Marguerite I. Harkness, CPA
Q: Tell us about your business and how long in business:
A: I started my own accounting practice in 1981, after a few years in corporate accounting. When I started my practice, I made a list of everyone thought I should call to ask for guidance. (All were men.) I never got all the way through the list, but there were a few terrific mentors who were instrumental in connecting me to a regional law firm who needed my accounting expertise, and also led to other big clients.
Q: What inspired you to start your own business?
A: With an MBA, and the requirements completed for the CPA certificate, I believed I was more valuable to myself than to the big corporation. I did ask my junior high homeroom teacher for a reference for my CPA. She had selected me “Most Likely to Succeed”.
Q: Share an interesting or little known fact about you or your company.
A: My first business enterprise, at 9, was making doll clothes for my mom’s customers’ kids. Mom was a dressmaker, we designed whatever I wanted. I wore Chanel (style) suits in high school. (I know, you never would have guessed I like clothes!)
Q: What is one piece of advice/words of business wisdom you would share with our members:
A: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Visual is a big part of that, because you can be observed from across the room – even before you open your mouth. Yes, we dress more casually these days – but you feel better and you function better if you dress WELL.
Q: How long have you been involved with NAWBO?
A: I joined WBOA (Women Business Owners Association) in 1982. It was the only organization for WBO’s at that time. Maria Heckaman invited me. Our husbands were both in Cleveland Civil War Round Table and she had recently begun her business too. I’ve held all the board offices except secretary; was President from 1990-92 simultaneously with being President of the Transitional Housing Inc. board (long-term shelter for women). Following me, President Judi Firestone transitioned us into NAWBO. I was President again for a part of 2010-2011 year (the only one to serve a second round.)
In 1982, there were only a handful of WBO’s. Eight of them started WBOA in 1980 upstairs on Huron Road, borrowing a room at WomenSpace.
In 1992 I co-founded the Executive Women’s Golf League, Cleveland Chapter; we hoped we would have 30 members and we had 70 the first year. And now I’ve been chairing the Save Lakewood Hospital committee for over a year.
Q: What do you enjoy most or find most valuable about being a NAWBO member?
A: I really like that WE ALL OWN OUR BUSINESSES. It is so different when you are at a Chamber or other meeting, and most of the attendees are employees. Totally different mindset. You can raise questions at a NAWBO meeting, that you can’t raise in any other venue.
Q: What is one little known fact about you that others might find fun or interesting?
A: I’ve traveled “ulu” (upriver) with my husband, visiting indigenous tribes in their longhouses in Borneo. Our guide showed us his grandfather’s headhunting sword – a left-handed sword. We were NEVER – so WELL TAKEN CARE of – as we were on those trips, mosquito nets, cooking in a wok, longboating up the rivers into the jungle. Travel is a wonderful way to educate oneself about the family of man—and to truly appreciate our most generous blessings.
August Member Spotlight - Marguerite Harkness