L.A.’S LEADING WOMEN EXECUTIVES: LOOK ING BACK ON THE PAST AND DESIGNING THE FUTURE By Peter Berk 1 James L. Gary & Co., Ltd Linda Gary As she could this time last year, Linda Gary may once again look with pride to the number one ranking of her company, James R. Gary & Co., Ltd., on the list of top 100 women-owned businesses in Los Angeles County. Gary’s Woodland Hills-based residential real estate brokerage, founded some 20 years ago, earned $260 million in revenues last year, not only securing its return to the lead position in the top 100 list, but representing a stunning increase over nearly $100 million over the year before. This increase signals not merely the upswing in the San Fernando Valley’s real estate market following the devastating Northridge quake, but the continuation of Gary’s winning management style. Gary’s remarkable business achievements over recent years are all the more impressive given the personal loss she suffered only four years ago when her husband and the company’s founder, James R. Gary, passed away suddenly at age 51. Although Linda Gary had played an integral role over time in the development and evolution of the company, her husband’s death prompted her for the first time not only to assume the company’s presidency virtually overnight, but to do so during the worst real estate market period in recent memory. As Gary recalls, “I saw an immediate need, as soon as I started to come out of the shock of the sudden loss, to address the fact that the price of homes was dropping dramatically. I could see we were spending more than we were taking in. My husband died in September. By January, it was apparent to me we had to make some major cuts in spending to survive. And that motivated me to truly become the head of the company and take charge.” Fortunately, Gary had a close friend who was an attorney on the east coast, and therefore called and asked her if she would move to California and help. Says Gary, “Then we really began involving the sales managers who had worked under my husband to run the day-to-day aspects of the business with the agents; they’re the ones who know how to sell real estate. We certainly didn’t know that. So, they accumulated more responsibilities than they had ever had under my husband, because he was a larger than life figure who liked to do it all; he loved selling and managing and growing, concentrating on the big picture while I have always concentrated on the details.” Asked to describe her own management style, Gary notes, “I have allowed people to take a lot of responsibilities. I think it’s a lot easier for a woman to turn over responsibilities than it is for a man. I think boys are raised to think of themselves as needing to do so much, while girls are more willing to share jobs and responsibilities and have a deeper level of intimacy with others. Ego is generally not so important to women; they are more willing to admit weaknesses and utilize someone else who is able to provide the needed strengths. “I really think that personal growth and professional growth are one and the same, especially in the sales field,” Gary continues. “People who work in our company should be concerned about personal growth development, working on their skills with one another, and constantly be striving to achieve the goals we all set for ourselves. I feel a very strong and rich sense of identity and heritage here, because of the way this company was established by my husband. We talk a lot about the company culture and individual identity. We are concerned with the community as well as just our business.” Gary, a former Los Angeles Unified School District kindergarten teacher before she ventured into real estate alongside her husband (the two married in 1963), manifests her commitment to the community in myriad ways these days. Her many current civic activities include sitting on the Boards of Valley Women’s Center, Inc. and Valley Community Legal Foundation. Asked to comment on how the role and perception of women in business has changed over time, Gary says, “Younger women today feel they can do anything, as they should. For me, growing up I was told I could be a teacher or a nurse. I never thought I could be anything else. That’s completely changed. Women today understand that there’s very little that’s closed to them. I really don’t think that many women feel they are handicapped today; maybe in some cases, they even feel they may have a slight advantage. “There is a growing process for women – women of a certain age, especially, have had to work at being stronger and more assured of themselves, not to be knocked over by criticism, and I thing women are doing a wonderful job. What I also see happening and find very satisfying is seeing men reveal more and more about themselves – their own fears and concerns. I see men in our own office who are more vulnerable and are much more successful in sales.” As to what advice she would offer entrepreneurial women today, Linda Gary says, “I would ask them to take the time to think about how they would like to be remembered – by their family, their children, their friends and their clients. When we can put it in that kind of perspective, we can’t help but do the right thing.” 