Welcome to another story in our continuing celebration of the association volunteer (read more here). This time, we highlight Doralee Billings, owner of Small Office Solutions, and active member of the Business Women’s Network of Howard County (BWN). Doralee believes in giving 100% to any task she undertakes, and her involvement with BWN is no exception.
Like many association volunteers, Doralee’s foray into volunteerism began with a simple invitation, an invitation that took her over a year to accept. It was 2000 and she had just opened her business, Small Office Solutions, when a colleague and member of BWN recommended the association as a source of networking. Doralee was interested but wasn’t particularly comfortable with networking as a whole. So instead, as a way to get to know the other members, she volunteered to work the registration table at various events. Later when the association needed an administrator, Doralee offered her company’s services. After that, things began falling into place and Doralee soon found herself on the Board of Directors where she has since served as membership director, president-elect, and association president for two years. She is currently serving as immediate past president.
Doralee’s active involvement in the association comes from the belief that in order to truly reap the benefits of any organization, you must be willing to put yourself into the center of things; that participation is the only true way to get to know your association and the people surrounding you.
One thing that was conscience on my part was that you only get out of something like this what you put into it. The reality is you have to get involved. You have to work with people to get to know them, to know how they work in order to recommend them. I needed to know how they do their job, and how they are going to treat people I send to them. So for me, it’s all about really getting to know people.
And Doralee certainly does reap the benefits. She has obtained business directly and indirectly through BWN, but what’s more, she developed valuable relationships along the way. She also praises the group for its supportive nature saying “The BWN is the warmest networking group I’ve ever been associated. It is less intimidating than many groups, and it is a good first foray into networking for small business women.”
When asked about one item she feels sums up the Network, Doralee points to The Master Mind Group, a forum developed two years ago. The concept was first introduced in Napoleon Hill’s book Think & Grow Rich. The group consists of experience business owners who meet monthly to brainstorm about what is working and what isn’t in terms of both business and personal life. It’s an open forum where each person gets the chance to share concerns and help other people at the same time. Doralee says it’s been a great experience: “It’s incredible how the energy flows, and the kind of relationships that develop.” She adds “We are whole beings, and we all have struggles…there are a lot of issues owning your own business, so sitting around the table with business women in the same circumstances is really powerful.In addition to the open forum, each member of the group completes a status report including things that didn’t go well that week, things that did go well that week, things to focus on for the coming week, and things to be grateful for. The last is especially important for Doralee who feels “being appreciative is really important in terms of keeping yourself focused.”
Although the demographic of the group is primarily small business women owners, there are also a few men and members from larger corporations such as banks and insurance companies who work with small businesses. For these members, it’s not about education, but about networking and the ability to offer their services as needed. They want to be in the room with these small business owners, and it a mix that is beneficial to everyone.
But Doralee is quick to point out that it is not just a social networking group. BWN also offers a strong educational component. For example, in recent years, the association has created themes around the monthly meetings. Past themes include advice on how to put together an advisory team for small business start-ups with featured speakers included lawyers, accountants, and bankers among others; and another centered on business/marketing plan. This year’s theme involves the latest business tools such as social networking and website development.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t congratulate Doralee on her other accomplishments as well. She is the recipient of the BWN 2010 Woman of Distinction Award, and a recipient of 2008 Committee for Business and Economic Diversity (CBED) Award. Further proof of the power of her commitment.
Doralee’s final words: “If you’re going to do something, do it 100%… the reason why I wanted to go on the board was to develop some skills…I wanted to develop some leadership skills. So for my purpose, it seems sort of self-servicing, but at the same time, I feel like the organization benefited.” She adds “Don’t look for what it can do for you, but what you can do for it. I think it makes a big difference.”
We’re sure the BWN wholeheartedly agrees.
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