Evelyn Kuzilla is no stranger to scaling walls–or building them. Kuzilla is the owner of Jance & Co., a Mentor, Ohio, construction company founded by her brother, Paul A. Jance, in 1970. She says that building a successful firm in a traditionally male industry means being smart and confident.
"There are many challenges for women in business. This is especially true in the construction industry," she says. "I believe women do have to 'prove' that they are knowledgeable in an industry that is very complex."
Kuzilla started out by helping her brother run the business since its inception. Jance & Co. grew from a firm of two to what it is today—an award-winning regional general contractor that employs up to 75 employees. Kuzilla bought the company in 2006 and became its majority owner. Under her leadership, Jance has built projects for healthcare and education organizations, as well as performed historical renovations. Jance currently does business in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Kuzilla hopes to expand its reach in the future.
Kuzilla adds that she is seeing more women going into construction as project managers, estimators and architects—an encouraging trend. To women entering the field, and to women entrepreneurs in general, Kuzilla stresses the importance of being "knowledgable about your business in all facets," as well as "being enthusiastic about what it is you do."
Here are some more tips from Kuzilla on building a successful business.
- Forget the 40-hour-a-week job. "You must be willing to sacrifice your tie in order to build your business."
- Join groups to increase recognition. "I have joined a number of associations where I'm able to tell people my story and talk about my business. It is important to be visible."
- Don't give up on new contacts. "When you have a new contact, know that the first, second or even third attempt to get business from the company may not have produced the results you had hoped for. I firmly believe that a personal telephone call or letter is much better than just sending an e-mail."
Finally, Kuzilla urges business owners to pursue their dreams and push through barriers with hard work.
"Once you have owned and managed your own company, you will never want to work for someone else again," she says.
Linda Doell is an award-winning journalist with more than more than 20 years experience as a reporter, editor and blogger. She blogs for Contently.
Pictured: The Cleveland Museum of Art, one of Jance & Company's many constructions.
Photo credit: The Cleveland Museum