Tricia Ascher is no stranger to adversity in her life. As a small business owner, she and her husband, Adam, face challenges while running their company, Ascher Janitorial Services.
But three years ago, Ascher suffered strokes and unexpected health problems that threatened her life. After her recovery in the ICU and working hard for a year to regain her functionality, Ascher believes she is lucky to be alive and is determined not to waste it.
This motivation is part of what drove Ascher to participate in the Green Bay Packers Mentor-Protégé Program, which pairs established and influential companies with emerging women-owned and minority-owned companies. The program fosters relationships between companies that face similar challenges in terms of strategies, sales and marketing.
The program paired Ascher Janitorial with Bay Towel, a local linen rental and commercial laundry service. Upon meeting for the first time, Bay Towel chief operating officer Dave Jerrett said he and Ascher clicked immediately.
"We hit it off right off the bat and had great dialogue because there are a lot of similarities in our businesses and industries. That was the key. Because it was a great match, we were well-positioned to do some great work," he said.
Jerrett said the similarities between Bay Towel and Ascher Janitorial allowed the mentorship to flourish during the year they worked together.
"Both of our companies live our values every day. It's an integral part of who we are and this made our relationship so successful because our values were really the same," Jerrett said.
At the beginning of the program, Jerrett and Ascher sat down together to identify what obstacles Ascher Janitorial faced and in which direction they wanted to take their business. By using what Jerrett has learned in his business and by asking fundamental questions about Ascher's strategies, Jerrett and Ascher were able to develop a plan to spark business growth and manage that growth moving forward.
"Dave helped us find the path to success. I knew where I wanted to be and I knew where I was, but I wasn't sure how to get from A to B." Ascher said.
Ascher said that it was a process to decide whether or not to commit to the rigorous program, which lays out specific guidelines for its participants. In the end, however, she says the Mentor-Protégé Program was instrumental in the growth of Ascher Janitorial.
"The amount of work that we have put into it is a direct reflection on what came out," she says. "Making that commitment to improvement doesn't happen overnight."
Because of Ascher's perseverance and leadership, as well as through her successful application of what she learned working with Jerrett in the program, she was recognized with the silver award for the Eclipse Triumph Award at the National Women Business Owners Corporation Conference this month.
Ascher said that while the Mentor-Protégé Program may be geared toward helping the protégés, the relationship serves the mentors as well and allows for growth in the small-business community.
Through his sessions with Ascher, Jerrett said that the fundamental business questions they discussed helped him get his company back to some of the basics as well.
"As I was giving them advice, I thought about if Bay Towel still follows that advice," he said. "It forced me to re-evaluate and re-assess some of the things that we were doing in our business."
Ascher said that working with the Mentor-Protégé Program allowed her company to grow so much that the phone in her office seems to be ringing constantly with new business.
"It really caused me to learn the importance of working together and helping each other and having good resources in the business community," she said. "I really understand and can see the benefits of having a mentor."
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By Katie Hermsen, for Packers.com