3 American Tours International Noel Irwin-Hentschel Perched high atop this year’s top 100 women-owned businesses list, at the enviable number three position with $150 million in 1996 revenue and a team of 445 staff members, is the 20 year-old AmericanTours International (ATI), also the world’s largest Visit USA travel company. ATI’s stunning growth and accomplishments are directly due to the visionary management of its co-founders, chairman and CEO Noel Irwin-Hentschel and Michael Fitzpatrick, as well as their team of Visit USA professionals. For two decades, via a series of creative products, compelling itineraries, and educational and incentive-driven experiences in America, this truly dynamic duo has combined innovation and quality of service to generate a steady flow of European tourism to the United States. Says Irwin-Hentschel, “What we do best is to create ideas, implement them and cooperate with our partners around the world on selling the United States.” The company was founded in 1977 when Noel Irwin invested her $5,000 savings account and teamed up with Fitzpatrick to create a travel company not like any other on the scene. From their modest beginnings, they have turned ATI into a resounding success story as reflected by the fact that the company handled over 800,000 visitors to the United States last year and is the largest producer of tourism to America, generating $2.8 billion per year in revenue. ATI along the way has developed several products designed especially for overseas audiences, including multi-lingual motorcoach tours of the U.S., fly-drive tours and numerous city tours. Headquarted in Los Angeles, ATI today also operates offices in many major locations, including Honolulu, Maui, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In addition to tours, ATI has developed a number of highly popular special products and events, including “Legends of the West” and unique theme parties spanning all tastes and travel objectives. In 1996, Irwin-Hentschel was honored by the National Association of Women Business Owners as “Business Woman of the Year.” Asked in a recent interview to describe her company’s plans for the future, Irwin-Hentschel said, “We are continuing to strengthen our core business, which is Visit USA on the international level. Our first priority is to strenghten and grow that business, which also includes expanding into other markets within the countries in which we’re doing business and with countries that are nearby. For example, we’re expanding in the Asian markets beyond Japan and Singapore and Malasia into China, Hong Kong, Korea and other parts of Southeast Asia. One of the keys for that expansion to take place is going to be America’s stand on visas to the United States, because at the moment, we are making it extremely difficult for many people who have a lot of money to come to America and spend it. When it becomes that difficult, they wind up going to other destinations instead. In Europe, we’re expanding our range of products and motor coach tours, especially involving middle America and other lesser-known U.S. destinations.” An outgrowth of ATI’s success in bringing the world here has been to provide a substantial revenue boost to a wide range of communities to or through which the company’s tours regularly travel. A good example, Irwin-Hentschel says, is Barstow, California, “where we’ve brought so much business over the last 20 years that the McDonalds which used to be very small has considerably expanded, and many other fast food places have opened up to handle the number of buses coming through the area. This is just one instance of how we’ve had a major impact on the economic development of areas that otherwise would never have thought of themselves as tourist destinations.” Another facet of ATI’s ongoing expansion has been the company’s investment of considerable money and resources into a highly advanced computer system, enabling an instant connection between ATI and its major partners around the world so bookings can come straight from agents into the company’s offices and so ATI can readily communicate with destinations both within and outside of the United States. The result is an ability to handle a greater volume of business with less labor. ATI is also planning a domestic expansion, working with selected partners in this country to offer its services to American travelers. Discussing the qualities she feels have enabled her to enjoy success with ATI, all qualities which are also applicable to women in all industries, Irwin-Hentschel says, “Being a visionary, being someone who is very strong in regard to strategic planning and seeing where a company can be and not being afraid to take whatever steps are necessary to get there, being good at planning, being very goal-oriented, being a do-er as opposed to someone who just talks about doing something, being able to implement an idea, being able to absorb the advice of others but make decisions firmly and quickly, being good at motivating people and being able to stay focused. It can be very difficult at times for