Achieving Success & Building Relationships
through planning, hard work and Karma
Rita was born in New Delhi in the north of India. She came to this country in 1979 to continue her higher education. She had already received a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in India and wanted to go beyond that. Her Masters Degree was in English Literature.
Leaving India was at first very exciting. Eventually the reality of what she was doing hit her. "You leave away from your culture, your parents. It was very hard. There are moments when you feel you cannot go back and you are here forever."
In 1979, she married Nipendra (Nip) Singh, a man she describes as a "simply wonderful person", whom she met in this country. Within a year, they started having children and eventually had two daughters, Kavita and Anjulika. Kavita is 2 years older than Anjulika.
Nip Singh, Kavita, Anjulika and Rita Singh
Rita stayed home with her family after she had her children. It was the wish of her husband that she put family above everything else - a wish she did not mind honoring at all. She stayed home for almost ten years, doing a little work here and there, with her main focus always on the family.
Inside her, there was a yearning for more, especially in terms of education. She describes her family life in India as being very focused on values and education "I feel Education is the foundation of your life".
She knew she wanted to increase her education. She checked with people to find out what they thought might be a good profession to consider, keeping in mind that she was a married woman with children. A few people suggested that she go into accounting since she was so good with numbers. She knew she wanted to get her MBA. She had her daughters and she also knew she could do the accounting work part time, so she decided to try it.
"In India your math is very strong. In those days, when I was raised, there were no calculators or computers. Everything was done manually."
She went to a number of universities and explained that she had a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, but she found it was quite a struggle. "Now if you go to CSU or Case you will find 80% Asian students and 60% of those are Indian - all the doctors and scientists. But things were not the same 25 years back."
A number of the universities wanted her to have a bachelor's degree specifically in accounting in order to sit for the CPA exam. She was adamant that she was not going to do that. She felt this would be "going backward". But she did not give up.
She compared her classes in a detailed list to the CSU catalog and presented it to the foreign student counselor. She told them she had completed all of these classes and if they wanted her to take a few specific classes, she could understand that. Another four year degree was out of the question, since, she explained, "I am not coming out of high school." She wanted to sit for the CPA exam, and she wanted to get an MBA.
Finally, one person at CSU, a counselor for foreign students, gave her an equivalency certificate. So Rita only had to take 2 years of accounting and business administration classes, instead of a four year degree program.
Rita Singh at the City Club in 2008
Then it came time to sit for the CPA exam. Since she was not working in the business environment of this country, she found the test to be a challenge. She was not familiar with how the business environment in this country worked. She spent a lot of late nights studying and preparing herself. It took her a couple of years to pass the exam, but she would never give up.
She finally was able to familiarize herself enough with the business practices of this country and apply the knowledge she had acquired in India and she passed the exam.
At this time her husband, who was a long time employee of TRW, was starting to feel it was time for him to expand and venture into something new. "That was the time, if you remember that TRW was going through a lot of changes. He said to me, why don't we start our own company. That was in 1989."
That is exactly what they did.
They opened an office in their home. It was a consulting business, "Singh & Associates". They started doing taxes and basic accounting for people and consulting for business.
Rita remembers how little they knew about things like computers - they had no experience in this type of thing. They went to Columbus to buy a computer system - their very first. She marvels as she remembers the $5,000 printer they bought that would cost less than $200 today.
She realized early on in her business that her clients did not just need accounting help. They needed information on business; they need help with financial operations, with strategic plan, business plan, marketing and so much more. Although she had no formal experience in this, she had life experience and practical experience.
She read every book, and joined every Chamber of Commerce she could. She became a member of COSE - basically whatever it took for her to be with the people doing what she wanted to do.
"So even initially when I was doing the traditional things, my mind was trying to reach out to something else. Not just once in a year you meet your client, share information and say goodbye." She went further into consulting to help her clients "Everything affects everything else in your business. You cannot segregate things like finances or marketing or one part of the business or the other. It is all linked."
Rita found this approach to be very helpful to her clients and very profitable for her. She found it to be very tough, but through the relationships she had been building through the years, she got help. As a small company herself, she learned firsthand what would help a business grow and what was needed to realize a vision. She learned how to brand herself and now tries to share that technique with others.
She tells them "how important it is to have relationship with your people, your vendors, and your community."
