For DeLene Martin Bane of Martin Equipment it's not difficult to grasp the meaning—and importance—of the word responsibility. As the fourth-generation dealership's first female president and owner, the word is pretty much baked into who she is.
Martin Equipment is a John Deere dealership specializing in the sales and service of heavy construction and forestry equipment, making Martin Bane a rarity and a pioneer.
"When you're in this role and in a male-dominated industry there's just a sense of pride for being recognized as being a female leader," she said.
In November that recognition spread beyond the Martin Equipment family and its nine locations in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. The dealership and Martin Bane earned certification as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Great Lakes Women's Business Council (GLWBC), a regional certifying partner of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The recognition is an involved process that stretches beyond gender.
Getting the certification brought a sense of accomplishment," she said. "It took us almost two years to go through it all. It's great for the business in two pieces. For those companies committed to supplier diversity I'm hoping it enables us to serve them better, and that means a lot to me. And on the flip side, I am really hoping it helps us continue to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.
Martin Bane said having WBENC as a resource is another bonus as it not only helps connect her with potential customers but puts her in contact with other women-owned certified businesses.
Strong female leadership is a goal for the entire company, Martin Bane said, not just herself. The dealership is involved in the "CEO Program" where high school students are brought in to show them the career options available. Martin Bane said she has a personal focus of bringing in more women to non-traditional dealership roles.
"I'd like to see the company do more within the community and get some visibility so that people can see all the different types of career opportunities we have within our company," she added.
With a daughter at home, Martin Bane also is aware of the message her recognition provides on a personal level.
"I think of all the opportunities my daughter has, and I don't want any barriers for her. I want her to feel like she can do whatever she wants to do. But," Martin Bane stressed, "this should be for any female who gets into business or the industry."
For Martin Equipment to be successful for nearly 100 years means a lot has gone right for a long time, and Martin Bane is the first to recognize that. But every president has a different personality that defines their leadership.
"I think I bring a little bit more of a personal touch," she said. "My style is to be close to the people side of the business. And to focus on the relational side of how our people are working together to obtain results. One of the biggest goals I have is for our group to rally together and support each other, whether it's internally or with Deere—with the common goal of taking care of the customer."
About the certification
WBENC is the nation's leader in women's business development and the leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with more than 13,000 certified Women's Business Enterprises, 14 national Regional Partner Organizations, and more than 300 Corporate Members.
WBENC's certification process is designed to confirm the business is at minimum 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by a woman or women.