Although men still greatly outnumber women in the corner suites of Fortune 500 firms and many public companies, recent statistics point to an encouraging business climate for women who want to be high-level executives in Florida-if those women want to own their own businesses.
Sharon Hadary, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Women's Business Research, who spoke at a recent women-in-business luncheon sponsored by Wachovia and Sarasota/Manatee BUSINESS, says Florida is ranked No. 3 in the nation for number of women-owned businesses. "That's amazing to me," she says. "Ten years ago, Florida wasn't even one of the top 10."
Why is Florida ranked so high? The usual reasons: demographics and climate. "You have an influx of people coming to Florida," says Hadary, "and many of these people are retiring earlier and they're healthier." They're not ready to stop being productive. And Florida is a nice, sunny place to set up shop. "I know of three women from New Jersey who've moved their businesses to Florida," she says.
Another recent study by The Center for Leadership at Florida International University, in partnership with The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, surveyed Florida women in prominent executive positions. The report, Florida's Women-Led Businesses, 2006, showed that the majority of women who made it to the top-70 percent-started the business themselves rather than rising through the ranks of other companies.
"Entrepreneurship is the ultimate meritocracy," says Hadary. "You can generate your own wealth." The key ingredient for success, she says, is setting goals: "It's more important than the size of the business, location or experience." Access to capital, markets, technical expertise and networks are also vital. "It's through networks that you find money and opportunities," says Hadary.
Sarasota's Eileen Rosenzweig was one of the women FIU surveyed. She's the owner of Sir Speedy on South Tamiami Trail, and her business, the seventh largest Sir Speedy out of approximately 500 franchises in the country, made $3 million last year. At 47, she started out as an accountant in the corporate world before deciding that if she really wanted to get ahead, she'd have to open her own business.
"I worked for G.E. and it was more difficult there," Rosenzweig says. "I was a professional but was treated more as a glorified secretary. There was definitely a good old boy network in the corporate world. There were more meetings in the men's room than you'd ever want to know."
Rosenzweig opened Sir Speedy 25 years ago and says the times-and her management style-have changed. She learned to speak to men with authority and clarity to win their respect, and she changed the pay structure of her company to reward employees in all departments equally. "Women's roles, like customer service, used to be the lowest paid," she says. "But customer service is our backbone so we decided to pay just as much there as we did in the press department." Interestingly, her customer service department today is mostly men, she says.
Rosenzweig says her seven-year-old twin daughters will not face the limitations she did. "I went to Bentley College in Boston, which was 80 percent men," she says. "It was an accounting school, and they were very resentful of a woman. Now Bentley is 60 percent women, and most people sitting for a CPA exam are women. My daughters can choose to do whatever they want, including being a stay-at-home mommy."-Susan Burns
LATEST FINDINGS ON FLORIDA'S BUSINESSWOMEN
Of the women interviewed for Florida's Women-Led Businesses, 2006, 70 percent started a business themselves; 88 percent were the first women to ever hold their position in the company; 43 percent have corporate boards; of those boards, more than 60 percent of board members were female; 60 percent of these women aspired to be CEOs, presidents or to own their own companies; 47 percent had fathers who were business executives; 10 percent had mothers who were business executives; 88 percent attended college or completed a B.A.; 40 percent said mentors were important; 90 percent participated in business organizations; average age was 51; 85 percent were Caucasian; 61 percent were married; 74 percent worked more than 40 hours a week and 10 percent worked more than 60; 40 percent stayed home past maternity leave; 61 percent had outside help with child rearing; 50 percent were satisfied with the amount of time they spend on personal affairs and at work.
MIND YOUR MANNERS
Business etiquette from national restaurant consultant Judi Gallagher.
Any suggestions for a creative $10 "Secret Santa" gift for the staff holiday party?
Suggest that each employee bring in a small stocking filled with personal care items to donate to a homeless shelter. Throughout the holiday season, area newspapers will list ideal donations for people in need. Remember, though, that this is a personal choice. Perhaps making the suggestion this year and offering a donation in your office mate's name will set a trend for the next giving season.
MY FIRST JOB
Matthew Fagin and Rosanna Petrella launched a newsletter before becoming restaurant owners.
By Abby Weingarten
In 1998, with no prior journalism experience, Matthew Fagin, 37, and his wife, Rosanna Petrella, founded the Osprey Observer at the same time they were opening two St. Armands eateries: Margarita Mateo's and Lido Grille. Since selling the Observer in 2002, Fagin and Petrella have continued to launch their own restaurants, most recently the Italian diner Petrella Brothers, opening Dec. 1 in south Sarasota. Fagin says:
"We were new to the area and looking for some things to do together, and although neither of us had any background in publishing, we thought of having a newsletter that would cater to people our age, in their late 20s. I had been in the freight brokerage industry before that; it was a family business.
"I generally get involved in things I don't have experience with. It's not that I thought I could succeed; it's just that a business is a business. I enjoy that rush of not knowing what I'm doing. It's sort of living on the edge.
"My wife was the driving force behind making the newspaper a success. She was doing the sales and I was the idea and concept person. We actually turned a profit off the second issue. We didn't have a large overhead; it was a very low-budget start, with one graphics person and a couple of reporters, and we did it out of our house.
"Matt Walsh (of the Observer media group) approached us early on, in the first six months. At the time, we weren't interested in selling because [the On The Ranch] was still pretty new. We were mailing the paper to 20,000 people. We had a pretty good following and he wanted that.
