Ask SmallBiz: Successful Women

October, 2010

Q. How can a woman small-business owner succeed in the male-dominated construction industry?

A. Women leaders face unique challenges in the workplace, no matter what industry we are in. Yet, as women, we bring abundant talents to the table and can do extremely well in any industry, even those that have long been dominated by men. To be successful in this industry, you must know and plan for your obstacles and opportunities, and:

Know you belong. Don’t approach your business as if you are the minority woman working in the male-dominated construction industry. The sad fact is that there will likely always be certain men and even women who will question your abilities and decisions simply because of your gender. But if you walk into the room thinking that you are the minority then you have already lost. Rising above the male/female question will help you succeed.

Be proud to be a woman. One of the biggest mistakes I see in women business owners is they run their business like a man and give up on some strengths that are intuitive in woman. I believe women are naturally more collaborative, open listeners, inclusive and, hopefully, able to keep their egos in check better. To truly succeed as a woman, you must realize these are strengths. Set boundaries, define your terms, but don’t compromise yourself just to fit in.

Take risks. No business leader ever became successful without taking risks. As a wo an in construction, you will likely need to take more risks than men. Just be sure that your risks are well considered. Also, get involved by volunteering for a community organization or serving on a board. Becoming influential and well known in the community helps create greater opportunities.

Focus on results. The key to a successful business is to approach your work with integrity, professionalism and 
superior customer service. Use these three guiding principles to help your business produce outstanding results, which will demonstrate that you belong in this industry and will help gain the respect of others. But don’t stop after one success; you must continue striving to be the best in order to maintain that respect.
Keep challenging yourself. 
The only way to be successful in the long run is through continued education. That means keeping up with the pulse of the industry and the pulse of business, being open to new ideas, and recognizing it is OK to not know an answer.

Persevere. It will probably take time to win the respect from others but remember you have every right to work in the construction industry. You have a responsibility to do your job and to do it well.

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Author:

LAYLA DEDRICK, CEO AND OWNER BELLA PIETRA