Meet the Member: Margaret Ceconi

Written By: Rzan Swaidan

Welcome to WFE’s inaugural news series where we will feature a member each month. This month meet Margaret Ceconi, founder of the WFE!

Read on to learn more about Margaret:

How did you get involved in the WFE and how long have you been a member?
I was part of a group of women in Atlanta in the late 80’s who wanted a forum that could provide mentoring and nurturing for women in professional services. There were many “good ol’ boys” groups that not only didn’t include women, but if they did, still did not treat women seriously in their professions.

So about 15 of us got together at someone’s home, and over cocktails, we strategized and came up with the outline for the WFE in 1989. The nickname for the group was “Deals on Heels”! Our first meeting had 35 women attending a lunch. The response from the men in our profession was quite interesting. They felt it was unfair that they were being excluded and felt like we were discriminating against them!

When I moved to Houston in 1994, there were no groups focused on women in this space, so Adrienne Bond and I started the Houston WFE Chapter. When I moved to Dallas in 1996, once again there were no women’s groups, so I started the Dallas Chapter in 1997.
So technically, I have been a member for almost 27 years!

What is your favorite thing about WFE?
Camaraderie! I have forged many business and personal relationships through WFE. I have not only gotten referrals for business, but also have been mentored by women in the group, and I have also provided mentoring. Some of my closest friends I have met through the WFE.

10 Quick Questions:

1. What was your first job?
I was a field examiner for Heller Financial in Chicago

2. What do you like most about your current job?
Helping CEO’s and CFO’s work through their financial distress. It lets me come up with creative solutions to solve their problems.

3. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Work twice as hard as anyone else (especially men), but always make sure the bosses know how much you are contributing. Pat yourself on the back to managers.

4. If you weren’t a Turnaround Consultant, what would you be doing?
If I won the lottery, I would do volunteering with girls organizations, like Girls, Inc, or YWCA.

5. Do you have any pets?
I have a high-maintenance cat named Maria.

6. What are you currently reading?
“The Little Road to Dribbling,” by Bill Bryson and “Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life,” by John Arden.

7. How do you handle stress?
By playing tennis, and binge watching TV.

8. What do you make time for no matter what?
Tennis (weekly), massages and facials (every four-to-six weeks), and girl time!

9. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am addicted to “Walking Dead” (the TV show)!

10. What “lesson from mom” do you still live by today?
Never leave the house without make-up, never run out of food at a party you are hosting, (my added rule is never run out of good wine either!).

Bonus Question!
11. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
This question for me should be what is the best advice I got and didn’t follow! LOL…
Unfortunately, it is that you have to play the politics and bite your tongue more often than you would like. Women do have to communicate and play the game differently than men, but I have always been more like a man in my communications, and unfortunately there is a double standard for women, and you can get penalized for that depending on the organization. Know the culture of your organization; if it doesn’t fit you, find one that does. Most organizations will not accept people who are outside of their “culture zone” regardless of how well you perform your job, or generate money for the company. Find one that values your unique set of qualities, personality and ethics.

What’s Your Game Plan for Selling in Today’s Connection Culture?

Written By: Deborah Gross

Warren Barhorst, President and CEO of Iscential, joined the WFE on May 19, 2016 to share his thoughts and strategies on enhancing personal and business relationships.

“Growth and popularity are about connecting in a world where people feel less and less connected,” says Barhorst. Growth at highly successful companies like Facebook were based on building a connecting culture. Today everyone is sold to and is selling. In order to stand out from the crowd and noise, Barhorst recommends developing a connecting culture that is an integral part of your business game plan going forward. This is true whether your goal is to conquer the world, grow your business, raise your kids or just hold on to what you have. He says that “We must learn to make meaningful connections. The need to be needed is one of our most fundamental needs. All of this starts with the right mindset.” The question to ask yourself, he says, is “How are you visualizing and communicating to build a connecting culture in your life?” Barhorst suggested that a connecting culture is one that that not only knows the “what” and the “how” but can communicate and believes in the “why” of your business.

