If you’ve listened to this podcast for a bit, you know that I come from an entrepreneurial family in highway construction. My mom took over when my dad suddenly passed away.
She and I recently appeared together on a Women of Asphalt webinar where Mom talked about her experience while I mainly discussed what women in asphalt can do today to help themselves and their organizations thrive. And today, I want to share that conversation with you and let you hear from my mom, Sandy Brasier, for the first time on the show!
In this episode of the Contractor’s Daughter podcast, you’ll hear about key lessons learned through resiliency, drive, and inspiration during hard times as a female entrepreneur in the business.
You’ll also learn how to stand out and impress as women in the asphalt industry while helping your organization achieve its objectives, the importance of building relationships (generally and with other women, specifically) in construction, and so much more!
4:28 – Key lessons I’ve learned about resiliency and staying motivated during tough times
8:13 – Mom’s role in the company before Dad’s unexpected death and how she took over the business
13:28 – Strategies and mindset shifts that can help you navigate challenges within your asphalt career and business
19:51 – How relationships supported Mom through the difficult time in the business after her husband’s passing
24:56 – The relationship legacy that Dad left behind for us
28:04 – How women in construction can assert themselves as leaders and contribute to their organization’s growth and success
35:02 – One thing I wasn’t aware of despite growing up in highway construction and the advantage women have in the industry right now
39:40 – Where Mom found the drive to keep going forward with the family business
44:49 – How building relationships with other women in the asphalt industry has impacted both of us
50:50 – Final advice, inspiration, and words of wisdom
Mentioned In Generations of Strength: A Mother-Daughter Journey In the Asphalt Industry
Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff
Your New Playlist: The Student’s Guide to Tapping Into the Superpower of Mindset by Jon Acuff with L.E. and McRae Acuff
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne
Quotes From The Episode
“As women, we are much more inclined to fall into a trap of playing negative soundtracks to ourselves.” – Jeani Ringkob
“Sometimes you are forced into doing something (and it works) that you never thought you could do, and that builds on itself.” – Sandy Brasier
“Right now our industry has never been so hungry to have women at the table.” – Jeani Ringkob
More Episodes of The Contractor’s Daughter Podcast You’ll Find Helpful
Jeani Ringkob: Welcome to the Contractor's Daughter, your go-to podcast for eliminating random acts, exit strategy and marketing in your highway construction business. Hello, friends. I'm your host, Jeani Ringkob. I'm a third generation asphalt contractor and an absolute brand strategy and marketing geek.
Host: So welcome everybody to today's webinar featuring Women of Asphalt. We are an exceptional community of professionals dedicated to advancing and empowering women in the asphalt industry. With almost 3,500 members across 22 branches spanning 28 states, Women of Asphalt has become a driving force in fostering gender equality and creating opportunities for women within the asphalt industry. We are excited to share some news with you today. Something to mark your calendars for is our inaugural Women of Asphalt Day national event, which will be the same week as World of Asphalt in Nashville, Tennessee. It is scheduled for March 27th, and we hope everybody on this call and your friends to join us during that day. More information will come out around that activity and what that day will entail for you as we approach it. So the conference will feature inspiring keynote speaker, engaging panel discussions, interactive workshops, and valuable networking opportunities.
We will serve as a catalyst for personal and professional growth and a celebration of the remarkable achievements women in the industry have accomplished. So, as I said, more details on the registration process will be forthcoming, and we will now just dive right into our webinar today. So it's a great pleasure that I introduce our esteemed mother-daughter duo and talk a little bit about their career in the industry and gain a lot of inspirational thoughts. I had the opportunity to meet with them on Monday and talk a little bit about what we cover here, and I'm excited for them to share all of their wisdom that they've gained and also just ideas of how we can improve ourselves and improve the industry as a whole. So Jeani is a dynamic force in the World of business strategy and marketing, with two decades of hands-on experience in construction and agriculture, she knows what it takes to build and sustain a successful enterprise from navigating family tragedy to thriving in competitive environment.
