If there is one word that people might us to describe Marie O’Brien, its “tenacious.”
The president and chief executive officer of Enterforce Inc. would not disagree. She wears that badge with pride after building a successful career and business on a passion driven early by being told “no.”
Her “ah-ha moment” came the day she went to a supervisor seeking guidance on what courses she should take in college for a career in sales development. He said, “I would never promote a woman out into the field,” she recalled. “I said, I’ll show you.”
“I was trying to get my foot in the door and stay here. I had to learn from the school of hard knocks a number of times,” said O’Brien, 52.
Her tenacity followed her for the next three decades of learning, growing and eventually opening her own business, Enterforce Inc. in 2001. Today, the company employs more than 300 people in 21 states. Revenue exceeds $75 million.
Enterforce assists companies through the acquisition and management of contract talent and full-time employees. O’Brien said her business model, the “Enterforce Advantage,” has saved millions of dollars for clients through a more efficient and streamlined process.
Randall Harlan recognized the value of O’Brien’s business model when he left his job as a corporate account executive with Manpower to join her at Enterforce seven years ago, he said.
Now vice president of communications and integrated services at Enterforce, Harlan calls O’Brien a “pioneer” and “innovator” in the industry.
“While being forward-thinking about customizing workforce management and acquisition solutions to address clients’ ever-changing needs, the huge differentiator about Marie is she’s committed to helping women become successful in their own businesses,” he said.
Filippa Weber, retired director of labor management relations at Harley-Davidson Inc., worked with O’Brien for several years before later becoming her business partner and mentor at Enterforce.
“We don’t just do what the customer wants,” Weber said. “We work through the issue at hand and give them the best advice. People sometimes say what they think you want them to say. Marie isn’t like that. She will work for a resolution. That makes her very, very good at her job.”
Maria Monreal-Cameron, retired chief executive officer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, said she has seen the same leadership, innovation and commitment that made O’Brien a successful entrepreneur carry over into her volunteer work. O’Brien serves on boards at Mount Mary University, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, and Catholic Memorial High School and regularly assists with fund-raisers for numerous organizations.
“She’s actively pursued as a volunteer based on her ‘count on me’ and positive attitude,” Monreal-Cameron said. She follows not only her professional responsibilities, but her volunteer activities with such vigor, resolve, effectiveness. All of it drives her compelling desire to make a difference.”