Ladies who Build. Hang out with the owners of Simply Home - Ashley and Michelle - both renovation experts from Austin, Texas! With a decade of experience, we will discuss all of the things we have learned over the years. We invite you on our journey as we continuously learn how to be extraordinary and thrive in this industry. Now, let's chat!
In this episode, Ashley and Michelle discuss all aspects of being women in the construction industry. The good, the bad, and the ugly… Every tough situation they have faced has led them to be the successful, strong, and passionate female business owners that they are! They can’t wait to share their stories with you!
This Episode Will Cover:
• Reflecting on being women in the construction industry
• How the company has gained popularity by being women owned & focused
• Good Cop vs. Bad Cop
• Tough situations with vendors
• Effective communication tactics
• Who is going to stand up for me if I can’t stand up for myself?
Ladies Who Build is available on Spotify, the Podcast App, and Youtube!
Episode 5 Coming Soon: How to Find Your Niche!
Learn More About Ashley, Michelle, & Simply Home:
Episode 4 Transcript:
Welcome to episode four, being a woman in the industry. We really want to dive into this because it has been such a big topic for people around us. I feel like everyone's always asking How does it feel for you to be a woman in the industry? So, as we were thinking about this, we talked a lot about, one, this is how we get in a lot of our business is being a woman in the industry. And when we talk to clients about why they went with us, there are several reasons, but one of them is always because you're a woman in the industry and we stand out because of that, I think because it's a big part of our marketing and in who we are and how we've branded ourselves is that.
We've always embraced it, but I think it's taken time to come into our own flowering blossom of a woman.
Over the years in this industry, because, you know, it's tough in the beginning. It's such a male dominated industry. Right. And in the beginning, it was very difficult for us to get. It took longer for us to get a stance and to get grounded in our, city, because we were women because you know, everything was done by a man and they know they've been doing this industry for a hundred years and they can lift a board that we can't lift. So therefore they know more, you know?
And so that took us a long time to kind of carve our path. But when we reflect back on this, we laugh. And really take pride in the fact that we are both women that when we got kind of knocked down for that, it didn't push us down to ever think, oh, should we even be doing this? It propelled us to say, Ooh, I'm going to show you. I can do this. And I'm going to do it in my stiletto. You know, like we, it just gave us energy to go show them, prove them wrong.
Yeah. It was the motivation. It was the red bull through our veins that pushed us into overdrive. And we were like, you know what, let me show you exactly how this is done because I can do it better.
And that came with clients and vendors. It was both sides of the equation were judgmental in their own ways. And we didn't see it all the time.
We're definitely not milking this for something. It wasn't right. Michelle and I never saw ourselves as like, oh, poor us. We're women. We never saw ourselves as victims because of it. We honestly didn't even think about it. Most of the time. We were probably blind to a lot of like prejudice that we were getting because we were women. Yeah. We probably didn't even see it half the time because I didn't care.
You know, I, we knew we were providing a service. We could prove that we could provide the service well and efficiently. So in my mind, I always thought like, it's just your loss dude. Like it doesn't bother me, you know?
Yeah. And vendors were always the trickery of all of this, right. Where they initially Michelle and I took a lot of heat. We took a lot of quote unquote, "Abuse," from them because we just wanted good vendors. It was like, we do anything because, oh, he makes the best cabinets or, oh, he puts in the best custom floors or he does the best painting. Right. But the truth of the matter is we took a lot of it because we wanted to deliver a quality job for clients. And so we sacrificed. You know, we sacrifice some rough phone calls. Um, tears some stress and anger with all of it, but I remember being completely astounded by how people thought and but how vendors thought they could talk to us. And how they thought they could treat us, because I don't know if that's the norm in some way.
But it evolved over time, and now we have vendors who were like, "They're so lovely." We don't need to snap their fingers. We don't need to snap our fingers at them. They understand us. We understand them. It's this mutual respect. Yeah. That I never could have. Of course, did I envision the day where this would happen? Yes, but I never could have seen myself here.
So I think that for so many years, we've had really solid vendors for so many years that have stuck by us and it's truly a partnership with them. And, um, they do great work and we continue to give them work and we want to also respect them and say like, "Hey, go take some time off from us because you do work really hard and we don't want to overwork you."
It's funny, thinking about all the mansplaining that happened back in the day, you know. And it's like, "let me tell you how to paint this trim." It's like, "well, no, we know, but I just need you to do it."
Right. Or like how many times vendors were call us little girl or, I don't even know, the, just like the little baby terms that they would use. You know, and so condescending.
It was so condescending and we had to, Michelle and I, we had great tactics, we would inflate their ego.
