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On October 19, 2010, Atlanta Business Radio launched a special ProWIN edition, co-hosted by producer Lee Kantor and Pat Romboletti, President of Sage Executive Search, (www.sageexecutivesearch.com), in welcoming a trio of energized and engaged women and Vice President of Sponsorship for ProWIN, the Professional Women’s Information Network (www.prowin.com). This organization, exclusive to Atlanta, has a stated mission of “building business by building relationships.”
The day’s discussion led off with Loraine DiSalvo, president-elect of ProWIN and member since 2006. As she explained, ProWIN is made up of members who meet at quarterly luncheons (the third Wednesday of January, April, July and October) to educate themselves, market their businesses, and make friends and business contacts. Additionally, ProWIN hosts small-scale, member-only events, such as cocktails at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Martinis and Imax, and holiday parties. Loraine said, “I found a diverse group of women from all walks of life and industry at ProWIN. We have interesting speakers and tasty luncheons. I think I’ve only missed one quarterly meeting since I joined and every time it’s the same thing—a great group of people, a great presentation and a great setting.” In her “other” life, Loraine is a partner and lawyer at Morgan and DiSalvo, PC (www.morgandisalvo.com), an estate planning boutique. She added, “Through ProWIN, I’ve met eventual clients and professional contacts, like financial planners. I’ve found it to be a great resource for my clients.”
The typical meeting follows the format of an open meet-and-greet while everyone gathers, followed by a structured get-to-know-you through “table hosts,” where designated leaders at each table lead discussions based on a series of questions designed to stimulate conversation beyond the standard “Hi, how are you?” greeting. “The ‘information’ part of our organization’s name is intentional,” explained Loraine. “I learned how to better market myself and build my practice at ProWIN.”
In the open membership, you’ll find attorneys, CPAs, entrepreneurs, and people from B2B marketing, payroll, and large corporations. And despite the name, it is actually open to men, too. It presents an opportunity for members to be active—as board members, officers and committee members. Sometimes, Loraine explained, you might even get to wear a tiara. These special people are called registration angels and they are at the quarterly meetings, helping guests who want to join or returning members who need to renew. You can see why Pat said, “When I first moved to Atlanta—hands down—ProWIN was the one group mentioned most often as the networking organization to belong to.”
Membership costs $100 a year. Different fees apply to different events, although many of the member-only events are free. For new members, two complimentary half-hour coaching sessions are included with your membership. It can be general business coaching or tailored to your specific needs. “You basically get $300 worth of coaching for your $100 fee,” Loraine pointed out.
Then there are the random benefits as happened to the other two guests on today’s show. These two members won slots on this program to highlight their companies in a drawing at the last meeting.
First, we heard from business attorney Heather Wright, principal at The Wright Firm, LLC, (www.thewrightattorneys.net), serving clients from “start-up to demise,” including litigation. Heather said, “I leaped from a big firm to my own business when I realized that I liked being a lawyer, but I just didn’t like the big firm environment. It was too stifling. I like getting involved with my clients and have built my business by becoming a trusted advisor.”
One of her boutique firm’s benefits is that you are hiring someone you can trust. For instance, you need to know how you’re going to be charged—set fees, hourly, by contingency—which you get with Heather. “You need to be open, especially about money. I don’t know that I would trust attorneys who didn’t put their fee agreements in writing,” Heather said.
Communication is key for Heather. “I tell my business clients that a four-minute phone call could save them $30,000 in litigation, so feel free to call me,” she said. “A lawyer is your confidant. You need to tell them the truth, so they can help you. That’s why my written agreement talks about candor. ”
The other featured member was Leslie Hale, sales consultant with Veracity Payment Solutions, (www.veracitypayments.com). This four-year-old company provides credit card processing services to companies in the start-up to mid-size range. Its service center in Aiken, SC is very customer-centric and available year-round. “Small businesses can tap into our software that works with Quicken. It’s really great for them,” said Leslie. “We’re able to grow with our clients as they grow. It’s all about client relationships, all about trust. I am partnering with you. I am on your team. Everybody wins and everybody feels good about it.”
Some of the intricacies of the credit card world that were discussed include how statements are formatted, small ticket item charges, advantages of swiping a card, and the importance of zip code information. “One of the more costly mistakes is not swiping the card when you can. People tend to not put in all the required information—address, zip code—which makes it a more secure payment,” explained Leslie. “More than 200 rates can be charged. We help our clients use the most cost-efficient method of processing credit card transactions. We review the statements, do pricing models and compare what they’re paying where they are now versus what Veracity can do.”
Another advantage Veracity offers its clients is not requiring long-term contracts. “So there’s no rate creep, no penalties for ending the relationship,” Leslie said. At which point, Heather jumped in and said, “I was involved in a litigation case with a merchant and his credit card processor. If you’ve ever read those contracts, they’re long-term and called a contract of adhesion [or, in layman’s terms, one-sided]. My guy had no bargaining power, was locked into a contract for forever and ended up in litigation. I now tell my customers to look for month-to-month arrangements [like Veracity], so you have flexibility.”
And right there, the synergy of ProWIN was demonstrated.
Regarding ProWIN, Heather further said, “It’s a wonderful place to get to know people. The relationships are fantastic. It’s good for marketing—serious business people go there. At the first meeting I attended, I knew 10 people immediately and respected them. They were all on the board or played an active role. As a business lawyer, I need resources for my clients who typically don’t call me until it’s minutes away from a nuclear meltdown. The resources I’ve met through ProWIN are invaluable.”
Leslie was sure of its benefits from the get-go. She said, “I bought without looking—I signed up for membership on the internet. For me, it’s been an opportunity to meet professional women in a structured atmosphere. We’re able to reach commonality quickly.” She even invites her clients to meetings—“It’s a wonderful offering to my clients.”
Download the entire broadcast to hear more about ProWIN and the wonderful resources that it offers to Atlanta’s business professionals. You can also hear more about Heather Wright’s high-touch law practice and gain some great tips for saving money on your payment processing with Leslie Hale.
Loraine DiSalvo, Morgan and DiSalvo, PC, www.morgandisalvo.com
Leslie Hale, Veracity Payment Solutions www.veracitypayments.com
Lee Kantor, producer, Atlanta Business Radio www.businessradiox.com
Pat Romboletti, Sage Executive Search, www.sageexecutivesearch.com
Heather Wright, The Wright Firm, LLC, www.thewrightattorneys.net
Also if you know of a business in Atlanta that we should know about please email Amy Otto at Amy @ atlantabusinessradio.com and we will try and get them on the show