Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Women and Business…





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"Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I have always loved this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and I try to abide by it each day.  I’ve been to numerous conferences lately and there is much continued discussion about women in business and women entrepreneurs.  Most successful women have had to take on the things that have been challenging and often scary. Did you know that of the estimated 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States generate more than $1.4 trillion and employ 7.9 million?  Surprising isn’t it? 

According to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, women across the country are launching 1,288 new businesses each day and women-owned businesses account for 30% of all enterprises.  The report that was commissioned by American Express was recently released in March of this year.  What is intriguing to me however, is that while there is unbelievable growth in women owned business, there have been numerous pioneers from the early 19th and 20 centuries who changed history in their own way.  Two such women while coming from totally different worlds enjoyed the success of their labor and in turn built a legacy…  

Madame Clicquot born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1777 came from wealth and and privilege.  Married at 21 and widowed six years later, her husband left her in charge of the entire company…champagne production.  She became the first woman to run a champagne house, invent the “riddling table” (the table holds bottles at a 45 degree angle during fermentation) and the first to blend white with red wines. Yes, she invented the rose in 1818!  A savvy businesswoman, Madame Clicquot had unbelievable success in a man’s world. She created a champagne empire in spite of civil uprising and amid the chaos of the Napoleonic wars.  And, while in addition to the unrest there was economic depression and poor harvests, she still emerged as a prominent female leader in her industry that was strictly male dominated.  In spite of these challenges she went on to produce a product and a brand with international recognition.  In 1972, Veuve Clicquot established the international Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in Madame Clicquot’s memory, to advocate for enterprising female talent.

You may have heard of Annie Malone.  Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone is America’s first African American female millionaire thanks to her hair care empire in the 1900s. Born in 1869, Annie’s parents were runaway slaves and she grew up on a farm in Illinois.  She joined her love of chemistry with her love of hair care to manufacture oils and products to protect, strengthen and straighten hair. Annie sold her product door to door in little bottles.  By 1903 she expanded her business and by 1904 opened her first shop in St. Louis.  By 1914 her company was worth more than a million dollars which included a factory and beauty college that employed 200 people.  It’s reported that her franchises created nearly 75,000 jobs for women in the United States and abroad. 

While known for her wealth and spirited ways, she was also well known for living modestly and giving generously to numerous organizations including the Howard University College of Medicine, the YMCA and the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home, where Malone served as President of the Board of Directors from 1919 to 1943. In tribute to her loyalty and dedication to the Home’s goals, it was renamed in her honor in 1946 as the Annie Malone Children’s Home.

It’s just a bit of history, but I’ve taken a chapter from their life story and try to apply it to my own professional life.  I have learned, however, the most from my close mentor Carmen Jacob.  Carmen has taught me to be fearless, to not be afraid to ask for business, to be open-minded and to take risks.  She is great role model to women in business and a great representation of what an immigrant entrepreneur can accomplish in the United States.  

For Carmen and the many other mentors (women and men ) in my life…I am truly thankful for each one, this Thanksgiving season.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happiness at Work




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Happiness at Work…

 "If you feel like you're doing good things and have good intentions, you're taking care of people with the right principles and ethics, you're actually a lot happier."  (Weili Dai)


I really like this quote from Weili Dai who is the president of Marvell Technology Group.  The company which produces more than 1 billion silicon chips a year that are used from everything  from cell phone to laptops to video-gaming systems had more than $3.4 billion in revenue in the 2014 fiscal year.  What I like about her, is her inspirational leadership style which embraces compassion and understanding in the workplace --which in turn makes her happy.  

I am one of those very fortunate people who love their work.  In our industry we have the privilege in helping people find great jobs, new career choices, change their career path, live in a different city where a new job has taken them, or help bring people into our country with new job opportunities.  In this effort there can be many challenges, but I still find great joy when I can successfully match great people with terrific companies.  I truly love working each day with the people in my office, our clients and our consultants in the field.  The net result makes me happy that I am able to make a contribution and fortunate that I have the opportunity to work with such wonderful people. 

