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Few women dare dip their toes into the male-centric waters of the financial sector. But Danielle Patterson is different.
Patterson is co-founder of Family Office List, an online investor database designed for clients looking to raise capital. Since 2016, when she and her husband, Warren, purchased the business from founder Douglas Fathers, Patterson has made waves in an industry dominated by men.
“In the financial sector, there are fewer women in management roles,” says Patterson who, as the company’s Director of Marketing and Sales, oversees operations and business development. “But I think change starts within ourselves. We have to change the perception that women can’t assume these types of positions.”
We spoke with Patterson to garner some insight into what it takes to understand the investment objectives of high net worth family offices. We also waded into the topics of technology, sexism, and self-confidence.
How did you get involved with Family Office List?
My husband, Warren, is an entrepreneur. He’s always on the lookout for a particular business model where there’s recurring revenue, low overhead, and flexibility. Five years ago, he saw this business and thought, “There’s a lot of potential.”
My strengths lie in marketing and business development. I get excited about it and I’m able to get others excited too. My husband jokes that I sprinkle my “fairy dust” on it. So, we made an arrangement with the founder of Family Office List to purchase the company.
It was an awesome opportunity. For me, at that time, it was about not being afraid to say “yes” and learn something new that was outside my comfort zone. It’s about being brave and then working your butt off.
Can you talk more about why you decided to take this leap of faith?
Warren is the risk-taker in the relationship. I am the details person. I often have paralysis through analysis. At the time, he was going through a business transition — he was selling his company— and when there is uncertainty in the future, you want to protect yourself. This was his backup plan.
Today, Warren and his new partner are completely happy. They’re like brothers. We joke that sometimes they talk more than Warren and I do. But I saw that Family Office List was a great opportunity to make a difference, so I took over right away. I made it my baby. If I am going to work hard and build something, I will give it everything I have.
Is your husband still involved in the company?
Warren is a big-picture thinker, so I consult with him, especially when I feel out of my element. He’s almost like a board member now. I come to him for things beyond my knowledge.
But day-to-day, I’ve got it. There are definitely mistakes, but you just learn the hard way. There are days when I have to be patient with myself. We live in such a fast-paced society, but it’s important to be patient and know that it’s a gradual journey. As long as you’re moving forward, you’ll get there.
Have you always been passionate about marketing and sales?
It’s really interesting. Being an art major, I first managed a gallery for a National Geographic photographer. I hosted workshops for him and learned database management and built his marketing outreach. I learned the basic art of crafting an email and doing e-blasts. I wore every possible hat. It was all about having a “can do” attitude and I think I surprised him with my capability. I remember one day he realized that the thousands of books that once lined his shelves were gone. It just hit him. He was like, “Did you sell all of those?”
But sometimes opportunities lead you to different sectors. When we first moved to Charlotte, I was trying to find an art career but it just wasn’t a thriving arts community. I was given the opportunity to do business development for a pediatric dentist, of all things. It took off, and after seven years we had opened multiple locations and doubled the business a few times over. That experience helped me build this arsenal of knowledge that I then could take and apply to anything.
I look back at my professional experiences and think, “They’re so random — they’re not interconnected at all.” But they really are. They all built this foundation and this confidence. They made me capable.
Of course, technology is always evolving. How do you ensure that your business is keeping pace?
That’s such a valid question. Even the way our data is being used has changed. It used to be that everyone did email campaigns but then email became so saturated. Then, at the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was targeting LinkedIn profiles. Then those campaigns became oversaturated. It’s about continuously finding ways to think outside the box. I see that our competitors are evolving but I don’t just want to follow suit. I want to be one step ahead. I think, “What can I do that’s different and better?” It’s about reinventing value for our customers.
Do you have a community of peers and mentors that provide advice or encouragement?
This is a little off-topic, but early in the pandemic, I joined this group of women who worked out together. We all needed encouragement and held each other accountable. What I loved about it was that the group included women from all different avenues but we could all relate to one another and support each other in positive ways. I now feel encouraged to seek out other females in the financial industry.
Do you have any tips for a female entrepreneur who is afraid to step outside her comfort zone?
What’s helped me get where I am today is surrounding myself with people who can do things that I’m not good at. It’s about admitting your weaknesses and finding teammates who actually enjoy doing those tasks. Then you need to give them the tools to do those things well. Don’t overmanage people. Trust them. Communicate at all times.
Also, don’t be afraid that people won’t respond to who you truly are. Just be yourself, be honest, and work hard. Your path will come.
How are you, as a businesswoman, currently growing and evolving?
For too long, I’ve hidden behind having a male founder. But I’ve been doing this for five years and the company has grown substantially. So I’m working on truly stepping into this role. I need to embrace the position and the title.