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November 27, 2017
On the record

Women Presidents' Organization focuses on 'opportunities' and 'success'

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Juliet Browne, a partner at Verrill Dana LLP, chairs the Women Presidents' Organization's Maine chapter, which welcomes members who are “committed to participating” and meet the revenue threshold.

The Women Presidents' Organization is an international nonprofit membership organization for successful women entrepreneurs. Verrill Dana LLP partner Juliet Browne, who chairs the law firm's environmental group and co-chairs its energy group, chairs the WPO's Maine chapter.

Once a month in Portland, Browne facilitates WPO peer learning sessions in a roundtable format. The Maine Chapter consists of 11 members from a variety of sectors. Browne says the organization is open to new members, from Maine as well as New Hampshire, "as long as they're committed to participating" and meet the annual revenue threshold.

Mainebiz: You've previously said you weren't one to join women's groups. What about this group spoke to you?

Juliet Browne: It was the notion of an organization that was focused on growing and success and bringing people together to share experiences and collaborate. Not focusing on obstacles and challenges, but on opportunities and success. Really it was just the people. Every conversation I had I left me thinking, 'Wow, these are people I'd like to spend more time with.'

MB: What is your role as the Maine chapter chair?

JB: I facilitate our monthly meetings, which means I try to make sure they're getting meaningful content out of each meeting I also do recruitment and outreach to try to get new members to join.

MB: Who are the members of the group?

JB: The members are great. They're successful women business owners in Maine, mostly the greater Portland area, with businesses that range from communications to specialty seafood to home decor, so it's a diverse group. We don't have members from competing businesses, because we share a lot of confidential information in each meeting. We meet once a month for four hours.

MB: That's intense.

JB: It is, but people make the effort to get there, so you want to be efficient, and instead of having multiple shorter meetings, we really found that the one four-hour meeting a month works. The hallmark of our meetings is confidentiality, so I can't talk about specific topics that come up, but the format is generally as a business roundtable, so members share issues, challenges, experiences, opportunities in a facilitated manner.

MB: Would these women otherwise not have peers to talk to about these issues?

JB: Yes, it's lonely at the top. A lot of times, a successful woman business owner doesn't really have a peer that she can talk to about issues in the business. She may be able to talk to staff and employees, so this is an opportunity to talk to other similarly situated women about the types of issues, challenges, opportunities that she might face in her business.

MB: Generally speaking, what do they talk about?

JB: In general the chapters tackle issues like human resources and personnel as well as access to capital, growth and how to scale your business. Obviously in Maine, one of the challenges we have is the lack of employees, which is particularly challenging in the service industry.

MB: Are there also national gatherings?

JB: There's an annual conference in a different place every year. What is really just incredibly powerful about the conference is you have 850 successful women entrepreneurs in one place. I leave each one inspired to grow my own business and take to heart some of the information from the other women there.

MB: Are you a business owner yourself?

JB: I'm an equity partner here at Verrill Dana, so I am a business owner.

MB: What are some of the lessons you've learned from your experience with the WPO that you apply to your own practice?

JB: Lawyers are very task-driven and focused on providing client services, which is a good thing, but then we also need to think about running and growing the business. My involvement with WPO has come at a time in my own practice where it's a nice transition to focus more on the growth of the business and mentoring of other lawyers, so it's been a nice segue.

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