Jeani's journey is an inspiring testament to resilience and growth. She's a true advocate for entrepreneurs helping them harness data-driven insights and proven frameworks to not only just survive, but to thrive. Sandy, on the other hand, found herself thrusted into a leadership role during a challenging period of her life. After her husband's unexpected passing, Sandy stepped up to the plate, learning the ropes of the business, leading her family through a turbulent time. Her story is a powerful lesson in crisis management and perseverance, showcasing her unwavering dedication to her family's company. So let's join Jeani and Sandy as they share their unique perspectives and experiences and wisdom in the World of business leadership and personal growth. So with that, I will start off and I'll just start asking some questions to each of you and feel free to add anything. If I direct a question to you, Jeani, Sandy, if you have something you want to add, feel free. This is really an open conversation to learning more about you and what we can learn from your experiences. So Jeani, I'll start with you. You've faced a number of challenges in your journey, from your family tragedy to taking on multiple roles in your family's asphalt business. Can you share some key lessons you've learned about resiliency and staying motivated during tough times?
Jeani: Sure. I think having good people around you, I was fortunate, especially during that time, it was really all hands on deck with the family. So I think my family got even tighter during that time. So also we had a lot of previous mentors in the industry. I think our incredible about, it always at least has been in my experience about, I've had a lot of mentors around me in various ages and generations from different parts of the industry. So having them around during that time was really incredible...
Sandy: Especially Michael Leary.
Jeani: Yeah, Michael Leary, he's kind of an icon in the industry and somebody who was a dear family friend of my father and my mom's. So I think he was at all my kids baby showers and maybe not quite at my baby shower for myself, but pretty close probably. But having people like that there with me to surround myself with was really helpful, I would say. I think having a plan for me, I think coming from maybe that experience is why I probably have a propensity to just have a plan, so something to fall back on. I think that was maybe one of those times I've learned. So I think coming past that into other experience I've had since then, the husband and I ran agricultural commodities trading business for... well, I was in that for 10 years, came even longer, and that ended abruptly and transition's always hard and I think from my early experiences I learned to have a plan and really surround myself with mentors.
Host: Yeah. I think that's one of the things that we'll talk about and maybe dive a little bit more into a little bit later, is how important having relationships in whatever type of work you do, how they support you, and how you can support others in that and how valuable it is. Sometimes we take for granted our relationship sometimes and to be able to fall back on those relationships really expresses the importance and how valuable those are for us as we navigate this World, right?
Jeani: Right, absolutely. I would say I've always had a natural inclination. My husband would probably agree to, when things aren't going well, I'm totally fine to just take action, keep going, and shift directions. So I think the counter of that is, I mentioned that having a plan, but you have to balance those two things. You have to have a plan and where you think you want to go, but when things come up and challenges come up, you also have to be willing to make a new plan and kind of step into that.
Sandy: They do all the time.
Jeani: Yes, they do.
Host: I agree, plans are so important. I think sometimes when we're younger and starting to develop what we want in our professional career, sometimes we just dive in and we don't really create a plan and understanding maybe what our three-year or five-year goals are. Because if you don't know where you're going, you don't know what you're doing in the moment, right? Plans are so important. Okay, Sandy, what I want to ask you is as you stepped up as a leader during the crisis, after your husband's passing, how did you find the strength to lead your family's business and what advice would you have for women in similar situations who get thrusted into a leadership position unexpectedly?
Sandy: Oh, gosh. When I look back on it now, especially the first couple years, I don't think I had a plan. I was just day to day making everything work and it was really hard because each the kids needed something. Learning how to work as the salesman and representative for Brazier that I'd never had to do before was very challenging and you're scared, you're afraid. I know one of the things that motivated me really swiftly was early on there was a suggestion that perhaps we sell the company and I just remember saying, well, Denny, who was our accountant, we had just finished the end of the year financial statements and done the tax return and all that because this happened the 2nd of March about January, I mean talking about March. But anyway, I had asked what this number meant in this account, deferred taxes, and he said, ''Well, if you stop the business right away, you would owe that money to the IRS.'' I just remember telling the kids, well, we're going to go back to work because I don't have that much money. So it was like black and white to me.
Host: So I just want to kind of paint a picture for everybody who didn't have the privilege of our conversation on Monday, a little bit about why don't you tell us what role you had in the company before your husband's passing, so that gives everybody on the call feel of what you were doing in the business prior and then how much you took on afterwards?
Sandy: We formed it in 1981, and I did all the books forever back when used up one of these green ledger sheets that my daughter...
Host: She still carried them around, showing notes to me on the green ledger.
Sandy: Write the payroll checks, but everything, the licenses, the permits, all that stuff, because Clarence just didn't want to be bothered with it. He was the salesman, that people person. I was the details and I could also work at my other job, which was cleaning tea, which I loved, and I didn't want to give that up either. So I did the books and gradually over 23 years, I had a very elaborate computer and office manager and a bookkeeper and an accountant. But to begin with, it was kind of just me.