Rita created an S&A Awards Reception where she gave almost 40 awards to her vendors and employees. It took her a full year to put together the Reception, but it was amazingly successful.
The Mayor of Beachwood, Merle Gorden, was there to speak and like so many others, he asked Rita why she would take the time to put on such an event. Her answer was simple - she thinks it is important to recognize and thank the people who have helped make the company a success.
Due to the contacts and skills of her husband, the company went international. "I feel he is the one who worked so much in this company. So much of what we have become is due to him. So many of the awards we have received are due to him, but I go and receive them."
Her husband still works 6-7 days a week. He travels throughout the world and puts in long, hard hours. Today, the company specializes in "global resource management in the areas of financial management, manufacturing technology management, marketing, executive coaching, information technology, healthcare management, and other customized services".
One of the skills Rita says has helped her get where she is is her ability to plan everything. "I am a great planner. Everyday I don't start my day until I write down the seven or ten things I am going to be doing that day."
She plans not just what she has to do, but also what she wants to achieve. Each day she prioritizes the things she has scheduled for the day. "It helps remove the distractions, you stay focused and on the right path, because you know what you are going to do."
She stresses the need for planning if your business is going to have sustainability. She likens her lists to a grocery list and the foolishness of wandering around the store with no idea of what you want or need.
"People forget the intangibles. They think selling is the most important. Selling is important, but so is taking time out of your routine to build relationships. The more people you network with the better it will be." She laughs as she says that people call her "The Queen of Networking." She does not deny it - in fact, she counts it among her greatest assets.
Rita says she has a gift from God to see far ahead to have insight into what will happen. It was this gift that gave her the confidence to continue on, even when mistakes were made or things were not going well. She also credits her "people skills" as part of her success, because at the end of the day your business is working with people in one way or another.
"I ask God for a lot of patience, a lot of forgiveness, a lot of kindness and understanding of people's situations." Her faith in God never waivers, she simultaneously credits Him and relies on Him with and for everything.
She is not afraid to acknowledge her mistakes and is careful not to burn her bridges. She also does not fear long hours and hard work. Although she relies on God, she knows how important it is to do her part as well. She works countless hours with very little sleep to maintain the quality of work she has come to be known for - often 15 to 18 hours a day.
Her business is now structured in such a way that she hires people as she needs them. It gives her the opportunity to always have the best people to fit a specific project.
She tries to go to India with her family every year or every other year. She wanted to be sure that her children knew about India and their heritage. "We have been trying to give the best of the two worlds for our daughters. Every culture has their good things. Let us take the best of the two worlds. Which is again not easy, but we have made sure that we as parents do that."
Her role as parent not-withstanding Rita travels in circles that include all cultures and nationalities. "Chinese, Jewish, Hispanic, really all cultures. And we have found there to be a lot of similarities in all cultures."
She compares her Indian celebration of the Festival of Lights to our celebration of Christmas or Chanukah. In order to be able to share joy with her family and her friends she says, "We celebrate almost everything! Halloween, Christmas - we celebrate all of the holidays with an open mind." She wistfully remembers taking her girls out trick-or-treating when they were younger.
She has also enjoyed sharing her custom and traditions with her friends as well as joining in theirs. She explains the need to create a respect for other cultures and traditions.
Reka Barabas of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Rita Singh and Mikhail Maltsev, a Belarus businessman who interned at Rita's firm to learn about US business
But she says that tradition, going in to the future, is important, but cannot be the end. "You have to remember that we are now in a different culture. So you can't over-exaggerate the value of tradition. You must do as Romans do. I love to pray, but I cannot walk into a meeting and kneel down and pray. There is a time and place for everything." Nor does she speak her native language in a meeting, even with others who know the language, unless everyone in the room shares that knowledge.
The United States is her home now, and more specifically, Cleveland. "We are committed here - this country has given me so much. There are no boundaries of anything. You can achieve anything once you set your heart to it. I feel like I owe to this country. We have received so much" At one time the family moved to Singapore, but came back to Cleveland.
Rita Singh with her dog Spice
Another move took them to Portland, Oregon. As beautiful as she says it was, when they had the opportunity to come back to Cleveland, that is what they did. "The first time you come to a place - you feel like God brought you here for a reason. Now I see the reasons. God wanted us to be in Cleveland. My heart is in Cleveland. I go back to India, but my friends and family are here."