women because we have to balance so many roles in our lives as a wife and mother and someone who’s also involved with the community, as well as being a businessperson. There are only so many hours in the day.” In regards to the success of ATI, Irwin-Hentschel is quick to say, “It’s not just me. It’s my excellent partnership with Michael Fitzpatrick and the fact that we have been able to put together a really strong team of people who are very talented and know more than I do in the areas of responsibility that they have. For us, getting everyone on our team excited about what we do is also essential. For one thing, the product that we sell is the United States of America, and I can’t think of a more wonderful product to promote.” As to her view of the changing perception of women over the years, Irwin-Hentschel says, “As for me personally, I always considered myself an entrepreneur first and so being a woman didn’t hold me back in any way. Being an established woman in business can be an advantage in some cases, but a disadvantage in others. I would hope, though, that it would always come down to how good you are. Doing business in Japan is a good example in my case. When I initially got an appointment with several high-level people I met with in Japan years ago, they thought I was a man because my name, the way it’s spelled, happens to be a man’s name. When I walked in, they asked where Mr. Irwin was, yet once they realized I was the person they need to meet with, they were very courteous. But in the end, it came down to how well I was able to negotiate with them and that’s how I gained their respect. “In addition, I had taken the time to understand the culture of Japan, which I also think is important. Women or men doing business internationally need to really understand the mentality and culture of the people they’re dealing with.” Despite her own success and the positive direction in which women in business are moving today, Irwin-Hentschel – mother to seven children with her husband, a resort developer – feels “There still aren’t as many opportunities for women as I would like to see in corporate America, meaning public companies or Fortune 500 companies. But I think that will come because of the skills women have. As for women entrepreneurs, the opportunities are definitely there. In addition, there’s more partnering now between men and women so both a husband and wife can have careers and find the proper professional and personal balance in their lives, always remembering that family comes first.” 4 Kent & Spiegel Direct Marsha Kent With 1996 revenues of $150 million, Kent & Spiegel Direct, Inc., president Marsha Kent is the leading female figure in the multi-billion dollar direct response marketing industry. Kent & Spiegel (which Kent operates with partner Peter Spiegel) is a fully-integrated marketing firm which markets products from concept to retail. The company offers creative, marketing and operations services to diverse clients to generate huge sales and create high-profile brand awareness for a wide range of products. Among Kent & Spiegel’s many successful credits are informercials for such top-sellers as The Abflex Fitness Challenge, Miracle Blade, Microcrisp, Karaoke Classic, Oxy White Tooth Whitening System and The Revolutionizer, among many, many others. Discussing her company’s success and her own management style, Marsha Kent says, “Leadership is the key. What is a leader, who is a leader, how do you become a leader? These are very pertinent questions, whether you’re a man or a woman. For me, it starts internally and personally. I think men traditionally had more of an opportunity to build these kinds of thoughts and skills but now women are coming to the fore in terms of confidence and personal power. These aren’t traits women have always been encouraged to fully developed. So I think women who have that entrepreneurial spirit and also have a natural ability to take risks and have the necessary courage it takes will be the business leaders, presidents and CEOs. Obviously, knowledge is a vital component as well. To me, a leader is one who inspires, who motivates, who sets an example, who projects success, power and confidence. Those are qualities you can’t learn in a classroom and you can’t buy, but you have to be courageous enough to develop.” An integral facet of Kent’s leadership strategy is to embrace the views and expertise of others, to encourage the creative and strategic contribution of those around her. As she puts it, “Frankly, there are a lot of women and men in my company who have specific skills which exceed mine, but that’s another important leadership quality – to be able to surround yourself with people who are as good or better than you are.” Kent says she takes a highly realistic view of the role and perception of women in business, happily acknowledging the progress made, but feeling that some long-ingrained societal attitudes may not change in the foreseeable future. “I tend to be realistic about it, and not pessimistic. But the way our entire society functions is such that I don’t feel business women will ever fully be satisfied with `their place in the business society.’ In my case, though, I feel I have found a successful way to deal in a man’s business world. I went through being unduly tough and untouchable with my staff early on, because I had no model. I didn’t know how to be. Finally, though, when I came to a place in myself when I realized I was good enough, then I could start having fun and using my business acumen and personality to their fullest. Because I raised me like a little boy, I was also able to understand where men come from and how they think, which made me – I believe – more effective, especially in a grossly male-dominated industry. In fact, there is no other woman president in a direct response marketing company in the world, certainly not at a $100 million company.” In looking back over the years, Kent also feels very positive strides have been made in terms of how men and women relate to each other on the job and how they manifest their own personalities. Says Kent, “I think it was awful in the beginning, with just about everyone lost and disoriented. I think it’s a whole lot better, and that men accept that women are here to stay in business and that they might as well get along with that issue and make it more of a win for themselves, rather than resist something that’s inevitable. I think women, however, will always have to out-perform men to get very high senior positions, because that’s a fact of life. So if women can take that as a challenge, rather than becoming disillusioned about it, I think they can succeed.” As for Kent’s advice to women looking to enter or grow in the realm of business today, she comments, “I would tell young women that working on who they are internally is even more important than amassing knowledge. There are a lot of smart people out there, and you’re just one of millions if you have only amassed knowledge. But to shine and rise above, it has to come from who you are, from developing the elements of leadership, being a risk-taker, being flexible. I would say, work on the psychology and sociology to come to a place of synergism in yourself.” 5 Hoffman Travel Carol Dunn Ranked a lofty number five on this year’s top 100 Women-Owned Businesses list is Hoffman Travel, an obviously very successful travel management company with headquarters in the mid-Wilshire area and 26 other offices both in and outside of the Los Angeles area, including one in Burbank opened specifically to serve the needs of the company’s entertainment industry clients. Showing a total revenue of $125 million in 1996, Hoffman Travel – founded by Jules Hoffman in 1934 as the first travel agency located in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (now the Regent Hotel) today employs approximately 300 people. The company was purchased by Hoffman Travel president Carol Dunn in 1972. In a recent interview, she discussed the evolution of her company and her views of women in business today. Discussing one of the most crucial ingredients in her recipe for success after buying the company 25 years ago, Dunn recalls, “Right away, I brought entertainment industry contacts I had developed over the years to the agency when I realized there wasn’t a travel agency which specialized in production companies and entertainment executives. So I filled that niche and trained people to handle productions and music touring groups and other entertainment concerns. Over time, the company grew substantially from about $800,000 annually in 1972 to about $125 million today. The growth was driven by filling the needs of a niche market. Today, our clients are about 65% entertainment and 35% corporate, so it’s moving more toward a 50-50 ratio.” The kinds of services that were designed originally for the entertainment community have now become more and more desirable among high-profile corporate executives, Dunn adds (clients include DreamWorks, Universal, American Honda, MGM and Warner Brothers). These and Hoffman’s countless other clients are, Dunn says, “looking for a combination of high tech and `high touch’ service, meaning we have the technological ability to produce a lot of analysis and travel management, which is usually the number three expense on a company’s P & L.; Our level of technology helps them analyze the trends and expenditures from airline flights to hotel rooms and to bring that information together in order to negotiate a better rate for these companies. “Then we complement that with a `high-touch’ service, which is creating and maintaining comprehensive profiles that have all our clients’ travel needs so our agent can help them cut through the inconveniences of travel. So it’s a combination of technology and highly skilled individuals who are in a climate of wanting to serve our clients.” As to what Dunn considers the next logical evolution in her industry, she says, “By all means, the corporate travel environment is going to be transformed considerably by the ability to go on-line and use the Internet. The use of a computer to produce a ticket for the traveler represents a saving of time and money that is the next step in our industry, and we already have that technology.” Describing her own management