Choir, meet Mary Cantando.
Cantando was the featured speaker at Wednesday’s Business Journal luncheon celebration of the area’s top women-owned businesses.
Award winners, based on revenue categories, were: Lynn Happel of Eastown Veterinary Clinic; Peaches McCahill of The McCahill Group; Jill Batka of Dynamic Conveyor Corp.; and Bridgett Tubbs-Carlon of AppleTree Learning Centers.
An author of seven motivational books for women business leaders and founder of The Woman’s Advantage, Cantando’s remarks resonated with the 350-plus people in attendance at the JW Marriott.
That’s probably because her message was tailored specifically for women business owners, executives and entrepreneurs, all of whom were well represented. Her message focused on mentoring women, but her delivery featured snippets of wisdom gleaned from her Woman’s Advantage Shared Wisdom Calendar, a 365-page roadmap to navigating the struggles faced by women business owners and populated with quotes and pearls of wisdom contributed by those very same people.
“Forty percent of the people here will go back to the office today and make a change,” she predicted, by way of opening her remarks.
“Listen to your voicemail greeting,” she said. “‘Hi, this is … I’m either out of the office or on another line right now.’ Borrring! I can’t wait for that message to end.
“Mine says, ‘Hi, this is Mary. I hope you’re having a great day!’ It’s almost a conversation starter. People begin their messages with, ‘Well, it sounds like you’re having a better day than I am,’ or something else along those lines.”
Cantando urged her audience to ask questions; her examples were often of the introspective variety.
When faced with a task, she said, “It’s not how will I get to do this, but who will I get to do this?”
That’s part of the mentorship process, she said: Training others to take on significant roles so the owner/executive isn’t involved in every single thing is how companies grow and begin to thrive.
Similarly, every bad situation has some sort of a silver lining. When something particularly onerous happens, Cantando has a suggestion. “Think of this challenge happening for you, instead of to you. Say, ‘How fascinating! I wonder what I’m supposed to learn from this?’”
If that doesn’t work, she said, think of three positive things to associate with the situation, even if it’s as maddening as a flat tire on the way to the airport. “‘At least I don’t have two preschoolers with me,’” she said. “That works for almost anything!”
She also reminded attendees, “You get what you tolerate. So don’t complain to me about your mother-in-law, that bad employee — whatever. Do something about it. You get exactly what you tolerate.”
Finally, she mentioned one of her favorite phrases from the calendar and encouraged everyone to take the nugget to heart: “You can’t change yesterday, but you can ruin today by worrying about tomorrow.”
It was a joke, people
During the TWOB event, Business Journal Editor Carole Valade congratulated all of the women business owners on their hard-earned success and then admonished the “lack of bankers” in the audience.
Such comments often draw a response, and after the ceremony Valade was “introduced” to several of the bankers in attendance, including those from PNC and United Bank. United’s Doris Drain, vice president of commercial loans, was particularly animated, almost hopping from one foot to the other.
Relax, she was just kidding!
Almost all of the 34 finalists were in attendance Wednesday, with one notable exception: Cynthia Kay, president and CEO of Cynthia Kay and Co.
She had a valid excuse. She was called to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business.
Of course, “called” to testify might be a little strong. The notification she received read thusly: “The Committee on Small Business invites you to testify at a full committee hearing. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. You should be prepared to orally summarize your written testimony in a five-minute presentation and answer questions posed by Members.”
On the other hand, “invited” might be a little weak.
Either way, Kay’s testimony was impressive. She is the vice chair for advocacy for the National Small Business Association and often finds herself in the political fray. Kay said the focus of the hearing was to understand how small business is faring and how to improve America’s small-business economy.
In her testimony, Kay described some of the biggest challenges she faces as a small-business owner and also discussed the recently released BSBA 2014 Year-End Economic Report, which provides data on how small businesses are dealing with the current economic situation.
“As a business owner for 27 years, I have experienced a number of economic downturns, none more difficult than the past one,” said Kay. “And while things today look much better than they have in several years, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Kay also discussed NSBA’s recent Small Business Congress where members voted on the organization’s Top 10 Priorities for the 114th Congress. The No. 1 priority is to ensure corporate-only tax reform includes some kind of workable solution for the millions of pass-through small businesses who would see no relief.
Kay went on to highlight various hurdles to entrepreneurship, including access to capital, regulatory burdens and an unstable tax code, citing the need to alleviate some of these burdens to revitalize small-business start-up growth.
“Small businesses simply need the environment to grow and create jobs — frankly, we need lawmakers who are willing to tackle the major issues facing our country and do it together,” she said.
Now there’s a pretty clear message for a captive audience.
Here are a few names of note to file away for West Michigan’s future.
The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is hosting its 2015 Awards Gala March 26 at The Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.
Among the honorees are finalists in the Hispanic Businessperson of the Year category: Abe Carrillo, Herman Miller; Alfredo Gonzalez, Hope College; Anita List, Diversity Counseling and Therapy Center; Dr. Hugo Orlando Zamora Flores, Instituto Crece Latino; and Emily Aleman McAlpine, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
The award is given to the Hispanic individual who has enhanced the Hispanic business community with a significant, positive contribution, or who has otherwise contributed positively to the economic development and business interests of the West Michigan area, and who serves as a positive role model.
Plenty of businesses will be recognized, too. Hispanic Business of the Year nominees are Cano’s Broadcasting La Poderosa 640 AM WMFN, Lindo Mexico Restaurant, Tapatia Distributors LLC and Supermercado Mexico.
The Most Promising Hispanic Businesses include MC Beauty Salon, Maya Mexican Grill & Bar, Pure Vanity Salon and Sports Latino Magazine.
That should be one fiesta gigante!