2018 Women in Print and Promo: Connie L. Frazier, American Solutions for Business
Connie L. Frazier
National Business Development Executive
American Solutions for Business, Glenwood, Minn.
Years of Experience: 30
How she got her start: After obtaining my degree in computer science, I worked in the steel industry evaluating and programming systems to enable more efficient handling of data. I was then hired by Xerox to work side-by-side with its sales executives to understand the needs of customers’ print requirements, and propose the correct solutions. Within several years, I realized I had the desire and aptitude for sales. I was promoted through a variety of positions over my 15-year tenure with Xerox—oftentimes, taking risks on new positions that were being created. I joined WorkflowOne in 2000, and enjoyed the opportunity to be more entrepreneurial in developing solutions. In 2013, I joined American Solutions for Business, which provides me with the ultimate opportunity to meet my customers’ broad needs. I like that American is an ESOP company, which means decisions are made for the benefit of the employees and customers, as opposed to stockholders.
Her proudest career achievements: I’ve been fortunate to have achieved many President Club awards over the years for outstanding sales performance, and I’ve enjoyed mentoring a number of talented [up-and-coming] employees. But, I feel my greatest achievement was when my daughters, now grown, shared with me how proud they were of me and my accomplishments. There were many times over the years when I missed events or was stressed or was traveling, and they felt the impact. As a mother and wife, there was a lot of guilt about that. Now that they are grown and following their own paths, they ask how I did it all, and I say you can’t do it all. You try to stay organized and do the best you can professionally and personally every day.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: A leadership team sets the tone and culture of an organization. If the top executives are “good ol’ boys,” that will be the culture pervasive throughout. However, if the top executives understand the benefit of having diverse ideas, and understand the value that women can bring to the table, the culture will be much more open, and the company will benefit from that. When [someone is] interviewing, I suggest the candidate meet with the top executives or talk with other employees to understand the culture. Do the guys sneak off to golf, leaving the women behind in the office to wonder where all the men went for the afternoon? Are the guys invited to impromptu happy hours and the women excluded? Are there informal closed-door meetings with just men, leaving the gals wondering if they forgot to put a meeting on the calendar? Or, is it an open forum where everyone is readily included and all ideas are valued? If you find yourself being excluded, try approaching the group and let them know you’d like to be included next time. If that doesn’t work, remember the Serenity Prayer (paraphrasing): There will be some things you cannot change; you’ll need courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Over my 30 years in the industry, I am starting to see some improvements. Many young men have grown up, like my daughters, seeing their mothers in the workplace and understand how hard they work, and the pleasure they derive from their work. In addition, many men have wives who have fulfilling careers. To these men, women in the workplace is normal and, as a result, they are less apt to treat women differently.
Her job advice to women: First, it’s critical to choose your life partner well. You’ll work long hours, you’ll travel, you’ll be surrounded by men in the workplace and meetings. You’ll need a partner who trusts and supports you wholeheartedly.
- Strong women feel they must always be strong—allow yourself to lean on your partner through difficult times.
- Develop toughness—you’ll be faced with problems and difficult decisions every day. A thick skin will prevent you from taking things personally and enable you to move on to your next opportunity.
- Take risks—you’ll grow even if you fail.
- Be dedicated to continuous learning—there is always something new and exciting to understand.
- Be ready to work hard—but the rewards in this industry are worthwhile.
Her industry mentors: I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of people throughout my career as advisors. My husband is a CPA, CFA and entrepreneur (my biggest critic and my biggest supporter), and always has an opinion for me. I have a longtime friend who can look at situations from an unbiased perspective and I value his opinion greatly. And many things I learned about being a good manager, were learned from Michael Tutko, Xerox, vice president, who knew how to make every employee feel valued, and to derive the best from each person who had the privilege of working with him.
Her biggest lesson learned: I’ve learned the skill that has been the most beneficial to my career has been the ability to sit quietly and listen intently to people. I once had several conversations with a new customer and after those few short discussions, I knew more about him and his needs than the previous person who had worked with him for several years. So listen and ask questions; be truly interested. Who do you like to buy from—someone who cares about you and your needs, or someone who wants to sell you something? For a long, prosperous career, be in it with your customers for the long-haul.
When entering into a business relationship, even with someone you may have known or worked with for many years, always, always have written contracts of your agreements. Women can easily be taken advantage of because we are naturally trusting, nurturing and tend to take care of details. Greed and outside influences can often set in and make those you thought you knew well, do things you never imagined they would be capable of. Don’t be afraid to trust, but be sure to protect yourself and your time investment. Lastly, take pride in and love your work.
How she maintains a work/life balance: This is always difficult because there are many demands on our professional and home lives, which leaves little time to care for ourselves. Being organized, both professionally and personally, helps immensely. If you can afford any type of support to help at home, such as housekeeping, child care, lawn care, laundry or running errands, that’s a good use of your income. When you do have personal time, wouldn’t you rather spend it with those you love than taking care of chores? As a cancer survivor, I’ve learned that without your health, nothing else matters. So, you must carve out time to take care of you.