The Greater Women’s Business Counsel®(GWBC), a non-profit Women’s Business Organization, is serious about the success of women-owned businesses. In fact, their region (Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina) is comprised of the top states for women owned businesses. As a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council ® (WBENC), they provide a premier certification for women-owned businesses (WBE). Reported as of 2014, GWBC Certified WBE’s generate more the $5.6 billion in revenue and staff more than 58,000 employees.
This week on Trusted Counsel’s podcast show “In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century,” Managing Partner, Evelyn Ashley moderated a panel discussion (which was audio recorded on site) on learning about the process and benefits about certifying your business. Trusted Counsel is a certified woman owned business itself. The panelists were; Roz Lewis, President and CEO of the Greater Women’s Business Counsel (GWBC) the Southern Region’s certifying organization for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Counsel and Deb Mackins, who serves on the GWBC and is Georgia Power’s representative to GWBC from their Supplier Diversity and Development Department. Deb provided her insight on the panel from the perspective of a company that utilizes certified women owned businesses for services.
Panelist Roz states, “When I visit a corporate partner such as Georgia Power, I’ll actually never sell your organization as a woman owned business. I sell you as a business that has the skill set, the capacity, that you check off all of their boxes, oh and that you happen to be woman owned.”
Panelist Deb explains in detail what to expect when a newly certified woman owned business gets that “big contract” with a company such as Georgia Power. She states, “Georgia Power, like most companies, is changing; our needs are changing. So, we are actually reaching out to companies that we probably didn’t look at before and that’s because we are getting smaller and we need to offset some of our needs with contractors and suppliers to help us deliver power to the customer. We have to take the time to get to that level of comfort and get to know you and your business, because it’s our credibility on the line.”
During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs, women business owners and C-level executives will learn:
- About the certification process
- The difference between a woman owned business and a woman owned business that is certified
- Resources and information to help develop a woman owned business or a minority business
- What to do once your business gets certified
To learn more about The Greater Women’s Business Council and their certification process, programs and resources, visit their website at https://gwbc.org/
Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.
Why Certify As a Women Owned Business?
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Evelyn Ashley: I want to introduce these ladies because, not only do they have information that you need, but you’re gonna find that they’re exceedingly dynamic and very well connected and so supportive of women and their businesses that you have to know them. You have to know them. Roz Lewis is the tireless president and CEO of The Greater Women’s Business Counsel, original partner organization of The Women’s Business Enterprise National Counsel WBENC. And part of what we’ll talk about this morning because maybe many people get confused between GWBC, WBENC what’s the difference there? How do they work together? What is that connection? She’s also chair of the WBENC leadership counsel, and a WBENC board member. Her daily responsibilities include leading GWBC’s region of 900 plus certified women owned businesses in Georgia and North Carolina and South Carolina. Her goals are to ensure that corporations embrace women owned businesses as strategic partners and obtaining value creation for the stakeholders of their companies from the number one consumer. Prior to GWBC, Roz retired from Delta Airlines, so you [inaudible 00:01:24] have this connection and today it’s kinda like, wow, I think of retirement as the goal at this point.
Roz Lewis: So we redirect it. That’s the better word. Redirected my career.
Evelyn Ashley: So she retired from Delta airlines where she had held a number of positions, one of which was Program Manager, or Corporate Supplier Diversity. We see that there was probably a connection.
Roz Lewis: There is.
Evelyn Ashley: Yes. It makes perfect sense that she has led the founding of GWBC, which is 17 years old now. And as the Founding Chair she led the Board and staff to ensure that over-arching goals bridged the gap between corporate [inaudible 00:02:10] and women owned businesses to build and sustain profitable businesses. During her leadership, GWBC was recognized as partner of the year by Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Commendations from the State of Georgia, the Applause Award from WBENC, and the Legacy of Leadership Award [inaudible 00:02:27] of Sloane College, Atlanta, Georgia.
Deb Mackins is with Georgia Power and is a Supplier in Emergency and Development Consultant. She has over 20 years of Supply Chain Management and Supplier Diversity Experience.
Deb joined the Supplier Diversity and Development team in 2011. In this role she manages the power delivery business units supplier diversity and development initiatives.
Prior to Georgia Power, she worked in subcontracts for Martha Grummen, however most of Deb’s career was spent in the automotive industry working in various capacities for Ford Motor Company and General Motors. Deb’s on the Board of Directors also for GWBC, [inaudible 00:03:10] between the three of us. And supports several business resource groups for veteran owned businesses. She was the recipient of DWBC’s 2015 Corporate Advocate of the Year Award and recently was elected as the first Vice Chair of the Board of DWBC. Welcome Roz and Deb.
Roz Lewis: Thank you.
Deb Mackins: Thank you.
Evelyn Ashley: So Roz, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us how you got here and how we got here.
Roz Lewis: Well first of all, good morning, and thank you for having me. I hope you don’t mind if I stand because that way I get to see everybody in the room. You’re hearing about certifications, my certification, why is that important, I’m probably successful. How many of you are all successful businesses in the room? How many? Okay. How many of you all have businesses? Alright.