Rita is proud of the reputation she has earned with her family and friends. They tell her that she has genuineness about her. They know that if she makes a commitment, she will stand by it and see it through. She is sincere and her word is her bond. To know that people recognize this in her, gives her a lot of confidence.
A few of Rita Singh's many awards
"I've been very fortunate - I've gotten so much love and affection from so many people."
Although her father died when she was very young, she remembers him as providing her with guidance including a four step path he advised her to take.
He told her "I want you to remember as you walk on this path of life the first thing you should do is look behind and bring those people [up]… [so they are] walking with you. Then he told me to look on both sides. See what is there and who is there and try to embrace them so that they have that support system to move forward. Then look ahead… look ahead and see who you can follow. The fourth thing is look up and thank Him for the wisdom He has given to make a difference."
Accordingly, she tries to start each day asking, "What can I do for others? Sometimes you know, but you are not sure, but God gives you the wisdom."
She credits her father and mother's good karma with so many of the good things that have happened to her. She describes her mother as "the most kind hearted and humble and wise woman. These are the things that help me to this day to help me be a good person. My mom, if you would even shoot her, she would not say anything mean to anyone. She never liked to hurt anybody, she was very kind."
She describes Karma as what you do on a daily basis with your life and the people around you. She says it all comes back, in ripples created by positive vibrations caused by positive thoughts and deeds. When it comes back to you, it brings good people into your life. "There is a reason why people come into your life and I believe the more good I do the better it is for me and my children"
She does not think people are overly interested in your money or who you are, but more about the feelings. "If you can make someone feel important or good they will be your friends for the rest of your life." Rita did not actually have mentors, but there are a number of people she looks up to, not the least of which is Mother Teresa. "She was a wonderful wonderful woman who gave up everything in this life and sacrificed for the love of mankind."
She also looks up to Mahatma Gandhi because "he was such a great soul - a good person. He was a peace maker. Peace is very important to achieve what you want. Peace is happiness."
She believes that a lot of businesses fail because they create such unnecessary conflict. Her new executive coaching company, Goldmine Institute of Entrepreneurship has been established to change that. This company is her effort to give back all of the things she has learned over the years. In it, she shares the things that have made her so successful and helps companies rid themselves of negativity.
Rita is the recipient of countless awards and recognitions. One that stood out for her was the Athena Award. The Athena International's slogan is "Supporting, developing and honoring women leaders - Inspiring women to achieve their full potential - Creating balance in leadership worldwide" This is exactly what Rita strives to do, so receiving this award was almost a natural for her.
When she won the award, she did not want to just put it on a shelf or add to her collection. She wanted it to mean more and wanted it to enable her to do more. She met Martha Mertz, the founder of ATHENA International, in Chicago. She describes Ms. Mertz as another person she looks up to, someone with much to offer and a willingness to do so.
"We connected very well and there is so much to learn from her. After helping so many women around the world, she is still very modest and very human."
It was then that Rita decided, "I could bring this award to India," She approached Martha thinking she may be laughed at. The program had been to London and other countries, but it was still in its infancy, internationally. Martha did not laugh; in fact, she offered any support she could give.
Rita Singh with Bakul Rajni Patel, first ATHENA Recipient in India, and Martha Mertz - founder of ATHENA International
Rita volunteered to do all the work - she said she had no clue how to do it or what all needed to be done, but "All I needed was the moral support" which Martha eagerly offered.
Rita says, "It was a struggle, but I did my planning and I did my research." She had to determine the top 200 women in business in India. Thankfully, by this time, her research skills were all but perfected and she was able to do a lot of her research via the internet.
She says women in India are doing very well. She classifies the women into three groups. The first type is the strong, business woman. Very powerful and very successful. The second is the housewife, the stay at home mother. In India, this position commands a lot of respect.
Finally, there are the women of poverty, who have absolutely nothing. "The poor in India are among the poorest in the world. You can not imagine the poverty."
She focused her quest for successful Indian business women in New Delhi and Mumbai who could help the women in the second and third groups. One year prior, Rita had accompanied Mayor Jane Campbell and a group from Cleveland to Mumbai at the request of the Indian city. The people of Mumbai were interested in a "sister-city" relationship with Cleveland, hoping to learn from the Cleveland city.
