When Wendy Banks graduated from Florida International University with her degree in Hospitality Management, she had no idea that she’d change careers and become an entrepreneur, starting her own company in the concrete repair and coatings world.
Despite having grown up in a home where coatings was nightly fodder for supper conversations, Wendy saw her world unfolding in a different way. After several years in catering, she spent another four managing event sales at Disney World before moving on to Universal Studios. On the surface, it seemed that she had found her niche.
But getting her MBA at Rollins College changed everything. Wendy realized that her family had given her a wealth of knowledge that remained untapped while tickets printed out of her Disney computer. With a dream growing and the prospect of creating a true, family-owned business with her brother David, an engineer, Wendy went to her dad for advice.
“I wanted his hands in the mix, his help, his wisdom,” Wendy said. “I didn’t need a loan, but offered to give him some ownership in the company in exchange for his help and years of experience.”
With her father and brother on board, Wendy says that working together has been a dream, in part because they come into each project with shared values and the same work ethic. “It makes it easier,” she explained. “There are just so many conversations we don’t have to have because we know each other so well.”
Now a veteran leader with 51% stake in CMT Concrete Repair and Coatings, Wendy looks back on her decade of work and risks, and offers advice to young women entrepreneurs just getting started:
- Think big and be bold! “My company is successful not because I’m a woman, but in spite of me being a woman. I get to sit here and have this conversation on the backs of the centuries of women who came before us.”
- Don’t wait too long to fire someone. History shows that we drag our feet even when it’s obvious that a new hire isn’t a good fit. By then we’ve developed a relationship and that makes everything even more difficult. Trust your gut and rip off the band-aid the minute you’re certain about a course of action.
- When you’re underestimated because you’re a woman, rather than being offended, take it as a challenge to blow them away with your creativity, follow-through and work ethic.
- Remember: you don’t have to go it alone. “Just because I have a background in business doesn’t mean I’m all-knowing. I’ve had to find extra support and resources to help me in areas where my skill set is weak. Don’t hesitate to find out where those resources are and engage them.”
- Leadership can be lonely; find a mentor. This is different than finding people to compliment your strengths and weaknesses as we just mentioned. This is about your emotional health and strength. Find a community that will come alongside you for the journey.
- It’s all about grit. Sure, there will be days you’ll want to stick your head in the sand, but if you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to keep going. “Entrepreneurship isn’t for wimps!”
- Seat a Board of Advisors right away. “I failed to do this and I can see now how helpful it would have been to have had some oversight and accountability with actionable goals. My dad did play that role for me – and still does – but quarterly meetings that I’d have to prepare for would really hold me to the fire.”
- Stay in the game: Don’t give up! Business isn’t easy, and it’s tempting to leave the office or go on vacation to escape – but your problems will still be there when you get back. Get a plan, get busy, and stay in the game!
Turnstone loves to cheer for women entrepreneurs and hosts Small Talks to engage women with stories to tell. We wish to thank Wendy Banks for her willingness to help us promote women entrepreneurs and the important work they do. You can connect with Wendy on Twitter at Wendy Banks @ CMTrehab and on Facebook at Carolina Management-Team.