Host: Go ahead.
Sandy: I had to go talk to the people and get work and be at the jobs and all that. I still did the books too, but I think it all saved me, kept me so busy.
Host: So you were in a position that was really I'll say the backbone of the organization, but not really the face of the organization. Then you became the face, which requires a whole another set of leadership skills.
Sandy: Yeah. Where we had ended up working most of the time was in New Mexico and I think I see one of my good mentors on here, Diana, and she was a great help to me too, because there's not many women in the asphalt industry. There's more now, but back in the 2000, not so much. So getting the men there to take me serious and believe that I could do this, they were not very into it at first.
Host: I think, like you said, it's gotten a little better now, but I think it's something that we all face in industries that have been predominantly male oriented. Alright, so Jeani, you've faced a lot of your share of ups and downs while running businesses. So can you give maybe some strategies or mindset shifts that have helped you that could help other women as they navigate challenges within their own careers in their life?
Jeani: Yeah. Just to circle back and add on a point before I move on to this question, and I guess it kind of ties into it, is watching my mom, not only was she taking all that stuff and switching into that role, she was grieving at the same time. This was completely unexpected, happened overnight. So I think I probably learned how to stay busy. I learned how to watch perseverance. I would say I came from a gritty family, like ranchers on one side, contractors on the other. But I think watching her kind of marry that grittiness with that perseverance, definitely develop some mindsets in myself. I would say that's probably something I would find that gritty part of yourself or find what motivates you to persevere in something. I know one of my favorite authors is John Acuff. I would highly recommend. He has several great books.
I love the one soundtracks, and actually his daughters one in college, one in high school actually wrote one for kids. I just had my kids listen to this and it talks about the stories that we tell ourselves inside our own head about situations and are they even true and are they helpful and stuff like that and I think as I've went through life, I've really tried to be more intentional about controlling those stories for myself instead of... because we all have that propensity. But I think as women, we are much more inclined to fall into a trap of playing negative soundtracks to ourselves as John Acuff would say. So we have to be really intentional about figuring out what are the soundtracks that we want to hear, how are we going to develop ourselves? One of the things I think I wish I would've done more, and you kind of alluded earlier to having the plan, I wish I would've, I mean, granted, I was still in college when this happened.
So I was in Colorado several days a week still trying to finish college and then driving to be on the project as many days of the week and over the weekend as I could and I was either on projects or selling, and it is all like a blur, but I wish during that time of granted I had that going on, but I wish I would've had somebody maybe helping me or taken the initiative myself to be more strategic about challenging myself and setting goals early on and figuring out what is it going to take to get there. So now I'm having conversations with my kids about here's a goal, but how do we reverse engineer that to get... my daughter was setting goals the other day and she wants to cheer in college. I said, ''Well, that's great, but let's talk about what you need to be doing for the next six months that are going to help you achieve that.''
She's 11, so she thought, oh my gosh, right? But she's already on the competitive tier team, but she's got some skills that are, she knows she has to develop to even be able to stay on that team. So I wish I would've had somebody to sit me down and kind of have some of those conversations. I think I had great people that were inspiring and believed in me, but I wish I would actually put pencil to paper and been a little bit more intentional about laying out that plan, even if it changed, because it would've completely changed still when my dad passed, but I would've had the skills to create a new plan. I think the mentorship program in Women of Asphalt is a great example of finding people that could do that, but they don't even have to be in this industry. You can find parallel industries, other industries, speakers, people that... find a coach, and I'm leaving for a retreat with a coach at the end of the month to work on finances, mindset, productivity, all those things. We all need those kinds of things. So find those things early, but develop the skills that go along with it, those executive skills.
Host: Yeah. It is so important, and it kind of goes back to what we originally said around relationships and a coach is a relationship, and what you're doing is you're learning from all the different people that you surround yourself with. I know we've heard people out there in the World talking about you are who you surround yourself with, and so looking at who's your people that surround you, and if it's not the kind of people you want to be, then maybe you need to look for other people that are going to help support your vision for what your life looks like.
Jeani: Right. You don't want to do that stuff in a silo. In the end, it comes down to you, but you need people to bounce ideas off of, and you need people to ask those questions when they see you, or you hear yourself telling yourself certain things to say, is that really even true? Does it help what you want to accomplish? I think those are some of the questions that I think are really important when we find ourselves thinking about what's possible or not possible in our careers and our careers and families and our life in all the pieces.