So those that didn’t raise their hand, don’t own their own business. That’s what I want to make sure of. Okay. Because every day you should have counted as a success. Because of the fact that you get up every morning and you come in and I know you have those tough times, you wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing, but that’s what you should be doing.
Why am I here as President of Greater Women’s Business Council? I have to say it started over 17 years ago. It actually started with my mother who owned her own business. And so did my father own his own business as well, so I kinda grew up in that environment and swore that I would never own my own business after growing up in the environment because it feeds the famine, right? So I saw, plus I worked in both of their businesses. But I spent my career as you heard with Delta Airlines, but it was also a meeting that had gone to and heard about the opportunity to support women owned businesses. I immediately thought about all the challenges that my mother had in being successful in her business, which was, believe it or not, she owned a [inaudible 00:05:26] school.
Given that, that was I guess the catalyst, that was the reason that I said “this is how I can contribute, this is how I can give back.” So I went to Delta Airlines, I asked them for some seed money and said I need for you all to be the founder of this organization [inaudible 00:05:47] he asked the same thing. And they did, they agreed. It was a very short conversation.
17 years later we are here with 900 women businesses between the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and we started out here in Georgia. We didn’t acquire the Carolinas until 2009 is when we acquired the Carolinas. Women businesses I have to say are those that are emerging businesses, they are businesses whose revenues are sitting close to a billion dollars. We have about 150 women businesses that sit over ten million dollars. Those are in non-traditional space and industries.
They’re in IT, they’re in logistics. The largest one believe it or not is in HR, one of the largest ones. Then we talk about a national organization, so the national organization, which we’re a part of. They are 14 regional partner organizations around the country that support the growth and development of women businesses. And with those 14, we’re at that magic number right now. 14,000 certified women businesses, and those revenues up to eight billion dollars. And that eight billion dollar WBE actually owns about 75 companies, and some of them you heard of. [inaudible 00:07:10], Dir Automotive, MD Helicopter, Stella Makeup. Those are all a part of entities. Sneag. That’s not of the eight billion but that’s second generation women owned.
Sneague Folders. Everybody pretty much has those in their file cabinets. So Sharon, I hope that [inaudible 00:07:34] who owns that is that.
Looking at this, think about the fact that corporations needed a central repository to identify great women owned businesses. That was really the purpose of this and why this organization exists today.
And I know Evelyn is gonna have so more questions to ask me about the certification piece, but I know every day that I get up, one of the things I think about is who am I going to be able to assist today in the growth of their dream? How do I help them do that? What do we need to do in order to do it? And I’m the one percenter. You’re the 99 percent. But you gotta come with the energy, you gotta come with the ideas, you gotta come with the tenacity of being able to do this. And mine is just to kinda guide you, to be hopefully that barometer of saying, you know, maybe that’s who you need to go or do I need to be the one to introduce you to that opportunity? And that’s really what the purpose is of the Greater Women’s Business Council aside from the certification piece, and we’ll talk about that.
Evelyn Ashley: So Roz, I think lots of people think of certification as I’m going to be getting government contracts, and my business is not related to that so why would I actually even consider this?
Roz Lewis: We do certify now for the government, the federal government, that took place in 2010, when that was finally approved. And ladies and gentleman, it took ten years. Almost ten years. When I started in [inaudible 00:09:24] Diversity, it was 1999. I won’t forget that timeframe because it was looking at where they had started the initiative of being able to create set-asides from women owned businesses but then the federal government. It didn’t happen until 2010. It took a long time for that to come through. Initially they said we’re only gonna do four NAIC codes, N A I C codes, right? We’re like four out of 2,000? Really?
So we ended up with 87, finally, we ended up with 87 thanks to Senator Snowden and few other champions and WIP, women impacting public policy who also helped spearhead that. We ended up with those. So yes, the government, and the reason I’m going to say is don’t discount government opportunities because there are some there. But WBENC was actually created for major corporations.
Once again, it was for corporations to be able to identify women businesses in order to support their SPIN goals. And I’m using this, I’m being semantical because the government has set-asides. In other words, you may not have to bid in order to get that contract because of it classified as a set-aside, whereas in corporate America, which are private entities, they have SPIN goals, so they are literally creating an opportunity to do business with you.
The certification piece though, and what I’ll share with you when I visit someone like Georgia Power or any other corporate, I’ll never sell you as a women owned businesses. I sell you as a business that has the skill set, the capability, I look at the decision matrix boxes of what they are looking for and say that this business meets all of those, and under that diversity spot box they happen to be women owned. And by the way, they’re your number one consumer.
Because that’s what the CEO is paying attention to, bottom line. You don’t go in saying it’s a women owned businesses, that’s the reason you need to do business with them. No. Because you’re expecting the same quality, product and service out of that company as a consumer. So it’s important that the suppliers lined up behind them are providing that.
So that certification piece that we’re look at is just to make sure, because remember I said they have SPIN goals. To make sure that you are who you say you are. There’s a lot of fraud, believe it or not, in women owned certification. I did quite a few, unfortunately, more denials that I would like to do.
