Executive Women's Forum International
A conversation with Annette White-Klososky quickly proves that she practices the philosophy she inspires her clients to follow: to manage all aspects of their lives with intention and passion. As owner of an Executive Women's Forum International (EWFI) franchise, a consultant, executive coach and Mom, Annette is a busy entrepreneur who has managed to achieve balance and professional success.
Prior to owning an EWFI franchise and consulting business, Annette worked in the corporate world as Director of Public Relations for an international architectural/engineering firm.
Please describe your company's mission and goals.
I actually have three aspects to my business, including the Executive Forums for Women, consulting and executive coaching. The mission in all three is really to help people recognize and articulate their version of success.
Where did the idea for your company originate?
I actually started out in 1999 with just consulting. I took the background, expertise and projects that that I had managed in the corporate world and applied them in my consulting business, including things like marketing plans, strategic planning, etc. In a couple of years I added the corporate training and executive coaching because most of the problems in organizations begin at the executive level. Later I was presented with the opportunity to own the Women's Forum franchise.
What made you decide to start your own company?
I found I was taking positions in companies, building new products or programs, and moving on. Finally I went out on my own.
How did you initially finance your company?
"Bootstrap" is the best way to describe it. Primarily by using savings accounts and credit cards.
Is buying a franchise a smart way to go?
It depends on what type of franchise it is, and what type of person you are. If you are a builder type entrepreneur a franchise can be limiting. I'm able to do the Women's Forum and still have the consulting outlet. In most franchises you have to fit in a box.
What are some of the challenges that keep you awake at night?
For me it is just deciding when to grow. Life can be complicated or comfortable for entrepreneurs. When do you grow your company? Why? Sometimes we don't consider the future and factor in things like our quality of life, mission and goals when making these decisions.
What are you most proud of?
I have two answers. First, the way my husband and I have structured our careers to have balance in our lives with our kids and family. My other greatest accomplishment was my decision to leave corporate America and take the leap to go out on my own. Nothing really compares to that.
What is your "If I'd only known then what I know now..."
I went into business for myself for a reason: to control my own time and have the flexibility to do the things I love. What you don't realize is that there is a period of time when you are doing the things you love AND everything else! The business side of doing what you love is challenging at first because you have no accounting department, no technical support, etc. I think I worked more hours in the first few months than I imagined.
How has your position with the company changed?
Actually, I have been really fortunate to have really smart people who now work with me. People with specialized skills and areas of expertise. Technology has also changed the way we work. Early on I worked alone a lot, and now we often collaborate with strategic partnerships with organizations like Giant Partners. I've also become smarter about how I work.
What do you find personally rewarding about being an entrepreneur and growing your own company?
Helping people create and realize their version of success. Not only with clients, but also with the people who work with me. It is so exciting to work with talented people who finally get the chance to do what they are meant to do. The whole exchange is so rewarding.
What makes the Greater OKC area a good place to start and grow a business?
There are a lot of people willing to help you in this area. It is easy to get connected and not that hard to make yourself known. There is a sense of trust when you make associations with others.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
The most important thing is to put good people around you. Not just working for you. I'm talking about all those who support you. Have a couple of advisers who have been there. My husband had done this type of work for a long time. Surrounding yourself with good people also includes having the right people taking care of your kids. If that element isn't right it definitely impacts your work. My husband Scott and I do an entrepreneurial boot camp through Leadership Oklahoma, and we've found that entrepreneurs often hear about the technical side. It is the "heart: side that they aren't prepared for. They often don't realize how hard it can be. Consider both sides of the issue. Being an entrepreneur can be great, wonderful and a lot of very hard work.