How the Women Presidents’ Organization Empowers Female Entrepreneurs
We had an in-depth conversation with WPO Executive Board member and Xtreme Solutions, Inc. president, CEO and founder Phyllis Newhouse.
Women own 36 percent of the privately-owned companies in the United States -- nearly 8.4 million businesses. Collectively, they generate $2.5 trillion in annual sales and have created more than 8 million jobs. Over the past 20 years, the number of women-owned businesses has grown at almost four times the rate of men-owned firms.
To support the continued trajectory of these companies and the financial health of the women who own them, PNC Wealth Management is a corporate sponsor of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), an international peer-to-peer mentoring model for women who own and run high revenue-generating businesses. Across its consumer footprint, PNC supports approximately 45 WPO chapters and has been instrumental in founding several chapters in communities where women presidents lacked a peer network.
“Accessing mentoring and networking opportunities is important for businesswomen, and therefore it’s important for PNC to support organizations like the WPO that provide these resources to help women take their companies to the next level,” said Beth Marcello, Director of Women’s Business Development at PNC.
As a WPO Advisory Board member, Marcello collaborates with WPO Executive Board member Phyllis Newhouse, who founded Atlanta-based Xtreme Solutions, Inc., and currently serves as the company’s CEO and president. Xtreme Solutions is an information technology services and solutions provider that works with businesses of all sizes across a broad range of industries within the commercial, government and academic sectors. Newhouse is an Army veteran who led the first Cyber Joint Task Force Team at the Pentagon, an experience that inspired her to found Xtreme Solutions after leaving the military.
Marcello sat down for a discussion with Newhouse to learn how the WPO has impacted her personal and professional growth.
Marcello: What attracted you to the WPO?
Newhouse: While I had already experienced relative success with my business, I started to feel isolated as a CEO. I had an advisory board and a background in the military that served me well, but something was missing. WPO filled the gap by introducing me to other female CEOs who have similar experiences. As a member of WPO, I’m constantly learning from other women in my chapter who are walking in my shoes.
Marcello: The WPO Roundtable experience is said to “bring the genius” out of the group. Have you had an “a-ha moment”?
Newhouse: My “a-ha moments” have had to do with life experiences.
I’ve watched other members of the WPO go through traumatic events while trying to simultaneously lead a company. I saw some go through the death of a business partner or a husband much earlier than they expected, and it made me understand the importance of business succession planning. As a result, I made business succession planning a priority so I’m prepared for the unexpected.
Another “a-ha moment” happened after watching how other female businesswomen struggled with a financial planning strategy. Because they weren’t able or willing to raise capital, they couldn’t expand their businesses. Instead of raising external capital, I made the strategic decision to expand by diversifying my client base fairly quickly.
Marcello: What are the biggest issues facing businesswomen today?
Newhouse: As a contractor that works with the government, I would say that the procurement process for government contracts is one of the biggest issues. That means the way the government conducts transactions to acquire goods and services.
Despite that fact that there are more and more female-owned businesses, the benchmark for contracts for women-owned companies is still 5 percent, and few government agencies meet that goal, even when there are hundreds of women-owned companies competing for a single contract.
Retooling the procurement process for government contracts would create tremendous growth opportunities for women entrepreneurs. When women are awarded contracts, it often triggers a protest process – a formal document filed to challenge the contract - and I’ve had that experience myself. Revamping the process and creating governance and accountability would help many women-owned companies and ultimately the economy.
Marcello: Your introduction to WPO was through the organization’s Women of Color Achievement Awards, which you received. Now you lead the WPO diversity committee. Why is increasing minority participation in the WPO a priority?
Newhouse: WPO is not an invitation-only group, but because it’s not a household name, it needs an introduction. WPO members have tended to introduce the organization to women who look like them.
We are inclusive, but the numbers don’t reflect that. Women of color were not joining the WPO because they weren’t aware of how we can help and we didn’t have a broad outreach program.
We are now consciously reaching out to minority communities. We are linking with women around the world who are connected by their stories and journeys.
Marcello: How else has the WPO positively impacted your company’s growth?
Newhouse: Associating with other female CEOs has exposed me to different ideas and new markets. I had the privilege of helping WPO expand into South Africa and then opened an office in South Africa as a result of the relationships I developed in that country.
Marcello: What can large corporations like PNC do to further the WPO cause?
Newhouse: Companies like PNC can help by making connections to other organizations and customers that will allow us to speak to more women of color. It ultimately comes down to exposure.
If you don’t expose someone to something, they won’t know that they want to be a part of it. I’m grateful to PNC for having supported the Women of Color Achievement Awards in Atlanta; otherwise I wouldn’t have known about WPO.
Marcello: How do you foresee female entrepreneurship evolving over the next decade?
Newhouse: We’re already seeing more young women who realize early on in their careers that they have tremendous value and the skills and passion to build their own companies.
Women can use their voices and economic power to change the world.
Open your mouth and talk about your company. Women have been afraid that if they talk about their success, they’ll be seen as arrogant. Stop thinking that way! I want female entrepreneurs to speak publicly about their brands and success, and I’m excited to see it happening more often.
Learn more about PNC’s support for female entrepreneurs and executives »
Beth Marcello is director of women’s business development at PNC.
Phyllis Newhouse is CEO and president of Xtreme Solutions, Inc.
Phyllis Newhouse was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year (Technology) in 2018.
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Important Legal Disclosures and Information
1. Get the Facts on Women Business Owners, U.S. Department of Labor, July 5, 2017
2. Innovation and Intellectual Property among Women Entrepreneurs, Insititute for Women's Policy Research, July 20, 2018
3. For Women-Owned Businesses, U.S. General Services Administration
These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.
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