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Business women share secrets of success

Tena Mayberry, Shirley Zeitlin and Lynda Stone have built their businesses from small beginnings to thriving entities in the local business sector. They shared their secrets to success Tuesday at a Williamson County Chamber luncheon.   Kerri Bartlett

Embracing small beginnings, building a strong team, nurturing employee growth and upholding professional values seem to mark the path to success, according to three of the most successful business women in Williamson County. 
“If you have a humble beginning, embrace it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else,” said Lynda Stone, owner and president of Puffy Muffin in Brentwood.
The Women In Business group with the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce featured three renowned businesswomen in Williamson County and Nashville during a discussion panel on the secrets of creating a successful business.
Business owners, Stone, Tena Mayberry, president of Century II and CEO of Fortune Industries; and Shirley Zeitlin, owner and CEO of Zeitlin & Company Realtors, shared their professional insights about maintaining successful long-running businesses to a room full of professional women during a luncheon at Brentwood United Methodist Church. 
This trio of successful women built their businesses in Williamson County and Nashville from small, “humble” beginnings to multimillion-dollar companies that have risen to become important names in the local business sector.
Cindi Parmenter, Chief Operating Officer of the Williamson County Chamber, served as moderator asking the panel of women a series of questions about their road to success. 
Small beginnings
“I became a realtor in 1967 and started my business in 1979. There were not as many women in business at all back then,” Zeitlin said. “It means a lot to be able to encourage and mentor women now.”
Stone said that each business experiences different seasons.
She said that she had “humble” beginnings in starting Puffy Muffin. “The Lord said, ‘Sell your bread, sell your bread,’” she said. “I baked my bread and sold it to restaurants who I knew didn’t have time to make homemade bread. No one turned me down. I carried a bread basket; it was a very humble beginning.”
Mayberry’s experience was a bit different. She never started out trying to run her own business. She answered an ad for a part-time sales support position. “I still don’t remember ever agreeing to work full time,” she joked. 
Since the mid-1990’s, the part-time position eventually grew into her becoming owner, president of Century II and CEO of Fortune Industries and recently transitioning the company from a public to a private entity.
“When a door opens go through it,” Mayberry said. “You never know where the path will lead, and maybe we shouldn’t always try to figure it out.”
A strong team
All women agreed that building a strong staff around the business is one of the keys to a success.
“Growing a strong team and promoting individuals has been a pleasure to watch,” Mayberry said. She said that it is her job to lead and nurture her employees to grow in management and leadership.
Since 1997 her company has grown from six employees worth $10 million to 90 employees worth $60 million. 
However, she said that one of the hardest decisions to make is deciding to let someone go who is not fulfilling team expectations. “You have to have courage to make decisions that will benefit the whole – your team, clients and business,” Mayberry said.
Stone said that the greatest accomplishment in her business is personally investing in her employees. “It’s not about making money or getting your name out there. Our greatest accomplishment is the culture we have created at Puffy Muffin.”
Stone explained that they have a mentoring culture that builds on employee strengths and growth that helps to shape their future and foster continued success for years to come.
“Our greatest treasure is our legacy of mistakes and successes,” Stone said. “This is our story, and it’s the greatest thing to pour into another person. We talk about hard things like how to live and make it in life.”
Zeitlin agrees. “It’s about nurturing people and watching them grow,” she said.
“It’s about getting the right people for your business and creating an environment for them to succeed.”
Best Practices 
Creating a business culture with clear vision and expectations seem to be the foremost principles in sustaining success, according to Mayberry, Stone, and Zeitlin.
“Branding and culture are important. Don’t give mixed signals,” Zeitlin said. “Creating a culture of being consistent with integrity built on nourishing and growing relationships is key.
 “You build relationships for life, not just for a transaction.”
Zeitlin also said that being on the cutting edge in a field is important, especially technology. “We have been on the cutting edge of technology since our inception.” Zeitlin was one of the first realty companies in Nashville to have a website to search real estate listings, she said.
Stone said that her company’s “core values” represent her best practices in business. “We have a list of core values that our employees carry in their pockets every day,” she said.
Some of the core values are the “Lord is our provision,” she said as well as “Listen with intention.”
“Whether for a party or an order, our employees are trained not to sell but to listen with intention to customers.” 
Mayberry shared that it’s ok to take a break and step away for a moment.
 “Sometimes I take a walk and say that I am going on ‘an attitude adjustment,’” she said.
“I find that there is an emotional response to every business and technical response. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break and step away.” 
She said that sometimes the simple act can dramatically change one’s response to a phone call or email.
“I am careful with my tone. If I am struggling with tone, I will get someone to read it [email].”
Some of the women even talked about business mistakes such as hiring a wrong business partner, struggles with self-confidence and the uncertainty of taking inevitable risks. Mistakes will happen they said.
“When you make a mistake, the most important thing is to get past it,” Zeitlin said. “Don’t dwell on it. Don’t get caught in that negativity.” 

Posted on: 10/24/2013


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