NWBC Serves as a Voice for Women Entrepreneurs during White House Roundtable
By: Council Member Laura Yamanaka, President, teamCFO, Inc.
A common theme is that nothing works: Parties aren’t talking. You can forget about people working together to do anything productive. Government does not work and takes forever to act. Sometimes this is indeed true. But sometimes it’s not.
This week, the White House brought together a group people from across the country to bring a special spotlight on how small businesses support and implement practices for workplace flexibility. This came on the heels of the White House Summit on Working Families held the previous day. The roundtable was convened by Tina Tchen, a woman of many hats, including Assistant to President Barack Obama; Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Both Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and SBA’s new administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet were there too. NWBC’s Chair Carla Harris, NWBC Executive Director Amanda Brown, and I participated in the roundtable, along with a half dozen other small business owners and even some Members of Congress. Demonstrating their support of workplace flexibility with their presence, interesting and insightful comments were made by Representatives Brad Schneider, D-IL; Patrick Murphy, D-FL; Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH; and Ron Barber, D-AZ.
While the group was small and informal, but there was no shortage of ideas. Filling the Roosevelt Room of the West Wing were small business owners, the majority of which were headed by women, representing a wide variety of industries and geographies. Everyone came to the table prepared to share their best practices for improving workplace flexibility within their companies. Many of these practices were developed and honed over time with collaboration and input from their employees. It was great to hear that small businesses and particularly women business owners are running companies across the country that meet the needs of the changing family dynamic and improving bottom-line profitability at the same time.
A small business reality is that we rarely have the luxury of devoting singular focus without multiple benefits. As a business owner, I know. For the sustained operationalization of workplace flexibility in these businesses, significant multiple benefits have to be present. Suggestions were wide ranging and included “low cost and easy to implement” policies, as well as those requiring more extensive capital investment and a more hands on role by management. Road tested practices discussed included the traditional full range of benefits for all employees regardless of status and birthday celebrations, to more novel ideas such as allowing employees to control their own work hours by signing up to schedule their shifts on-line. Copious notes were carefully recorded and Tina Tchen indicated that these ideas and more would be part of a toolbox offered to businesses.
The common theme offered by business owners was that while there may be increased costs to implement these practices currently, the financial return for the business was real in both reduced costs and increased revenues for implementation. Additionally, many small businesses felt that they were also able to compete for employees normally “out of their price range” by offering nontraditional benefits. Small business can leverage workplace flexibility to recruit and retain strong talent. Call this a competitive advantage. Emphasis was placed on the quantitative measurement of the ROI of these practices in addition to the qualitative metrics traditionally referenced.
Clearly, the results of this meeting demonstrated that leadership in workplace flexibility practices are being delivered by small businesses in towns and cities across the United States and those practices are considered a valuable investment to business owners. Putting a spotlight on these small businesses and practices will create further dissemination and adoption, a win for both employee and employer and the economy. I’m excited that small business is leading this effort to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce, and optimistic about how this continued conversation will encourage and equip others with best practices for joining this movement.
Laura Yamanaka founded teamCFO in 2000 to improve performance and support the growth of the private business community through a “hands-on” working relationship with their clients. Today, teamCFO has a dynamic group of professionals focusing on both growth issues and turnaround operations for its clients. Since its inception, teamCFO has received several regional and national awards including the Asian Business Leadership Award by Wells Fargo/US Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce and the Women in Business and Accountant Advocate Award by the SBA.