Forward Thinker

As the head of one of the fastest-growing, woman-led companies in the country, Beatriz “Betty” Manetta is a bit of a trailblazer. The president and CEO of Argent Associates, which offers clients innovative supply-chain management, IT solutions, and high-quality products, has evolved her start-up into a true competitor boasting $113 million in annual revenue, a prestigious clientele including several Fortune 500 companies, and offices in Texas, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Manetta has also served as a member of a number of influential organizations, including the President Bush’s Export Council, the Minority Business RoundTable, Women Presidents’ Organization, and the United States Hispanic Advocacy Association. Not bad for a girl who moved with her family from Argentina to Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the age of six with little money and even less English.

“I have to warn you, entrepreneurism is not for the weak of heart. It is for those with visions of what can be; the wisdom to understand the ramifications of decisions; and the determination to make those visions a reality,” says Beatriz “Betty” Manetta, president & CEO of Argents Associates.

“My parents came here for a better life, refused to accept food stamps, welfare, or unemployment and began working multiple jobs to send my sister, brother, and me to catholic schools. It’s my parents from whom I learned the value of a good education and a strong work ethic.

My career has always been primarily in telecommunications. I started at AT&T as a secretary and I later moved up to be named director of AT&T’s customer business unit. Throughout my career, I always did other jobs on the side that were a bit more entrepreneurial in spirit. For example, I ran a concession stand at one of the local theatres at night to supplement my income. Ultimately, I knew I always wanted to do my own thing, and in 1998, I got that chance and hence, Argent Associates was created.

I remember leaving AT&T (it was Lucent at that time) and went the very next day to get Argent Associates certified as a woman- and Hispanic-owned business. With my previous experience working within a supply-diversity group, I was confident that I knew enough about the industry and where the gaps were within the industry. And with my 20 years of experience, I knew I had something to offer.

I have always found Latinos to be very entrepreneurial and I’m very proud to be a part of this evolution. I enjoy making things happen. I love innovating and driving our employees to excel in everything they do. I think what is important to remember is that while we are not considered a “big” company, we always think like one. We have become the thought leaders in our industry and through our quality programs and processes; we excel at what we do, all the time. Our ISO and TL 9000 Certifications have given us credibility and have earned us the 2010 AT&T Supplier of the Year award.

I have to warn you, entrepreneurism is not for the weak of heart. It is for those with visions of what can be; the wisdom to understand the ramifications of decisions; and the determination to make those visions a reality. There are countless obstacles in life, but the largest is our own lack of will and drive to achieve our goals. On the road to self-accomplishment, the biggest obstacles are our fear of failure and, ironically, our fear of the next step after success. It is important to understand that failures and successes are nothing more than points in time; how we handle them, improve on them, and teach the people around us what we learned by them, is what defines who and what we are.

I think a lot of the challenges that I have faced throughout my time as a female business owner has been [related to] the competition. As a newly formed company, I was very naïve to see how hungry people were for business, and I soon found out that they would do whatever it take to get business. I constantly am trying to figure out how to continue to drive business when there are people out there trying to knock you down. I think at the end of the day people can see through that. We don’t burn bridges. We don’t do things unethically—there is enough business to go around.

I’m not saying there aren’t external factors that will stand in our way. The “Good Old Boys Club” still exists, there are many who compromise values for money, and there are those who find it easier to steal ideas than come up with their own … but it’s the integrity you bring to your business that will drive you to success. We are always thinking forward. I think you need to be in an industry that you know enough about so you know what is just ahead. Right now everything is about mobility: How can we be smaller, faster, better, and still offer the quality behind everything we do? It’s an exciting time to do business.”