a down economy: women-led and -owned businesses continued to grow throughout the recession, as companies around the world had to tighten their belts to weather the storm. The same report indicates that health care, social assistance, and education are industries in which the growth of women’s ownership has been the strongest.
  • The membership of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a nonprofit peer-advisory group for women with $2MM-plus gross revenue, itself accounts for $19BN in aggregate revenue and over 142,000 jobs, stemming directly from its 1,700+ female business leaders. In the WPO, the largest number of businesses are in manufacturing and distribution and 25% of members generate over $10 million annually.
  • Forbes called 2013 the “Year of the Female Founder.” As female entrepreneurship gains steam, interest from venture capitalists will grow as well. There are now a number of investment groups, like Golden Seeds, that specialize in funding and empowering women-led businesses.

It makes sense that we’re seeing such a tremendous growth rate for women-led and -owned businesses at this particular time in history. In 1977, only 4.5% of privately held businesses were owned by women. Those businesses were mainly in fashion, fitness and beauty. Today, the greatest number of multimillion-dollar women-owned businesses are in wholesale trade (20%), finance/insurance (12%), and transportation/warehousing (11%).

Over the last decade, women-led and owned businesses generating more than $1 million have grown 31%. That number would be even greater if businesses owned 50/50 by male and female partners and businesses with financial investors were included in census data.

With so many women-led and -owned businesses reaching such lofty benchmarks in the last decade, the stereotypes about female business leaders are thankfully beginning to wear thin. As more women ascend the corporate ladder or build their own businesses from the ground up, they’ll bring even visibility to the success of women throughout business.

July 11, 2013 / Women Presidents' Organization

Women Entrepreneurs: Leading the Way by Leveling the Playing Field

The Great Equalizer

It is undeniably important that women of all backgrounds and industries support one another. Recently, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has generated significant buzz by encouraging women to work collaboratively to talk about what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.

This is an immensely important topic and a step in the right direction in breaking down gender barriers. The Lean In perspective specifically encourages women in the corporate arena to begin to support one another through monthly meetings and to share challenges they face as females in the corporate workplace.

However, the Lean In perspective is merely a snapshot of the whole women’s economic picture. By focusing primarily on helping corporate women, we are leaving out a significant segment, namely, women entrepreneurs.

Lean In is undoubtedly an interesting approach for corporate women but it is not the only source for women as it’s missing the “great equalizer”- the women’s entrepreneurship sector. This sector is the “great equalizer” because it gives women the opportunity to have significant control over their time, as well as more power and more influence in the global economy. Women’s entrepreneurship is the one place where women can be compensated at the same level as their male counterparts. Research has demonstrated that the most valuable resource available to help successful business owners learn and grow is other successful business owners, similar to Sandberg’s approach to the development of corporate women.

Pulling the Genius Out

The model surrounding the Lean In perspective is that women essentially become peer groups, called Lean In Circles. These peer groups meet to discuss best practices, provide support and encouragement, share experiences and challenges, and learn useful skills.

This is a concept long fostered by the Women Presidents’ Organization. The WPO has been providing women entrepreneurs with a similar resource for over 15 years. Members of the WPO meet once a month and are led by professionally trained facilitators in order to discuss challenges, best practices, and share experiences. Essentially, these peer groups pull the genius out of the group to accelerate the growth of these businesses. While the Lean In perspective is a step in the right direction by providing a platform for corporate women; the WPO has established that this format is the most effective approach to learning new strategies for women business owners.

The Future of Women in Business

Women entrepreneurs are the greatest hope in growing the economy, breaking down gender barriers, and becoming the great economic equalizer. Every year, the Women Presidents’ Organization partners with American Express OPEN to promote a program known as the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Businesses in North America. The 2013 and sixth annual ranking is a snapshot of the impressive strides that women entrepreneurs have made in just the last few years.

Growing Under the Radar“, a research report commissioned by American Express OPEN earlier this year, shows that the number of women-owned firms pulling in $10 million or more in annual sales has jumped by 57% over the last decade. The women included on the list generated a combined $3.2 billion this year alone, and the average number of employees per company is 641. The list represents an impressive variety of women-owned businesses from transportation to IT, healthcare and recruiting. In addition, nearly half of the ranking includes WPO members who truly have reaped the benefits received through working with other women business owners.

Considering these impressive facts and statistics, it has become increasingly more apparent that supporting small businesses, specifically, women-owned companies will ultimately lead to a level playing field. The members of the WPO are established business owners who have a substantial amount of experience and skills to share. It’s important that society begins to recognize the economic importance of these women. The Lean In perspective is a compliment to the work that the WPO has already established. Women business owners are driving business breakthroughs because they are “reaching farther, together.” Perhaps, corporate women will do the same?

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


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