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Secrets Revealed: Getting to the Top

Business Woman
Business Woman

I don't really think you can have it all, no matter what they tell you growing up.

Sorry.

If you work full time (or more) and raise a family—sometimes on your own—something's gotta give.

However, even though you can't have it all, you can have a lot.

Some women manage to start and grow their own businesses--a hard enough task on its own--while remaining committed to marriage and raising children. Somehow, they make it all work. I met a few exceptional examples at the annual awards luncheon for the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. LA is the single largest market for women-owned businesses, and hundreds of women, and some men, gathered to celebrate and inspire.

I hope that by sharing a few of their thoughts, you may get a little inspired as well.

Among those honored by NAWBO-LA was Maelia Macin. This Cuban refugee and mother of two boys is general manager of what may be the most successful television station in the country, KMEX, Univision's Spanish-language powerhouse in Los Angeles. Ratings for its newscasts beat out all English-language rivals. Macin was named Broadcasting and Cable's General Manager of the year last year. "We were poor and didn't have a home, food, shelter--the basic necessities of life," she says of her arrival in the U.S. when she was seven years old. What did she learn? "Bite down hard, grit your teeth, get through it and just stay positive."

Of course, most people, most women, don't succeed without someone taking a chance on them. Often, that risk taker is a man. Caroline Nahasis a good example of how that risk can reap rewards. She's a managing director at Korn/Ferry and is recognized as one of the top executive recruiters in the country.

Nahas got into that business when few other women could. "A seminal moment for me was when I was introduced into a major client relationship," she says. "The president of the company personally called Richard Ferry to express his concerns about a woman recruiting for their company. Richard Ferry responded with conviction, 'Caroline is outstanding, she will do a superb job, and trust me, you will not be disappointed.'" Nahas says that company has been one of her most enduring clients. Her advice to entrepreneurs, female or otherwise? "If you can't believe in yourself then it's very hard for people to believe in you," and "Don't dismiss or discount how much of an impact all of us can make. You don't have to be the CEO, you don't have to be the president, to make an impact on someone else."

Then there's Lizanne Falsetto, a statuesque beauty--"the most glamorous forklift operator you've ever seen"--who always felt hungry while traveling back when she walked the runways as a model. Junk food was out of the question. So Falsetto eventually created ThinkProducts, a line of healthy snacks. In her case, it was also a man who inspired her--her father. "Lizanne, if you don't get butterflies and you don't have passion," he told her, "step away, because you won't want it bad enough."

Geez! I was starting to feel like I'd lost my own fire to succeed. I really needed to pick up my game! How could these women do so much so well? "They have a lot of help," said the woman next to me. "That's the secret." True. I, too, have been lucky to have a lot of help along the way.

Which leads me to Paula Schneider, who's had a long career in retail. She's been president of sales for BCBG and Speedo, and now she owns Mana Hotel Group. She also beat back breast cancer. Not bad for a girl from Chico State. The most important thing Schneider told the NAWBO-LA audience is that she doesn't stay successful by herself. She said it's important for leaders "not to treat their employees like, 'Oh, they're lucky to have a job.' No one is lucky to have a job. You're lucky to have good employees, and, you know, when the job market opens up, those people you treated like 'they were lucky to have a job' are gonna be lucky to have a job somewhere else. It's all about the people."