Co-Founder, CEO & Past President, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)
CPC, CEO & Founder, Terry Neese Personnel Services
Terry Neese is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. She is also a wife, a mother, a pilot, and a political strategist.
Neese made history in 1990 as the first woman nominated by a major political party for Lt. Governor of Oklahoma. Prior to that historic campaign, she founded Terry Neese Personnel Services along with five other companies in the personnel, farming, ranching, and real estate industries.
Terry Neese is a motivator for women's issues and entrepreneurs. One of her companies, GrassRoots Impact, is a corporate and government public policy strategies firm with rapid response surveying capabilities. GrassRoots Impact's clients include American Express, Intuit, IBM, Verizon and many other top global corporations. GrassRoots Impact excels in crafting a communications strategy and fine tuning "the message" that corporations and government agencies need in order to reach out effectively to women and minorities in business.
As co-founder of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a national bi-partisan public policy organization advocating for women in business, Neese represents the organization's 505,000 women business owners and women in business on Capitol Hill and with the current Administration. Neese was rated number six in the September 2000 issue of Fortune Magazine as one of the "Power 30" - the most influential small businesspersons in Washington, D.C.
Known by the movers and shakers in Congress, Terry testifies on a regular basis before the U.S. House and Senate, and is part of a "Brain Trust" that provides important input to the Small Business Administration, and various coalitions. She led the efforts of the Small Business Advisory Team for the Bush/Cheney Campaign in 2000 and has built coalitions in both the Democratic and Republican Parties to get key legislation passed.
Terry has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She has been honored with the Women In Communication By Liner Award; NAWBO's National Public Policy Award, and the Oklahoma City NAWBO Chapter's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Business Women's Network and the National Foundation For Women Legislators recently recognized Terry as "Entrepreneur of the Year" and, in 2000, she was named the Oklahoma City Journal Record's Hall of Fame Woman of the Year.
She has created the Terry Neese Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, and SBA Women's Business Center which opened in October 2001 in which Neese serves as the Chairman of the Board.
Her list of accomplishments, recognition, and business success are endless, making Neese the perfect example for entrepreneurs and an outstanding mentor for women business owners everywhere.
Please describe your company's mission and goals.
Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is a national bi-partisan public policy organization giving voice to women business owners in our nation's capitol and in our state legislatures. The Women Impacting Public Policy Institute is a sister organization to WIPP. The WIPP Institute is a nonprofit public charity dedicated to the economic empowerment of women worldwide. We currently have over 550,000 members in all 50 states and 46 women's business associations under one umbrella.
Where did the idea for your company originate?
When I founded Terry Neese Personnel Services in 1975 there were few women business owners as mentors and or protégés. By 1986 I joined the National Association of Women Business Owners and found a group of national business owners who shared knowledge and leadership skills. In 1990, I became national president of the Association and my goal was to incorporate public policy into our programming. I believe if you run a business and you're not involved in politics, politics will run your business.
In 2001, I founded WIPP because I believe that women business owners and women business associations should come together and have a voice and seat at every economic, social and political table in the country. In five short years, WIPP has become the voice for women business. We are a "force" generating positive energy for economic development.
What made you decide to start your own company?
When I launched Terry Neese Personnel Services, I didn't realize that I would become a "serial" entrepreneur. The idea to start my own firm came only because three other personnel services closed their doors while I was in their employment. I became frustrated with their failure and struck out on my own.
How did you initially finance your company?
In all my ventures, I have bootstrapped my way to profit. When I started Terry Neese Personnel Services in the 70's a woman business owner couldn't obtain financing; I used all my personal resources to start the firm which was a grand total of about $600.
What are some of the challenges that keep you awake at night?
- Making sure we "deliver" and do what we say we will do. Keeping up with technology and managing growth.
- Balancing family and life.
- Figuring out how "Washington" works!
What are you most proud of?
My family! I am very proud of my daughter, Kim Neese, who is now President/CEO of Terry Neese Personnel Services. I am proud to leave this as a legacy.
What is your "If I'd only known then what I know now..."
If I'd only known: "if you run a business and you're not involved in politics; then politics will run your business." Small business owners need to be more pro-active. Their voices are critical to the public policy debate. I call it GIPOGOOB. Get Involved in Politics or Go Out of Business.
How has your position with the company changed?
Regarding Terry Neese Personnel Services, my daughter Kim now manages and operates the firm. I am a cheerleader.
Regarding Women Impacting Public Policy, I am one of two co-founders and served as national President from 2001-2005. I am now Past President and a member of the board of directors and serve as a spokesperson for WIPP. Most of my focus is with the WIPP Institute as we are launching Power Tools for Women Business Owners and Profiles in Leadership: Economic Empowerment for Women In Afghanistan and United States. I also serve as CEO of GrassRoots Impact, Inc.
What do you find personally rewarding about being an entrepreneur and growing your own company?
I enjoy start-ups thus the "serial" entrepreneur title. What is rewarding to me is sharing the entrepreneurial experiences with others in a mentoring/shadowing scenario. I also enjoying working with small business owners in other countries. I am emboldened by their strength, determination, and their will to spread democracy and entrepreneurship in the world.
What makes the Greater OKC area a good place to start and grow a business?
Having traveled the world, there is no place greater to build a business, raise a family, and enjoy life than in Oklahoma City. Our human resources are the finest example of life on earth and the quality of life in Oklahoma has no comparison. We are fortunate to know and love this great state. As I travel, people always ask me why I live in Oklahoma, which seems like a third world country to some. I always oblige them with a lengthy lecture.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
- Dream big.
- Have fun.
- "Deliver" quality
- Be passionate about what you are doing and you will be successful.