Host: Yeah. A lot of times we're so busy doing all the things in our life that we don't even take the time for that self-reflection, and that is so important to create what you want out of life.
Host: Okay. Sandy, I have a question for you. Your experience during those difficult times showcases how resilient you are. I know we've touched a little bit on it around relationships and the value of relationships in the industry. What kind of advice or lessons can you give us around those relationships and relationships, how they supported you during that time and how that helped with your adversity?
Sandy: Oh, well, my family was, they never said, don't do that.
Jeani: We were all certifiable.
Sandy: She went out and got the contractor's license and Dustin started a driving truck and all kinds of stuff. But to build the relationships that I had to build to be that face and the sales person for Brazier, that was hard and they're invaluable. Some of those people that I met then are really, really good friends still. So Michael, Larry, I already knew through Clarence, and he actually did the eulogy for my husband's funeral and came that day and took over because I really was in a fog. He's just priceless and people like that, and he still is. So even though it was hard with some of those gentlemen in New Mexico, especially in Santa Fe at the higher levels of the DOT, because I'm sure I was the only female contractor that was bidding, and so there was a lot of negativity. They wouldn't return my calls or wouldn't see me when I decided to start going by dropping in, and no one would see me. They were busy and it was hard, but you just have to never give up because I knew that I had to do this. Once I got my foot in the door, the majority of them I liked very well and worked well with. But if anyone would've told me that a year before this happened, I would've said, oh, absolutely not. I could never do that. So sometimes you are forced into doing something and it works that you've never thought you could do, and that builds on itself then. So relationships are just key because those things got me work for, it's still getting the company work. Right.
Jeani: I would say as an observer of that, everybody in my family was part of building those relationships. We were either on the crew, but all of us were salespeople too. I went to sales marketing for Koch Industries and then back for Brazier Asphalt, and then several other different companies in the industry and then outside of the industry. But it was, when I think about those particular relationships, they were the hardest one because first off, they were looking at this company and being like, are they even going to be here? Is this woman going to keep going? Is she going to be here? They didn't know. So in that regard, you can't blame them for being like, I am just not even going to deal with this. I'm just going to ignore this, right, or whatever. Or they just doubted it or whatever it was. But I think our team inside the company stuck with us. My mom has always had incredibly low turnover.
Sandy: Yet, the employees...
Jeani: They stuck with us. Our partners, at the time, it was Koch industries...
Sandy: Which was Diane and Michael Leary.
Jeani: Now it's Holly Asphalt, they're in New Mexico. They stuck with this. So I think when they start to see the other relationships, they started coming around. But I would say those relationships now are much deeper because they were the hardest one. When I look at the last 10, 15 years of running this company for my mom, even when I look at it now, and Joe has purchased the company, but he was with us for over 30 years. He's basically a family member as well. And he was
Sandy: He's still, working because he was there in the 90s, I think 95 or something when we hired him and he's the person I sold her to a year ago.
Jeani: To that, when mom brings that up, and I would say part of the legacy that my dad gave us is that it was all about relationships with him. He didn't talk about or brag about his relationships, but Joe was in a really bad place when my dad and him connected and my dad was watching him and seeing how he responded. When he came to my mom and said, I want to hire this guy, and here's the situation, which we won't talk about the specifics, but my mom was like, oh my... no, this is bad idea. We can't do that. He said, but I believe in this man, and I want to try. I can think back to lots of relationships that my dad did that and kind of set the precedent and that paid off, I think, for us later when people were willing to take risks. But then we also kind of carried that on and have been willing to take calculated risks on people and relationships.
Sandy: But even with the other employees, there is probably a third of them that were there before Clarence passed away, and that's 30 years now. Then the new ones that we've got that came on after I was there, they're still there.
Jeani: Very little.
Sandy: Very few, very small turnover. So I feel like I did get a good relationship with the districts and the people in charge and with our crews, our people.
Host: Well, and your low turnover, and the fact that people want to stay in the organization is a testament to how you treat people and how vulnerable you are with them, and they can be with you. I know on our call Monday, you talked a little bit about always trying to get out in the field, making that connection, knowing who your employees were, who their families are, and just kind of know in general about them. I think your relationship with them and the loyalty that they have to your company and to you and your family, I mean, is a testament of that.
Sandy: Yeah. Well, what Jeani was the salesperson, and when she was going to go on to back to Colorado for a while, she found a gentleman, and he's still there, though.
Host: You can't get him to use a digital CRM, but he's still there. So that's and that probably bothers me more than it bothers anybody else.
