My story is about second chances and second opportunities in life. How many times have we had a second opportunity in life but never moved on it? I decided to take that second opportunity and build a great professional and personal life. I believe, I struggled to find my independence. From relying on the same legal job for over 17 years to living in an abusive marriage, I had no decisions for my own life, I basically went with the flow. It was until I was kidnapped and went missing that I decided I needed to be released to a new life of independence. Only, by empowering myself and using my strengths to guide my life was I able to decide to take on that second opportunity. I joined the family business which is Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Plumbing Services. I immersed myself in all aspects of the business. I wanted to be an expert in every department because I knew I was going to be heading this company one day. In 2012, I became the President of this 35-year-old company and have helped lead its growth through the use of my new found strengths and courage. My passion stems from release, my passion stems from growth, my business stems from creating a platform that I have not seen exist.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle definitively has to be being a woman who runs a company “meant” for men. Even as a kid, I had an affinity for the business and I remember being 7 years old and begging my father to take me to work but often being told NO because this was no place for a girl. Society saw this as a “mans” job and my dad would instead encourage me to stay home and help my mom. Well, here I am now at 40 years old running the company in a world that at times still seems like a man’s world. I still walk into boardrooms and meetings where people assume I am the secretary of the company. I still deal with clients who ask for the “real owner” of the company not realizing I AM the “real owner” of the company.
It has definitively become an easier hurdle to overcome now more than ever. It used to frustrate me so much when facing this issue but through my different experiences, I have learned to speak through the mean comments as opposed to speaking to the comments. Through my new found independence I have learned to start making this “man’s world” into a “man and women’s world”. I have adjusted my marketing so it also speaks to women. Through my networking and community involvement, I teach women about these trades and encourage them to become decision-makers too. Eventually, I will not be running a company “meant” for men, but I will be simply running “A” company.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it?
This is a family owned business and just like any other family-owned business, there are nuisances and learning curves to deal with. The saying is true; you are always harder on those closest to you because your expectation of them is higher. But it is important to always remember how to keep emotion out of business. Thankfully, the family has learned how to create a shift from family to business
Regarding friends, I have had very few people who have questioned my decision to run this kind of business as opposed to staying in the legal field. But all they need is a couple of minutes of speaking to me to realize the passion I have for this company and industry. They quickly realize that I am meant to lead this company while educating and empowering the community through my industry.
What would you do differently in hindsight?
I know it sounds funny, but all I can think of is that I should have hidden in the company van when I was 7 years old. This way my dad would be forced to take me to work and I could have attained all this knowledge at an earlier age!
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
My parents! They did a great job running the company for many years where the name and reputation of the business were solid. Keeping that reputation and the customer service during the transition was a key focal point to me. It was also extremely important for me to employ people who were going to be long-term contributors to this family business. In the trade industry, there is often a low retention rate of technicians due to the vast employment opportunities and the desire to become self-employed. I’ve been able to keep our retention rate high by creating a positive and enjoyable environment where an employee is treated as an important part of the company because in all reality, they ARE the company.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I definitively wish I could have known how to scale the business more effectively. I had worked with attorneys for quite a few years in the bankruptcy field so I had knowledge of costs and expense, streamlining business and hiring and firing, but my knowledge on the proper scaling of a company was minimal. I recently attended a Scaling Program through Stanford University that helped me sort out changes that needed to be made in the business in order to scale it more effectively rather than adding trades to it and expecting growth. I learned the nuts and bolts of scaling effectively which would have helped my management struggles and I could have created a better understanding for the team much earlier on.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Whatever you do, give back to your local community. Get involved with what your community is doing and feed them some of your passion and love through your support of local children and charities. When you understand your community’s needs and cater to that first, your business learns how to thrive much easier and how to change and grow.