Some of it’s technical, meaning just how they have the business structured. Because when you go on the site visits and I will tell you without organization, we are 100 percent site visit on the application process. Even after going through the paper work we know that we may deny you, we still have to conduct a site visit to see if we’re going to require any additional information. We still may come back and deny you because it’s a technical. And it’s literally understanding how to structure your business documents so that you legally own the business is what that’s about.
Evelyn Ashley: So Roz, talk to us a little bit about the difference between a women owned businesses and a women owned businesses that is certifiable.
Roz Lewis: Right. And what do you call ours? WBE’s women business enterprises.
And the difference is women business enterprise is going to be at least 51% owned, operated and controlled and is not two out of the three. You have to check all of the boxes to be certified with WBENC, to create the WBENC certification.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have male partners. Because we want you to also look at what’s important in the growth and development of your business. That may require a male partner whether it’s your brother, husband, significant other, friend, whoever, but as I finally say, you need to be able to kick them to the curb in any decisions that you are making.
That’s what we’re looking for. We want to make sure that that business is structured so that you make the final decisions. It doesn’t mean, in the spirit of the law you’re not going to talk to your partners. That’s good business sense. We understand that those are good business practices. But you have the final word. You make the final decision. And that’s owning on that 51%, if you’re 100% great. If you decide to bring on investors, I always encourage my WBEs to call us first. To make sure that you remain within the dotted lines of WBENC as you’re structuring this.
And more importantly, giving you that information because then, it may be more important for you, for the business, to may de-certify, not meet that criteria, and we’ve had that happen.
Evelyn Ashley: So tell us a little bit about the programs that are available to women that actually get certified because we certainly want to hear about George Power’s program too, but if we can actually talk about kinda the local and the national programs –
Roz Lewis: Sure.
Evelyn Ashley: That help women owned businesses.
Roz Lewis: Okay. Sure. Hold on one second.
Evelyn Ashley: Question?
Speaker 5: Roz, I’m going to be very quick [inaudible 00:15:36]. If you’re bringing on investors, and you’re going to take a million dollars and that’s going to be 20% of your company, [inaudible 00:15:50].
Roz Lewis: Exactly.
Speaker 5: [inaudible 00:15:54] down by an investor company, you still have to maintain 51% yourself?
Roz Lewis: You still have to maintain that criteria. 51% owned operating control. We encourage that because that means you’re growing. Any time you have that. We don’t want to you to look at it – And I’ll tell you what’s happening now WBENC, the national organization, we’re actually reviewing our certification guidelines because of what is happening with the growth of our women businesses. And making sure that we are not competing in that growth just to maintain that certification. So keep that in mind, that that dialogue is constantly on the table of us looking at it, and we’re looking out in to the future right now just coming back from a retreat in Pennsylvania with the National Corporates Board, the WBE Forum representatives. These are women businesses around the country. Of us talking about those types of things. Trying to get an understanding where we need to be and making sure that we remain relevant within the market place of the corporate and supply diversity arena.
To Evelyn’s point about the programs that we offer, one of the things we’ve just done too, is we signed a service agreement with WBENC. So we’re all separate 501C3s, our organization, so we pretty much control our program with the exception of some of the program that WBENC wants us to provide. Women owned businesses on boarding, understanding the value of your certification. Corporate on boarding. Scholarships. We have national scholarships.
The two main scholarships that we have are the WBENC Executive [inaudible 00:17:51] Program, which the major sponsor there is IBM. That is normally held in October so they’re really just coming off of the week that they spend in Palo Sage, New York, with professors talking about business. And I’ll tell you, I was telling – I just came back from Charlotte last night. I was telling one of my team members, I said “you know, that particular week is a very emotional week for the WBEs because there’s a lot discovery that they have.” And it’s about 60 WBEs in each class that comes together and they’re learning about finance, they’re learning about marketing, they’re learning about so many different things.
One of the WBEs went twice. The first year she went, she discovered that she could save 30% within her business when she left. The second time she came she sold her business after she left. So she learned about an exit program, understanding where she was comfortable enough to do an exit program and sell her business. She did sell it to another women owned businesses, thank goodness for that.
But we have those. We have opportunities twice a year where you come together nationally with all the WBEs and different corporations that are [inaudible 00:19:15]. And that is an education resource opportunity for you as well. A different learning [inaudible 00:19:21] that take place, plus meeting different corporations as well as other women businesses.
And then there’s the national conference that’s held in June. So March, during women’s month, is when some of [inaudible 00:19:35] around the country and then in June is when the national conference is held and they usually alternate between East coast and West coast regarding that.
Regionally, in GWBC, we also have programs. We have a mentor protégé programs. One of the two biggest challenges we know for women businesses is mentoring and access to capital. We’ll be celebrating ten years next year on our mentor protégé program and that’s WBE to WBE so we take successful WBEs to mentor with our WBEs who are growing and merging. We modify that, I will go ahead and clarify this now, because now we have corporates who want to get engaged and get involved as well, and that’s a good thing to have that. We’re going to be launching this in March. Our new process of how we’re going to engage the corporations as well as WBEs, successful WBEs in our mentor protégé program.