Sandy: He's a people person. That's how Clarence was. Yeah. I think he wrote one check in our entire life together.
Host: Okay. So next question for you, Jeani, as a successful entrepreneur and advocate, you've helped business owners and leaders grow stronger businesses. So how can women in the asphalt industry assert themselves as leaders and contribute to the growth and success of their organization?
Jeani: So I think one of the things, and I think I just left, it was just that women in construction, and one of the topics I was speaking on there was recruitment and retention. Specifically we talked a lot more about millennials and stuff like that, but I think it's relevant across the board. Then I was just talking with some other sempais about the same concept and its engagement. I think about engagement, and I'm a research person. Part of the process I use with clients now, and whether it's to help them build workforce and recruitment in their businesses to help them grow their sales and marketing, brand strategy, whatever it is, it always starts with research and data and what do you know and stuff like that. So I think the same is true. So twofold. I would say learn about your organization, learn about... really understand what matters to the success of your organization as a whole, and understand how they're perceived in the marketplace.
That may also dictate how happy you are there. So it's an important thing to know, but understand that. So know the research, know what are their products, who makes it tick? What's the history there? What are the things that make them or break them? How do they make their money? What are their biggest challenges? So I think knowing that is going to really impress upon other people that are influential in the company that you've done some footwork on your own because that stuff is very rarely actually given to you, which is probably a flaw in how you retain people and that kind of goes back to that engagement piece. Engagement is the number one thing. Only 26% of millennials feel engaged in the company they work in, and the American economy is losing over 3 billion in their economy due to lack of engagement, directly related to engagement and workforce issues. I think that problem is only getting worse with generations, starting with my generation and moving down, it's really, really important. So get engaged and engage people that you want to influence your career and engage the people that can be. I guess I always am a little bit strategic about business.
Look at the people that are going to benefit you and engage with them. It's strategic for your career, but you have to be because nobody else is going to be for you. So the two things that really come to mind are do your research. Know what success looks like. I'm a proponent of helping companies build and help educate their team members on what success looks like for them. But most companies don't do that innately, they're too busy with other things. So take the initiative to figure out for yourself. An example of that is what are the three things related to your job that if you did those three things every single day, or maybe it's every single week, you would actually be making progress towards the objective they've set and make sure you prioritize those and that you're focused on those and they're front and center.
Doing something like that is going to make you stand out above everybody else. I mean, just night and day. It'll put you leaps and bounds in front of that stuff and being able to prioritize even when people are asking you to do other things. Yes, you might want to lean in and help but know what your priorities are and you may have to do a little digging to actually even figure out what that is. But if you go and you're asking the right questions of the people above you to try to understand that you want to know what success looks like and what objectives and metrics you can apply to that, and then what are the three main things you should focus on? They would be so impressed by your initiative and your willingness to really understand that and lean in and really be productive and engaged. I think that shows engagement right there. You're also going to get a lot more satisfaction out of every role you have if you do things like that and you're more focused. I think about we all in this group right here, we have the pool of family, we have career, we have everything else. So that is also going to give you some peace of mind and some bandwidth to really be able to be productive. It's those people, those women, they're like, how do they do that and how do they keep excelling and reaching goals, is probably because doing something like that.
Host: Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. Sometimes we get so caught up in how do I advance? What is my goals? What does my future look like? That sometimes we forget to say, well wait, I'm working for an organization that I can make a difference in. To your point, understanding all of the important things about that organization, what you can do to support the organization. I mean you just said it beautifully that with your three things and with connecting with the people, showing them what you have to offer, what you can offer the organization and in kind that comes back to you because they know that you care about the organization and it's not just what's my next step? How do I move up? How do I make more money? All of those things, which are important...
Jeani: They are, but those things will come if you're engaged in where you're working and if it's not a good fit for you culturally, if you don't like how that company is perceived in the hearts and the minds of the marketplace that it's in to its customers, to its partners, doing this research is going to help you figure that out as well, which is, that's not a curse, that's a blessing.
Host: Right and to take the next step in, okay, if this isn't a company I'm aligned with personally with my values or with my passions, then like you said, it's a blessing. You get to decide, okay, where does that lie? You may leave, but obviously you're leaving where you will become more engaged in that organization because it's really where you see yourself and you're more aligned with.
