You Have to Ride My Harley Davidson

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Photo Credit Spencer Stanton/Renata Parker

I hardly ever meet a stranger but the truth is I am really introverted.   It feels like home to write and tell you about my life experiences with the hope that I might help you or another but feels somewhat uncomfortable when I tell you that I’m in a magazine and “look at me”.

Not long ago I was ecstatic to be asked to be one of four women featured in TALK Magazine’s March issue. The feature is about today’s Southern Belle and what it means.

Renata Parker did an amazing job in finding some super accomplished women to share in this feature.  I’ve accomplished things but being in the company of these three women really is humbling and quite an honor.

Even though it’s 2017, in a lot of ways it is still a man’s world. I think we are making progress but we still have a long way to go.

Men in business don’t always appreciate a powerful woman and they sometimes have expectations.  I knew that for sure when a male customer invited me to lunch and suggested that if I wanted his company’s work I would need to come to his apartment and go for a ride on his Harley Davidson. Very quickly and bluntly I told him that I was happily married and if riding his Harley was a requirement we would never do work for him.

He looked at me as if he had never been told no. I later learned that he had approached other women too.  As it turned out I wasn’t the only one who gave a no thanks to riding his Harley. I’m not saying men are not exposed to such requests but I am guessing the statistics would prove that women are targeted much more often than men. I’m guessing many women don’t talk about it out of fear of retribution.

It’s always been interesting to be in a meeting and see some men looked shocked for a woman to step into the conversation.  I was with my husband Lee in an engineering meeting once.  I was the only woman there. The guy heading up the meeting was giving Lee a hard time.

We were at this company because of a problem with their engineering, not ours.  Lee, like most engineers I know, Lee is pretty quiet.  After several moments of hearing this man berate Lee, I stepped forward and spoke up.  I made it clear that we were there to help them and if all he wanted to do was heap criticism on Lee for something he didn’t have control over he would need to find another vendor.

Lee said every man on the team stepped back and then burst into smiles. Apparently, the lead guy was known for his abrasiveness and no one would challenge him. A few months later he was at ArrowHawk and had a completely different attitude. He and I quickly hit it off and he said that he appreciated my ability to speak up and be blunt in our previous meeting.

I have learned through the years that businesses are a lot like a classroom. You have a variety of situations and people.  I found that my favorite business relationships are with people who are good and decent and kind. They are deeper than just a job.

One of my most favorite customers ever was a sweet man who used to call me when we first started powder coating and tell me that I needed to take another look at our pricing. I would ask if we charged too much and he always would say, “No, Kimberly, just go look and let me know.” I would have Lee take another look and he would discover that we had undercharged.  Integrity — we sure need more of it!

As time passed business shifted and just like our society, things began to change.  While there were no invitations to ride Harley’s there were invitations for kickbacks on some jobs with no understanding when the answer to that was no.  Even when there were no kickback requests, people fearful for their jobs became more focused on getting the most bang for their buck without a desire to have a symbiotic relationship with their suppliers.

I’m happy to say I see the pendulum beginning to swing back in the other direction.  Relationships are coming back around and that is one of my favorite things about being in business.

Happy Friday!

I hope you enjoy the TALK article below.

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/life/style/talk-greenville/2017/03/01/redefining-southern-belle/98573368/

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