Biz success starts with… bookkeeping?

Women: learn from them.

Emerging Women Today, a new professional women’s group that just started up in the Twin Ports, had two women presenters at its meeting last week that I can only describe as female powerhouses.

In their business savvy and successes, women like Kaye Tenerelli and Elaine Hansen have paved the way for younger generations of women in business.

"In my career, the most important thing I’ve done is mentoring," Tenerelli says.

Tenereilli, a former high-ranking Florida bank executive, has lived in the Twin Ports since 1981. She is a business owner and is director of the Superior Business Improvement District

Elaine Hansen is director of UMD’s Center for Economic Development and a founder of the Professional Women’s Network.

So besides being mature women with proven business know-how, what else do they have in common?

Both started out as bookkeepers in an era when men ran the companies and women tended to the books, took dictation and made the coffee.

The key to being a successful woman is to be a bookkeeper," Hansen, with some amusement, told the small gathering. "That’s where I started."

For both, it lead to accounting skills, basic understanding of how a business operates, even some marketing. And it assures one’s employable.

"With bookkeeping, you can always work someplace," Hansen says. "If you have a good foundation, you’ll grow."

Other bits of wisdom gleaned:

Hansen: Be self-sufficient. Be comfortable with who you are and that you have skills.

Tenerelli: It’s important to have a mentor to advance in our careers. Sometimes we don’t recognize who our mentor is. Sometimes we have one and we don’t realize it. It could be the encouraging person who keeps saying: "You can do it."

If you don’t have a mentor seek one out. Pick someone in your field you highly respect and who is doing well. Ask that person if they could spend some time with you. Most would be thrilled to.

Hansen: Women who are comfortable with who they are and what they’re doing are usually approachable.

Tenerelli: With the economic downturn, women have to put their best foot forward. Do the best you can do. Assess where you are and where you want to be, especially if you’re out of work.

Hansen: Never burn bridges. It will come back to haunt you. It’s leaving too quickly. It’s how you leave. It’s not saying something to someone that you should.