Jeani: Yeah. Then I think some of the comments you just mentioned remind me of, I think it was at CONEXPO this year, a client of mine brought his daughters and his wife along for just a few of the days and weren't going to come to CONEXPO and his daughters are both in high school and I said, ''You know what, can you bring him one day I'm going to get him passes and just come, we'll have lunch together and just give me like two or three hours and let's hang out for two or three hours.'' He was like, they're not going to like this.
I tell my kids all the time, I don't care. That's too bad. I said, ''Well, just try it. It's amazing.'' So he did, and I got them passes. We went and toured around. I took them to the back of the press room area. I went and introduced them to several women around the group, actually took them over to Women of Asphalt and introduced them to several people at the booth. I took them to several companies that I thought... I mean one thing I was not aware of, and I think even growing up in the industry, but yet you're still in your own bubble like where I was in a family business, I got to know that business really, really deep. But I maybe didn't get to know the industry really, really wider until I went and worked for Koch Industries and some other stuff.
Even now I am amazed at how wide the breadth of this industry is and the opportunities within it. If you want to be a videographer, if you want to be a journalist, you can do almost any career inside of this industry. So I wanted to show them that. But then also I was very honest with them and I think I have a pragmatic approach to things, probably you've realized. But I also told them this is an industry where you can accelerate in a career as a woman faster than other industries. It is a strategic advantage as any young woman to target industries like ours and say, I'm building a career there because right now our industry has never been so hungry to have women at the table and there's also rules and regulations that are forcing them to do that. But as they're doing that, I know lots of men that have been just saturated in this industry forever that are saying, I'm so grateful for the women that are rising into leadership in my business now.
They're making huge differences. They're showing us perspective we've never experienced. So selfishly for women everywhere and selfishly because I love the industry, I think this is a great place for young women to say, it doesn't matter what you're into, you can find a place to build a career here and probably accelerate the top faster than almost any. I know my daughter loves beauty products, but I'm like, it's not there, honey. Sorry. It's the book, the Blue Ocean Strategy. It's the same concept. I tell my clients, how can you get yourself out of the bloody water and go over where it's blue water, where you were different and you were the only one and you can really set yourself apart. That's how you capture market share. It's the same thing in our careers, in our business. Get out of the bloody water industries and come over here because it's incredible, especially for women. So I would say that's something that we should all be telling young women who are entering college, moving through college, leaving high school that don't want to go to college. I know that supervisor roles on crews and moving into operational management positions are incredible opportunities even for women with families.
Yeah, and you make me think about when you talk about the options available, a lot of times people get fixated on construction is in the field on a piece machine or behind a paver versus all of the other jobs that create and keep an organization going. So like you said, IT, Marketing all of those things. A lot of those positions have really come about more so in the last five years or so where you are seeing more women kind of come in those areas. But the opportunities really are endless as far as what you can apply within an organization. Yeah.
Host: Yeah, that's wonderful advice. So Sandy, on your journey with leadership, and I know we've talked a lot about leadership because really you became the leader of your company due to unexpected circumstances during that challenging period, what kept you going or where did you find inspiration to keep moving forward and to not give up, because that's one of the things you said a little bit ago is you can't give up, what was driving your drive really?
Sandy: Well after I got past the, I don't have that much money, so I have to keep working.
Host: That's a good motivator.
Sandy: Being numb there for a while. But I think once I got out there and met the district engineer and district six, which is where I got my first job of my own, you have that... it just makes you feel good and then you cannot let them down. I can't control how hot the oil is myself or how the people do it well, but if you care about your crew and they know that and they know it's important to you, they give a lot more effort and I think because I went out with them and sympathized with their day-to-day problems I saw and I thought, oh my Lord, this is way harder than I realized. I didn't spend a lot of time on jobs when he was there because I had a family and work. But just you don't want to lose the relationships and you want the finished product to be good. We got to where we won best of road awards and that's just the greatest thing ever. So I think in my specific instance, I grew to love what I was doing, where to start with, I was just doing it because I had to and then it kept me busy out of the house. That was good. But I grew to love the people and the crews and I wanted to feel pride in those roads and I grew to really love it. I think anybody, if they don't love their career, they're never going to be truly successful. Where now at that end where I sold it, I'm really proud of what I did and I couldn't have done it without Jeani and Dustin and Joe and all the other guys there and my banker...
Host: And your insurance.
Sandy: Yeah, and the insurance people. Everybody was really good to me or helped me and then I became built relationships with them that I didn't have just myself before. You've got to love what you're doing.
Host: Yeah. So in your relationships, did you have mentors and supportive networks that helped you through that?
