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Last Update: Thursday September 21, 2017

Key Idea: Keep Learning

Ella Williams, owner of  Aegir Systems, engineered her own success in an industry dominated by ex-military brass.

Key Question:

A: 

Keep learning and this assumes you are not a "know it all" and you are aware that to grow you have to grow as a manager and a leader.

Learning begins when you decide you want and NEED to learn. And to learn something new as an adult, we have to have the attitude Vicky demonstrates. She said to ask questions and volunteer to take on a new task knowing that you will have to learn in order to succeed at that new task. Focusing on our rear view mirrors won't work in this new digital world. There are big shifts going on. We're moving from paper to digital files, from work silos to interdependence, from being location driven to being information driven. This presents a perfect opportunity for learning. All of us are being tested to the max and forced to learn what we need to learn to win in business going forward. This is not the time to think that you know it all.

Vicky learned about the power of being certified as a Woman Owned Business so she did the work to achieve this designation. In January of 2005, Susan Scott of Fierce Inc said, "This is no small thing. The process to become certified took a year, involving filling out endless forms, answering multiple lists of questions about our structure, submitting thesis-like documents explaining who we are, why we are, what we are, and what the heck we really do. Just when we sent off a batch of forms, another batch would arrive."

Susan reports that her offices were physically inspected and she fully expected a doctor's physical to be required to verify that indeed she is a woman. The reason this process is so rigorous today is because the status of being woman-owned has been abused in the past. Any woman who achieves certification will find it to be a useful marketing tool.

This is just one example of one program that Vicky took time to learn about and then use what she learned to win marketshare.

Think about it

Where are your blind spots? What do you need to learn that could move your business to the next level?

Clip from: Women Shatter Glass

USA: One out of three businesses in this country is owned by a woman.  That's  approximately 9 million businesses.  Yet only one out of ten of those businesses does more than $1 million in annual sales or about 900,000 businesses.

These two statistics prompted the production of this episode. We researched women who do millions in annual sales and found most were in male-dominated industries.

There are many resources to help women start and grow the right kind of business beginning with government agencies like the US SBA and their Small Business Development Centers. There are programs promoted by women-friendly banks, economic development offices, trade associations and industry groups, and women's associations in every state.

With so much help and information around, why do women so often migrate to tiny ideas? ...more inspiration? ... better role models? One of the women studied here asked rhetorically, "Why should I polish nails when I could be polishing steel?"

All business owners can learn valuable lessons from these women. They are the small minority who are making a huge difference in their industry and in their communities.  By moving to the top of the game where there are mostly men, a woman's influence can make the greatest difference.


Aegir Systems

Ella Williams, Owner

2051 North Solar Drive
Suite 200
Oxnard, CA 93030
8054854888

Visit our web site: http://www.aegir.com/

Office: 8054854888

Business Classification:
Engineering

Year Founded: 1981

Keep Learning

HATTIE (In the studio): We want to challenge the women out there who are thinking about starting a business or who want to grow the one they have.

Like these women, adopt the tools used in a man's world and take your business to the next level. Don't be afraid of the thin air you'll find at the top of the mountain. Wrestle with your financials. Know your key critical ratios. Learn how to use the equity in your business and develop an exit strategy and liquidity model. It'll take some discipline, but if you do it odds are you can make it in a man's world.

(Voiceover) Each woman you have met so far can be studied at smallbusinessschool.org. Now let's go in-depth with one more strong woman.

VICKY: (Voiceover) We sell environments. We sell productivity. In an office building, for example, that you've seen many times you'll see, they're called cubicles. That's what we do. We consult with a customer to find out, how do you operate? What are your goals? What's important? Who needs to work with one another? So that we can understand the long-term strategy.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Located in San Diego with 45 employees and 20 million in revenue, Vicky Carlson is the owner of Office Pavilion, one of the few Herman Miller office furniture dealerships that is owned by a woman.

VICKY: Way back in 1986, I'm fresh out of college and I'm a little strapped for cash and I went to work as a temp. I had one job for a week. The second job I had in the second week, they had to talk me into it, but they called and said Vicky we have a job for you and before you say no we want you to hear us out. There's a company in Denver. It's up and coming. There are only a few people in the organization right now. It's downtown. But they're building a bigger organization, they're just getting started and we really think this is an up and coming company. We really think it's really up your alley. The name of the company is Office Pavilion. It's a Herman Miller dealership and they need a receptionist. I said absolutely not. I'm not going to be a receptionist. I didn't go to college all of these years to start as a receptionist. They said, we knew you would say that, however, we think it's a foot in the door. They're not going to get to know you if you don't take this opportunity. We think once they get to know who you are, that there will be opportunities for you.

HATTIE: Well I think you were right to be scared because we can get pigeonholed.

VICKY: Well that's what I said. If I go in as a receptionist they're going to think I'm a receptionist and that's where I'm going to get tagged. So I went on interviews because I wanted them to know, yes, I like your company and I asked a lot of questions and I learned while I was there. But this is not what I'm going to do and I'm not happy doing this and I'm not going to do this for a long period of time. Long story short, it wasn't very long before they offered me a position and they hired me. So my official job with Office Pavilion taking the temp job away was Showroom Manager.

HATTIE: So people should ask for training. They should raise their hand and say I want to learn.

VICKY: Ask for training, but also pay attention to your surroundings. Learn on your own. Ask questions. When they see that interest and that intelligence and that you really are -- you care about what happens and you want to learn and you have the appetite for this knowledge, I think it just says to them, "Wow, we need to take a serious look at this person." I was in Denver, Colorado for 5 ½ years, and in that 5 ½ years, by the time I left I was Vice President of Operations. I had everybody in the company reporting to me except for the sales team. The sales team had a VP of Sales reporting to them. But part of my responsibility at the end of my time there was to call on the architect and design community, which is a sales role as well and then I developed that role and then I hired an A&D rep. So I had a little piece of the sales as well. And we were doing, at that time, probably $30 million.

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