By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter The Business Journal’s list of the 15 largest women-owned businesses in the San Fernando Valley mostly held steady, though several companies saw their revenues jump sharply from a year ago. Montrose Travel topped the list for the second year in a row, with $83.8 million in sales for 1998 and 168 employees. P. Murphy & Associates Inc., a computer consulting firm, edged two spots up the list to the No. 2 position, with $23.1 million in sales and 262 employees. P. Murphy is the top business owned solely by a woman. (Only seven of the list’s top 15 companies are 100 percent owned by women.) O’Bryant Electric Inc. jumped four spots to No. 3 with $21.3 million in sales and 150 employees. Businesses on this year’s list range from contractors to telemarketers to caterers to travel agencies. Phyliss Murphy, owner of P. Murphy and Associates, said because the computer industry is so new, she is largely free from the old-boy networks that women face in other industries. Her business has increased over the last year from Year 2000-compliant servicing, as well as e-commerce. Rather than be concerned about the gender of their contractors, “most companies are worried about getting the job done,” Murphy said. Women-owned businesses account for 38 percent of businesses nationwide, and that number is growing, said Sharon Hadary, executive director for the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. “For women, operating or leading a business is the true road to economic independence,” said Hadary. Women tend to operate businesses differently than men, focusing more on creativity and new ideas. “They talk about flexibility and concern that employees fulfill personal goals as well as professional goals,” she said. “These are the management styles of the future.” At General Industrial Tool & Supply in North Hollywood, owner Mary Sawin and her three daughters proudly tout their women-owned status. The four took over the industrial tool distribution company after Sawin’s husband died in 1983. Being a woman-owned business in a manufacturing field took some getting used to, said Karen Boyle, vice president of operations. “There have been a few obstacles but not a lot, and never from customers,” Boyle said. “There was a little bit of resistance initially from vendors, not customers.” Since opening in 1954, General Industrial has grown to 35 employees with 1998 sales of $10.2 million. Boyle said contracts with large aerospace companies and keeping up with technology have pushed the company ahead. “We attribute our success to being very customer-focused,” Boyle said. Extraordinary Events, an event planning and marketing consultant, saw the biggest jump in revenues of those on the list, from $3.9 million in 1997 to $10.3 million in 1998. Andrea Michaels, the firm’s owner and president, said growth came from the company’s expansion to the East Coast and aggressive marketing. “I think it’s also a good staff, longevity in the business, and a healthy economy,” Michaels said. “We’re not a meat-and-potatoes type of industry. We’re the frills.” Even though California voters approved Proposition 209, prohibiting contract set-asides for women- and minority-owned businesses, there are still advantages to being a woman-owned business. Government agencies that receive federal funding, as well as many private-sector companies, still have affirmative action-type contracting programs. While exact dollar amounts are rarely specified under such programs, companies and government agencies still set goals and aim to award a certain percentage of their contracts to women- and minority-owned companies. Despite the continued existence of such programs, Michaels said being a woman business owner sometimes works against her, especially with clients from other countries and even certain U.S. industries.