And then looking at other educational programs. We look at other organizations to see what they can provide so that we are not duplicating efforts regarding that. We try to do those in different locations. We have an event like the one we held yesterday in Charlotte. It’s called Tables of Eight. The purpose of that is for you to get to know each other. The reason for that is how can you support other women businesses if you don’t know what they do. You may already be a part of a corporation. Let’s say if you were a supplier to Georgia Power, an excellent supplier to the point that Deborah now feels that she can trust you to recommend someone for a different commodity.
It doesn’t have to be in your lane, your swim lane at all. And now you know that this company XYZ that you just met a few weeks ago or have become more familiar with, you can provide them an opportunity. Those are the type of initiatives that we look at as far as creating the environment for our WBEs.
We also host the same type conference. In each conference we also to make sure there’s a learning lab involved in that. Of understanding. We just did intellectual property. Social media is still big amongst businesses and I think because they’re just trying to figure out where am I getting the best bang for my buck of expanding my brand on that.
We did a perfect pitch. And a perfect pitch was for those WBEs that, are this particular one, was ten million and above. You have 15-20 minutes in front of a panel of corporations in order to pitch your business. We also talk about how do you pitch, because I was on the other side at Delta. Of you coming in and pitching your product or service with the RFP and the experiences I saw was the fact that you had a great product but you didn’t know how to pitch it. Therefore, you were out of business in a sense. So how do we make sure that you’re putting your best first forward, or hiring someone to put your best foot forward on that.
Evelyn Ashley: So I do think that one of the programs that many women are attracted is what I would call the Take Your Elevator Pitch into the Product Pitch and kind of the –
Roz Lewis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Evelyn Ashley: One on one meetings that –
Roz Lewis: Exactly.
Evelyn Ashley: The various national and local groups can actually facilitate for the women in businesses.
Roz Lewis: Yeah.
Evelyn Ashley: Talk a little bit about what happens there.
Roz Lewis: Alright, and those are the matchmakers that we have. What we do. We try to align you with that particular target customer that you’re looking for. And keep in mind, when I was saying corporate, there are large WBEs that you need to do business with. The success story we did yesterday for two WBEs who met at our [inaudible 00:23:59] that was held in Riley last year. And one of the comments of the customer, the WBE customer at that event was the fact that it was her first time attending the event, she had just gotten certified, and the one thing she noticed was that the women businesses that were not literally talking about how to do business with each other. And the type of business that she was in, she had so many opportunities for women businesses. Except for the one that came to her that did the success story and literally pitched to her saying you need my product and service. And sure enough, they have created a supplier-customer relationship. And a very good one. And now that she’s done a good job she can now promote her to some of her customers as well.
That pitch that Evenly is referring to, that matchmaker, you have about 10 minutes, 10-15 minutes to meet with someone like Deborah Mackins from Georgia Power, once again, to talk about your business. Then after that of course if follow up, right? Follow up as to, what are the next steps? Because unless it’s a Cinderella story, and it’s very few of those happen is what I call that the timing is such that the RAFP was just coming out and now you’re gonna be on the RFP and move forward. You gotta build a relationship. Unless you’re the only one in the world that provides that product or service, you got competition. Or they’re already contracted with someone.
And the one question that was never asked out of all the years that I spend at Delta in Supplier Diversity and the number of trade shows that I had gone to, no one ever asked when did the contract end.
The planes are flying. Supplies are there. When does the contract end? That’s important for you to know, if nothing else, where you place them in the targeted box. If we’ve just signed a contract, right? If I’ve just signed that contract, more than likely it’s not gonna be that opportunity for you for another two years. So you figure out which category you put that targeted customer in into how you want to come back and be ready for the next RFP that comes up regarding that.
Evelyn Ashley: Deb, tell us a little bit about Georgia Power’s program and how that actually works, particularly within the embracement of GWBC.
Deb Mackins: Thank you, good morning again. I’m gonna stand as well. I may have to sit because I have some problems with my fever right now, but I’m doing my best to hang in there.
First of all I’d like to thank everyone for inviting me, Evelyn. I’m very excited to be here. If you meet me, we spend some time talking, you’ll find out very quickly that I’m very passionate about diversity and women businesses and minority businesses and veterans.
Just a little bit about myself. I’ve been in supply chain for more than a couple of years. Typically, I have been in contracts or subcontracts. I’ve been commodity manager. Many different roles but I always had that small business supplier diversity mind set in the back of my head and I thought many years ago I’m in place not just for the corporation that I work for, but it’s my duty as a woman and as a minority to be that African to be that person that you could reach out to. I may not have all the information, all the resources, but I know how to get to those resources and information to help you to develop as a women owned businesses or minority or veteran.
So I took it upon myself to be kinda a bridge to help small business to develop. I’m very fortunate. I’m from Michigan. As Evelyn stated I worked in the automotive for many years. When I relocated to Georgia in 2006, I had the opportunity to meet Roz in 2007 and I thought “wow, this lady is very dynamic. She knows so much about supplier diversity. She’s very passionate.” And I started to learn more about GWBC and wanted to really be a part of that organization as well.
