Noemi Kis explains what it takes to get ahead in a man’s world.
First, give me an idea of your employment background and experience.
After receiving my bachelor’s in accounting, I started out working for [an accounting] firm where I was responsible for managing client’s portfolios and financial planning. I was later recruited into the non-profit world where I managed government-awarded contract programs. Even though I enjoyed this type of work, I decided to pursue starting my own business.
And what do you do now?
I run my own company, Western RO, LLC, which supplies reverse osmosis membranes and filters for commercial and industrial water filtration systems. It’s a busy job. On a typical workday I provide quotes, arrange freight shipments worldwide, check in with my current clients, business affiliates, vendors, and suppliers about current orders and shipments. My days can get very hectic, but I also have to make time for growing my business and putting myself in front of new customers. In between working with current clients, I divide my time up between reaching out to new prospects on the phone and via email marketing campaigns, to social media development, business strategy, SEO and attending industry specific networking events. I also attend training classes, workshops, and seminars where I expand my knowledge both in my industry and as an entrepreneur.
How did you get into this line of work?
I have always had a passion for environmentally friendly businesses, eco-friendly products, and services that help the sustainability of our planet. I became interested in the area of water when I saw a friend become very successful selling the water filtration systems. I wanted to know how I could get my start and if it was something that would be right for me. When I did more research and got more information and some training from my friend, I knew it was perfect for me. It combined my passion for being a creative entrepreneur with my drive for offering a solution to our water crises. I committed and then launched my company.
What are the greatest rewards of your work today?
I highly enjoy creating new ways of expanding, marketing, and exploring opportunities to provide a much-needed resource for companies worldwide. I love being on the forefront of an industry that is providing a real solution to the water crises long term. I also love and welcome the challenges that come with having a woman-owned small business in a male-dominated industry.
What are the biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenge for a woman in a male-dominated industry is not being taken seriously when first starting out. It takes perseverance and constant action to get my business in front of the right people and to be seen.
What kind of tricks do you have for handling those challenges?
When conducting business with men, I have discovered a few important for rules that work for me:
I make sure that I’m keeping to the facts. I state what is, and nothing more. If I’m talking with a woman, I will go into more details, and we might diverge into a couple of different topics. But with men, I find the most effective way of communicating is just stick to the facts.
Speak up! I naturally speak in a friendly, low voice, and I have learned that I will get nowhere with this. I learned to speak in a loud voice to make sure I’m heard.
Women have a tendency to be more sympathetic. But business is business, and I have to stick to my guns. I stick to my prices, my terms, and I am not backing down. I have to be assertive and not let anyone push me around.
I think not taking things personally is also very important. Men are really great at getting the job done, sometimes saying things or doing things that would be considered rude or inconsiderate in a woman’s world. You have to learn to roll with the punches and never take things personally. I learned this the hard way.
Have you found any advantages to being a female in your industry?
There are many benefits to being a woman in a male dominated field. If I’m attending a trade show or a networking event with 80% men, I’m much more likely to be remembered as I stand out solely because I’m a woman. Men also tend to be friendlier to women, and not as competitive as they would be around other men. Women tend to be great at creating and developing and fostering relationships, which is a key to any growing business.
What character traits do you think are advantageous in your line of work?
The most important character traits in my line of business are persistence, assertiveness, and patience. Creating business alliances, finding affiliates, building trust with vendors and suppliers, and getting in front of and building trust with potential customers takes all three of those traits. The most important thing I’ve learned in this business is the necessity of finding my own voice and being assertive in order to establish a strong business presence.
Any character traits that could create obstacles?
I get a lot of “No’s,” and if I started getting deterred or listening to them, it would be an obstacle to my success.
How would you advise a woman going into your field, or any other field dominated by men?
I think the key is to convey your message clearly, that you have a strong mission, how you are helping the community, and that you are here to stay. In order to be confident and strong business owners, we have to have a clear mission. We are taken seriously when we have a business model that conveys and clearly communicates our passion and the value of the services or products we offer. Also, just making sure we are playing the game to win and we are here to make a difference.