cheryl sment | president, interstate sealant & concrete, inc.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? EDUCATION? PREVIOUS JOBS?
Ironically, my background has nothing to do with construction or concrete.  I was an ER nurse for 17 yrs prior to my entrepreneurial bug that hit me in the early 1990s. Back then I was a full time ER nurse, and was dating a guy who had two acres to develop in the city I lived in.  I asked if I could both financially and physically partake in that adventure. I designed and built five spec houses, doing a lot of the physical labor on the outside and inside. I learned how to grade on a bobcat and handled bookkeeping. From that experience evolved a banking relationship that brought me to my current adventure. After four months of due diligence and no cash flow, I did an asset purchase of the equipment and vehicles of ISC, which has become Interstate Sealant & Concrete.  Therefore, I have a BS in Nursing and the “hard knocks” degree in running a pavement maintenance company.

WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE GETTING INVOLVED IN THE CONCRETE INDUSTRY?
I had a career in nursing and dabbled in subdivision development and retail, co-owning a retail franchise with my sister-in-law for about four years in early 2001.

HOW DID YOU GET THE POSITION YOU CURRENTLY HAVE? 
I had a vision, and that was establishing a company that would provide a good product, and had good employees that enjoyed working for my company. It is important to me that my employees feel that I am an owner that truly cares for them.  I really didn’t want to leave my nursing job at first, so I only did the book-keeping for the business the first six months.  After that, I said I wanted to be President and develop this business to what I had as a vision.  Within its second year, I achieved those goals I set out and put the benefits in place, and began working on the real assets of the company -- the people.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT OF YOUR POSITION? 
Wow, I have so many!  I guess the day-to-day operation is what an adrenaline junkie like me likes, but it’s more than that.  I love the strategic and tactical planning of the business.  I enjoy knowing my employees and mentoring them to be successful in their jobs.  I love taking calls from customers telling me how great my crew did on a particular job, and then turning around and giving that crew the feedback. 

WHAT ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU INVOLVED WITH? 
I have been a long time member of ABC, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin. I am newly appointed to the Board of Directors and served as co-chair on the membership committee for ABC.  I am also a member of the IGGA, the International Grooving & Grinding Association, where many pavement maintenance contractors work together to keep good standards of performance on pavement restoration. 

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND AMBITIONS FOR YOUR POSITION? 

Introduce a positive culture and setting to let the industry know that women can be leaders in a non-traditional field.  I love my job, and have many goals and ambitions to carry this company forward to bigger contracting opportunities, more employee satisfaction and less turn-over.  So far I think I have already accomplished a lot in this company and love to see my employees as excited as me when they go to work.


WHAT TYPES OF CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE INDUSTRY? 
More opportunities to network with other contractors.  Our state does a fabulous job of hosting an annual WI Department of Transportation DBE Conference that brings together Prime Contractors and DBEs through classes, networking sessions and panel discussions. The more you know about the other contractors in your area, the better resources you have to make every project a success. Over the past 12 years I have been in this industry, I have seen positive changes related to contractors accepting women and minorities into this industry. States are taking a more proactive stance on enforcing DBE goals and increasing opportunities for disadvantaged businesses. It wasn’t always this friendly and I welcome the state’s enforcement and encouragement of contractors working together to make all projects successful.   

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN JUST ENTERING THE CONCRETE INDUSTRY? 
Know your business!  In order to get respect in this industry, contractors expect you to know your services down to the very details of specifications and plans. Get out and join associations where you will have opportunities to meet other contractors.  Join a business roundtable to help you better understand how to run a business, and that all businesses technically run on the same core principles and values -- it’s the services that differ.  Put your big girl panties on, it’s not a time to play damsel in distress. Attitude is everything!  I play like a Champion everyday!