So fast forward to today in Georgia Power supply diversity program. I think we have a very cool program and it’s not because I work for Georgia Power. I am very fortunate to not be in the contracts world anymore. That was just too much. Supplier diversity and development is a benefit for me and we have a team of five very passionate, and we’re all women, supplier, diversity, and development professionals. So we work very closely with GWBC. There’s also GMSDC, which is the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council and there are chambers and other organizations that we want to work with at Georgia Power.
The reason that our organization exists. I support a business unit, it’s power delivery. It’s a lot of construction for transmission and distribution. It’s our core business. My colleagues support other business units. Our role is really to understand the needs of our business unit, products, and services, and at times we find out that there are products and services that Georgia Power needs that we didn’t know they needed.
I’ll give you a perfect example. There’s a company that’s certified by GWBC that offers executive coaching. They came to a trade show that I hosted in 2016 and at the end of the trade show I asked all of my business partners, are there any companies that stood out that you think that you could work with? Never would I have imagined that they would highlight an executive coaching company that provides those types of services. I thought, okay, they wouldn’t be looking for construction, nuts and bolts and earth-moving. No. They looked at somebody that had some executive coaching experience and within our utility. So sometimes, you never know what their needs are.
Georgia Power like most companies, they’re changing, our needs are changing. So we’re reaching out to companies that we probably didn’t look at before because we’re changing. We’re getting smaller and so we need to offset some of our needs with contractors and suppliers to help us deliver power to you. What we do, supplier diversity and development, we understand the needs of our business unit partners. We look for companies that could provide those materials and services. We may meet you today, we may meet you at a conference, I might meet you at the elevator. You just never know. At the grocery store. We’ll get to know you, we’ll vet your company. We want to ensure that you are who you say you are.
You say you’re a women businesses owner. Okay. We’re gonna ask you about your company. We’ll do our due diligence. We want to make sure we’re not bringing any risk onto Georgia Power. So we may ask for some information, we may go into [inaudible 00:33:14] and look at some of your financial numbers. We may ask for some business references to see how you’re done business with other corporations. We may even come to visit your business, which may be in your home and that’s fine. We do the due diligence. We get to know you so that everything checks out. Yes, this is a women business. Yes, they provide these products and services. We can use them. Great references. We have to get that level of comfort so that we can introduce you to our business unit partners, because it’s our credibility on the line.
I wanna just touch base on something that Roz talked about. When our team presents you to our business unit partners, we don’t really present you as a women business or minority business or veteran business. We present you as a business. Case in point, we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with a women on business to our Forestry, Vegetation Management group. We’re interested that you’re a women owned businesses. They were interested in some of the services that this company provided, which was unique to any company they’re currently working with. They said “wow, you do that? And you do this?” And we can get to your leadership, to your executive, without all these layers that we typically have to go through with some of these large companies.
I did my due diligence before. Everything checked out well. They said “you know what, we want to work with you on a storm. We think there might be some opportunities there for you.” So they didn’t see the fact that this was a women owned company, they saw a company that provides services that were very unique. The fact that they were a women owned businesses was kinda like the cherry on top of the sundae. Especially for me and for Georgia Power. But we will present you as a business, and it may take a little while but –
Evelyn Ashley: So I know there’s also a mentor program at Georgia Power also.
Deb Mackins: Yes.
Evelyn Ashley: Can you talk a little bit how that works, how one would be accepted into that, and what that actually entails.
Deb Mackins: Well, first of all you have to express an interest. Typically, the company would be the type of company that Georgia Power could use. So it’s not necessarily a company that performs some type of construction. It would be a company that has some type of HR program, or IT that someone within Georgia Power sees as a high potential type of contract or supplier that we could use. Again, first of all you have to express an interest.
Secondly, we have to see that there’s some, you’re either a current existing supplier and you’re trying to grow your business. Perhaps you work in a [inaudible 00:36:44] business unit and want to grow into another business unit or you’re high potential. Currently don’t work for us but Georgia Power’s selling our business unit. Even somebody in supplier diversity sees that there’s potential for you to work for Georgia Power and we’re trying to build those relationships, that’s really how you start in our program.
Interest, there’s a need, and we have to find you a mentor. This year this far, it’s a two year program, our 2016-2017 class graduated in June. I think we had 18 participants. Our 2017, well actually it will be 2018-2019, but we’re gonna start I think in November. I believe currently we’re up to 23-24 participants, so it’s growing. We actually have about five or six programs at Georgia Power for mentoring. We have internal mentoring program, that’s what I just talked about. We also have a program that we work with Georgia State, some mentoring. There’s also the Georgia mentor protégé, there’s TUCK, Roz talked about TUCK. Georgia Power, actually Southern company, sponsors, we provide scholarships for total I think four of five companies to go to Tucky Cheer. There’s a Top One and a Top Two, so I’ve been told, I’ve never audited the program, but I’ve been told TUCK is a one week program that’s like getting your MBA program on steroids.
Roz Lewis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Deb Mackins: I’ve talked to some people that participated in TUCK. They graduated and they still keep in contact with their class. They have become perhaps their extended Board of Directors.
Evelyn Ashley: Yup.
