‘Women’s Business Champion’ touts importance of mentors, character 

One of the keys to building a successful business is carefully vetting the people you’re doing business with, says Willie Johnson, founder of WCJ Consultants

“There are a lot of sharks out there,” she says. “You have to really know who you’re dealing with.” 

Louisiana Economic Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration last week named WCJ Consultants their annual Women’s Business Champion. 

Johnson launched the firm in 2008 as a one-woman operation out of her home. WCJ now employs 17 people and is headquartered in downtown Baton Rouge with a satellite office in Washington, D.C. 

Workforce training was the company’s early foundation, explains partner Kimberly Bardell. The firm has expanded into operations support and administrative services; their biggest current contract is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center, she says.

Asked about advice for women who are just starting their business careers, Johnson points to the importance of networking and mentoring. 

“Surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing, are successful at what they’re doing, and are willing to work with you when you need it,” she says. 

Like most companies, WCJ had to make adjustments during the pandemic. The firm used a remote clock-in system and devised metrics so they could show clients that employees were being productive. Johnson and Bardell say it was also important to simply check in on their people to see how they were doing. 

The flexibility companies adapted out of necessity during the pandemic continues to be important, Johnson says. The 8 a.m.-5 p.m. model doesn’t work for everyone, for example. 

Perhaps the most important key to success in business is resiliency, they say.

“It is hard, but it can be done,” Johnson says.