The value of certification: WBENC success story

Merry Korn, MSW, is president & CEO of Pearl Interactive Network (Pearl), a virtual home-based business process outsourcing firm and social enterprise which brings B-to-B outsourcing solutions to federal agencies and insurance companies. The company’s success is credited to Korn’s practices of knowing the “why” (vision/points of distinction), the “how” (mission), and the “who” (support network).Merry Korn, CEO of Pearl Interactive Network

Korn, an experienced businesswoman with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, honed her business management skills as senior vice president of marketing for American Health Holding, Inc., a national medical management firm based in Worthington, Ohio. During her tenure with American Health, Korn developed and marketed managed care outsourcing solutions to large corporate clients. Along with her passion for business, she always dreamed of creating a successful, “big business” of her own while simultaneously serving a greater purpose.

Despite adverse opinions of her vision, Korn launched Pearl Interactive Network in 2005 as a social enterprise with a two-fold mission: Create employment opportunities for highly-skilled disabled veterans, veterans, military spouses, and people with disabilities; and deliver outstanding service to Pearl’s clients. Pearl’s staff is 100% disabled, 60% of which are disabled veterans. Ninety-nine percent of the staff is home-based and proficient in call center, back office, administrative support, customer service, and recruiting functions that service business and government sectors. Competent people around the country work virtually, using Voice-Over IP integration, which enables them to be fully functional and productive. In return, a motivated and dedicated workforce remains extremely grateful for the opportunities that the company provides.

Early on, Korn’s efforts to grow her business were campaign-driven as she sought out employment opportunities for a labor pool that was challenging to place. Pat Gibson, president and CEO of PMG Communications, who is a friend and cohort, shared the many values of WBENC with Korn, and urged her to pursue certification. Realizing the vulnerability of commercial contracts, Korn was captivated by potential opportunities that WBENC certification could initiate — including federal contract business. Pearl became WBENC-certified in 2007.

Korn’s insight and perseverance have blossomed into the company’s most recent success of being tasked to provide a staff of approximately 300 employees for a new customer contact center supporting the federal government, which is located in Winchester, Kentucky. Pearl will also recruit employees to staff additional call centers located across the country.

Korn promotes the value of establishing relationships with all groups within her network, and feels that her affiliation with WBENC helped her to achieve her recent success. In addition to her support networks, Korn is a 2012 graduate of the TUCK-WBENC Executive Program. Her TUCK experience was instrumental in securing this contract award.

“The Tuck Program was an unbelievable four days,” Korn recalled. “Much of our new business reflected the takeaways on how to do business better — dealing with financing, not only from a salesmanship perspective, but also how to sell an underwriter on your platform and value. I also learned how to handle federal finance, which is specialized and so relevant to my recent achievement,” she added. “I also gained an understanding of how to develop self-insight. By looking at the good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, you see who you are which impacts your ability to be a great leader.”

Korn shares insights of her own on best practices to achieve business success: “Setting sites on large contracts alone limits opportunities to grow. The pot of gold is not waiting for you on the other side of the rainbow. There is a process and corresponding time to get to where you want to be which is often long, laborious, and has a cost. Although large federal contracts can be huge, margins are often low. Remain optimistic and value relationships with whomever you interface.”

“In business always lead with your WHY answering: ‘Why should someone choose YOUR company?’ Reveal your passion and choose significance.”