Deb Mackins: So there are about five or six programs that we sponsor. And again, express a need and we’ll see if there’s a fit. Even if it’s, even if you have a product or service that we may not need, we may still see some potential in your company and there may be a good fit for you in another one of our mentor programs.
Let me say this then I’ll end it for that. There is a company that has bakery goods. Georgia Power that wouldn’t help us get the lights on, right? But we all like cookies and things and what not, so they have a very strong business model. We saw a lot of potential in this company. Actually, at GWBC’s recent power of partnership marketplace [inaudible 00:40:02], one of my colleagues introduced this company to Delta and to [inaudible 00:40:10], and there may be some opportunities and perhaps even with Starbucks. Our team, because we’re so involved in the community, that’s the other things we do. If there’s not necessarily a connection for Georgia Power we know a lot of supplier diversity professionals throughout Atlanta, Georgia, the Southeast, and we do make those connections. We’re interested in your development.
Roz Lewis: I think from a business growth perspective, most business owners, not just women, there’s often that kinda golden element of “I’d really like to do business with one of the larger companies out there.” I think the whole idea of access is ultimately a benefit. It’s been stated already, it’s not like everyone’s standing there saying “here’s the contract! I’m giving it to you.” You have to work it. The reality is, particularly for the Launchpad 2x people, I think part of your learning and your training has been you want to create kinda a target rich environment for yourself and the benefit of certification is it’s yet another target rich environment that has a protection element and also an extreme ability to expand your network and your access.
I think, for us particularly, which I did not mention, one of the surprising elements of certification was that it actually made us eligible to become members in a group called the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms. From our perspective inside GWBC and WBENC, we’re very interested in the WBEs, quite frankly we’re not particularly, we love meeting the corporates because it’s great access for our clients, but the group NAMWOLF that we’re a member of, that actually puts us in contact with in house council, which is also a benefit to our client base. It’s just not, to me it’s just not, here’s the list of all the benefits. You actually have to get involved and explore it to figure out where the next door actually opens for you.
Deb Mackins: Just to piggy-back off that, I volunteer on several committees in GWBC. I go to fabulous events that GWBC has, and they really are just ah. But I enjoy participating on those committees because I get to know women business owners. I have a dog, oh she has a dog. I like to take cruises. He likes to take cruises. You start to develop those personal relationships and a secret to Georgia Power, Alabama Power, Mississippi Golf, Southern Nuclear, Southern company. It’s all about the relationships, it really is. So if you get certified, don’t just get certified, get involved.
And I know as business owners, you have to pick and choose what you’re gonna do because you wear many hats, I understand that. If you get certified, pick a committee that you have some interest in and get involved. Start to build those relationships because you don’t know who you’re sitting next to. Who could be your advocate. You have some common interest and develop this relationship. Hey I like you. Let’s talk more about your business. You know what, come over to Georgia Power, I want to introduce you to a couple of people. Let’s have coffee. Get involved. Work. Don’t just get certified. Work, leverage your certification.
Evelyn Ashley: So, do we have any questions from you guys? So Roz, the thing that I’ve gotten feedback from lots of women that I’ve directed to go get certified to go to the website and they’re like oh my god, this is gonna take me months.
Roz Lewis: Yes.
Evelyn Ashley: Talk to us about the process.
Roz Lewis: So talking about the process of certification. I think when you start putting your business together you kind of knew you needed to get articles of incorporation to determine whether or not you’re gonna be an LLC or a corporation but not an S Corp, you know, whatever your structure. Sole proprietor.
But the question is, did you put it all together? And so yes, the certification process and the documents that we’re asking for, the supporting documents for us to review, seems like it’s very arduous. You think, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. But here’s what I tell every WB applicant – I just had a conversation two days ago with someone out of Tennessee but I had to direct them to my RPO in Louisiana, was the fact that you will now have everything you need to make that your business is legally structured as it should be structured.
You also have to look at different states. I use, and where we always run into a challenge believe it or not, are LLCs, because in the state of Georgia you’re not required to have an operating agreement. However, it’s strongly encouraged, especially by your legal council when it’s involving more than one person. With WBENC, we require that you have an operating agreement. There’s a reason for that. There’s information we’re looking for. We’re asking for three years of tax returns, whether your business of personal. We’re looking for the history of your business, we want resumes on all of the majority owners, not the 1%, 2%, 3% owners necessarily, but those large owners. If you’re a corporation we want to see your [inaudible 00:47:17], you have payroll we’re looking at payroll. And I know you’re saying “three years of tax returns? Why?” Well believe it or not we’re not concerned whether or not you’re paying the government the right amount. That’s not what we’re looking for. There are other things that we’re looking for within those tax returns that hopefully continue to vet you as a women owned businesses and saying who you are.
So depending upon your structure of your businesses that type of information that you need to provide for us. Birth certificate, copy of your passport. So you think about it, how many have copied of their passport somewhere? How many knows where their birth certificate is? You might have these in all different files but I always tell people, put it in one binder and then you can always, it’s a go-to binder. If anybody asks, your business license. Any of those things, you all have it there and you know and more importantly, read over your legal documents. Because if you pull them off legal zone right, if you did, did you read them? Did you really read the fine print? And I’ll give you an example, a real quick example.
