Wendy Terry, partner, CPA and CGMA at Withum, shares what makes Withum different from traditional advisory and accounting firms, what makes Orlando a great place to do business, and her advice for other women in business.
The Orlando Regional Chamber, a core component of the Orlando Economic Partnership, recognized a need in the community to unify resources into a strategically coordinated campaign to propel women forward. All Women Empowered (AWE) is comprised of private, public, and nonprofit partners working to unify our community resources into a strategically coordinated campaign to propel women forward. AWE seeks to amplify stories of women’s initiatives, programs, women in business and women entrepreneurs in the region with a goal of providing resources and programs that equip women with the tools to build the future they envision.
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In this edition of AWEsome Women in Orlando, we profile Wendy Terry, partner, CPA and CGMA at Withum, who shares what makes Withum different from traditional advisory and accounting firms, what makes Orlando a great place to do business, and her advice for other women in business.
Please introduce yourself!
As a CPA, it’s not uncommon for others to assume we are “numbers” people who only work on taxes, but we do so much more. We spend most of our time putting our clients in a position of strength by bringing value-added ideas to help them grow their bottom line. Yes, we do taxes and audits, or “compliance” work, but mostly I find myself going beyond the traditional accounting services by advising clients on topics like selling and acquiring businesses or upgrading their IT and ERP systems. This year, we helped many clients navigate the PPP loans and Employee Retention Credit processes that stemmed from the pandemic. We are the first line of defense to help clients with complex business challenges and opportunities.
What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?
I initially came to Orlando when my previous company acquired a small Orlando firm in 2007. I love the balance of being in an urban city but also having access to expansive natural areas and abundant space that allow me to have my horses right in my backyard. Working for a national public accounting firm requires me to be in a city that can accommodate larger businesses, which Orlando offers. I also like that my regular commute to work is usually less than 30 minutes.
Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?
Before I officially moved to Orlando, I commuted to work from South Florida. I stopped at an Orlando-area gas station on one trip and met the friendliest, most helpful employees. I walked away thinking about how nice of a conversation I had. We all know that Orlando is the hospitality capital of the world, but it was eye-opening for me to experience just how friendly and welcoming the Orlando community really is.
What makes Orlando the right place for your business?
Withum serves clients of all sizes and we are committed to being their trusted advisors helping them make decisions for their business as if it was our own. Orlando’s diverse business community makes it the perfect place for companies in a large range of industries of all different sizes to call home, from small businesses we can help grow to large corporations we can advise.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your business?
We are not your average number-crunching accountants! We provide value-added advisory services to help clients find solutions that are not just number-centric. We are your partner in business, instead of just a one-time tax preparer. For example, we found a solution that helped streamline a complex accounts payable system for a client. By digitizing the process, we eliminated inefficiencies, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you had to describe to an out-of-town friend what it’s like to live, work, learn and play in Orlando, what would you say?
There is an immense variety of things to do each day. Besides our theme parks, Orlando is a one-stop-shop for everything. We are a thriving and growing business hub with recreational opportunities, professional sports teams and a vibrant arts community. You have nearly everything within a span of 30 minutes. You can go from enjoying world class theme parks to experiencing breathtaking natural springs and wildlife. The convenience of having an international airport within the city limits is also a major plus.
Who or what has influenced you in your career the most? Who would you credit for having helped you get to where you are today?
Early on in my career, I had two mentors who were instrumental in exposing me to client meetings and teaching me how business works. I participated in partner leadership development programs and noticed that the partner level lacked diversity, which led me to strive to become a mentor to others. The accounting industry historically has been male-dominated, but it is encouraging to see diversity and inclusion become a priority. In a firm with over 1,300 team members, Withum is proud that 46 percent of our talent is female. Specifically in our Orlando office, we have a total of 19 partners and principals with 40 percent of those being female.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as being very direct, honest and inclusive. You will always find my office door open for anyone who needs to talk. Mentorship is a priority in my professional life but also a personal passion. As females in business, it is important we lead and develop younger women to enable them to grow and succeed.
What makes the Orlando ecosystem unique for women in business?
The diversity in the community, schools and workplace is a unique characteristic that is difficult to find anywhere else. Orlando is a multicultural melting pot that has always been a welcoming and accepting community.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting your career?
Find something that you enjoy doing – it will lead you to thrive in your career. The importance of finding a mentor and making sure that you have the right advocates and sponsors for your career cannot be stressed enough.
What is the most rewarding part of being a businesswoman in Orlando? What is the greatest challenge? What is necessary to overcome that challenge?
The most rewarding part of being an Orlando businesswoman is regularly seeing other women in a range of leadership positions in the business community from being self-employed, small business owners, civic or community leaders, or leading corporate businesses. The greatest challenge is making sure that your voice is heard. Be assertive and fight to be heard as a woman in the boardroom. And again, make sure that you have allies who will speak up for you when you’re not in the room.
Finally, what tips would you give other women in business.
- Be open to change.
- Listen to diverse and alternative opinions. Don’t be afraid to openly ask for advice and get advice from others that may not seem willing.
- At times, it may be hard to balance your personal and professional life. You don’t have to do everything yourself – ask for or get help if needed.