Having said that, I have recently reviewed Sharon Salzberg’s new book, “Real Happiness at Work” and she makes many strong points regarding why people may or may not be happy at work and how one can change that.   Salzberg is a New York Times Bestselling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. In 1974, she co-founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts.  In her book she talks about having a sense of meaning in your work, the importance in remembering the people you rely on and the people who rely on you, about being thoughtful in your emails, meetings and encounters so that you truly are genuine in your interactions and reflective of both the positive and negative that happens each day.  

While day to day business practice puts us all at risk for focusing strictly on the bottom line, it has come to my attention that a happy staff and engaged employees have a direct effect on just that order. As a staffing and recruiting firm, the negative term,  “head  hunter” just doesn’t cut it anymore and I’ve always taken offense to that label.  At NextGen we work at being purposeful in what we do and take pride in our work.  

Knowing that when we can help build successful business partnerships, help change people lives for the better and make the workplace stronger…we believe we are doing  something very worthwhile.  In the same way, this is why we take the responsibility of community involvement, volunteerism and charitable giving as an important part of our culture.  It is also why we have programs which support education, diversity and our veterans.  We don’t just put people in jobs.  Where people begin their career, how or where they relocate, or where they end up, involves their families, friends and their neighbors as well.  We don’t take that lightly.  There is meaning to our work.

There are numerous articles regarding work-life balance and happiness in the workplace.  But, I think it’s safe to say that one thing each one of us can bring to our office each day is a positive attitude with the thought and intent to be helpful, mindful and purposeful.  

While everyone may not love their work, like I do, I do believe that we each have the power to change that, make choices and even take a risk when necessary.  It's now fall and as the leaves change, we are reminded that nothing is static and we each have the ability to make positive changes in our personal lives and professional careers. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our 17th Year Anniversary!








Looking Back and Looking Forward…


Seventeen years ago, the Florida Marlins became the World Series Champions, Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl, Titanic won the Oscar for best movie, President Clinton was in office, Beanie Babies were the most requested Christmas toy, Claudia Schiffer was America’s top model, Elton John released Candle in the Wind, the number one TV show was Seinfeld… and…wait for it…NextGen was established.


As we celebrate these 17 years in business we would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our clients, consultants and friends who have helped make our industry such an exciting environment to work in and who share in our success.  When NextGen began, the world of technology was different, business was different and it continues to change so rapidly that we work every day to keep abreast of industry advances and changes in new technology. 


Since 1997, NextGen has placed more than 4,000 consultants in positions throughout the US.  That’s quite a number when you think about the impact that has on communities, businesses, families and the ripple effect which occurs from matching just one person with one company.  This is truly a wonderful business to be in.  And, while we are a staffing, recruiting and consulting firm with a focus on technology, we believe that our business is really a “people business.”    Just last week, NextGen was recognized by Governor Nixon as the 2014 Governor’s Minority or Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year Award.  Such an honor and I believe achieved in part because we at NextGen work to put people first. 


At the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development at Lake of the Ozarks, September 3-5, NextGen was awarded for demonstrating outstanding success and contributions made to the community through charitable involvement and commitment to volunteerism as well as contributions to the economy.   Specifically, we were noted for developing numerous innovative programs, including the RAV (Recruit A Veteran) Program and the We Care Initiative, a corporate outreach program designed to support charity, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and scholarship.  This award is something that we are very proud of and a tribute that can only be shared with our clients, consultants, colleagues and friends of NextGen who have helped us throughout the years to achieve our goals.


It was also very exciting to see other businesses throughout the state that have such an interest and dedication to making our communities and economy stronger.  Other awards at the Governor’s Council included, the Missouri Women’s Council Award of Distinction, the Governor’s Career Service in Economic Development Award, the Governor’s Innovative Industry Training Award, the Governor’s Community/Redevelopment Project of the Year Award, the Governor’s Exporter of the Year Award, the Hawthorn Foundation Volunteer Economic Development Award, the Governor’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Governor’s Business Project of the Year Award.  The award winners were innovators, pioneers, entrepreneurs and businessmen and women who were truly inspiring. I often hear the saying, “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” yet I was so struck by the personal dedication of these award winners, and believe that plays an important part in their success as well as ours.


So, as we celebrate our anniversary at NextGen, we also pledge to continue to dedicate ourselves to making the workforce and the workplace better…for the next 17 years…and that is very personal.