Tell them all we tell them which a lot of them were, but that was our method to getting them to the job site.
Right. It's like, and, and honestly that played an advantage for us because we're going to have to play it a man. Couldn't call another man in boom. Come on man. But like, you're so great. Yeah. And I really like enjoy your, you know, I just, I don't know why that was my man voice, but like, but it's true. Why is it an advantage of being women? Is that we could really play the like sympathy, empathy card and you know, what, if they were going to put us in that position. You know, be this woman role, then we were going to play.
Yeah. You know, and I remember there was this one plumber I was working with when doing this renovation and he was such a jerk. He went off on me. He was so mean. So nasty. Never worked with him again. One and done. But when you have someone working on a job like that in there, on the permit, and you have money invested, and you're just thinking, "I just need to get to the end." Right. "I just need to do whatever it will take to get this job over with. As long as they're doing good work, no matter the sacrifice," and that is not all that healthy, but I remember there were so many situations like that. We just took it. Yeah. Because we needed them to do the work. And then we thought, okay, well, I don't want the client to see that we had to let this guy go or that he walked off.
So, we just, we would just eat and deal with a lot of. Stuff like that because the client image was still everything to us. I mean, it still is, but we also have limits and respect ourselves in such a different way now. Everything can be resolved with communication, right.
If we were just honest with the client back then and be like, we just need to be honest of what happened and here's my solution. 99% of the time, they'd be like, "cool, thanks for letting me know." Like, they just want to know it's taken care of. So we just didn't think about that back in the day.
I remember this story. I will never forget this guy was on a ladder, and I think I was training a new person and I was wearing a skirt. And I remember he said something to another guy that was working there, like another vendor that we had scheduled. And he was like, "I don't know about you, but I'm not gonna sit here and take directions from a woman in a skirt." You know, like she doesn't know anything if she's, if that's how she's going to dress or something.
And I laughed and I actually really loved it. And I remember wanting to dress in a skirt or dress like more around him just to piss him off. I mean, granted, he didn't want to work with us anymore, but you keep going. I would still wear a skirt.
I mean taking direction from a woman has been a real struggle for a lot of men in the industry, because I was just thinking about it the other day. I didn't realize this until you said it, but I was working with a structural engineer that we hadn't talked to since the beginning of Simply Home. But I worked with him a long time ago, and I remember when I was talking to him the other day, I was in shock how he was talking to me and how he was handling the situation of me needing to get paperwork from him and him trying to mansplain to me how things worked. And it was not a partnership I did what he said.
He was in charge, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I mean, afterwards, I was o shocked that someone would treat me like that. And what I realized was that we have surrounded ourselves with such good people today. But it took me back to PTSD from way back when, when I just felt so awful for people talking to me like that and I think that's somewhat normal in the industry because he, I had to put myself in his shoes, and he's been so scarred. He's been.. right.
Put in tough situations from general contractors. You know, and from other parties that caused him to react that way. Right. Right. Like he's reacting because he's been through some stuff and I try so hard not to take it personally, but it takes, it took everything in me not to lose it on him.
And I was like, ooh, we're going to need to go meditate after this. I'm going to need some homes. Yeah, that's good. Interpersonal work. Because back in the day, we would've gone off. How many times. Okay. I want to clarify. You actually never went off. No I did on the one guy. Remember the one guy that you had to work with at that house on the east side had like the back house the homeless guy was living in.
Yes. Yeah, you had to work with him on that because I couldn't take it. And I was like, you will absolutely. You need to be a bigger and better person and, well, you know, it's really embarrassing. I would really kind of go, I would hit deep. I would hit hard on these guys when they pissed me off.
Well, I think that's, and this is, I actually never would recommend this, but I think that's an, in bit of a way they, I don't even say it respect because it's not how you get respect. So funny. Cause I remember people would be like, "wow, like you walk into this job site with like 20 men. "Are they not all trying to hit on you? And I was like, "no, they're literally terrified of hitting on me." No, one's even talking to me like, they're like, I'm like blue taping everything because it all needs to be fixed. But, you know, I had to learn the hard way because I felt it was almost my defense mechanism was, was I don't want them to mansplain or talk down to me and therefore I'm going to be super aggressive to them back.
So they respect me and it was not the way to go. I do not recommend any of that, but that meant good cop bad cop. Right. So I knew you were being bad cop. So I would come in and be good cop. Oh, like, "how are you doing? How, you know, how are you, how is your life?" A lot. And then when I had my moment, you would come in and be good cop.
And they would be like, "oh yeah, no, I can't work with her. She's crazy." or "she's called with her."
