Is it better to give than to receive? Once you reach a certain level of success in business, is it your responsibility to give back to other business owners? We spoke with several successful women entrepreneurs about giving back to other women business owners, through mentoring, being on their corporate boards and investing in their companies. Here is what they had to say:
"Dina cold-called me in 1999 because she had seen me in the press and had heard about me from local venture capitalists," says Lucinda Holt, 39, president and CEO of Destiny, a Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, technology consulting firm with more than $16 million in revenue last year. She's talking about Dina Rosenberg, 39, founder of B2B Diversity, a Philadelphia company that connects minority and women-owned businesses with corporate buyers.
"I was intrigued by both her concept and her moxie," says Holt. "We had breakfast and our relationship grew from there." Holt liked the focus of Rosenberg's business and also liked her as a businesswoman: "[She's] hungry, focused and open to outside ideas." Today, Holt is Dina's mentor and also on her company's board of directors.
How does Holt mentor Rosenberg? "First, I give her an experienced sounding board she can trust. She knows I'm 100 percent on her side. Second, I use my experience to come up with solutions to issues from hiring employees to structuring partnerships. Third, I can introduce her to people."
For author Shirley Peddy, mentoring is always reciprocal. "We get back as much as we give," says the author of The Art of Mentoring: Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way (Bullion Books). "None of us has made it alone. Each of us has had the help of others. The only way to give back is to help someone else succeed."
As a mentor, Peddy says, encourage these four primary qualities in your mentee:
- Wisdom: Knowledge plus perspective. As an insider, you can share your experience and your perspective on how the "system" works.
- Judgment: You help the mentee make better choices by showing her the broader implications of her decisions.
- Resilience: One of the most important qualities of successful people, it involves attitude plus perspective. As a mentor, you help your mentee learn from her mistakes, and provide inspiration by showing her how you've overcome obstacles and setbacks in your own business.
- Independence: Finally, tell the mentee when she no longer needs your help.
Holt's opinions are in line with Peddy's: "Just do it. Realize that there's a time and emotional commitment, but the rewards far outweigh any costs." Holt says helping another entrepreneur allows her to extend her impact beyond her own company.
In business, time is money, and Cindy Pharr, president of C. Pharr & Co., a marketing and public relations business in Addison, Texas, is looking to give both to other female entrepreneurs. She and several other successful Texas businesswomen are raising a $10 million fund to invest in women-owned start-ups in the state. "We [are] determined to be opportunistic rather than be depressed about the tough reality of women trying to find different types of growth capital," explains Pharr, 53.
What do Pharr and her partners gain from her efforts? "I'm making new contacts that will help my consulting business," explains Pharr. "I thought I knew just about everybody in Dallas. But through the fund, I've already met some very cool women, men and companies who are enriching my business and personal life." Clearly, giving is as rewarding as getting. So if you've got it to give, spread it around.
Aliza Pilar Sherman is an Internet pioneer, Netpreneur, speaker and author of the book PowerTools for Women in Business: 10 Ways to Succeed in Life and Work.