“Yes, she really did say it,” said the CFO as she began filling her glass from the water cooler. “She told the entire crowd that she had been discriminated against because she was a woman.”
She took a sip from her water glass and began to smile. The CFO was speaking to a younger co-worker and was recalling what she had heard at an event one year ago. The young woman was hanging on every word. The CFO garnered a great deal of respect, but the younger woman was intrigued for a different reason. She had heard about this event before. Lessons I’ve Learned is hosted annually by the NSBA and is a bit unique in the business community because people speak openly about their experiences as business owners. This scene being described, however, was unexpected.
Just then another employee walked into the lunchroom. The CFO looked at him and said, “Remember the NSBA’s Lessons event last year? “His eyes began to sparkle and he broke into a wide smile. “Absolutely!” he replied. “Christine really wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.”
“Christine?” asked the younger employee. “I thought her name was Brenda.”
“No,” corrected the CFO. “Brenda Nowakowski was who I was talking about, but Christine Hrudka was on stage as well. She also talked about what it was like to face obstacles in a man’s world.”
The younger employee started laughing and said, “I would have loved to be there!”
“I know I learned a lot,” mentioned the man as he began filling his water glass.
The man continued, “All four of the speakers had something interesting to say. Personally, what I got most from the session was what Christine said about needing a group of peers you can rely on.
In Christine’s case, these relationships were crucial support for her. She owns some pharmacies and ended up taking on a leadership role in her industry, representing a lot of other pharmacy owners. The way she told it, she was a bit of a bull in a china shop. It was great!”
THE FOUR SPEAKERS WERE NOT THERE TO LECTURE OTHERS ON HOW TO DO BUSINESS. THEY WERE THERE TO SHARE THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES IN A HUMBLE WAY.
The small group talked for a few more minutes, recalling the varied stories that each of the speakers had shared. The entrepreneurs on stage were from different industries and had their own experiences with entrepreneurship. The CFO went on to discuss how valuable Joe Vidal’s description of international business was. That was not surprising, as the CFO had travelled extensively for the previous few years as the company expanded into new markets. “It was nice to hear someone talk about what it’s like to do business with people in other cultures. He knew what he was talking about. And he had some great stories.”
The conversation shifted to different topics discussed on stage. There were many business stories told. Interestingly, none of the speakers told the audience what to do. The four speakers were not there to lecture others on how to do business. They were there to share their own experiences in a humble way, with hopes that others could learn from their mistakes and what they happened to get right. And at times, all four also discussed their personal lives. There were many topics and a lot of great insight to absorb.
“It’s funny,” said the man. “Sometimes it’s the simple things you hear that make sense. Do you remember what Terry Bergan used to do on Fridays?”
“He’d hand out doughnuts to staff,” said the CFO.
“You bet,” he continued. “And to every employee in the building. Think about that. Imagine the personal connection you’d have with each and every one of your staff if you took time to say thank you once a week.”
“You know what struck me?” the CFO asked. “There were something like 500 people in the crowd. At one point I looked around. You know what I saw? People paying attention. It was amazing. At these large events you usually see people on their phones or talking in a small group. But everyone was watching the stage. It was a great event.”
“How did you get on this topic anyway?” asked the man.
“The event is in about a month. It’s on October 6, 2020,” replied the CFO. “This year with the pandemic they’re holding it with a slightly different format. The NSBA is hosting it in several of the large halls at Prairieland Park with lots of room between tables. So they are complying with the public health order and everyone is able to watch the event safely.”
“Really! That’s clever,” commented the man. “Did you sign us up yet?”
The CFO replied, “We’re finding out who can make it and we’ll register later today.” She looked at the younger employee she’d been mentoring for a few years. “Interested in joining us?”
The three started walking toward the door. “For sure,” she replied. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
October 6, 2020 event featuring:
For 45 years Wayne Wilson has been creating longstanding partnerships in the commercial furniture industry, including 15 years as president of Business Furnishings.
Pam Leyland’s career with Rawlco Radio has taken her from weekend news anchor all the way to the top: she became president of the company in 2002.
Fresh from the massive success of SkipTheDishes, Dan Simair is working on an exciting new entrepreneurial venture, Pivot Furniture Technologies, which continues his business partnership with his brother, Josh.
CHIEF DARCY BEAR
As Chief of Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Darcy Bear has maintained an intense focus on community and economic development. Chief Bear celebrated 25 years as Chief in 2019.
Lessons I’ve Learned is a celebration of business and professional people in our community – of how people grow by learning from others who can relate to their experiences. It is this unique and compelling connection that has made Lessons I’ve Learned one of the most popular events of the year. There are lessons to be learned, stories you won’t want to miss!
For more information please contact the NSBA office.
First published in the September 2020 edition of The Business Advisor.