You’ve come a long way! This is especially true for women who own their own business in the United States. Statistics show that the number of businesses owned by women has risen dramatically over the years as economic resources and education have become more readily available.
According to the National Association for Women Business Owners’ Web site, 10.1 million firms were owned by women (50 percent), they employed 13 million people and generated $1.5 trillion in sales in 2008. Three-quarters of all women-owned businesses were majority-owned (51 percent or higher), totaling 7.2 million firms with 7.3 million employees and $1.1 trillion in sales.
“I’ve been in the banking industry for 20 years, and I’ve been involved with NAWBO for seven, and I’ve seen the effect it has had on women business owners in the Houston area,” says Jo Ann Miller, vice president and senior relationship manager for Wells Fargo Bank in Houston.
Smart Business asked Miller how NAWBO has helped women across the country and if there are more opportunities for women to own their own businesses in today’s market.
What is NAWBO?
NAWBO was formed in 1975 by 12 businesswomen who lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area. Their ultimate goal was to gather and share information and create an atmosphere of a professional community in an effort to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. At that time, there wasn’t a group dedicated to helping female business owners. Today, there are branches in many major markets that women can turn to when they need assistance.
What are some of NAWBO’s accomplishments over the last 10 years?
Some of the key factors include the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act (HB 5050) during the Reagan administration. On the financial side, in 1996 NAWBO created a partnership with the Small Business Administration to better identify the needs of women entrepreneurs. The SBA helped develop a fact sheet so its staff could better understand the differences between women-owned businesses versus male-owned businesses, such as the limited availability women had to financing. NAWBO also created strategic alliances with corporate sponsors eager to work with businesses owned by women.
In 2005, immediately following Hurricane Katrina, NAWBO formed a women’s business disaster relief project that had a Web site up and running within 72 hours of the storm. The Web site raised $40,000 over a two-week period in individual contributions, all of which was donated to women business owners who had been affected by the disaster.
Do you need to own a business to receive help from NAWBO?
I am not a female business owner but I work for a corporation that supports them. There are a number of corporate sponsors who offer a great way for women business owners to learn what resources are available to them. Collaboration like that can help cut through the red tape and make the resources available in a more efficient manner.
Is it getting easier for women to own their own businesses?
I would like to think it’s becoming more balanced and the numbers on the NAWBO Web site seem to reflect that fact. Just from working with NAWBO over the last seven years, I have observed the diversity of the businesses that women have created, especially those competing in male-dominated industries. You’re not just seeing your typical administrative professions; women are more involved in commercial areas, such as real estate, trucking, licensing and newspapers. There are so many industries where women didn’t have a voice and now they are competing one-on-one in the field. The strategic alliances women are forming give them access to the capital and education they need.
Financial institutions today see women-owned businesses as a viable unit and one it wants to do business with, so I am reaching out to them and letting them know that as a bank we are serious about doing business with them and want to provide them with the same amount of opportunities as we offer to men.
What is the Trailblazers Award?
In 2002, NAWBO and Wells Fargo established the award to honor and celebrate the nation’s leading women business owners. Each year three women-owned businesses are selected nationwide on the criteria of their business performance, innovation, growth and personal service to the community. Each winner receives a $5,000 cash grant, nationwide recognition and will be honored at the annual NAWBO conference.
JO ANN MILLER is vice president and senior relationship manager for Wells Fargo Bank. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (281) 644-3714.
Glenn V. Godkin is president of community banking for Wells Fargo in Greater Houston. Godkin, who is in his 30th year with the company, is responsible for both regional banking and business banking activities in 125 stores with more than $8 billion in assets.
Q. What questions should a business be prepared to answer when talking with its bank?
Before a financial institution extends credit, it wants to be confident that a business has the ability to repay. Typically, lenders ask the ‘Five C’s of Credit’ questions that help the lender develop a profile of the applicant and determine whether to extend credit to a business. The ‘Five C’s’ are: character What is your history and reputation?; conditions How will the money be used?; capital How much of your own capital have you invested?; capacity How will you repay the loan? Is your cash flow sufficient?; collateral What forms of repayment security can you provide the lender? What secondary sources or assets are available to ensure payment?
Q. How can a business develop a strong relationship with its bank?
The relationship between you and your financial services provider is one that you both envision will last forever. Visit with your banker face to face for a thorough discussion about your goals, financial needs and company’s capabilities. You should expect to meet with your banker as often as you feel necessary monthly, quarterly or even weekly. Update your business plan throughout the year to address new opportunities and challenges and share changes with your banker. The more your financial services provider knows your business, the more they can help.
