MBA Class: Mom’s Business Acumen
Jul 15 2008

And now for a very cool guest post from Michelle Yozzo Drake author of a newly released book: “From the Kitchen to the Corner Office:  Mom’s Wisdom on Leadership.”

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MBA Class: Mom’s Business Acumen…Or, “How to Take Skills Learned From Mom to Kick Butt at Work” 

As Aruni braves the balancing act that returning to the “formal” workplace brings for a working mom, I was thrilled that she asked me to do a guest post for entrepremusings.com. 

I love to work with women…they just get it, even if they don’t know it!  Generations of women have been successfully running the home-based business that we call “The Family”.  They have had to utilize all of the skills needed to address the same issues that Fortune 500 companies struggle with. And they’ve done it with grace, style and, okay, maybe a few bad hair days here and there! 

My version of an MBA class focuses on “Mom’s Business Acumen”: 

Risk Management-The art of baking bread, taught to me by my Aunt Giovanna Yozzo Fanelli (Aunt Jennie), yielded a surprising class in risk management, crisis management and plan-failure recovery. As I made loaf after loaf of bread (according to Aunt Jennie’s half Italian/half English instructions) and failed every time, I had to learn how to push past my fear of failure and create new plans to minimize my risks of future bread baking failure! Hours of work sometimes yielded sub-par results (a.k.a “lead-bread” – this made Aunt Jennie laugh as she encouraged me to persevere and continue on my quest for the perfect loaf of bread).  My ultimate victory (at least 20 loafs and 80 hours later) was the title of Bread Maker in my family’s eyes.  And after Aunt Jennie died at 96 years old, she passed her pans to me. I had become the bread and the baker, and she would be proud! 

Mergers and Acquisitions-My sister and a few of my sisters-in-law now have new “blended families”.  With divorce rates and remarriages at an all-time high, there are new things today’s mom has learned. Creating a family with kids from previous marriages and new ones with new husbands takes a lot of hard work and effort…no wonder the idea of running a newly merged company is child’s play for the mom that has balanced issues with siblings, half-brothers, step-sisters, etc.! 

Cultivating Strong Teams and Leaders-Lessons learned from the women in my family who are masters in the kitchen – my mother Mimi and my Aunt Marie, specifically – have been priceless in developing my ability to coach my clients on building strong teams and leaders at work.  Have you ever watched two strong women in the kitchen putting out a holiday meal for the family?  Mimi and Marie were masters at leading and following as they consistently put out a quality product (the seven-course Italian holiday meal) for their customers (35 family members and a few stragglers). The big news is, I never remember a moment of tension in either of their kitchens…but always lots of laughter! 

Budget Cuts-My mother-in-law Marty used to take her twelve children (my husband Rich is number NINE) to the beach on the ferry every Wednesday…because kids ride free on Wednesdays when accompanied by their parent! She knows how to work a budget! Examples like that guided me during my family’s lean years – when I was sewing shorts for my two young sons out of my husband’s old shirts – and during the first crucial years of my businesses when breakeven was only a dream. 

Sales and Product Issues-Have you ever negotiated with a four-year-old over why Oreo cookies are not a breakfast food?  Successfully selling those eggs over the Oreos takes a sales master! How easy negotiating with a customer over the price of your products or services is compared to “selling” bedtime to a child! 

So when I meet a mom getting ready to return to the workplace and she’s fretting over her perceived “resume gap,” I see the opportunity to educate a sister on how to talk about her degree from the “Mommy Management Training University!” 

What have YOU learned from your mom, “mom-figures” in your life, or being a mom yourself? 

Michelle Yozzo Drake is a management consultant who has just released a new book: “From the Kitchen to the Corner Office:  Mom’s Wisdom on Leadership.”  Her Workplace Wisdom Blog is hosting Lipstick Leadership Week -July 14-18 – where Michelle is highlighting other women’s stories about what they have learned from their “moms” or as a mom that helps them succeed at work!  Submit your story (and get a plug for your website!) at LipstickLeadership.com or KitchentoCornerOffice.com 

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