Yeah, you think I'm nice to wait? That's why we called her, your alter ego's name is Lauren, which is my first legal name. We named her. Yes. And then we put her to bed, right. Yeah, she hasn't come out in a hot minute. I say we, I mean, I didn't have to... That's my fiance. He's like, "Lauren comes out every night. She's cray cray get her a glass of wine. I see her on the couch." He's like, "Nope, Lauren is still active. She's not dormant." You know, but on the flip side of this, so we talked about vendors, but what was equally tough was clients. Right.
And I think, you know, you made a point earlier, is that I think a lot of our clients were awesome men and women, but there were, we had a lot of great, wonderful men, clients that were so open to this idea. They loved it. They were, they were just like, "I'm all for you. I'm rooting for you." And that was so refreshing, but there were definitely clients where, you know, you could just feel. You not only could feel like the condescending eyes, but you could just the way that they spoke with you, it was still a lot of mansplaining. It was still a lot of, you know, "I know what's best. And why wouldn't you catch?" It's just crazy stuff. Yeah. "Why don't, you know, everything," you know. Like, "why won't you catch that?" And you're like, "because I literally don't know everything. I'm not 80 years old." Right? "I'm in my twenties. But I'm trying and I will figure it out."
But, you know, I do think of you reminded me of the time I was walking through with our new sales guy and we were meeting a client. We were walking through a house and the client started talking to my new sales guy and he was like, "show this and that." And you know, "we're going to need to do this." And the new sales guy said something back to the client and he said, "well, you actually are going to want to talk to Ashley. She's the owner, the actual GC. I'm new here." And the client looked so shocked. And he didn't even know how to handle that. I mean, you looked at me and he was like, "oh, okay. So Ashley, do you know what I'm talking about? Blah, blah, blah." And I'm like, "yeah, I've been following you this whole time." But I was waiting for him to realize that it was me. I'm the owner, and I have the experience, but he didn't know what to do with himself.
That's totally happened to me too with project managers too. And they'll be like, "yeah, that's great. And all, but she's the one you should be talking to."
It's so great sitting back and watching it. And, to be honest, I think that that's why we had... I don't, I wouldn't even say that's why we hired the men that we did, but it was nice having men on our team because there were times in which we had to utilize them.
Unfortunately, there was times where we had to be like, "listen, the only person this client is going to have a productive conversation will be a man." We just knew.
When you're trying to be reasonable, and there's absolutely no reason that they can't be, you know, it's because you're a woman and you kind of just, you gotta bring in the mail, you got to get it over with. That's all they're going to listen to and talk to you. So just do it. Like we're not here to change this man's mind. Yeah. Feminism. I'm just trying to go through this project. If I never see you again, I'm trying to do my job. We need to, we need to finish this up and wrap it up. And I mean, Michelle and I were so devoted to clients. We are so devoted to clients that we had to finish a project. And what should have happened is that we just cut ties and walked away. But we couldn't, we were so focused about our reputation. We are so focused about saying no matter what we were going to finish the job and we wouldn't leave anyone hanging. Because we didn't want to be the GC that leaves a person high and dry.
Yeah. We would be a lot of other things, but not that.
Call me what you want, but I'm still be here. Also shout out to Ashley's dad, because he is the trooper that helped us in the beginning. When situations that came like that, and he was the first to, I mean, he could be anywhere and an Austin and we'd be like, we need you now, and he would just show up and he really represented in the ways that we could not represent. Yeah. We had to, even if his job was literally just to stay in there, which sometimes it was, and not say anything and just, you know, be the, the kind nice man that he is. And be like, "yeah, absolutely. I hear you. Cool Ash. What am I here for today? What am I doing? What are y'all doing on this job? " And I'm like, "you just sit there and you smile. That's all I need from you." Which I'm proud to say, we haven't brought him on jobs in a very, very long time, but in the beginning, we 100% needed his male aura. We needed his male being because that that's, truth be told, the times that we were living in and we worked really hard in shifting the industry. And we've worked really hard over the years to make our presence known. And so anyone that calls us knows where women, they like that we're women, but in the beginning, that just wasn't the norm.
Yeah. They thought we were like, you know, "Okay, cool. You're the sales person, but let me talk to the actual GC." And then we put on our GC. "Hi, that's also me." Yeah, no. Who else?
