Women's Business Leadership Conference focuses on resilience
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 07, 2013
3/07/13 at 7:19 AM
Why do some people bounce back after bad things happen and others don't?
For Margo Provost, resilience is a key ingredient that defines many women who've overcome obstacles and become successful.
Provost is a living testament to conquering adversity. Abandoned at birth on the courthouse steps, adopted by 3 1/2 and beaten with a switch on her first night at home, raped as a girl, divorced as an adult and at one time on the brink of bankruptcy, Provost's life has been packed with hardship that would break many stalwart souls.
But resilience, coupled with a willingness to rely on an internal compass that has grown through experience, Provost is proof positive that dreams can be turned into reality.
Provost owns and operates the Log Haven Restaurant, located in a historic log mansion in Wasatch National Forest, just 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. Among its many accolades, the restaurant has been rated one of the nation's top 50 romantic places to dine out.
On Wednesday, Provost's presentation was one of several inspiring talks shared with nearly 350 women during the 22nd annual Women's Business Leadership Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown.
The conference - presented by the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University, the International Women's Forum Leadership Foundation and Oklahoma International Women's Forum - each year brings in nationally known and highly successful business women who inspire, motivate and encourage women to think big and strive for success.
Provost recounted how growing up she couldn't wait to turn 18 and legally leave home, where she was regularly beaten for minor transgressions.
And though she thought life would be wonderful once she moved out, it wasn't. Provost recalled living in a dank, dark basement apartment that reflected how she felt inside.
Provost said she was waiting for someone to rescue her, but then had to face the fact that no one was coming. She decided to take responsibility for who she was to become.
She couldn't change the past but knew she could do something about the future, so Provost focused on getting a degree, worked hard and eventually rose in the corporate world.
By age 40, Provost realized she wasn't content and that for much of her life she had been rewarded for achieving company missions. She left the corporate world to start a consulting firm. A few years later she allowed herself to believe that someone could love her.
She married and moved to Utah, where her husband had his eye on a decrepit, condemned, rat-infested log cabin built in the 1920s, converted to a restaurant in the 1950s and shut in the 1980s.
A pond on the grounds was filled with old cars, stoves and refrigerators, while the meadow across the street had weeds, condoms and drug needles.
Provost and her husband later divorced, and she found herself on the verge of bankruptcy as she dealt with financial matters related to the restaurant. Provost realized that she was more afraid of failing than being successful.
Once she stopped trying to survive and allowed herself to thrive, things changed.
"Resilience doesn't mean you won't have fear or pain or that life isn't hard, but it means we choose to move forward in spite of that pain," she said.
Provost believes in the power of mentors, although that was not something available to her while growing up.
For Connie Haynes, however, mentors are an agent for change and something she advocates for as the regional director of FIRST Robotics in Cumming, Ga.
On Wednesday, Haynes spoke about the difference that three separate mentors had on her life, which was filled with its own share of family trials and tribulations. She encouraged her audience to make a difference in the lives of others.
FIRST is a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, technology, engineering and math. The program, which culminates in an international robotics competition, relies on mentors, coaches and volunteers.
Haynes has served the organization for more than 12 years and was instrumental in bringing FIRST Lego League to Georgia and FIRST Robotics to Tennessee.
"Youth who have been mentored have better school attendance, increased chances of higher education, a more positive attitude toward school, improved grades, lower substance use and abuse, less violent behavior and a more positive attitude about the future," Haynes said.
The benefits of mentoring are innumerable. Haynes shared a personal account of a boy named Tom whom she met when he was in fourth grade. Tom was tall for his age and had long, stringy, blond hair that hid his face. He was withdrawn and particularly non-communicative with adults.
Tom came to her classroom for an informational meeting about the FIRST Lego team. Like the many other students who hoped to be one of 10 picked for the team, Tom had to write a one-page essay about his strengths and why he should be selected.
Tom slinked out of the room but the next day turned in a moving essay that, among other things, shared how his father had died just a few days earlier from Lou Gehrig's disease. Tom made the team, which went on to win out of 350 teams in Georgia, based in part on the PowerPoint presentation he prepared for the team.
Today, Tom is in high school and wants to go to college to become an engineer.
"He's become a leader who will accomplish great things in this life," Haynes said.
Some notes on business success
The thoughts were offered by Margo Provost, founder of Log Haven Restaurant near Salt Lake City.
1. Challenge your fears. Look at those heated moments that make you sick to your stomach. These are the fears that can guide you to the issues you need to face.
2. Ask for help. No one is an expert at everything. Don't try to go it alone because you feel stupid. Provost said she surrounds herself with people who question and argue with her.
3. Be tenacious, but also resilient. Believe you're skilled enough to swim through turbulent waters.
4. Dream bigger. Make your vision giant.
Original Print Headline: Speaker says resilience key to women's success
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Margo Provost, founder of Log Haven Restaurant in Utah, speaks at the Women's Business Leadership Conference in Tulsa on Wednesday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Connie Hayes, regional director of FIRST Robotics, speaks at the Women's Business Leadership Conference in Tulsa on Wednesday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World