Warren Barhorst is the President and CEO of Iscential, which is a private risk management, insurance and financial services firm he founded in 1993. In addition, he is a Principal and Managing Partner of Renovo Partners, LLC a business management-consulting company. Over the past twenty-five years, Warren has established himself as a thought leader in the field of entrepreneurship, risk management as well as teaching business owners how to get the wealth out of their company. He wrote and published his first book, Game Plan, The Definitive Playbook to Starting and Growing Your Business in 2008 and his second book, Game Plan, The Definitive Playbook for Selling in the Connection Culture was released in February 2016.

Should You Trust Your Gut?

Written By: Deborah Gross
Patrick Leach, CEO of Decision Strategies joined the WFE on April 21, 2016 to discuss the decision-making process we undertake when faced with uncertainty.

In some very insightful scenarios, Patrick was able to demonstrate that looking for validation is one of the worst biases we have. People will search for facts that support their pre-ordained position but rarely look for facts that contradict this position. The result is that people develop strategies that are not robust and don’t provide for contingency plans. If any of the predictions fail to come true, the strategies will fail.

One of the key takeaways according to Patrick is that “in complex business situations, great insight can be gained through a probabilistic modeling and analysis, it is important to approach these analyses with as little bias as possible.” A balance needs to be struck between logic and emotion.

Patrick Leach has over thirty years of experience in industry and consulting, ranging from New Orleans to Indonesia, Scotland, and now Houston. He joined Decision Strategies Inc. in 2004 as a Senior Consultant, and became CEO of the company in August of 2011.

Economic Forecast 2016

Written By: Deborah Barron
Nathaniel Karp, Chief Economist with BBVA Compass, joined the WFE on January 21st to provide an overview of US economic outlook for 2016.

Nathaniel indicated a modest world GDP growth due to slowdown of emerging economies and a more tepid recovery in developed economies. He expects a global rebalancing as a result of a weakening China spilling into world markets. With a strong dollar, there is downside pressure on exports and foreign profits. While rig counts and oil prices are on the decline, the upside is a sharp increase in real income and in energy intensive industries like transportation and utilities.

Houston has experienced remarkable performance in recent years but the net job creation has stalled and unemployment is starting to increase. Houston’s residential market will slow down as a result. However, Texas, and specifically Houston, are a top destination for foreign direct investment and are counted among some of the fastest growing developed economies.
BBVA Compass is a leading U.S. banking franchise with operations throughout the Sunbelt region and it ranks among the top 25 largest U.S. commercial banks based on deposit market share. BBVA Compass operates 688 branches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. It ranks among the largest banks in Alabama (2nd), Texas (4th) and Arizona (5th). In addition, BBVA Compass has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.

WFE members and guests were provided with useful insights on both the global markets as well state and city forecasts. While there is great uncertainty in the view ahead there were also some bright spots. Thanks to Nathaniel and BBVA Compass for the comprehensive presentation.

Power of Deep Water: Port of Houston

Written By: Colleen Nichols
Phyllis Saathoff, Chief People Officer of the Port of Houston Authority, joined the WFE on October 15 to provide an overview of the Port of Houston and global trade. The Port Authority committed $275 million for various capital projects over the course of the 2015 calendar year and is undertaking significant infrastructure improvements to ensure that the Port of Houston can accommodate the advent of larger vessels and increased cargo resulting from the pending Panama Canal expansion in 2016. The Port of Houston is ranked #1 U.S. Port by Foreign Waterborne Tonnage and #1 U.S. Port in Petroleum. If Texas were a nation, it would have the 13th largest economy in the world right behind Canada and Australia. The Port of Houston’s leading trade partners by tonnage (combined import/export) are Brazil, China and Mexico and by dollar value are China, Brazil and Germany.

The Port of Houston Authority is a Governmental subdivision chartered by the State and governed by a seven-member Commission. The Commission is appointed by Harris County, the City of Houston and other neighboring cities. It owns/operates eight public terminals.

WFE members and guests were provided with a great update on the Port of Houston Authority that they will be able to use when educating their own clients and referral networks. This was our highest attendance after the Economic Update!