Former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and Rita Singh in front of the Taj Mahal in March 2006
They went for 10 days and while there, they met with government officials and high profile people. All the while Rita was thinking about Athena. She believes that by sending her on this trip with Mayor Campbell, God made her more comfortable in her proposal. She even had an opportunity to speak about her business to the people of Mumbai and that was also a great help to her.
Mumbai was also the home of her cousin - a woman she had not seen in 25 years. 6 months after her return to Cleveland, her cousin came here. Rita asked her for support and help determining the names of women in Mumbai business that deserved recognition.
Her cousin gave her some names, and along with her research, she was able to put together a list. She often had to sit up all night to make the long distance phone calls, since there is a ten and a half hour time difference. With faith, determination and prayers, Rita narrowed the choices down to ten finalists and set a date for the event.
She knew the kind of women she wanted. "I wanted somebody who you can reach out to, and touch and she will say how can I help you, not go through 100 assistants to get an appointment." When she talked to Bakul Rajni Patel, the woman who ultimately won the Athena, she knew it over the phone. "God brought me to the right person."
She spent over $30,000 of her own money to make the Athena in India a reality and to this day, the award program is active in India. She hopes to go to the presentation this year.
Now she is considering taking the award to China or Mexico. Her goal is to acknowledge women in countries where they are not properly recognized and in so doing bring international attention to them. She has reached out to immigration attorney Margaret Wong for assistance in China.
Rita prays that God gives her strength and keeps her on the right path.
Rita is saddened by the current state of women and young girls in this country. She thinks most of the problems on the family and lack of family commitment.
"The foundation is not being built [in young girls today]. Where is the family?"
"Society today is corrupted because there is no collaboration in the family- there is no foundation in the family. And to me it just continues to grow. The broken family homes continue to multiply."
She believes that "what we are today is all due to the values the [our parents] gave us"
"I feel very disappointed. I see a lot of hate and intolerance. No tolerance actually." She says people just walk away from people and situations that do not make them happy rather than trying to work for solutions. She knows it is not always easy, but thinks it is always worthwhile.
Parents and teachers are highly respected in India, and throughout the world. She does not see that same respect here. The only way to fix the problem, according to Rita, is "One child at a time. It is sad and sometimes I worry about my own children, when they are at school. Bad spreads much more quickly than good."
Rita Singh family's precious dog Spice
She also blames the negativity of the media. "When you wake up at 7 a.m. why do you have to hear bad stories?" She had the opportunity to pose this very question to a member of the media who answered that this kind of coverage was a deterrent. Rita wholeheartedly disagrees.
She believes seeds of violence are planted by media including planting ideas and methods to accomplish evil tasks. She is not advocating ignoring the bad news but merely wants a better balance. "Bring me a bad story, but then bring me something to learn from. Not just bad after bad."
Rita often thinks about the legacy she is leaving. She does not want to be remembered as a consultant or a CPA. "I want to be remembered as a person who genuinely helped other people, cared for them in spite of materialistic results."
Of course, she is happy with the material results of her work. "God has given me more than enough and more than I ever dreamed of. You will find you make more money when you help more people."
Rita often tells women "Do not let people, places and situations bring you down - that makes you weak. Do not create unnecessary baggage to carry. I feel very good about myself. That is what I have been telling other women. I ask my higher power to help people who are not happy or who are negative."
Surprisingly, Rita does have some spare time and she loves to cook. She is a master at preparing culinary dishes from India, the United States and other countries. Rita Singh came to this country with very little. Today, she has, in her words "more than enough." Her riches go far beyond the worldly and materialistic. She is rich in herself - knowing her true worth and value and honoring God by honoring herself.
She is rich in her family - a husband she loves, who loves her, and two daughters who have had the benefit of their mother's love and care.
She is rich in her business - she has created a company that allows her to do what she does best - help other people.
She is rich in her faith - she knows God and relies on his wisdom and guidance and does not turn her back when He offers her opportunities. She is an inspiration to women, to entrepreneurs, to those wishing to take a risk, and those raising a family.
She lives the Biblical verse, "To whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48).
Listen to a brief message from Rita Singh offering advice to women.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson - 2008
Update: See Rita Singh launch the Elite Women Around The World® Project
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