To build a legacy as a woman in construction, embrace modern opportunities but use what’s worked for your predecessors.
Texas-based entrepreneur Rhonda Sargent Chambers spoke at the World of Concrete conference in Las Vegas recently during a session titled Women Construction Business Owners: ‘Creating Your Legacy’ that aimed to help women in the industry move their businesses forward while defining what they as individuals bring to the marketplace.
Chambers is the owner of RSC Show Productions, a company she founded in 2001 focused on production and fashion, and was raised in and worked for her parents concrete staining business previous to creating her own firm. She cited parallels between the high-intensity projects she manages and the many challenges facing women running a business in the construction industry.
“I see parallels and similarities. Some are contractors, some distributors, some vendors supplying for construction sites, but we all started our company, all had to learn our business plan, which is always changing,” she said. “A parallel I also see is we do need to support one another.”
Support was evident throughout the session as audience members shared their struggles in both a male-dominated industry and establishing and growing their businesses.
“We realize that supporting one another has far greater positives for the individuals, who all had different questions. What was interesting to me is the veterans who had to go through some of these prejudices or discrimination,” she said. “When my mom first started she was the only woman (in the company) and I think it was good that the veterans could explain (their experiences) to the younger people.”
Chambers also stressed the importance of social media for business owners and said it allows her and other business leaders to not only put a face to a company name but can be run by the leaders themselves.
Do everything your parents would have done but now implement that with all these tools that you have,
— Rhonda Sargent Chambers
RSC Show Productions
“Back in the old days, especially in construction, people would sit back and keep the same clients but never really push themselves out there. Now we have this possibility and opportunity to be on all platforms, They need to study the information they get back. What are people liking, what do they want to hear and see?” Chambers said.
“They need to be the face of their company and I know that’s hard for a lot of people.”
Chambers also advocated firing clients if they are becoming more of a problem than they’re worth.
“Spending too much energy with someone who’s combative with everyone, not just me, my crew doesn’t need that energy sucked out of their lives and I have let a client go before because it was just too much,” she said. “But with being female, it’s good to understand (the importance of) being competent and trusting, that you are the expert in the field and standing up to people.”
At the same time, Chambers recommended interns and those new to the industry get their hands dirty and tackle the toughest and most arduous parts of their job immediately.
“I want them to be there when it’s not pretty. I want them to see all the stages until it’s on stage and then when we break everything down,” she said.
Similarly in construction, “you’ve got concrete pours, scoring, etching, staining and it’s a physical job.”
Chambers also advised women in construction to not only embrace new technologies and opportunities but adapt what’s worked before.
“Do everything your parents would have done but now implement that with all these tools that you have, social media, communication and networking events. Apply old school (techniques) like thank you notes and pounding the pavement or a press kit. We still need to do all of those things,” she said.