I had the pleasure of attending a recent National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) luncheon at the Conrad Indianapolis.  The Indianapolis chapter of NAWBO is the largest chapter in the nation.  I observed a very focused and deliberate group of people that are working diligently to assist one another in building a successful and sustainable business.  It is refreshing to see a group of people with a ‘like’ vision taking authentic action to achieve this vision, both individually and working together as a group, achieving national recognition.

The program featured a panel discussion titled ’Closing the Deal’.  This program had representatives from what I perceive to be the business pillars of Indianapolis (WellPoint, IU Health and Eli Lilly).  The message I received is that doing business with these large organizations requires:

  1. The ability to listen and learn about the organization: how they think, work and their expectations.
  2. Understand that although you are the vendor, you may not understand exactly how your offering may be put to effective use differently in different organizations.
  3. Create a true relationship with your champion in each organization by partnering with them and creating a relationship that goes beyond just getting in the door.  Ask them questions and seek their feedback and use that feedback to better tailor your offerings to their culture and needs.
  4. Remember, the organizations that you are doing or trying to establish a business relationship with are comprised of real people and the approach should be one of people working with people, not just ‘trying to do business with Lilly’ so that it appears on your sales report.

I found the message very ‘real’. This is a group of talented professionals who want this group of women business owners and all business to be successful. They took their valuable time to sit down and share the ‘secret of closing the deal’, along with providing insight through real stories of what works and what does not work when approaching them.

NAWBO-Indy is focused on many aspects of helping individuals and our community to be successful.  For example, the YEA! program for students (Grades 6 thru 12) that focuses on instructing and immersing a young person in what it takes to start their own business over a 30 week period.  A single activity that struck me is that the students actually make a trip to the state house to complete and submit paperwork for starting their businesses.

There are many other programs, each focusing on very specific goals that feed into a collective goal of making a difference. I think the goals and strategy built to achieve these goals are the ‘secret sauce’ for NAWBO-Indy.

Finally, on March 7th there was a group dressed in period costumes and interacting in the persona of the 1800s at the State House.  What a way to immerse yourself in a period that women had a much different role in American business.