More and more women are making the decisions in companies. And that necessitates a focus on how companies can do better business with those firms, said Beth Marcello, director of Women's Business Development at Pittsburgh-based The PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
PNC Financial is the parent company of PNC Bank.
Marcello recently discussed female business ownership and decision-makers with the Business Journal.
Q: Why does PNC have a Women's Business Development division?
A: More often we're finding the people at companies we want to do business with are women. They're often the CEO or CFO. The Center for Women's Business Research helps us identify women-owned businesses, and there are 2.6 million majority women-owned companies in our footprint that generate $435 billion in revenue. That's what we can identify.
The rest of the companies with women decision-makers we have to find. But we know there are more because our bankers are telling us they're finding more women in these decision-making positions. Right now, we have more than 1,100 bankers that are PNC-certified women's business advocates, an 80 percent growth since January 2012. To me, it's an indicator of how relevant it is for bankers to have this certification on their business card and the growth of the segment, the number of businesses owned by women or where women are the decision-makers. ...
We educate (the advocates) about the differences between men and women, about how they differ in thinking and communication. Twenty-eight percent of our advocates are men, and they often have a wife or a sister who is a business owner.
What advice would you give to women going into business for themselves?
Women have the same start-up needs as men. They need advisers, they need a plan, they need capital. They really need to avail themselves of the resources in their community, like the small-business development centers. It makes sense that women connect with them.
The Small Business Administration has women's business development centers. A program we support in some of our markets is the Athena Powerlink to help women-owned businesses with their growth objectives.
What needs do women-owned businesses have to get off the ground?
We always suggest the ABCs: Find a good attorney, a banker and a (certified public accountant). When we think of banking, it's very hard for women to find traditional financing, so we want to think about how we can provide that seed capital.
My advice would be to challenge their fears, because women often lack that confidence in their business. They need to ask themselves, "Am I small for a reason?"
What trends are affecting how women do business, and what can we expect in years to come?
One of the trends that we've seen among women-owned business is how comfortable they are with mobile and online technologies. Every study I see is that women are higher users of the mobile and online technologies. The reason this is the trend is that women are in the driver's seat. They can get done what they want with their business when and where they want. Women tend to wear more hats than the average business owner, so that tech is a big advantage to them.
There is often a stereotype when people think of women-owned business. I asked a banker the other day, "What do you think of when you think 'women-owned business'?" and he said, "Big.'" That's changed from years ago, when they might have said "hair salon, retail, shops." Women own those businesses, but they also own business in other segments, like technology. Women are in every industry and every field, so you really can't say this is a woman's industry or a man's industry.
What does it mean to you to be helping other women start and grow their business?
It's really for exciting me. We don't support women's business development because we think it's a charity. We support it because we're seeing a need for this. ...
I came from the business world and the bank wanted to increase its outreach to women in business. That was exciting to join a company that was expanding this part of its business. And women don't just own small businesses, they own big businesses, too, so it's an important growth for all of our segments.
It's exciting for me because women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of small business, but they're not growing as large as other business. Six percent of companies hurdle $1 million in revenue, but just 3 percent of women-owned get there. Imagine what we could do to stimulate that growth. To me, that is a tremendous opportunity and very exciting.
Beth Marcello has been the director of PNC’s Women’s Business Development since 2006, Prior to that, she was the owner of PRwriting Inc., a marketing communications consulting firm she established in 1990.
She also is an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches business writing.
Marcello is a board member of the Birmingham Foundation, Women Presidents’ Organization and City Theatre. She also chairs the Pittsburgh Athena Award host committee and the Advisory Council of Strong Women, Strong Girls.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University.