Women in Business: Marisa Lenci, Franchise owner, PostNet, Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Marisa Lenci opened her PostNet Neighborhood Business Center franchise in August 2014.
PostNet provides design, print, direct mail, website layout and shipping services all under one roof, catering to small-business owners, employees who work from home, and busy consumers in the area. As the franchise owner, Lenci and the PostNet staff take a consultative approach to marketing, working closely with each client to identify their objectives, build upon their ideas, and develop the best solutions to meet their needs.

Before joining the PostNet family, Lenci acquired skills and experience related to many of PostNet's core service areas, including shipping, publishing and printing, which prepared her well to own a PostNet franchise.

After 13 years with Motorola, Lenci began looking into franchising opportunities as a means to change careers and work more closely with small businesses, ultimately deciding to open a PostNet franchise because the business-to-business culture matched her interests and there would be a large pool of potential clients in the vibrant small business community in Lehigh Valley.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
During my childhood and early adulthood I was an athlete. It was slightly unusual back in the mid-70s for a girl to want to play basketball and softball but that's what I did - with my mom's blessing after much convincing that "girls can and do play baseball!" I loved playing sports and excelled at it for many years. During my undergraduate years, I attended an all-women's college, which afforded me opportunities to hone leadership skills in areas such as student government where I served as class president for two years. Then, for a long stretch of time during my late 20s into my early 40s, I experienced ongoing self-awareness, a thirst for self-improvement, and the recognition that action and application are key ingredients for lasting change. I read a lot of books, got a master's degree, and a coaching certification. During these years my career attention was on being better, faster, climbing the ladder, earning promotions and getting ahead. Then, a dramatic shift happened during my mid-to-late 40s when I experienced a whole other growth path. This process has awakened, if you will, the gentler, loving, and more compassionate side of me. I'm much less competitive and my focus is more on creating an environment of patience, kindness, love and compassion. I know that if I focus on these ideas, everything else will fall into place. Really, I could go on and on about this subject and the shift I've experienced.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at PostNet?
PostNet is a really interesting culmination of all my previous work experience in one operation. Very early in my career I was an Account Manager for Emery Worldwide (air freight shipping company), I did a short stint with UPS as a delivery driver and then made my way (in the early/mid 90s) into desktop publishing and digital pre-press. From there I worked at an Internet company. Most recently I was a Director at Motorola in the service and support organization, providing me with 13 years of solid operations experience devising and executing strategy, developing people and performance, organizing processes and systems, and in general, honing my skills at running an operation.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PostNet?
What I would have called challenges when I was first opening my center actually turned into highlights because I became a stronger business owner as I learned to solve my problems. Many of the early challenges arose from unexpected situations, such as it taking longer than I anticipated to secure my lease, having to wrestle with equipment issues, and the local parking authority removing two convenient parking spaces in front of my center, which would have been perfect for customers.

In spite of all of that, the challenges, to me, are always blessings in one way or another. Having the awareness that the challenges are actually the highlights has been the true beauty of the process. Navigating my way through the challenges, I've met some amazing professionals, I've learned more about my equipment and its functionality than I otherwise would have, and I've developed an even stronger ability to "go with the flow" and to be open to all the possibilities and outcomes as we learn and grow.

What advice can you offer to women who want to be a franchisee?
Make sure you're a good fit with the franchise. Pay attention to your values and core beliefs and be sure they're somewhat aligned with the franchise. One of the biggest reasons I selected PostNet was their small business culture. Other franchises I looked at were either publicly held or part of a conglomerate headquartered in Europe. Having come from a company as large as Motorola, corporate culture was very, very important to me. I didn't want to invest in a business opportunity where I would be stifled in bureaucracy and red tape trying to get things done. Know what's important to you and find a good fit.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
My career success in very large part is attributed to being surrounded by people smarter than me and who bring a variety of skills and experiences to situations and allowing them to contribute in their own way. I check my ego at the door and remain open and grateful for others' ideas, knowledge and contributions.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a significant area of focus for me. I know I could work 24 hours a day and still not get everything done or still not be ahead of the game.

When I opened my PostNet center, I vowed to not let my role as a business owner be all-consuming and so far it's working fairly well. I think just making that conscious decision is a huge factor in whether you will maintain a work/life balance.

Admittedly, though, I miss having a vast staff to help me get things done so I'm not tempted to work on my business incessantly.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I can't speak for other women, but in my own experience, I found it very challenging initially to integrate into a very male-dominated engineering environment at Motorola. I found the best formula for me was to be knowledgeable about my area of responsibility, be flexible regarding the solutions we offered, and be a strong collaborator and willing to entertain a variety of ideas. Being comfortable in my skin and projecting a calm confidence worked well for me in the corporate arena.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Early on, I experienced mentorship during my undergraduate days at Cedar Crest College. Between the teaching staff, classmates, and upper-class women, I received a lot of guidance and encouragement to grow in new areas. It was during this time that I let up on athletics and experienced student government and embraced other opportunities that enabled me to develop leadership skills and self-confidence. Beyond that, collaboration with a variety of colleagues over the years certainly helped guide and shape my experiences and perspectives.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire all women who have risen up to the challenges and issues of their day, made a stand, took a risk, and made the world a better place. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, for example, recognized writing as a means for women to express their nature in a time when women had little to no rights. I'm also inspired by women like Helen Keller who overcame significant physical barriers to rally and campaign for so many of the rights we enjoy today. And who doesn't love and admire the most loving and gentlest female leader of all time, Mother Theresa?! I appreciate her message and practice of love and compassion for our fellow humans. In a world driven by ego, she serves as a much-needed reminder that leading from the heart is where it's at!

What do you want PostNet to accomplish in the next year?
I really want PostNet to be a recognized and well-liked contributor to the success of the downtown and surrounding business communities. My biggest challenge during this start-up phase is balancing being in my center and running the operation (counter transactions, estimating, production, and all the operational components) and being out and about introducing myself and the PostNet brand to the community. I hope by next year at this time, every business in the downtown area has had an opportunity to engage with us on some level for their business and marketing needs.