But yeah, there was a lot of biased, and I don't want to like label things and say things were biased or like sexist, but it was. It was so common that we received phone calls that people would be saying, "oh, I thought you were the stager. I thought you were the designer." We would say we would have to correct them and say, "no, we're the contractor." Right. And we're the GC and we're the ones doing the actual work. And we still, I still get that to this day. And I feel like it's just because people don't realize that they naturally see women in that role and they don't see women as a contractor. It's not their fault. It's okay. Like, it doesn't bother us, but yeah, we still get it to this day. Like people will be like, "so what do you think? I'm sure you could design the space really well. It's what you do for a living." And I'm like, "who you talking to?"
I don't design spaces, but you know, like what we also have learned, especially through our coach when we brought her on was the way that people treat you is because they're hurt, right? Like the saying 'hurt people, hurt people.' And that took us a really long time, I think for me more so than you, because my initial instinct reaction was to meet their energy. So if the energy was super aggressive, I wanted to be aggressive back because you've hurt my feelings. I'm going to hurt your feelings, you know, an eye for an eye type of thing. Whereas, as you grow in your emotional intelligence, you realize, okay, if that person is being really aggressive because of their own hurts and pains, and it doesn't make them wrong and it doesn't make them right. But you also don't have to match that. And that took a really long time to swallow because you know, your first reaction is like, "wait, that made me not, and you can't talk to me that way."
You know? Yeah, absolutely. So now we can handle it. Now, we, I'm saying this and I'm laughing because now, we always try to handle things understanding that their projections have nothing to do with us personally and has everything to do with them. Right. It doesn't mean it doesn't hurt and it doesn't mean that you can't still feel things.
I remember back in the day, and still to this day, actually I really live by this motto is, "if it makes you uncomfortable, you need to do it." And that can be so far explained into every aspect of anything in your life, but, for example, I needed to call a really tough client, male client, that was very aggressive, and I was like shaking in my boots, and I was really scared, and I didn't know what I was going to say to him because I knew he was going to yell at me. So anyway, I knew that this client was cussing me out, he was very upset, but those moments I remember thinking I was in the back of my office and I was like hyping myself up and I was like, "okay, you've got to call him. You got to call him." I remember calling him and I left him a message and I said, "you know, your message came off very aggressive," and I don't even know what I said, but I said, "I will not accept the language that you used in that and until you're ready to have, you know, a mature conversation, I'm happy to talk about the solution here and we can move forward. But until then I cannot have this conversation with you. If this is how it's going to go." But I was like so uncomfortable in that moment, but I remember thinking, who is going to stand up for me if I can't stand up for myself? Right?
And it was just me and you. I mean, we had team members, but we were leading the pack. And we were always the customer service when things got hairy or things got bad. We would have to come in. So, we would be the one to be the media on the front line we had to be, and we had to take it but it made me so uncomfortable. And I thought like, "okay, because it's making you uncomfortable. This means I have to grow in this area. And until it doesn't make me uncomfortable. I have to keep doing it."
And I mean, still to this day, like we have to make some tough conversations happen, but people just want solutions. They want to be heard. They want to vent. They want to know that they're not stupid in the way that they're thinking and they just want to plan forward. Yeah. That's how to get to resolution.
It always is the disappointment that kills me. Inside, you know, that was always what held me back with clients. I'd have to push it on my phone. I'd have to push their number and then just let it ring and be like, "oh, okay. Oh God. Oh God it's ringing. And oh my God, they just answered. Oh my God. How is this going to go?" But you have to get over the fact that you don't know how it's going to go. It may go bad. Most of the time it goes, it ends really well. But it was the disappointment for me. When we disappointed clients back in the day, I just felt horrible, right?Because we had the best intention and we wanted it to go really well. And that's a whole nother conversation of like expectations. I wanted it to go really well. And I had to get over my feelings in order to have that conversation, and to stick with the facts and let them vent and let them feel heard.
Stick to the facts. That was a good one to learn. Because I'd be like, stuck my emotions.
We talk about the time you made me angry the other day. But again, shout out to our coach was always like, "you know, stick to the facts. Don't go into story mode." I go to solutions.
All right. So wrapping it up, being women in the industry, we've had a lot of challenges. We've had a lot of discoveries and it's something we're still working through. But when we look back at the uphill climb, we didn't have the gear at the time, but now we're at the top of the mountain and we embrace our womanhood.
We embrace it. We embrace it with our clients. You work a lot with females and with women. And, it's something we're really passionate about, and that's why we're here on this podcast. We'll continue to talk about it and we'll continue to support our fellow female business owners, entrepreneurs, supporters. Yeah. In any industry that you're in, we want to encourage you to be the person that works through it and climbs the uphill battle because we just have to move on. We have to continue on.
All right. And that's her rap stay tuned for next episode, because we'll be talking about how to find your niche.
Or niche, whatever they say. Well, we'll let you know how to find it.