An Idea Emerges
On a fall day in 1978, in the Ozaukee County community of Grafton, Wisconsin, at SEEK, Incorporated (then known as CEEK Office Services, Inc.) a discussion of the need for a business women’s group was taking place. At that time, women’s participation in organizations traditionally reserved for businessmen was not in vogue. The main question was: “How can women in our area establish a network similar to the ‘old boy’s network’ apparently so helpful in the operation of business?”
Susie Son, Lee TeSelle and Carol Ann Schneider, staff at CEEK Office Services, Inc. decided the time was ripe for testing the interest of other area business women. They contacted businesses known to have women in key positions and organized a task force to determine the format the embryo business women’s group should assume. A “Women’s Luncheon Group” emerged. In the beginning, it was sometimes referred to as Professional Women’s Luncheon Group and at other times, Ozaukee Professional Women’s Organization, then eventually FOCUS.
From its inception, FOCUS was organized for “women actively engaged at a management level” in a business or profession. FOCUS was to be the forum for “programs of educational value and interest, to promote friendship among its members; and to promote the interests of business and professional women.” (Articles II and IV of the original FOCUS Bylaws
First Formal Meeting
On Wednesday, February 21, 1979, the first formal meeting of the Professional Women’s Luncheon Group was held at Erons Restaurant in Mequon, known as Riversite on the corner of Mequon and Green Bay Roads. The meeting was a success. The officers and committee chairpersons were chosen.
|First Vice President||Lee TeSelle|
|CEEK Office Services, Inc.|
|Second Vice President||Mary Andryauskas|
|DSB Secretarial Services|
|Draper & Kramer|
|1st Wis. National Bank, Mequon|
|Luncheon Committee||Susie Son|
|SEEK Office Service, Inc.|
|Constitution & Bylaws||Estee Lewis|
These newly elected officers and chairpersons were tentatively named the Executive Committee then became the Board of Directors and were commissioned with the responsibility to have an additional meeting during the course of each month for the purpose of conducting the business of the organization.
On March 21, 1979, again the third Wednesday of the month, the second meeting was held with the first guest speaker, Hub Ranger from Consulting Associates, a management consulting firm speaking on the topic “Women in Business.” Monthly meetings continue in the same tradition as when FOCUS was founded and are held on the third Wednesday of each month
At its third meeting, the budding organization was seeking suggestions for a name for the group. By August of 1979, the name FOCUS was selected. The name was to indicate that FOCUS would “focus on…..” various aspects of a business women’s careers and managerial concerns, which was the purpose of the organization’s existence.
Charter Year — 37 Members
In 1979, the charter year of FOCUS, thirty-seven women became members. Annual dues were $25.00 and luncheon registration fees were $5.00 for FOCUS’s first year. However, by the following year, dues were increased to $35.00 and remained at that level until 1993 when they became $45.00, and currently $50.00. The cost of luncheons fluctuated with location over time and are $17.00 currently.
Constitution & Bylaws Ratified
The first drafts of Bylaws were written and rewritten and finally approved by the membership in the Fall of 1979. Two years later, in 1981, the Board of Directors gave a directive to the Bylaws Committee to split the document into two, Constitution and Bylaws. The Constitution contains the fundamentals of the organization and requires a three-fourths vote to change. The Bylaws, the operating rules and regulations, can more easily be changed by a two thirds vote. The new Constitution and revised Bylaws were ratified by the membership at the 1982 Annual Meeting. Updating continues as circumstances change.
Luncheon Meeting Format Continues
The luncheon meeting format has not changed over the years of existence of FOCUS. It has served the purposes of FOCUS well. Speakers have addressed a wide range of topics, all selected with the idea of fulfilling one of the three purposes of FOCUS: – to provide a source of growth and development in managerial skills – to promote friendship among its members – to promote the interests of women in businesses and in the professions.
From time to time strictly social meetings, sometimes restricted to members only, are held to enable more effective networking and camaraderie.
During the course of each membership year, the organizational functioning of FOCUS continues to be overseen by it Board of Directors. In order to reserve the regular monthly FOCUS meetings for speakers and networking, there is only one membership meeting devoted to the business of FOCUS, the Annual Meeting held in November of each year. At the Annual Meeting, elections are held and the Constitution and Bylaws may be amended.
Holiday Luncheon Tradition
Ever since the first year of its founding FOCUS has held a Holiday Luncheon in December. The first Holiday Luncheon was held at Port Royale Restaurant (old Nantucket) in Mequon on December 12, 1979, with Hank Stoddard of WTMJ-TV as the guest speaker. Initially, the Holiday Luncheon was complimentary for members and only guests were required to pay. Over the years, with increasing costs members as well as guests paid for the Holiday Luncheon. Traditionally, the Holiday Luncheon is the only FOCUS meeting that is open to male quests in order that male bosses, spouses, and male business associates may be given recognition or “thanked” in a special way.
Focus Policy Record Established
In 1989, Fisher Professional Business Services, owned and operated by FOCUS member Becky Fisher, was engaged to review all previous FOCUS Board Meeting Minutes and Annual Meeting Minutes and extract any policies established. The purpose was to comply with the Bylaws requirement that a FOCUS Policy Record be maintained. Each policy was reviewed for its merit in the light of what FOCUS had become, changed as needed, identified as a “procedure” or discarded. This FOCUS Policy Record is to be added to as new policies are set by the FOCUS Board of Directors. This enables newly elected officers and members of the Board of Directors to be aware of those policies in effect, on which they can build.
First Focus Honorary Member
At the Holiday Luncheon in December of 1990, Carol Ann Schneider one of the Founders of FOCUS and Chair of the Board of Directors and CEO of SEEK, Incorporated, was presented with the first FOCUS Honorary Membership in recognition of her support of FOCUS.
100th Member Attained in 1994
In 1994, FOCUS reached its full potential of 100 members. It was a year of many accomplishments. The FOCUS Bylaws were reviewed in depth and revised at the Annual Meeting. The first pictorial FOCUS Membership Directory was printed. A Career Video, highlighting FOCUS members and their careers or businesses was prepared for presentation at High School Career Days or to women in a career change.
In 1995 and in 1996, the membership level was maintained with a growing waiting list of potential members. 1996 revisions in the Bylaws required attendance at a minimum of five meetings and some type of organizational involvement in FOCUS for membership renewal. These requirements enabled some potential members on the waiting list to realize full membership in FOCUS by not allowing “name on the list only” members to renew their memberships. The membership cap of 100 facilitates networking and serves FOCUS well.
Purpose of Focus Reaffirmed
Over the years, there have been several attempts made to change the basic purpose for the existence of FOCUS. At times, some members felt that FOCUS should allow men as members. The files of FOCUS now holds a written legal opinion prepared by the Law Office of Susan Churchill that indicates FOCUS can legally continue to limit its membership to women. At other times, some members felt that FOCUS should allow non-managerial women into its folds. But, this again, defeats the reason why FOCUS was founded. Focus serves a special need for special women. As these needs change, so to, FOCUS can and should change.
Another milestone for FOCUS! In 1999, FOCUS celebrated twenty years of serving the networking needs of area business women and women in the professions as it celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the first FOCUS Luncheon Meeting held on February 21, 1979.