Q. What products and services should be expected from one’s bank?
Top financial services providers offer business customers the full of array of products, services and expertise. Depending on the business, services may include treasury management, merchant services, investment banking, corporate trust, international banking, payroll services and more. It’s important for businesses to receive a complete financial review from their financial services provider to determine the products and services that best meet their needs.
In this day and age, almost every company is aware of treasury management. But, if you’re not, you need to learn about it, as it provides a litany of products and services that are important to day-to-day operations.
Treasury management is for all companies — both large and small — that need their revenues to be deposited in a safe, efficient and effective manner. Part of it is monitoring checks, deposits and other daily cash flow needs, while another part includes more advanced services such as remittance processing, cash disbursements, online banking services, electronic funds transfer, overnight sweep investment options, remote deposit capture and positive pay.
“Treasury management services are important to a company when it wants to protect against fraud, especially when it has excess funds in its operating accounts,” says Clyde Hooker, a vice president with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. “The excess funds can be invested overnight, which pays dividends, or used to offset fees for services like fraud protection. It allows the owner or key individuals services at their finger tips that would normally happen at a branch.”
Smart Business spoke to Hooker about why treasury management is so vital and how it can benefit any organization.
What exactly is treasury management?
The main objective of treasury management is to accelerate cash flow, control disbursements, report information and offer investment options for excess capital. A good treasury management program offers a one-stop service, where companies can do Internet banking, ACH, lockbox and wire transfers, all with a single point of contact to help the company handle its cash flow and finances.
Treasury management services provide resources to improve cash flow, slow down the payment process and optimize cash by making last-minute investment and/or lending decisions. Online resources save key individuals time by authorizing users to access the balances and transaction details over the Internet, process deposits from their offices without having to deliver to the branch for processing, and initiate wires and still keep internal controls.
Additional services that may not be big time savers, but do provide fraud protection or automation of certain processes, include positive pay, which provides check fraud protection; ACH fraud filtering for protection against electronic fraud; and ACH origination to provide direct deposit or direct collections.
If I’m the CEO of a company, why should I care about treasury management?
The CEO or owner has a direct responsibility to make the company profitable. Improving cash flow and controls will contribute toward the bottom line. Treasury management offers a variety of services to increase efficiencies and add control. For example, services like a lockbox, where the bank collects the companies’ payments and they go right into their accounts, provide centralization of collections of all deposits. It provides faster collection times, plus a business continuity plan for disaster situations. Payments will continue to be deposited into the account regardless of whether the employees are in the office or relocated to a remote location. Implementing dual control of payment on wires or ACH originated items provides the internal control to prevent internal or external fraud. The designated administrator grants authorization to the other users, including viewing rights to an outside CPA or whoever may need the access.
What problems or issues can arise from treasury management?
Typically, treasury management services prevent problems or issues within a company, unless all access is assigned to one individual and he or she has full control of the information and transaction initiation. Treasury management professionals strongly recommend a separation of duties to reduce the risk for fraud. The earnings credit rate is what is used to waive fees and is generally based on a rate that is tied to the 90-day T-Bill, although some customers may have negotiated rates. Right now, larger compensating balances are required to offset fees, since the rate is down due to economic conditions. The services can be changed or turned off and back on at any time.
What are the consequences a company faces if it doesn’t monitor and/or contain this?
The company may risk loss of income or overpayment of expenses by not utilizing treasury management services. Treasury management allows companies to maximize their excess funds by investing or paying down outstanding debt. Treasury management also provides fraud prevention tools to protect the company from potential losses. Check and ACH fraud is a growing problem in the banking industry. The convenience of the Internet has made it easier than ever to commit fraud. Buying check stock at any office supply store, printing the company logo and reproducing checks can be easily done on any home computer. ACH fraud has also become easier. Electronic bill pay and electronic debit has made it easy for a criminal to provide a stolen account number to a company for payment.
Without treasury management, fraud losses may occur. If the company has excess funds and a line of credit it can first go to pay down its line of credit, waive the services fees and then the remaining funds could be invested overnight to pay dividends. Internally, a company should ensure protective measures are in place. These would include practices like dual signing of checks, separation of duties, daily review of checking accounts activity, keeping check stock locked and use of checks with built-in security features.
Information and views provided in this article are general in nature for your consideration and are not legal, tax or investment advice. Please contact your own legal, tax or financial advisers regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based upon this information.
Clyde Hooker is a vice president with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Reach him at (281) 315-8996 or Clyde.F.Hooker@wellsfargo.com.