style, Dunn considers it “extremely collaborative. I find a great joy in the collective thinking process, bringing together an assortment of different personalities in one room. I find it very exciting to bring different people together to work on strategies and solutions. My style is extremely democratic. I try to hire people who have other strengths that I do.” Regarding today’s opportunities for female executives, Dunn feels, “It’s a well known fact that the largest market share of growing entrepreneurs are women and a source of great revenue in banking and loans. It’s no longer ignored as it was 25 years ago. Women in business are succeeding in every industry. I’m not certain of the glass ceiling myself since I’ve had the luxury of owning my own company. But I don’t find it to be a detrement to be a woman in business as I used to. I would say that there are strides still to be taken in corporate America, but speaking for myself, I haven’t had any significant problems in finding support in the community and I think I’ve been received on the skills and success of my company – having nothing to do with my being a woman, as it should be. I actually prefer not to have my company discussed as a woman-owned business, per se, just as a successful business. Though I do understand that prejudice still exists and there still are well-worn, knee- jerk reactions to women and minorities in the workplace, I haven’t felt them in my position.” Offering advice to young women entering the workforce today, Dunn says, “I always boil it down to three necessary qualities. A lot of spirit, which could also be defined as passion or energy. Hard work. And loyalty. Those are the main three qualities I look for in people I hire and those are the qualities that can lead to success in any field.” 12 Breath Asure, Inc. Lauren Raissen In only four years, the Calabasas-based Breath Asure, Inc., has barely had time to catch it breath, so to speak, as the company has continued to grow dramatically to its current number twelve ranking on the women-owned businesses list. With 1996 revenues of more than $30 million, Breath Asure – aided greatly by its George Kennedy-fronted marketing campaign – has to date sold in excess of one billion capsules worldwide. In the process, Breath Asure has evolved from a home-based direct mail business to an international brand name. Under the direction of founder Anthony Raissen and company president/CFO Lauren Raissen (this year’s “Designing The Future” keynote speaker), Breath Asure has become a product stocked in major food, drug, vitamin and health food outlets around the world. Recently, the company introduced its second product, PureBreath, a natural breath freshener specially formulated for billions of other potential “customers:” pets. According to company literature, the genesis of Breath Asure finds its roots in the age-old maxim, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” the invention being prompted by Lauren Raissen’s confession to her husband that she was especially sensitive to his strong, pickled cucumber and spicy food-induced breath. Rather than dispense with his beloved culinary habits, he agreed to help find a solution. Since poor breath is natural, the obvious solution should be natural as well, the couple reasoned. Therefore, in 1991, the Raissens joined forces with researchers to create a new product for the consumer market. The result was a small golden pill which the couple introduced at a garlic festival. A mixture of all-natural sunflower and parsley seek oils in a gelatin capsule, the product soon won over the skeptics and was rightfully perceived as a breath of fresh air – in every sense – for those with bad breath. Cognizant of the product’s commercial viability, Anthony, an electrical engineer, and Lauren, an audit senior with Ernst & Young, both left their jobs to embark on their new entrepreneurial venture, converting a spare room in their house into an office and officially launching Breath Asure in 1992. The couple soon after implemented an ambitious marketing program incorporating direct mail and a toll-free number and in 1994, brought on Oscar-winning actor George Kennedy as the company’s celebrity spokesperson. An avid user of the product before teaming up with the Raissens, Kennedy’s popularity and credibility immediately helped generate a snowball effect in terms of Breath Asure’s worldwide success. Today, the company remains the market leader despite volumes of copy-cat products, and continues to grow beyond the wildest dreams of its husband and wife founders. Beyond the appeal of Breath Asure as a product and the marketing skill of the company responsible for it, much of Breath Asure, Inc.’s success is clearly due to Lauren Raissen’s management expertise. “I really believe in team work and encourage people at all levels to participate,” she says. “I think it’s very important for everyone to be part of the decision-making process. Delegation and empowerment is extremely important; to have responsible people working for you who can carry out tasks and carry out their jobs in the manner they should be carried out.” Asked whether delegation and