Florida’s Women Leaders Focus on Growth and Balance

At the same time women are starting and growing businesses in record numbers, they also are confronting an always-on culture that brings new challenges. For company leaders, there is an unspoken expectation to be on-call 24/7 while staying passionate about business goals and instilling passion in their teams.

Now, a newly released survey by The Commonwealth Institute South Florida shows that despite the grueling demands on their time, many women leaders in Florida are committed to growing their businesses in 2016. The survey of 350 women-led businesses in Florida reveals 54 percent of women business leaders foresee moderate growth for their companies and nearly 27 expect substantial growth. “As their businesses grow, the women are realizing it takes a heck of a lot more time management or hiring more help, but they are doing what it takes,” said Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of TCI.

The survey also reveals a new attitude toward the end goal. Women business owners say they are more interested in selling their businesses than in the past. This year, 45 percent more leaders reported they would consider selling their businesses to a friendly buyer or larger competitor rather than holding on to it to maintain an income or leave it to their children. “Women are catching on to the power of selling out at the right time,” said Janet Altman, marketing principal with Kaufman Rossin in Miami, sponsor of TCI’s survey.

The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, found that Florida ranked No. 1 in the nation for the growth of women-owned businesses. As they manage growth, women leaders are adopting new strategies to manage their personal lives in a positive way, too. Some of the women leaders running the fast-growing organizations in Florida share their insight:

Orangetheory Fitness founder Ellen Latham says integrating work and life makes for long days, but it is also her secret to building a successful business.

“I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and go to bed at 11 p.m.,” Latham says. She spends her long days teaching fitness classes, supervising instructors, talking to franchisees, overseeing corporate growth, and most importantly, integrating exercise into her workday. “As long as I maintain my six-day-a-week workout program I am able to release stress and foster enough energy to keep pushing.”

Latham, owner of Ellen’s Pilates in Davie, finds herself in a highly competitive industry as she builds her fitness empire. (See story, Page 12.) She opened a pilot Orangetheory studio in 2010 in Fort Lauderdale and within the first year, she and a business partner sold three franchises. Today there are Orangetheory Fitness corporate or franchises locations in every state and another 365 studios will open in 2016. By the year 2017, Latham expects to have 1,000 franchised studios open. Orangetheory Fitness was recently named No. 3 of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned/led companies by American Express and the Women Presidents’ Organization, a national nonprofit. Rapid expansion has the longtime fitness professional creating timelines to meet her goals: “I have to relentlessly focus when I want to accomplish something.”

Olga Ramudo, president of Express Travel, says she makes clear boundaries between work and play.

“From Monday to Friday, I basically don’t have a life,” Ramudo says. “I work 12- to 14-hour days and start answering emails at 5:30 in the morning. However, weekends are mine. I get in a bad mood if I need to do anything related to work during the weekend. This is my time for shopping, lunch with friends, gym, massage, fertilizing my orchids, etc. I do check emails sporadically just to see if there is anything critical, but I do that while standing in line at a store, while on a red light, while in the kitchen. Having those two days for me recharges my batteries for the week ahead.”

Ramudo says constant connectivity is necessary in the travel industry, although difficult to manage: “I try to do everything and anything, immediately — that way it goes ‘off’ my list. I find relief in having one less thing to do.”

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, says she actively manages work stress to prevent it from taking a toll on the people she cares about.

That effort recently required making changes to her daily schedule: “I had previously allowed my calendar to be scheduled in a way that was unsustainable. My executive assistant now puts a minimum of three gray periods into each of my days so I have breaks between meetings. It is at my discretion to repurpose one of these breaks — at least it is my choice.”

Lutoff-Perlo says the number of initiatives, challenges and opportunities that she deals with on a daily basis are endless and incredibly varied. As a corporate leader, she accepts the fact that her work responsibilities will interrupt her personal life. “I have a job that truly is 24/7 because I am responsible for a fleet of ships that travel around the world and operate 365 days of the year, around the clock. If the team needs me, I am there.”

Kizzy M. Dominguez, president of K. Parks Consulting, says life is a series of tradeoffs between business and personal endeavors.

On any given week, Dominguez might travel to Washington, D.C., or California — all the while keeping clients satisfied, participating in conference calls, managing a disbursed work team, responding to incoming email at all hours and staying in contact with her husband. For now, Dominguez and her husband are on opposite ends of the country, each trying to pursue career goals.

Although the tradeoff is temporary, Dominguez says she works extra-hard to make time to communicate with her husband throughout the work day. “Balancing everything can be overwhelming,” she says. “I try not to look at it that way. It’s like walking on a tightrope. If I look down, I will fall.”

Dominguez says she relies on mentors to help her navigate obstacles that could trip up a young businesswoman. A critical piece of wisdom she has put into practice involves delegation: “To grow my business, delegating is crucial. It’s not just about delegating a task, though. It’s about ensuring those on the receiving end understand why they are being tasked and why the outcome is important.”

Germaine Smith-Baugh, president and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County, says work-life integration will constantly shift based on the needs of your work and your family.

“There are times when work gets more and there are times when my family gets more — so I do a dance, sometime it’s waltz others times it may be the mambo,” she says.

Smith-Baugh balances responsibility for leading her organization with being a mother of two children. Every January, she says, she blocks out the times on her work calendar that she plans to be with her children — spring break, Thanksgiving, birthdays. She does the same thing in August after looking at the school calendar: “I make it clear to my kids what kind of mom they have — a working one. So ‘no,’ I won’t be the class mom planning all the parties, but they get to pick which parties are non-negotiable, and I work to be there.”

Like other leaders, Smith-Baugh feels the pressure to stay connected to her office all the time. “I have found that my team takes cues from me, so I am trying to ratchet down the after-hours and weekend emails. I also warn them if I am going to work on the weekend so they are not responding to my emails.”

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.