Entrepreneurship in the Land of Equal Opportunity

Sep 23, 2015

The quote “If someone believes they are limited by their gender, race or background, they will become more limited” is attributed to Carly Fiorina. This quote is from a person who intrinsically believed in herself and despite societal & personal obstacles has lived a life where she shattered the corporate glass ceiling that existed for intelligent women with strong business acumen to become America’s first female CEO of a Fortune 100 company and today is aspiring to be the first female president of the United States. Women like Carly Fiorina have paved the way so the best & brightest, regardless of gender; can ascend in the business world to the top of the corporate mountain. Today, the CEO’s of PepsiCo; Indra Nooyi, General Dynamics; Phebe Novakovic, Lockheed Martin; Marillyn Hewson, and IBM; Virginia Rometty, are all women. These individuals provide public faces to the evolution that has occurred in America during the last fifty years in the corporate business world.

However, before the glass ceiling was shattered in the corporate world women were competing equally with men in the world of small business entrepreneurship. I often say, “Business is the ultimate competitive sport and a world that is blind to gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation”. The key to success in business is to provide quality products or services at competitive prices with superior customer service. Entrepreneurship also offers an opportunity to create a corporate culture reflective of the values & goals of ownership. Entrepreneurship is not a world for individuals looking to justify failure with societal issues, but for people inclined to personal responsibility and accountability.

IBA, as the oldest business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, has represented a spectrum of demographically different individuals that have experienced an authentic American success story through entrepreneurship. We have represented female entrepreneurs in the traditional female dominated businesses of floral & travel, but also as presidents of construction, manufacturing, and technology companies. Transactions have been facilitated where the succession of ownership was 100% female like in the merger of EcoChem, an environmental chemistry audit firm, into Ridolfi, Inc., an environmental engineering & consulting company. The women at that negotiating table Ann Bailey, Linda Bohannon, and Callie Ridolfi were as strong & talented business people as exist anywhere in the world.

Vision for creation of a specific corporate culture dynamic can be as strong of a motivating force for entrepreneurship as financial remuneration. One demographic group where this historically occurred is in the gay & lesbian communities. Numerous times IBA professionals have heard stories from gay & lesbian individuals that one of the reasons they started their companies was to create a corporate culture where they would not be judged on their lifestyle by their work peers. It is unfortunate that corporate cultures of this nature have existed and may continue to exist in America given the founding principles of our nation. But, admiration is warranted for the entrepreneurs who recognized the problem in their lives and developed a solution to address it rather than assuming the role of victim or martyr.

On a related note, I was recently talking with a past client who purchased a business for his foreign born life partner to facilitate immigration of that individual to the United States through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program because at the time it was not possible for him to apply for a visa for the individual as a spouse. He indicated that with the changes that have occurred in the nation legislatively that purchase will likely be no longer be necessary for a United States citizen wishing to build a life together in this nation with their same sex spouse legally. This is an excellent example of a butterfly effect of how legislative change can have unintended consequences in another segment of society. EB-5 visas motivated by the needs of same sex couples are likely a thing of the past. It was an equal opportunity situation IBA was happy to support in the past, but is equally happy that the need is disappearing into the chapters of history.

Entrepreneurship provides a level playing field for all in America. I encourage anyone who believes in the “possible” to consider a career path that involves owning a privately held company or family owned business.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation in terms of successfully negotiating transactions that are “win-win” in an environment of full disclosure between the parties.