We denied this one WBE, and I get those phone calls, right in the denial. And so after she calmed down I said to her, and she wanted to have her attorney on the phone. I will not talk to attorneys, I will not talk to CPAs, I’m only talking to the owner because sometimes I’m telling you you need to find a new CPA, you need to find a new attorney. Because if my certification committee found this, why didn’t your attorney know this? Right?
And in this situation what happened, it was three women. Their husbands turned the business over to the wives. I know you’re saying oh well, did they flip it just to become women owned? Well, they had done this like, three or four years earlier, prior to them applying for the certification. So my [inaudible 00:49:26] was not, you know, up on thinking they’re just trying to get away with something. And in the document, one of the things it said was that the original owners are the only ones that can make the decision as far as selling the business. Who are the original owners? The men, because they were still a part.
So from that, and she realized and she went “oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. I have a daughter.” So she went through this whole thing, you know, I’m much stronger this, I can’t believe we didn’t – So just pay attention to your documents. Really read them and make sure one again 51% owned, operated, and controlled. Unanimous decision does not give you control unless your the unanimous decisions of one. So those are the things you have to think about when you’re looking at it.
It’s a 60-90 day process. And the reason it takes that long and the beauty today, I will tell you, we’re just coming up on our year anniversary this part September, where we’ve gone to digitization.
You upload all documents on the website, on the secure website for my team to now go through and review. And then on new documents, we have a certification committee that’s made up of women businesses and corporations, just an emphasis on our certification committees as well. When she mentioned she’s on many committees I had to smile because we have her stretched at this point. But it’s a good stretch so you know it’s the talent that we need so you’re always in demand.
But we go through that. Then we do a site visit. So someone’s gonna come out and visit you and ask, believe it or not, three to four pages or questions. That’s once again, when the CEO Paul Bauer of Georgia Power, the different CEOS of these major corporations, when they up there saying “we give a hundred million dollars to women owned businesses,” we want to make sure that he is literally speaking correctly and that what I call pass the newspaper test.
And then, if you decide to change the structure of your business, we will de-certify you. Or you don’t certify. We certify every year. The first time we’re asking for all of this. The re-cert, we’re here because we only want what has been updated and your business. So we look for updated financials, tax returns, any changes that may have occurred in your business. Meeting minutes. So that those of you that are saying yes, I’m a corporation, but I’m corporation of one, please still have a meeting with yourself. Because we’re gonna ask for it.
Speaker 6: I’m more of a non-profit organization, and we’re interested in partnering with women in STEM fields. Do you have any advice on how we can engage with those [inaudible 00:52:48].
Deb Mackins: Through our organization? [crosstalk 00:52:51]. Right. So let’s you and I talk afterwards and we, our beta base that we have. One of the things that we put is their industry, so we’d be able to put out and see who they are to reach out to them, to get them involved with you. And I need to find out with this organization is because I know of another one that [inaudible 00:53:13] Frazier is working with in STEM. But still in that one, a STEM.
A lot of the major corporations are getting involved in as well for women businesses, which is a great thing. I love the GE commercials.
Speaker 7: How many meetings do you want to see that we have each year? From a business, [inaudible 00:53:34].
Deb Mackins: You gotta have one, at least one. One board meeting if you’re board, you know, corporation that you have each year. And it could be, clean off the kitchen table, open the meeting at 12:01, say I’m gonna make more meeting, close the meeting.
Evelyn Ashley: Well and that’s corporation. You actually are obligated statutorily to have a board and share holder meeting at least once a year where you’re basically the shareholders electing you as the directors and then the directors are electing the officers. That is, that’s actually a good legal process for compliance with the law so you can maintain that protective border around your personal assets versus the company.
Speaker 6: And if we don’t have a board of directors, if it’s just me, just myself, once a year?
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah. You can do it by a written consent, basically.
Roz Lewis: That’s the other thing.
Evelyn Ashley: Where it’s a document that, you know, and it’s a good – Coming back to the documentation, it’s actually a really good process because in the early years, everyone’s all, I got all these balls in the air and I can’t do everything well. We’re actually dealing with a situation right now with a company that we’ve been working with since 2004 that is selling and they bought out a partner back in 2004 and they can’t find the documentation. And it’s because when you’re trying to save money, we give you the documents, you go get them signed and you take care of it, and if you don’t send it back, I don’t have them.
So we’re having to go through quite a lot of imagination with the buyer to explain that it’s not a problem. I think, process-wise, it’s always good to keep in mind in this situation, they never raised money. It’s completely bootstrapped. They didn’t actually have a diligence process where an investor came in and made them clean up, so I think in the scope of everything you want to look those things because that is a, that is a liability to those sellers. They’re basically, that buyer is going to say, that buyer has said “well, if that shareholder steps up and says we never actually signed the documents, it’s your problem, it’s not gonna be mine, so you will pay him his share or whatever happens there.”
So as part of the entire process, it’s always good to think I need to have some formality from the very beginning so I know that I’m doing the right thing at least on a regular basis and it doesn’t really take that much time on an annual basis. Yes?