To hear from each program director and read profiles of the finalists and award winners, click on the links below.
Alabama/Georgia/TennesseeSouth Central Ohio & Kentucky
When William A. Coskey founded ENGlobal Corp. in 1985, the company was just him and one client.
The energy industry was in the midst of challenging times, but Coskey, an engineer by training, saw long-term potential in offering clients more innovative products and services than they had been receiving.
Fast forward 10 years, Coskey and ENGlobal were doing well. The company had a regular stable of repeat clients who kept it thriving. Despite this, ENGlobal was still a small organization with only a handful of employees. But Coskey still saw the opportunity for growth.
Undeterred, he engineered a self-underwritten IPO, which allowed him to get registered stock out in the public and begin using it to make select acquisitions.
Today, ENGlobal is a recognized, international energy engineering and professional services firm with more than 2,500 employees. The company is focused on innovative, cost-effective solutions for its clients.
Over the past two decades, ENGlobal has expanded into several markets, including petroleum, gas, chemical, power and petrochemical. The company’s projects range from single in-plant assignments to large engineering, procurement and construction management projects. Yet Coskey remains committed to keeping the company imbued with a small, entrepreneurial, family-like business environment.
Recently, the company underwent an internal analysis to assess the underlying drivers behind recent new work awarded to Coskey and his team. This has helped the management team understand current trends affecting the energy industry and prepare to identify new opportunities when they present themselves.
How to reach: ENGlobal Corp., (281) 878-1000 or www.englobal.com
Business Services & Staffing
When Paula Manning founded Triad Resources Inc. in 1999, she had been involved in the staffing industry for eight years. But she was sure that she could do things better than others and set out on her own.
What began as a two-person operation in a 700-square-foot apartment swiftly grew into a premier technical talent firm with more than 100 employees, blue-chip clients and 50 percent year-over-year growth.
Triad is a search firm that specializes in IT by providing managed contract services, direct-hire staffing and comprehensive training solutions to clients, and its success can be directly traced back to Manning’s approach.
Beyond staffing her team with only top-quality talent steeped with deep industry experience, Manning believes it’s imperative to run a scalable operation. She established a cross-functional organization with specialized teams for research, recruiting, account management and back-office functions, and invested in customized recruitment software that helped increase her staff’s productivity.
She marries this quest to provide clients with the best options possible to a corporate culture where everyone feels like family and is appreciated for their hard work and team successes.
For example, in 2007, she implemented the Triad Superhero program to recognize employees who went above and beyond. Each quarter, the board meets to select a superhero. The superhero receives a superhero cape, framed certificate detailing the employee’s achievement and a $500 gift card.
And in her quest to achieve excellence, Manning has learned that it is never acceptable to settle for second best. Superheroes just don’t do that.
How to reach: Triad Resources Inc., (713) 523-6003 or www.triadresources.com
Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Abbott and Costello.
Every great combination is made by two equally solid parts coming together to make something fantastic. And so it was a great fortune for both when James Taylor and Arun Pasrija met up and formed CHR Solutions Inc.
On their own, both men have a strong business background and a good amount of battle-tested executive experience. But, together, they’ve mixed their skill sets to create something special at CHR Solutions.
Taylor, the company’s chairman and CEO, is a bit of a serial entrepreneur, with CHR Solutions being the third company he’s founded in the last 12 years. Along the way, he’s become the king of the marketplace. Today, he spends roughly 85 percent of his time out in the market beating his CHR Solutions drum to help drive new business and acquisitions to build the company into a powerhouse for the middle market.
Pasrija, on the other hand, is the hand that cranks the wheel at CHR Solutions. With a strong focus on operations, cost management and efficiency, Pasrija, the president and chief operating officer, spends his time making sure the company delivers on its promises. It is his follow-through and close eye that ensure CHR is always growing from a solid foundation.
With the two working in tandem, CHR has grown from a basic business plan in 2003 to the thriving enterprise it is today, with a realistic goal of growing into a $100 million IT/telecom infrastructure services company. Beyond that, the 14-person management team at the company has CHR Solutions poised for the incubation of various telecom growth strategies. With expansions in the works, the company is ready to tackle tomorrow through a culture of innovation and expansion.
How to reach: CHR Solutions Inc., (713) 995-4778 or www.chrsolutions.com
Power & Utilities
Call the story of StarTex Power one of Robert and Marcie vs. Goliaths.
