Lessons From the Most Influential Women Middle Market CEOs

Always look toward the long-term, take risks and find your own personal voice. Those are just some of the ways in which the most influential women CEOs of the middle market have become successful and remain so.

Receiving and accepting advice from those who have gone before is an asset to business owners. Getting free advice from five of the top female CEOs in the middle market is a coup you can’t pass up.

Tory Burch

Tory Burch, CEO Tory Burch, designer of women’s clothing and accessories advises that “Some advice is best ignored,” Burch said, who disregarded early advice and went ahead and launched her first store the same day her branded clothing, shoes and accessories it the market.“I wanted to establish a powerful platform for brand storytelling,” Burch said.

Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz said from the start, Burch has understood what a woman’s life is about. “She’s living it herself – she’s a working mom. She has walked in those shoes.”

In addition to telling her personal story connected with her brand, Burch attributes her success to careful decision making. “Every decision we make is about the long-term and how it will affect the brand five and 10 years from now,” she told Business of Fashion.

Ranjini Poddhar

Rangini Poddhar, CEO of Artech Information Systems, LLC which specializes in workforce and IT solutions. Poddhar has a two-word bit of advice, “Take risks.” She started her business when IT outsourcing was brand new. She said some of her best advice to women starting a business is to “find their voice,” persevere instead of taking gender-based issues personally, set objectives and find women to inspire and lift them up.

Organizations that can help women network include Professional Women of Wisconsin, Women’s Network Group, Minnesota Women in Networking WINWomen in Small Business.

Judy McReynolds

Judy McReynolds has some simple, but possibly difficult advice – “Forget being a female.” McReynolds, president and CEO of the multi-million dollar freight and logistics services company ArcBest Corporation, said she was determined early in her career to not let gender be an issue, especially in a male-dominated industry.

“Take on tough assignments and do an excellent job; you will be recognized for your good work.”

Martine Rothblatt offers another simple bit of advice, “Reject no.” Rothblatt is the chairperson and co-CEO of United Therapeutics, which she founded after her daughter was diagnosed with a severe medical disorder. She discovered that GlaxoSmithKline had a molecule that could treat the condition, but the company balked at using it to produce a usable drug. Rothblatt continued to push for the drug and finally had someone move the drug forward.

Martine Rothblatt

Finally, Diane Sullivan advises, “Seek empowerment everywhere.” Sullivan is chairperson and CEO of footwear manufacturer Caleres, Inc. She doesn’t think of herself as a female leader. “I just think of myself as a leader. It was always about what I aspired to do, how I followed my heart, what I thought I’d be good at.”

And while these women are running businesses with annual sales of $100 million to $3 billion, they have shown the ability to change, innovate and live up to a standard of excellence that is applicable to any size company.

Diane Sullivan