PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Margaret O'Neal Southeast Alaska Revolving Loan Fund

  Margaret O'Neal
What is your definition of success?

My definition of success has less to do with wealth and status than it does with enjoyment of my work and the people I work with, both clients and co-workers. Generally I have few clients at one time and the work is intense and focused, so I really get to know the people I'm helping. I am lucky that I have a great deal of freedom to define my own work, and I've had lots of opportunities to be creative in the way I approach problems and projects.

What special challenges or advantages have you faced because you're a woman?

The greatest challenge I faced when I was younger was being promoted over people I had previously reported to. The men seemed to have a much harder time with that. Also, not being part of the "old-boy network" has made it harder to connect with possible mentors outside of work - though this probably has more to do with being introverted, than being a woman. A real advantage women have, I think, is that people are more willing to reveal themselves and talk about what really worries and motivates them. For me, it's much more efficient to be straightforward than strategic.

How did you get started in this business?

I got started in economic development lending after working a long time in commercial special credits - workouts of bad business loans, particularly Chapter 11 reorganization plans. When I left banking, I consulted with lenders (training, project management, expert witness, etc.) and also with borrowers to restructure debts in and out of bankruptcy. When I moved back to Juneau in 1998, there didn't seem to be enough private enterprise to support the kind of consulting I had been doing and so I went to work for JEDC, which had a new loan program but no experienced lending personnel. The borrowers we work with are mostly start-ups and by definition they are weaker and more sensitive to the unknown. I like the flexibility of lending outside the box. The financing, portfolio management and management consulting is built on my past experience. I've been able to do a bit of consulting for the city and successful entrepreneurs as well while at JEDC.