Being a Female in a Male Dominated Industry?
There are always challenges in life, no matter who we are.
Fourteen years ago I became the sole owner of Branch Management, a tree maintenance company in Port Stephens. Although I had owned the company for six years beforehand, I was the voice of the business and my husband at the time was the face.
Becoming the voice and the face of the business was challenging as I knew nothing about the quoting side of tree work or the questions clients may ask and how to answer them.
“Wear a short skirt, a low top and you will win the quotes,” they said. So I did the opposite and wore knee length shorts and a t-shirt or shirt, tied my hair back in a ponytail and off I went having no idea what I would encounter along the way.
In the first 3 months I pretty much stuffed most quotes and just about went broke. I had two choices, either go broke or get my shit together and work things out and quickly. I decided on the latter.
As I went along things become more evident to me that I was a female working in a very male dominated industry. Other tree companies were trying to get rid of me, bad mouth who I was and my business, under quote jobs and try to give me a ridiculous offer to buy me out of business. Either they didn’t like me or were intimidated by me. Little did they know that this only gave me more motivation and drive to work harder and smarter. I definitely don’t mind a challenge.
I chose to put my head down, became too busy to listen to gossip and make this happen.
There were lots of other challenges along the way and here are a few:-
My first encounter was when I went to quote a removal of a pine tree and the gentleman was sitting in his house with an oxygen tank next to him. I walked inside and introduced myself, he said “Come and sit on my knee and give a dying man his last wish”. That comment took me by surprise and made me feel very uncomfortable. I walked outside did the quote, upped his price by $500 and left it in the letterbox. I got the job!!
Other propositions were along the lines of “Was I single?” “Was I married?” “Will you marry me?” and the list goes one.
Once I was use to these comments I just mainly laughed them off. I do feel sorry for the woman that tried to hook me up with her son though. I hope he found someone.
As this industry is a physical one I needed to hire a crew that not only could take direction from a woman but be loyal, trustworthy and honest. I was lucky enough to hire a climber that was with me then for the next 10 years and together that all happen. The guys driving the truck and ute came and went, some weren’t that great and didn’t last long, others felt the need to steal items from me and then others motivated me in a way that made me a better person. I did get my work heart broken when one guy who challenged me, believed in my abilities and encouraged me left to pursue other things. We remain friends and will do for a long time.
I remember an old employee early on having a whinge to another person, saying “Shelley never says thank you”, the other persons reply was, “You get paid, she doesn’t have to say thank you. Besides, have you ever said thank you to her for hiring you?” I thought that comment was priceless. I also thought, I’m pretty sure in all the years of me working in any of my jobs, I don’t recall ever anyone thanking me for coming to work. Each to their own I suppose, some of us are needy and some aren’t. I then made it a mission of mine to say thank you and to show appreciation to my crew when I spoke to them. Yes ladies, I know what you are thinking!!
It is always nice to know you have people on your side as well, my AQF5 Arborist over the years has been a friendly source of knowledge and help.
Well, I don’t drink beer but the amount of beer I have purchased over the years is quite disturbing. Boys know how to drink and it can often be a peace offering, encouragement, thanks and/or a token of appreciation.
Everyone brings something to the team
We are a small business with a team of 4 people. I believe each person brings something valuable to the team. I quote and organise the jobs, there is a climber (always handy on the job), groundie with a truck licence and groundie with a vehicle full of tools. Together we all have an important part to make Branch Management work and provide a professional, knowledgeable and trustworthy service, and in return provide us with an income.
As I spoke with all my clients, they were always happy to leave their details with me for the GUY to come out and quote. When I said I was quoting, I could always hear the shock in their voice and then they corrected themselves and said they were happy for me to come out.
I could tell early on I was being tested by people about my knowledge and experience. It became very clear to me that I needed to have some sort of a comeback. I came up with the line “I am not an Arborist, I am happy to provide you with a free quote. If you would like Arborist advice I am happy to connect you with an AQF5 Arborist who can provide you with that information at a price”. I was lucky enough to become involved with an AQF5 Arborist and still to this day we recommend each other in our day to day businesses. We provide, what I believe, to be a complete professional package to be able to provide our clients with a knowledgeable and professional quote and service without it being seen as a conflict of interest.
My clients were always happy with our service and I have had over the years, lots of praise, encouraging words about our communication and efforts to provide a service that always exceeded their expectations.
One of the biggest challenges was the change from advertising in the local paper and waiting for the call to online advertising with a Website, Adwords and Facebook. Small businesses don’t have the spare cash to throw thousands of dollars into advertising and marketing campaigns. Learning to do all of this yourself and remain sane has had its ups and downs. I have a few friends that have helped me out and of course spent time in the classroom learning these necessary tricks of the trade.
Good Old Fashioned Services
One of the things that I believe contributed to our success was providing good old fashioned service. I know I was and continue to be on time to any quote or meeting and if I am going to be late, a phone call will be made. I always got a pleasant surprised tone by my customer. Being on time often pleased the customer and gave a good impression. I don’t like my time being wasted so why should I waste there’s.
Well they say you should always trust women’s intuition and mine is spot on. Often I can be talking to the boys over the phone or just thinking about them and a feeling will come to me. One employee I had the suspicion he wasn’t doing the right thing by me or my business. I asked around and as boys will look after boys, they didn’t say anything. One day it got the better of me and I asked a client to just get back to me when the boys turned up. I had 2 crews working that day and all coming together on the last job. I got the phone call from my client saying that the climber turned up at the allocated time but the truck driver was late. He turned up 2 hours later. I was very grateful for her information and decided to turn up to the job they were all meeting at later in the day. I asked the truck driver, what time he turned up to work and he advised me it was 7.30am. I said, no it wasn’t, I asked the client to let me know what time you turned up and it was 9.30am. He was not happy at all being caught out and I asked him to remove all his things out of my truck and go home. His services were no longer required.
Over the years my business has continued and survived through a divorce, a baby, a relocation, 2007 Pasha Bulka Storm, 2014 Government Schools Programme, 2015 Newcastle Storm and anything else that has come my way. My business has provided me with financial independence and the opportunity to meet a lot of lovely people. At the end of the day all I want to do is provide our customers with the best possible service, have a crew that love their job and an income we can provide for our families.
So if you would like a free quote by a female working within the industry full of males give me a call on 0419 289 223. I won’t keep you waiting.
Choosing the right Tree Pruning or Tree Removal company can be tricky. Be prepared, hire a Professional company today, so you aren’t caught out at the last minute. Not all Newcastle Arborist’s are the same. At Branch Management we strive to offer you quality, professional and safe Tree Arborist Services Newcastle and surrounding areas with competitive prices.
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If you have any questions or comments please contact us at: https://www.branchmanagement.com.au/contact/ or Mobile: 0419 289 223