As part of The Startup Magazine’s Female Founder Interview series, we interviewed Martha Razo, author of the book, Business Diva: Stories of Women Leading in Business. Ms. Razo, CEO of Guero Pallets, Inc. and owner of Solix Business Services, both Chicago businesses, created this book to share the stories of women taking their futures and lives into their own hands.
As an experienced business analyst and CEO, Martha is also very passionate about numbers and what they can tell a business owner – especially if he or she is trying to grow or keep the doors open. She does this through her consulting firm called Solix.
We interviewed Martha to get more insight into her varied business and consulting expertise, her latest book, and more depth into her her own exciting entrepreneurial journey…
TSM: Can you tell us, in 10 words or less, what is the central message of your book, Business Diva: Stories of Women Leading in Business?
Martha: To inspire all women to live their purpose and achieve their dreams.
TSM: With a bit more detail, what are the main takeaways from the book?
Martha: The main takeaways are, first and foremost, to share personal stories to inspire women to achieve success. Secondly, I want other entrepreneurs and women to learn from the authors’ successes and failures in their business journeys. Also, to provide tips and advice to budding women in business. Lastly, to inspire women to live their purpose.
TSM: Can you cite a particular success story that exemplifies the Business Diva purpose and success, one that inspires you?
Martha: I would like to share this quote from “Business Diva” author Laura Alcantar Leon, CEO of S & L Pallets, LLC:
“Do not feel discouraged if you do not have a degree. Life happens, and sometimes, even if you wanted it, it doesn’t happen. That does not mean you are a loser or that you are destined to fail. It only means you will have to work twice as hard to make it happen. I started my business without a degree, experience, or knowledge of the industry, without loans from banks, family, or friends. The one thing I did have was an abundance of dedication and hard work. Being my own boss is a lot of stress and hard work, but also it is the best decision I could have made.”
TSM: As a numbers person, what do you think is the importance of utilizing business numbers when leading an organization?
Martha: Business owners measure their growth by their numbers; revenues, profits, number of employees, the number of locations they own, etc. Business owners have a goal for their company. Achieving the goal requires understanding business numbers, and it is essential for them to know these important figures. Numbers and data allow business owners to understand where their company is currently, where it can continue, and to develop a strategic plan to achieve business goals.
Furthermore, data and numbers give business owners insight into solving problems and posting the right questions to develop strategies to be competitive, expand, and forecasts to prevent even losses and possible errors. Every business owner, even if they have someone assigned, should review their profit and loss and balance sheet on a monthly basis. The metrics in these reports should be monitored periodically. I have even used them to prevent theft.
TSM: Going back to your early career decisions, tell us what factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur yourself?
Martha: When I was a sophomore in high school, I started a scholarship called Students for Students Scholarship for undocumented students. Since I was 14, I had a vision, and I took that vision and took the first step and just started to work on making it happen. It happened that I shared my vision with others who then joined and believed in it. Then, the magic happened when I was able to build a team.
The same formula seemed to naturally occur when I collaborated with 22 women entrepreneurs in creating my book called “Business Diva.” For example, in the male-dominated pallet industry, I am seen as an industry leader. Many of my pallet colleagues ask me for advice. I am always happy to help others grow with any small tip I might have. The key really is if they follow the advice I give them.
Entrepreneurship has been a challenging path. In my experience, any great thing does not come easy. Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to own and control my own schedule. If I choose to work from home, I can work there at my leisure and comfort. I can also meet clients anytime and be more flexible than the 9a.m.-5 p.m. schedule. As a mom, I can spend more time with my son and travel. I have always been disciplined and self-motivated, so I never had an issue with not having a specific structure. When I have a work project with a deadline, it gets done in a professional manner.
TSM: Using your own career journey from mathematician to business leader, why are we seeing more career moves from technical positions to Management positions?
Martha: In the next five years or even less, the success rate of a business will be determined by how well owners use their business data for decision making.
I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Industrial engineering. I chose to focus my research and studies in process and data mining. I have learned to develop my own algorithms, program, analyze big data and processes.
I want to be able to take all forms of data, and quickly analyze the data and be able to make conclusions to determine the next move I will make in my business strategy. For instance, how many employees should I hire this year? How many salespeople do I need? What prices will I sell my wood pallets in the next six months. Can I get a one-year contract? Should I buy an extra lot of property, or should I build on my existing pallet plant? All these decisions, I use the data to guide my answers.
TSM: And what characteristics do you have that particularly contributed to your ability to excel from your humble beginnings to find success as leader of several businesses and now an author?
Martha: I have three main characteristics. The first one is my persistence. If it wasn’t for persistence, then I would not have not finished my master’s in applied mathematics. I set a goal, and I will not stop until I reach that goal, no matter how difficult. For instance, my new mission is finishing my doctorate in industrial engineering.
Second, is my continuation in learning about mathematics and data analytics. The education I have obtained has not come easy, but it is in high demand and valuable. I have been able to make quick decisions backed by data during difficult times, such as the pandemic. Choices such as keeping or selling inventory can be the turning page for a business. I have the blessing to make those decisions fast due to the power of my analytics skills in big data.
Lastly, my team at Guero’s Pallets is the best. We are a family that believe in the same mission; you work hard and do not take any opportunity for granted. No matter how big or small, our clients love working with us, and they all get the same high quality service. My family and I consider every day a blessing that we wake up and are able to work. Also, we are all experts in our respective areas. Every family member is in the right seat of the company. Knowing this situation means the company is driving in the right direction, even during a storm.
TSM: As you work on growing and scaling up your businesses, what are your primary challenges? Hiring others? Quality control? Capital?
Martha: As we continue to grow, the primary challenge is finding the right leaders we can trust. It has been difficult finding people with the same work ethic and principles. We will find the right people, but the search will take time.
TSM: What are the most important things you tell women to help them on their journey as leaders and successful entrepreneurs?
Martha: My word in “Business Diva” is limitless. I want women to know that we are limitless in what we can do in life, and there is a galaxy of possibilities. If you have an idea, a dream or business you want to start, take the first step NOW! Get up and do it. Everything else will follow.
TSM: What is one interesting fact about you that people may not know?
Martha: I love acting and dancing. I wrote my own one-hour play called “My Dream Act.” I am looking to publish it in 2023.