Sandy: Diana Reed, their polycell has been priceless forever, ever and ever, her and my daughter went to a conference in Taos, one time, New Mexico and had a great time.
Jeani: We won't expound on that, it's fine.
Sandy: I went to many more after that with Diana and I had another lady that is a great friend now, Karen, who we used to call ourselves we're the partners in crime on Broadway because she owned a traffic control company and I ended up having them dip my traffic control and that's how I got to know her better. So it was great mentorship to go to lunch with her and talk about what's going on the deals and the work and all this stuff. We've become really great friends, as with Diana. Yeah. Then of course, lots of the engineers are real good friends and just a lot of good friends down there now.
Host: So one of the main mission of Women of Asphalt is creating that comradery, right? Creating that support group between women specifically in this industry. What can you share about... you've talked about your relationships with other women, but how important was that for both of you that you feel really supported you during that time or even afterwards? How important is that, do you think having that support group of females? Obviously men are a part of helping support us in the industry, but specifically especially for Women of Asphalt, how important is that? Do you feel was important for you in your journeys?
Sandy: Oh, extremely in my case, yeah. Diana was there from the start because I already knew her. I just didn't know her in the way that I got to know her. But very supportive, very helpful. Then when I heard about the women asphalt coming about, that was great.
Jeani: Yeah, I always joke with people now where were they when I was this young girl myself?
Sandy: Yeah, we needed, Jeani was out there?
Jeani: People out, men out to dinner and talking about these Novi chip and all the new processes and gap grade, all those things. I was having all these conversations. I would say, what you asked kind of makes me think, I think there were those couple people in New Mexico, not as many in New Mexico, but Diane, Karen, there was those few there and I think it makes the relationship and the bonds even stronger. Then when I went and worked for Koch Industries, I was in Illinois working for their pavement solutions and performance roads and in the marketing business development, they only had three women in the United States. That's it. They were only hiring engineers for that role at that time because they decided that we need engineers because we can train anybody to sell. I don't know if I would necessarily agree with that now. But I do think in the role and how they had a design, that was definitely a strength. I was the only one that was brought in that was not an engineer, and it was because I had that strong contractor background. There was nobody that could speak to the contractors or speak from that perspective, that actually had... they would hire engineers out of college, but they didn't know anything about actually putting product down the road. I lived in Champaign, Illinois, which was right across the border from Terre Haute where they had labs and we would go there at least once a month and do not tell anybody this, but I secretly loved hanging out in the labs with the engineers and the geeks, and they're like... I loved it.
So that was probably a perk that they saw in their mind like, well, she'll work because she's into that. So specifically there was two of us in Illinois, it was Natalie Eker at the time, Natalie Williams now. She was actually in my wedding. We became incredible friends and she was a really strong engineer and I had a lot more sales skills and actual contractor experience and we actually ended up, instead of us just covering our own areas, we actually ended up, both of us traveling a lot more, but actually working together quite a bit. She would say, ''Hey, I need the knowledge you have in this meeting next week. Can we coordinate and do this?'' Then I would say, ''You know what, I'm going to need some engineering elements and I can put these three visits to clients and doing some road assessment together over here.''
So that was really incredible and I think women are great about that, and especially if you get quality women that are in it. Both, we were driven by similar things. We wanted to see projects work. We love the partnerships of finding the contractors, partnering with the agencies, took pride in our work. We really collaborated and used each other's strengths and weaknesses, and it made it really incredible. I think I see women doing that a lot in this industry. So I think, I don't know what it is necessarily, but I think we're willing to say to each other, this is my gap. This is my deficit, and I see that you could fill that. So how could we work together? I was actually reaching out to some partners for my business this week, and I just thinking, some people aren't good partners. They're not the ones that are reaching out to you, so you have to find...
Sandy: We'll, not admit they need, I think women don't care about that.
Jeani: I think so.
Host: Yeah. I think it goes back to that self-reflection, right? Where am I lacking or where do I need to improve? And identifying those and then to your point, finding the person that can support you with that male or female within your organization. Just again, to be the asset to not only the organization, but also helping you develop even more personally. Well, we are getting close to the end though. I think we started a couple minutes late and I've got so many more to ask you, but maybe we'll do a part two at some point next year. But why don't we end today's session with talking a little bit about inspiration. So I'll start with you, Jeani, this time. What do you see in the industry around the changing dynamics in the workforce? I know you touched a little bit on it earlier, but strategy and calculating as far as career or for people who may still be in college or taking college courses to better themselves. Specifically, I know you talked a little bit about taking the risks, so any words of wisdom before we end the call today around that?
