For this year’s Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the life and work of Colleen Teal, Ortwein Sign’s President & Sales Manager. We sat down and asked her 10 questions about her life and career:
What were you doing before working at Ortwein Sign?
Before we acquired Ortwein Sign I was raising two children, while running my own Southern Living at Home business.
Why did you decide to enter the signs industry, and why was Ortwein Sign specifically the business you wanted to become a part of?
Jim, my husband, and I wanted to find a business that we could both help build. With my degree in Public Relations and his in Engineering the sign industry seemed like a good fit.
Though Ortwein Sign was already a well established sign company in this region when we purchased it, we saw plenty of opportunity for growth and knew with hard work we could expand the business. Over the past 10 years we’ve added a Nashville location, we’ve continued to grow each year, and we’re working with an ever growing team of sign veterans and new hires alike who are instrumental to Ortwein Sign’s progress and excellent stature as a company.
Did you think it more of a challenge as a woman to join the world of manufacturing? Why or why not?
I thought that it would be, but I have found that being a woman in this business in fact has many advantages and, though it might break some people’s assumptions of the manufacturing world, there are actually many women that like working in the sign business, just as there are many happy to be working alongside women in this industry.
Women typically are naturally gifted with multitasking skills and are very detail oriented, and those are key skills you definitely need in our business. Likewise the sign business provides a great venue to express one’s creativity.
What are the values you hope most to impart as a business owner?
For me I hope to impart honesty, fairness, reliability, and professionalism. At Ortwein Sign, we know our values set us apart just as much our service and craftsmanship, so we don’t just do lip service to our values; we live and breathe them.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
There are so many things I’m proud of accomplishing, including helping to build and expand such an incredible team here at Ortwein Sign. As a co-owner and sales manager though who started from scratch in this industry and this region, I’d say what I’m proudest of is that I feel that I’ve developed a reputation in the community as a go to person who can get the job done as requested.
What is a piece of advice you’d impart to young female entrepreneurs?
For me the most difficult part of being successful in anything isn’t the hard work, but instead it is deciding what to do and where to focus your talents and energies. Life is a journey, and even if you don’t know where you want to go right now, with perseverance, focus, and hard work you can find your path. Also, you must keep the balance in home and work life.
You’ve steered Ortwein through two economic slumps. What tips would you have for a new entrepreneur during these harder times?
Our first lesson, that has proved true now two times over, is that if you’re wanting to start or acquire a business then choose an essential business. Thanks to the times we’re living in we now understand that term more than ever, but for my husband and I, a decade before now, we knew that meant choosing a business that folks relied upon in good times and bad.
Would you say there are specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I would say there are mostly advantages. Many people want to work with women because of their demeanor and again, their multitasking skills. Even though women, like men, need to be disciplined and sometimes rigid, they typically still have that underlying nurturing, motherly touch and in the service industry that is quite beneficial.
What are the challenges and benefits to running a family owned business?
Well at times it seems like there can be many. For one, your children one day might grow up and work for your business, and you have to wear the parent hat and business hat at the same time. Likewise work life balance is essential, as you have to make your own schedule that helps the business grow but also allows you family time and time for yourself. Also our team at Ortwein Sign truly feels like family, so Human Resources can have its challenges, in particular when hiring and firing.
All these challenges though are also part of the benefits of running a smaller, family owned business. At Ortwein Sign, thanks to our family atmosphere we build true connections with each of our team members, everyone takes pride in their work, and each of our employees has a true sense of shared ownership and responsibility across the entire company.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I’m fortunate to work for so many fantastic clients, including business owners, architects, and developers. I would say that my clients are my greatest influence on my work. In particular, working with larger and larger clients has helped me the most to grow in my role and to become more confident.
During Colleen’s career, she’s partnered with some of the largest retail, universities, religious, and entertainment organizations in the region. She is a commercial sign professional, driven to bring results to your organization. Call us today at 1-866-867-9208 to see how Colleen and our team at Ortwein Sign can work for your business!