the sharing of ideas perhaps comes easier for women, Raissen responds, “It’s an interesting question. It all ultimately depends on the individual. Therefore, it varies from one person to another. There are certainly men who operate on the theory that they must do everything themselves in order to get the job done correctly. Still, there are women who have that viewpoint as well. I will say that it seems as though the women I’ve worked with are a bit more prone toward working in a team and being a team player, but in any business environment, teamwork and communication are essential.” How in Raissen’s view has the perception of women in business changed over recent years? “I think that women in business are definitely being more and more recognized and successful,” she says. “Organizations like the Los Angeles Business Journal recognize women in business, and there are several important women’s organizations which are also helping the world appreciate the accomplishments of women in business today.” In terms of the advice she would offer entrepreneurial women, Raissen comments, “I always say, stick with your guns. If you have an idea or a concept, you must believe in yourself. You have to have the courage of your convictions to go forward and carry out what you believe. You are up against the odds as a woman, so you have to have a great deal of courage.” 21 National Construction Co., Inc. Nina Tate The highest-ranked company on the latest top 100 women-owned businesses list that wasn’t on the list the year prior is National Construction Co., Inc., a $18.6 million company in terms of 1996 revenues, employing 200 people. National focuses on general engineering, general building contracting, reinforcing steel and environmental remediation. Founded by company president Nina S. Tate in 1983, National has thrived as a result of its sage leadership, including a focus on teamwork and a willingness to adopt to change. Indeed, this adaptability is a point which Tate first stressed in a recent conversation. “Like any other business,” says Tate, “it’s very competitive, and to survive, you have to be the best in whatever your particular niche is. In our particular case, I feel that we’re still here even after a bad recession because we were willing to adapt to change. For example, I took us to other states, so we’re now in Arizona and Nevada – states which had a thriving economy when California was going through some bad times. So we’ve expanded our operations and have ventured into other types of work. We are one of the principle reinforcing steel companies in the state, but we’ve expanded our general engineering division. We also have a solid management team, and I’m willing to work, as any other entrepreneur is, I think, however many hours it takes to do the job right and make certain the business grows and thrives.” Describing her own management approach, Tate observes, “I am definitely a hands-on manager, although I can only be hands-on in so many areas. But I do have a very good management team because what I look for in a manager is someone who has the company’s vested interest in mind, who cares about the future of the company, who’s helping build it.” Asked to comment on how difficult it was for a woman to succeed in the construction arena, one generally considered to be male-dominated, Tate responds, “The number of women-owned construction firms has actually increased over the last few years, but we’re still considered very unusual in that we are in heavy engineering such as civil work and seismic retro-fits. I had been in the construction industry for more than 20 years when I started my own business, so I knew a lot of people in the business. Still, when I started out on my own, I found it was almost as if I hadn’t been in construction all those years. I really did have to prove myself, to make sure everyone realized we were a highly competent and qualified company. “All we ask is that we are greeted with an open door and have a chance to compete for work equally,” Tate continues. “There’s still a ways to go, though. The construction industry has long been considered a good ol’ boys network, but I think the majority of clients are just looking for the lowest and most capable bidder today.” As to what counsel she would give entrepreneurial woman these days, Tate says, “Find a position or field you like and make yourself the master of it. To be an entrepreneur also means at times putting your business ahead of your life. You have to make that commitment.” 