Speaker 8: So for companies that may not have the history or in a word, young start up company, of doing business with larger companies, is your recommendation to get some of that under your belt before you apply, or – ?
Roz Lewis: No, we take businesses that are nano-seconds.
Speaker 8: Okay.
Roz Lewis: You just start your business.
We aren’t certified [inaudible 00:57:01] business, we’ve not certifying your customer list. We’re certifying your structure. What that does, there’s one of three reasons, basically WBEs in our organization get certified. One, the corporation has told them they need to order a supplier and they want to be able to count their spin. Two, they think it’s an opportunity because corporations and now the government is looking at weapon businesses, it’s an opportunity to do business with that group of businesses, and so they want to do it for that reason. Access to contracts in a sense. And the third is because a lot of times they’re in truly male dominated industries. Construction, logistics, things of that nature. And so they kind of want to have an environment where they can be around other success meeting and get mentoring from them. It feeds their soul as well.
And that’s the one thing we try to do and provide. I will tell you, and Evelyn knows it as well as Deborah. My favorite saying is Madeleine Albright. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. And so that in itself I what I encourage. This is why our tables of eight came together. Because it’s important for women businesses, other women businesses to help each other and partner. Even if your competitive is sitting next to you, that could be your partner in the future.
The reason for that, women tend to think that everything has to be in a line. No. Men do this all the time. You think about it. Exxon and Mobile were not loved, they weren’t in love with each other. Well, the reason they merged was because of market share. That’s the reason most corporations merge, because they’re trying to increase market share and reduce competition and eat up.
The other thing too I’ll tell you we’re focusing on future thinking, is women business disruptors. We have them in the male sector. The Ubers. The, what’s the hotel, I’m drawing a blank on it –
Evelyn Ashley: BM.
Roz Lewis: Right.
Evelyn Ashley: Yeah.
Roz Lewis: Yeah, you know so – [crosstalk 00:59:28]
Evelyn Ashley: You know, all those people on the back row know.
Roz Lewis: So think of it as that access. In other words, purchase a business that already exists. You don’t have to organically grow a business to be women owned. It can be an acquisition as well. Those are the things to think about as you grow.
As this young lady’s talking about, well it’s just me current state. What’s your future state? What’re you looking at? And so start operating in that future state. Have those meetings making sure to your point, because you never know. I always say, when are you going to sail? That means you’ve gotten to that level that someone is interested in buying and then you can go off into the sunset or become a serial entrepreneur like a friend of mine Kim Jackson is. She just keeps starting the businesses.
Those are things that you think about, is what you want to focus on with this. That’s we try to provide. There’s men in the room so I’m gonna talk about that for a minute too because we have a program He’s for She’s. Because it’s important that, from a diversity standpoint, there’s inclusion of all. And you gotta realize that with the corporations, the representatives, a lot of whom are men that are involved in the WBENC organization that sits on the Board of WBENC. We only have two men in our organization, two great He’s for She’s that sit on our board today with GWBC. That’s just something, too, to think about.
We’re not concerned, because you gotta obey the employee laws, right? Equal opportunity. We’re not changing that, we’re just making sure that you are in charge. And you are the leader, and we know that by your title that you are the leader of the organization. Of your organization.
So those are key too. It’s not about how much, because I get the question “well, I filed bankruptcy, can I still get certified?” Yes. Yes, you can. We’re not looking at that at all. We’re asking for financials for a totally different reason. Not to find out whether you’re viable. Do we want you to be viable? Absolutely. But that’s not our focus regarding that.
How many of you, that’s the question I have, are in the service industry in the room?
Because that’s usually always saying it’s the biggest challenge. Somebody has a product to sell, it seems like it’s pretty easier to get in, but when you’re a service provided – So think about how you can solve somebody’s pain, you know? What is it about it and follow the industries and seeing as Deb mentioned, the utility industry is changing. Make sure you stay up on that. The difference certifications, that’s something we’re gonna start incorporating. Construction, leads, if you’re in manufacturing we’re looking at ISO9000. Any of the service certifications, believe it of not, they’re the sig sigma they’re paying attention to. Those are the things that you need to think about too. Adding to your portfolio that helps you become a little more competitive in the market place, because these are the things from a strategic source and standpoint that buyers are looking at in these corporations.
But look to your left and look to your right, more importantly, in how you can become a customer or supplier of each other, because we encourage that. We have our [inaudible 01:03:29] Awards coming up on November 9th. Four of the award is called the trailblazer award, [inaudible 01:03:39] by different revenue categories, but there was an [inaudible 01:03:41] WBEs and one of the criteria is, are they supportive of the women businesses? That’s a part of the criteria, so think about that as well when you’re interested in doing thing. Whether you decide to join us now or wait because I think it’s important that we manage your expectation regarding what certification is about. It’s a tool, that’s it. It’s just like a gym membership. You gotta use it to see results.
Evelyn Ashley: I want to thank both of you this morning. This has been really excellent and if there are other questions please feel free to reach out to both Roz and Deb on that and we appreciate your time.
Roz Lewis: Thank you.
Deb Mackins: Thank you.