Jeani: So I think one of the things when we're developing a brand strategy for a client, before we actually get to anything, any of the tactics being implemented, I have a litmus test that everything has to go through and is it differentiated, does it set you apart? So it goes back to that blue ocean, like let's not invest time or energy in something that's not going to differentiate you. Then is it relevant? Because while we're differentiating, a lot of times we become irrelevant to the problem we're trying to solve or the people or whatever it is. Then sustainability, can you sustain that advantage? I think when we think about our careers, that's a great litmus test for that too. So thinking about your continuing education and the skills that you're developing when you're going to conferences. I know right now I'm running a conference success workshops based on some content we put out because conference season is coming up.
Really look at what sessions could I go to that maybe are slightly out of my purview. I had at Women in Construction, a woman came up and talked to me afterwards and she's in marketing, but she came to my session, which I talked about recruiting and retention millennials. So by default, I always have a lot of HR people in that or owners and stuff like that. But I love that she was in marketing because one of the things we talked about is that marketing is an under-leveraged tool that HR should have access to and should be using and I always jokingly say, even though it's completely real, like your job descriptions suck, HR should not write your job descriptions, let marketing help them too. They support sales, they can support that. They really can be leveraged in more ways. So she was really excited about how maybe in marketing she could go back with a fresh perspective of how she also could create value for the HR department.
So she was differentiating herself by adding some of these skills or even just opening her mind up to it and it was very, very relevant because it's going to make her more valuable and it's going to address one of the primary problems she knows her organization has right now. Then sustainable, it's absolutely like she has some marketing skills, all she's got to learn to do is apply them in a slightly different way. So things like that, think about your career that way, and it kind of goes back to understand the struggles that your current company is having. What struggles and talk, some of those higher ups get them to tell you and open up to you about what are the core top three problems, and then think outside of the box about how your role might be able to impact that or how those three priorities that you think you're narrowing in on might be able to have an impact on that.
Sometimes you need to communicate that value because don't assume somebody else sees it. One of the key things for her is... and I told her, I said, ''Figure out who you need to talk to about this when you go back.'' We talk about that in my conference success workshop that we're doing is when you leave a conference and you leave some kind of education session, figure out who do you need to involve in this decision? If it's interesting enough and exciting enough that you want to take action, identify a couple of things you're going to take action on, figure out who you need to recruit or inform or get on board and then set time aside to do it. Before you walk out of that room, I actually made everybody in that workshop actually block into their calendars. You've picked a couple things we've talked about, you've identified who you need to incorporate, set up some time in your calendar in the next two weeks to actually work on it because we leave these conferences and we're overwhelmed, but our industry has conference season coming up. So that's a great time for all of us to really be thinking about what do I want to do? I want to meet certain people and add them to my network? Do I want to attend certain types of education? Do I want to understand a certain problem that my company's facing better that I don't understand? Who do I want to connect with on LinkedIn that has information about these things? So you need to be proactive and intentional about those types of things, and that's going to really set you apart.
Host: Yeah. That is such great advice timing for us because with the conference season coming up and starting of the first year and then World of Asphalt, and then when we have our Women of Asphalt day, it's a great opportunity to put those things that you just told us in place. Sandy, with you, before we leave the conversation, is there any last minute words of wisdom that you would like to share with the group?
Sandy: Well, I really think that the comment about that you need to love your career is really important. I would not have been so a success with that if I had grown to love it and I really did. I still have days I want to go back, but you got to be patient. You need to be honest and you need to follow through with whatever you commit to. I've had to redo roads more than one because we are not going to do roads that aren't really good. But sometimes you have to do it over for free, and that's not only money, but a lot of time. But you've got to commit to that.
Host: Yeah, because again, it comes back to how people view your company and giving that quality work so... well, I just want to say we've been getting a lot of comments, no wonderful comments from people, and we just want to thank you both for joining us. I feel like you've given a lot of information. I would recommend that everybody on the call, watch it again, because there's all kinds of nuggets that we can take away. We certainly hope we'll see you, Jeani and you Sandy at our first annual Women of Asphalt Day at the World of Asphalt in March, and we hope to see all of you who participated in the call today. So thank you so much. We appreciate everything and we'll see you soon.
Jeani Ringkob: Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the Contractor's Daughter. If you liked what you heard, be sure to subscribe and review, but most of all, share this with all of your friends, partners, and customers in the highway construction business and thank you for building the infrastructure that we all rely on.
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