Women Entrepreneurs Thank Dr. Marsha Firestone

Huffington Post

You might have started and grown a business, but you still must take an active role in sustaining it. In the process, you also need to figure out some personal things: how to reinvent yourself, keep your team motivated, and even how to exit. Getting to the next level can be a challenge.

Although there are lots of groups designed to assist budding businesspeople in taking their first steps into the business world, organizations that help established entrepreneurs elevate their companies to a whole new level are relatively few and far between.

The entrepreneur’s life is often a lonely one, particularly for women. You’re isolated, because few people understand the issues you face, and fewer can offer useful guidance.

The term for this position is “second stage entrepreneurship”: you have an established employee base, revenue, and a strategy for sustaining your business. Now it’s time to take things to the next level, and you need specialized knowledge to do so. You need peers who’ve walked your path and succeeded, and who are willing to share their experiences.

As founder and president of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization, Dr. Marsha Firestone recognized all these issues associated with second-stage entrepreneurship, particularly in the context of women entrepreneurs, and set up her organization to do something about it. The WPO began life in 1997 as a peer-advisory organization for women who own multi-million-dollar businesses, and has expanded over the past twenty years to 120 chapters around the world, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, North Africa, and Turkey.

Each WPO chapter features 20 accomplished women presidents and entrepreneurs. Professionally trained facilitators moderate each chapter, and topics of discussion can include everything from organizational development to hiring and firing. Four “C”s guide these interactions: collaboration, confidentiality, commitment, and connections. We act as a mini board of directors for each other. We support each other personally, often sharing common issues balancing our personal and professional lives.

The WPO works because Dr. Firestone recognized that entrepreneurial success comes in a variety of different forms. The organization’s core principles can potentially give a range of businesses the ability to grow and thrive, no matter what their location, product, or size. Those principles include understanding the competition, setting aggressive goals (while staying realistic), understanding financials, and seizing opportunities.

Business owners must also evolve in their long-term thinking, Dr. Firestone believes. On a strategic level, what works today often won’t prove very effective tomorrow. A mentor is key in helping women entrepreneurs identify where the market is going, and how to avoid the pitfalls that can implode a business. The WPO is set up as a key pipeline for such advice, which is why it’s elevated the professional lives of hundreds of women.

Dr. Firestone is a visionary who works tirelessly to bring together the best minds to inspire the members. She is very passionate about the quality of the organization and what it delivers. She attends almost all of the New York City events and is open to feedback. She goes to hear all the presenters before they speak at our annual conference to make sure they will deliver value. She surrounds herself with a dedicated team that welcomes involvement from any participating member.

Those who participate in the WPO can access a network of women who understand the entrepreneur’s situation, no matter what her industry. The combined experience and brainpower translates into an enormous amount of support and peer learning for second-stage entrepreneurs.

Dr. Firestone and the WPO have certainly changed my life. Thanks to the WPO, I have a network of peers and friends who support me and give me guidance in navigating through all aspects of running a business in a high pressure environment.

Women Entrepreneurs find their place thanks to Dr. Marsha Firestone article by Janet Odgis, originally posted to the Huffington Post Blog. See it here.