She is founder, chairwoman and CEO of her own company, and Marilyn West has ways to make your company better.

M.H. West & Co., the planning and consulting firm she started nearly 25 years ago, has served more than 350 clients - federal, state and local government agencies and quasi–government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, medical care entities, school systems, trade associations, corporations large and small.

Operating with her eight-person staff from her headquarters at 909 E. Main St., West has helped clients in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle and other major markets.

She rattles off some of the things her company addresses: "We can help you with strategic planning, workforce development, leadership building, team building, technical assistance," she said. "We can coach organizations and individuals to get to the next level."

She cited work with the Norfolk school system, where she and her team have worked on improving graduation rates.

Many of her clients remain confidential, she said. "A lot of our work is behind the scenes. I like to be in the back room."

Her company is sometimes asked to address questions of equal opportunity. A major corporation, for example, saw that its emerging leadership lacked racial diversity. She said M.H. West helped engineer an intervention "to enable the company to move forward."

West said a company "can have the best products and services in the world, but if you don't have the people to bring it out the door, you can't make the most of that quality."

West was among those honored by the YWCA of Richmond with its 2015 Outstanding Women Awards.

She leads the board of the Black History Museum & Cultural Center, and she serves on the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation Board, the board of St. Joseph's Villa and the advisory board of the Metropolitan Business League.

Just to add a dash of spice, she's also an artist, with arresting digital creations in her M2ARM collection.

IN HER WORDS

Alternate profession or course of study

Become a pediatrician to help assure that children have a healthy start.

Favorite movie

"Zorro" (old and new versions). I like the style of those who work behind the scenes to make a positive difference on humanity and a good cause, and sometimes brand themselves through disguise.

Something you’d like to do

Learn how to fly a plane.

A small moment in life with a big impact

One that helped me to embrace Richmond involves my interaction with a very successful family-owned grocery chain in 1976. In this moment, I went shopping at the store and loaded my basket with a couple hundred dollars' worth of groceries and miscellaneous items. I traveled through the checkout line, and when I was going to make payment, my purse did not have my checkbook. When I explained my circumstances to the manager, he indicated that this was OK. I could take the groceries, and then the next time that I was near the store, (I could) bring the check. I was forever grateful, and I became a supporter and unofficial ambassador of the chain for life. (By the way, I returned immediately to the store after taking the groceries to my home.)

Role model

My parents and paternal grandmother. They taught me to never give up and how to win even when you may be the underdog! What a foundation they helped me build.

Something that might surprise others

I love to fish, play tennis and play bridge. I am also a digital artist under the name of the M2ARM Collection.

Proudest accomplishment

Having a vision of marriage, marrying and finding ways to hold on to this status! We are at 39 years and counting.

Favorite thing about Richmond region

The energy displayed by leaders and the residents to keep the region growing on all fronts. I like to measure progress as opposed to awarding a grade. Go #rva.

MARILYN HOUSE WEST

Position: founder, owner and CEO of M.H. West & Co.

Born/hometown: Oct. 31; Elizabeth, Pa.

College: Waynesburg College, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Family: husband Edward, children Meaghan and Brennan

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