In 1986, I formed an equal business partnership with my husband when we opened our remodeling business. With our backgrounds, we decided that I would run the office and he would run the sales and production sides of the house.
We operated this way for many years, while shifting duties to the staff we hired to support our clients and our growing company. The model worked well and, in January 2012, our son took over the helm. My husband and I continue work full-time in the business and will eventually transition to part-time.
Looking back on the passages I traveled, one element is clear: my career as a woman in the male-dominated remodeling industry has been both successful and enjoyable and, upon reflection, I’ve found a few elements that may have contributed to the achievement and satisfaction.
For starters, I felt (and still feel) the ever-strong influence of my red-headed Irish mother, who taught my siblings and me the importance of standing on our own and standing our ground. She was no “shrinking violet” and, through her actions and words, reinforced the equality between women and men.
Next, I’m direct and a “bottom line” kind of person. To generalize, many men operate in this fashion and I often sense a shared goal with my male counterparts: we both want the most critical information that will assist us in quickly and effectively solving problems.
On a related note, I look forward to solving problems. I’m persistent and often find that when dealing with men, they give me an answer because they want to move on to their next problem or task. There seems to be a synergy between my approach and their need to swiftly achieve resolution.
Finally, I have asked for help when necessary and found this to be a helpful tactic in navigating the ever-changing waters of running a business. I’ve found that in dealing with men, if I made a clear request for assistance, they would often respond fairly and generously with their support.
In the early days of running our business, some men and women would assume that my husband was the sole owner and I simply ran the office for him. Happily, these attitudes have evolved with time and most people rarely make this kind of assumption anymore.
In short, throughout my career in the male-dominated remodeling industry, I’ve lived by a value that has worked well: rather than focusing on my gender roles or those of men, I’ve focused on solving problems and getting the work done.