36 Giroux Glass Anne-Merelie Murrell Comparing the recent top 100 women-owned businesses list and last year’s list, the Los Angeles-based Giroux Glass has the distinction of having enjoyed the most dramatic ascent, moving from the number 67 position last year (reflecting 1995 revenue figures) to its current position at number 36. The jump reflects a revenue leap from $4.3 million to $9 million. Giroux Glass, employing almost 70 people, is a commercial glass constrcutor, a provider of new construction and a company also specializing in high-rise glass replacement, storefronts, tenant improvements and mirrors. The CEO and president of Giroux Glass, originally founded in 1946, is Anne-Merelie Murrell. Murrell was recently named “Business Woman of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Council as “a woman whose entrepreneurial spirit has enhanced the climate of the Los Angeles business community. She will receive her honor May 2 at the Regency Club in Westwood. Commenting on the company’s rapid growth of late, Murrell notes that certainly the combination of the Los Angeles riot and the Northridge earthquake prompted the addition of numerous new clients, but that Giroux Glass primarily owes its surge in revenues to the “spirit of dedication among our staff members, the quality of our work and the satisfaction of our customers.” Of the future, she adds, “There’s definitely room for more growth and expansion, especially in areas such as the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. Those are projections for now, because we’re still primarily addressing the needs of the Los Angeles market. I believe in this city, its growth and potential and its place in the world.” Reflecting on her own management approach, Murrell says, “I try not to criticize. We talk about the positives here. We are enthusiastic and we’re dedicated. And of course, we work closely with our clients, because obviously without them, there would be no business.” Addressing the ever-increasing prominence of women in business, Murrell notes, “I think we’re fortunate to live in Southern California, where opportunities abound for all of us, regardless of our gender or our ethnic background.” As for her advice to other women hoping to find their own high perch in the business world, Murrell notes, “Believe in yourself and believe in your project. Have fun with what you’re doing. Enjoy the people you work with. Serve your customers and respond to the needs of those around you.” Kathleen Williams CEO, President Williams Worldwide, Inc. Ranked sixth on this year’s list, Williams Worldwide enjoyed revenues of $100 million in 1996 and employs 120 people. The company is a full-service direct response advertising agency. BORN: In Germany and raised in upstate New York. Attended Cornell University and graduated with a BA in Consumer Economics and Nutrition. FIRST JOB: Even as a teen, Williams evidenced entrepreneurial tendencies: “I was the first paper girl in my home town. That was quite an achievement in those days. Out of college, I didn’t have a definitive idea of what I wanted to do, but I did know I didn’t want to settle for a mediocre, 9-5 job.” ADVICE TO WOMEN IN BUSINESS: “To not let anything be a barrier to your success.” Knowing it existed, but not to what extent, Williams entered the business world fairly oblivious to the discrimination against women. As her business and her power in the industry gre, she was amazed, she says, to see herself being a target of discrimination. That’s when she realized she had some crucial choices to make, choices she advises other entrepreneurial women to likewise make today: “Even if you recognize it, don’t accept it, see it for what it is, but remember what you have inside of you and blast right through it. Don’t ever, ever, let anything stop you – you have too much to offer.” Andi McClure Co-President Montrose Travel Ranked ninth on this year’s list, Montrose Travel garnered revenues of $46.3 million in 1996. The full-service travel management company employs 101 employees. BORN: Glendale, California. FIRST JOB: A box person in a supermarket, aged 16. ADVICE TO WOMEN IN BUSINESS: All PEOPLE have the same opportunity for success in business. You must understand what the customer wants and provide it better than your competitors, have a strong grip on your financials, work smart, surround yourself with qualified, well-trained employees, have a short-term and long-term plan for your business. Most importantly, you need to have the ability to see the forest through the trees, have fun and keep it all in perspective. Balance, ultimately, is the key to personal and financial success.” Karen Canter APA Travel Center, Inc Ranked 10th on the list this year with over $35 million in 1996 revenues and a staff of 50 employees, APA Travel Center is a full-service travel management company co-owned by Karen Canter and Marie Bluebond. BORN: New Jersey FIRST JOB: This is it! ON HER WORKING ENVIRONMENT: “I am fortunate to be surrounded by an extremely talented group of people. I seek out the best and let them do what they do well, trusting in their judgement anmd their abilities.” Marie S. Bluebond APA Travel Center, Inc. BORN: Los Angeles. First Job: Filing brochures in a travel agency after school when I has 15 1/2. That’s what whet my appetite for the travel industry and I have been in it ever since! ON HER WORKING ENVIRONMENT: In todays business environment it is extremely important to be flexible. What your business is today may be a different business tomorrow. One must embrace technology and change and not let grass grow under your feet. Stay informed of your competition and constantly strive to improve your product. Never become complacent. Noreen Jenney and Linda Lange Bring Hollywood to Fans Worldwide with Unique