On a bright, cold November afternoon, I had the great pleasure to chat with new Burlington Chapter Coordinator Charlene Wallace, and learn more about her business, Operations Plus. As one of the newer members of WBON and also a relatively new solopreneur myself, this was my first time learning about and meeting Charlene. So much of her story and challenges resonate with me and her accomplishments are truly inspiring! I was particularly moved by how humble she is and how the arc of our conversation was grounded in the lessons she learned and how they can help others.
A History of Business Experience
Charlene has been a pioneering problem solver from the beginning. She was a creative force contributing to the launch and establishment of a number of successful business and nonprofit ventures, like Seventh Generation and Local Motion. Like most of us, she has learned valuable lessons from her successes as well as her “less-than-successes.” One piece of advice she would like to offer new and aspiring entrepreneurs is to learn from established businesses who are succeeding in a venture like the one you are pursuing and seek a mentor, there’s no need to start from scratch! She learned this lesson the hard way, but luckily learned it early in her career, with her first business venture, a clothing manufacturing business she started in her early twenties.
Learn from your successes, and your less-than-successes.
– Charlene Wallace, Operations Plus
One thread that weaved through Charlene’s work experience was her ability to handle most anything in the operations and
administrative arena. She had the ability to see where there were gaps in functionality or areas for improvement and the skills to adapt and create systems for addressing those issues. She had an eye for predicting needs and had the relationship skills to get management to see her perspective. This meant that sometimes Charlene was hired for one project and that manifested into something even more valuable for her employer.
Charlene wanted more flexibility and greater balance in her life, so she launched her most recent venture, Operations Plus, an independent project management business. Broadly, Operations Plus can be contracted to manage your company or organization’s project from planning, to communication, logistics, and financial management. That description does not capture the full breadth of Operations Plus and word of mouth referrals have been especially effective for Charlene.
While she tends to work with established businesses of 10 to 30 employees that are positioned for growth, she also enjoys her work with small startups and solopreneurs, helping them to avoid pitfalls and prepare for success.
When you have as many talents as Charlene, and the ability to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of your employer or client, as she can, it can be difficult to explain all that you can do in a succinct way. (I have had a similar struggle.) This is an area where Charlene confesses she is still growing, especially on her website where she works to communicate her business and what it can do for you. How does one explain that they can answer the operational question that you as the client haven’t even begun to conceive?
A critical thinker and life-long learner, Charlene advanced because she was committed to networking and learning from local thought leaders and investing time and effort into her own continuing education.
Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships and the casual coffee date. Charlene reads, attends webinars and conferences, and is currently exploring the power and efficacy of appreciative inquiry at the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. The theory posits that all experience is an opportunity for learning and growth, especially those experiences that might show up in your life as an obstacle. A mentor who has influenced and inspired Charlene immensely is Gwen Pokalo, Director of the Center for Women & Enterprise and an outgoing WBON board member!
An organization like WBON is a great place for Charlene to network and also give back. She is excited to coordinate the Burlington chapter meetings and arrange for diverse speakers and resources to help women owned businesses thrive. It’s special for Charlene to be in the space of supporting women in business, there is a sense of comfort and community. Now, 35 years into her career, she enjoys mentoring others.
It seems her work has truly come full circle but it’s a loop that keeps repeating. Charlene is still growing, and she is bringing WBON and small businesses with her. I am thrilled to be a member of her chapter and grateful for the conversation, tea, lessons, and laughter that I got to share with her over Zoom one fall afternoon.
WBON members represent a diversity of industries, perspectives, and experiences. Be inspired by our Member Spotlight posts, an intimate look at one member, written by another WBON member. This month’s Member Spotlight was written by WBON member Christine Badalamenti Smith, Owner of Yoga Oggi.