Leader, Schenck Technology Solutions

In a field once dominated by men, Laurie McNicoll has risen through the ranks at Appleton, Wis.-based Schenck Business Solutions to become the firm's only female manager. McNicoll, who joined the technology group in 1997, became the leader of Schenck Technology Solutions, a consulting and reselling firm, in 2001.

During her tenure, McNicoll has made major changes to the department and is focusing her efforts for the upcoming year on marketing and lead generation. Here, in an interview with Accounting Technology's Carly Lombardo-Bohach, McNicoll talks about how she's achieved success.

What is your biggest business challenge?

LM: In 2001, there was a three-person race to gain the top position at Schenck Technology Solutions. I beat out two men vying for this position. I consider this not only my biggest business challenge, but also my biggest business accomplishment. I rose above the competition. I never rubbed it in, but my competition wasn't happy with me in the position.

What strengths have helped you in your position?

LM: The strengths that I believe helped me land the position include the ability to resolve client issues, timely response to all constituents, communication with all levels within the firm, being visible, and the ability to build trust and loyalty. I'm open and honest. My team members can ask my opinion when needed, and I don't sugar coat issues that may arise. I communicate on a daily basis with my managers, and they know that they can come to me for advice and reassurance.

How has gender played a role in your career?

LM: Even though the firm's ownership is overwhelmingly male, being a woman has not been a major issue. There will always be little "boys clubs," but being a woman has never been an obstacle or an issue.

How do you balance your work and your personal life?

LM: The "supermom" approach doesn't work. When my children were younger, the key was the support of my husband and organization. Last year, I worked 2,700 hours, and I have fun at work. However, at the end of the day, I don't get stressed out if everything isn't done. I have tomorrow to do it. I really have no strategy - just make sure you have lots of fun, and I have lots of friends.

How has the technology group changed since you took over in 2001?

LM: When I took over the department there were eight men and five women, including myself. There are now 10 women and six men. But I didn't set out to shift the balance. I don't really consider gender when hiring employees, only qualifications. In the last six months, I have hired two men.

In addition, I've dropped product lines and changed the team. In fact, many people weren't onboard and I had to explain to them what they needed to do to be successful, and what steps were right for the firm.

What are your plans for the group in the future?

LM: I'm focusing my efforts on marketing and lead generation. Before I took over, the department did not have a formal marketing plan. I met with each product line manager, the marketing director, coordinators and other resellers to find out their strategy. I created a marketing plan calendar, which covers the technology group and each product line, and started telemarketing.

One of the larger marketing pushes will be Best Software Events offered at the Green Bay Packers stadium. The events are for the first 30 registrants, and the department will discuss Best Software and provide an overview of MAS 90 and MAS 500. Invitations were mailed to all distribution and manufacturing clients of the accounting firm, as well as all Peachtree, BusinessWorks and MAS 90 clients. The events will be offered four times a year.

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