Celebrity Research Network For decades, fans of film, television, music and sports stars have been sending love letters which were never read, requesting autograph picutres which were never signed, waiting for press materials which were never mailed and submitting ideas which were never received. Until now. Today, when a teenaged girl wants to invite Brad Pitt to her friend’s Bar Mitzvah or when “Superman” devotees want something as simple as an autographer photo of Dean Cain, they need no longer rely on the patchwork of outdated, misguided and unreliable star access information which has left so many fans unfulfilled over the years. They need simply contact Celebrity Research Network (805-526-6861 or P.O. Box4728-P, West Hill, California, 91308), the most comprehensive public source of celebrity information available today. In early 1995, Noreer Jenney and Linda Lange were already well-established entrepreneurs running the thriving Celebrity Endorsement Network, which works with leading companies and advertisers interested in forming associations with top stars and other prominent figures. As a result of its 15 years as a notable entertainment industry company, CEN had built up one of the most sophisticated and current celebrity computer databases around. Two years ago, Jenney and Lange realized that a new venture offering fans access to this database, while ensuring the privacy and protection of the celebrities themselves, would be a win-win situation for all concerned. The result was Celebrity Research Network, which has grown substantially thanks to the company’s marketing and advertising efforts and thanks, most of all, to highly enthusastic response from fans interested in everything from sending a personal note to a star to acquiring a singer’s performance schedule to contacting a PR or talent agent to, as mentioned, even forwaring a Bar Mitzvah invitation. Commenting on the success of CRN, Jenney says, “Although the response has exceeded even our most optimistic projections, we’re not surprised that fans are interested in finally getting thorough, reliable and regularly updated information about their favorite stars.” Adds Lange, “By giving fans what they want, while always respecting the privacy of the stars in question, we feel we are providing the best of both possible worlds.” —- Financila Intelligence: Few Have It, Everyone Needs It By Suzanne Sirotkin Financial intelligence – – many people think they have it, but few actually do. Over the past six years, I have built a management service based on helping people becoming more financially intelligent. During this time, I have found that there are some common characteristics of financially unintelligent business decisions. Here are some examples: *Not reducing overhead when business is financially down; going into debt while believing new business is right around the bend. *Thinking the business is sound based on there being cash in the bank and your payables are current. In other words, not looking at the big picture. *Being afraid to direct and manage your staff for fear of them not liking you. *Making decisions based on emotions. *Being afraid to ask for money owed to you. *Not knowing the value of your service, and being shy about asking for the price the service deserves. *Not putting operational safeguard systems in place to protect yourself and the business. *Thinking a raise will keep employees motivated and loyal. *Not recognizing when you are in trouble. Financially intelligent business operators take a hard look at every dollar spent. They analyze every expense. They look at everything in terms of return on investment, or a dollar-generating expenditure. They plan for the short falls in cash flow. They have a business plan and are always making adjustments to it. They are prepared to change priorities as needed. They review operations on a weekly basis, and know at all times where their attention is needed. They bring strong leadership to their business as well as to their staff. Sometimes, it’s impossible for business people to detach themselves from the emotional pulls of their business. An outsider who can take an unimpassioned but caring and objective look at the full scope of your operations and management can make all the difference. It isn’t easy to change a pattern but having recognized your business problems, you should be able to turn to someone you trust. The problem, however, is that: 1. Many business people are too embarassed to disclose their problems to someone outside their business. 2. They are ashamed over the loss of moneys their financial unintelligence has cost. 3. They are simply too afraid to admit they need help. How does a busines evaluate an outside consultant in whom the business executive will place a tremendous amount of trust? First, ask around, network, get recommendations from other business people you respect. Ther consultant you choose does not necessarily have to be an expert in your line of business. Financial unintelligence knows no business or professional boundaries. Suzanne Sirotkin is an Operations Management Consultant in greater Los Angeles and can be reached at (310) 843-2778.