Marcie and Robert Zlotnik founded StarTex Power in 2004 with the goal of bringing the highest standards of customer service and competitive pricing to the retail electric industry. As a result, the two have had to create unique systems to tackle the big kids on the electric power block. Since Marcie, who serves as chairman and COO, and Robert, who serves as president and CEO, were unable to find any venture capital firm or angel investor for their start-up, the two initially drew no salary and invested more than $300,000 of their own money to keep the business alive.
Along the way, they created a one-of-a-kind hedging program that locks in customers to the lowest rate and structured an innovative supply agreement that allows the company to hedge without tying up unreasonable amounts of capital resources. Additionally, they utilize a broker model to extend their sales force to a wider audience of residential and business customers. StarTex Power evaluates each customer and it proposes pricing to ensure that it only takes on profitable opportunities.
In order to better serve those customers, StarTex Power provides simple, clear and easy-to-understand invoices that show the electricity rate promised by StarTex Power and the actual usage something that greatly differs from the industry practice of a nearly incomprehensible charging rate. And when customers do have questions, StarTex Power makes responding its No. 1 priority. In fact, both Zlotniks list their e-mail addresses on the company Web site.
As a result, the company hasn’t just become a customer service example, it has also felled the Goliaths and grown into a success worthy of a story all its own.
How to reach: StarTex Power, (713) 357-2800 or www.startexpower.com
Oil Field Products & Services
Bruce A. Streeter first saw the vision for success while on vacation during his employment at Offshore Logistics.
Although his employers did not have interest in the idea at first, Streeter saw a great opportunity. Streeter, after another trip, convinced the chairman of Offshore Logistics to support his vision for the company to return to the support vessel industry. In 1990, Offshore Logistics was purchased by Gulf Applied Technologies and later became known as GulfMark Offshore.
Today, Streeter leads the company, which has grown from three to 95 vessels operating in the North Sea, the Americas and Southeast Asia. Because of the company’s philosophy to operate with a lean, extremely skilled corporate team, lower overhead operating costs and an organization that can overcome the obstacles of the industry, Streeter, as president and CEO, has been able to breed success at GulfMark while staying clear of head-count reductions.
Another aspect of GulfMark’s success is its versatility. Streeter’s company designs ships for use in the North Sea, the Americas and Southeast Asia, while at the same time, the ships can also be used to perform multiple tasks. In turn, the company creates marketable, multipurpose vessels, which secure higher margins.
Aside from having a marketable product to fall back on in the tough economic times, Streeter has secured a method in GulfMark that will allow it to outlast the undulating economy. The company’s approach to business is to take advantage of their current market instead of charging into weaker, uncharted waters. Streeter also believes that the diversification of his company’s fleet and the lower overhead structure have helped supplement GulfMark’s success. In the future, Streeter plans to strategically build his company by patiently making opportunistic purchases of vessel assets.
With the acquisition of a competitor in the Gulf of Mexico, this Houston-based business is already looking into the future.
How to reach: GulfMark Offshore Inc., (713) 963-9522 or www.gulfmark.com
Oil Field Products & Services
William H. von Eberstein Jr., president and CEO of ExPert E&P Consultants LLC, has always had a knack for entrepreneurship. After almost 30 years of on-the-job training with a single super-major energy company, von Eberstein left his position as director of project management for all North American deepwater operations to create his own company.
ExPert’s main role in the industry is to consult, manage projects and turnkey operations, and produce for the leaders of oil and gas drilling.
With von Eberstein at the helm, the company’s mission is to provide reliability, commitment, safety, diversity, teamwork, innovation and ethical services to its customers. The Louisiana-based company is able to reach and exceed its goals through excellent employees. ExPert prides itself with having employees who are multitalented, experienced have vast knowledge in drilling operations, complex directional drilling, engineering and technology.
The president and CEO has been able, with his entrepreneurial expertise, to create a company that is now a valued commodity in the oil and gas drilling industry. ExPert has three facets to its company: ExPert Consultants LLC, ExPert Riser Solutions LLC and ExPert Oil & Gas LLC. Von Eberstein hopes to also expand the ExPert business by adding a fourth facet, which will conduct business associated with a new patent of his that von Eberstein foresees as significantly supplementing and changing the way drilling companies mitigate a safety hazard aboard their drilling platforms.
Aside from enlarging ExPert’s services to its clients, von Eberstein expands ExPert’s services to the community. Because one of ExPert’s facets is located in an area of Louisiana recently affected by hurricanes, von Eberstein recognized a way to provide affordable housing for employees on-site while giving the company another competitive advantage to add to its already extensive list.
How to reach: ExPert E&P Consultants LLC, (985) 809-1280 or www.expertep.com