"There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with independently owning your own business. It's a big risk because you have no one to answer to but yourself. It can be difficult at times to stay motivated. You don't have to get out of bed if you don't want to, because you're not going to get fired. Anyone who goes into business on their own is really out there."
Estimated number of workers in Florida in 2006: 8,056,600
Number of workers in 2005: 7,614,840
Growth since 2005: 3.1%
Estimated number of workers in Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area in 2006: 312,800
Number of workers in 2005: 289,040
Growth since 2005: 4.4%
Median hourly wage of all jobs in Florida in 2006: $13.16
Median wage in 2005: $12.79
Median hourly wage in Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice in 2006: $13.03
Median wage in 2005: $12.66
Sector with the highest increase in jobs in Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice: Professional and Business Services at 7.9%
Number of workers that represents: 79,100
Average wage: $35,856
Sector with the highest increase in jobs in Florida: Retail clothing at 9.6%
Number of workers in that field: 108,600
Average annual wage: $26,592
Source: Florida's labor market statistics, Agency for Workforce Development
DEC. 1 5 to 10 p.m. on Lemon Avenue between Main and First streets. Free. Greater Sarasota Chamber Downtown After Five
DEC. 47:45 a.m. at Laurel Oak Golf & Country Club, 2700 Gary Player Blvd., Sarasota. Sponsored by Eckerd College. $20 for EDC investors, $25 for future investors. Call 309-1200 ext. 203. Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County investor update breakfast
DEC. 6 5 to 7 p.m. at the Harrington House Bed and Breakfast, 5626 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Call 778-1541 to RSVP. Anna Maria Island Chamber Business Card Exchange
DEC. 7 5 to 7 p.m. at Minxx Nightclub/DaVinci's Ultra Lounge, 7111 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $5 for members; $15 for non-members. Call 556-4031 for information. Greater Sarasota Chamber Business Connections
DEC. 13 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Bradenton Auditorium, 1005 Barcarrota Blvd. Free. Contact Elba at 748-4842 ext. 122 or [email protected] for information.Manatee Chamber Holiday Coffee Club
Anna Maria Island Chamber Sunrise Breakfast 7:45 to 9 a.m. at the Sun House Restaurant, 111 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach. $5 for members. Call 778-1541 to RSVP.
DEC. 14 5 to 7 pm at Mattisons Riverside, 1200 First Ave. W., Memorial Pier, Bradenton. Free. Call Jacki at 748-4842 ext. 131 or visit www.MYPonline.com for information.Manatee Young Professionals Networking Social
DEC. 20 5 to 7:30 p.m. at RBC Centura Bank, 7366 52nd Place E., Bradenton. Free. Contact Elba at 748-4842 ext. 122 or [email protected] for information.Manatee Chamber Business After Business
Abel Band attorney Malcolm Pitchford discusses the growing importance of tapping into an international market.
By Abby Weingarten
Malcolm J. Pitchford, a senior shareholder with Abel Band, is one of the few Florida attorneys to become qualified as a "solicitor" by the Law Society of England and Wales. Born in Liverpool, Pitchford holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and the United States and is now licensed to represent clients from Europe, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Ontario, South Africa and Western Australia. He joined Abel Band in 1981, seven years after graduating from law school at the University of Florida.
1. Why has Abel Band entered the international arena? We have a number of clients with international interests, mostly from England. And we're always looking to increase our demographic. We think the west coast of Florida is a growing market in that regard. Some of the clients are already here, either from England or Germany, and we have clients who do real estate and investment business in Europe and South America.
2. What does it take to become a solicitor? I had to take the Qualified Lawyer's Transfer Test, commonly known as QLTT. In a year, I took three written exams in New York that lasted about four hours each, and it took about eight months to prepare for them. It's all for English common law countries, and you learn the basic concepts that apply in those areas. You do have to take continuing education courses, just like you do with the Florida Bar.
3. What is the difference between practicing law in this country and in England and Wales? In England and Wales, there are barrister solicitors, and they're a lot like the trial lawyers here. Historically, barristers have been able to make appearances in court on behalf of their clients. Solicitors represent clients who are, say, involved in criminal matters, and if their case goes to court, they can retain a barrister. More and more, solicitors have been allowed to appear in courts. In the States, you can graduate as an attorney at law and practice law in the courtroom the day after you graduate.
4. Where do you see the future of this international practice going?
The QLTT is going to become more and more popular. In prior years, it was very difficult to become an attorney in a different country. You had to go to another country to take the test or even go to law school in that country. I think now there's a lot of interest in west coast attorneys becoming internationally licensed and I think we're all looking forward to that. We see the potential for international business, which is mostly transactional. Some of my clients are investing in American properties, a lot of them here in Florida, or they have business investments. That seems to be the thrust of the interest. The QLTT is now offered in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, but they're trying to get it to come to Miami. If that happens, I think a lot more Florida attorneys will take advantage of it.
5. How much more likely are clients to come to you if you are a qualified solicitor? I've had several new clients who have contacted me to represent them since I became qualified that I know I would not have been contacted by otherwise. One was an American who had business interests in Jamaica, one was from Grand Cayman, and two were from England. A lot of my clients do business internationally in South America. It has clearly increased our business, and I would recommend it to every firm.
Can women rise to the top in business in Florida?