Women in Restoration
A sample of the many successful women professionals who have played, and continue to play, a large part in this industry
May 14, 2013
They’re CEOs, presidents, owners, consultants and instructors. While you might not think that the restoration and remediation industry is synonymous with women, this industry is rich with them – and rich with them in impactful and standout positions. Although it was impossible to include and honor all of the women in restoration and remediation in this story (though we invite you to find this article on RandRmagonline.com and give us your picks), here’s a look at a sample of the many successful women professionals who have played, and continue to play, a large part in this industry.
DINA DWYER-OWENS: President/CEO of The Dwyer Group, which includes seven franchise brands (Rainbow International)
Don Dwyer founded The Dwyer Group in 1981 with a drive to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Having been involved in the business since she was a teenager, Dina Dwyer-Owens became the Vice President of Operations following Don’s passing in 1994 and became the President/CEO four years later at the age of 35. She continues the legacy that her father built today.
On The Dwyer Group’s code of values: We believe that it’s important to have really high standards. If you get close to within those standards, you’re going to be a great company versus having low or average standards and achieving them every day. We’re not a perfect company – we work really hard to live up to those values. We do make mistakes, but the good news is that we have a high bar that we try to achieve.
On what’s she’s most proud of: We’ve survived the death of the founder and we’re making it to the second generation. My family is a small part, managerial-wise, of the business, but I think for a company to be in its 32nd year of life after losing the founder says a lot about our team. We have an amazing team of employees that really care about the success of our franchisees.
On The Dwyer Group’s “Women in the Trades” initiative: Sixty percent of our customers are the woman of the house. The female frontline professionals that we have and female franchise owners we have really get that relationship with another woman, especially if they’ve had a fire or flood. Men are terrific too, so nothing against the men, but the women have a way of empathizing. Today, we only have 7% of our franchisees solely owned by women. Only 4% of our frontline professionals are female. My goal is just getting this message out.
PRISCILLA L. D’ANNIBALLE: President/Owner, Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling of Western Lake Erie
Priscilla L. D’Anniballe literally started her business from nothing and has grown it into a successful turn-key operation. She holds numerous IICRC certifications and is also regionally and nationally recognized as a minority business owner.
“I was a banking officer for construction lending at a regional bank in Toledo, OH in the 80s and saw the downsizing of companies during the recession and how women were not easily advancing in the corporate world like their male counterparts. I decided to own my own business, so in late 1984 I started searching for a business to buy. In early 1985, there was an ad in the paper that Paul Davis Systems was looking to sell a franchise in NW Ohio.
“I planned my exit from the bank so that I could go to the June 1985 Paul Davis School, taught primarily by Paul at the time. At that time, he had about 60 franchisees. There were four franchises in the class, of which two of us succeeded. Right now, I am one of the five or six franchisees still in operation that have been in business since 1985 or earlier.
“It was a struggle to start the business. Since I had been in construction lending with the bank, I knew all the contractors and suppliers and could get the work done. The problem was convincing the insurance agents and adjusters that I could do it. I knocked on many doors and the agents were the ones who gave me my chance. After the first year, it grew to the point that I couldn’t handle doing all the functions of the business and needed to hire people. It has grown ever since and I purchased additional territory. I now own nine counties in Ohio and three in southern Michigan.”
RACHEL ADAMS: President/Owner, Indoor Environmental Management and Laboratories
“It is most rewarding for me to teach others in the industry and to make a difference in their professional careers and companies to make them better and more proficient at what they do.” – Rachel Adams
Rachel Adams was an organic chemist in 1988, the year she began working part time with a start-up cleaning and restoration business. It was then that she learned structural drying and became involved in air quality sciences. She attended conferences on the subject matter, took classes on it and started her own consulting business – Indoor Environmental Management - in 1994, providing building inspections, sampling and writing protocols for the remediation industry. She’s since added laboratory services to her business and has been heavily involved in the development of several IICRC standards.
“As a consultant, I still go out to jobs and serve as an IEP in supporting the remediation professionals of the industry,” says Adams. “No two jobs are ever the same and there are always constant challenges and new information to learn.”
JACKIE DENNISON: Owner, Colorado ResCon
“You never know what is around the next corner of life,” says Jackie Dennison. “Seize every opportunity and be the best at it.”
Dennison should know. She began her career as a property manager in the Denver area, working her way up to senior executive management positions for commercial real estate firms. In 2002, when working in her hometown of Pueblo, CO, she was visited by the owner of a restoration company who wanted to be a designated first responder for property damage.
Little did Dennison know that she would marry that man and begin a career with Colorado ResCon, which at the time was only a mitigation company. Dennison introduced construction to ResCon and the company has taken off since - annual growth rates have averaged 57%.
It can be said that Dennison was brought into the restoration business by fate. In 2002, she might not have known what was around the corner in her life, but she’s certainly seized the opportunity.
CINDI MASON: President/Owner, United Restoration Services, Inc.
R&R: How did you get involved in the industry?
Mason: My father owned a very successful restoration company. Since he had no sons, he brought me into the business when I was 25 years old. I had graduated from New York University with a BA in English and was working at Fairchild Publications in New York City when he approached me and asked me to come work for him. It wasn’t something I ever considered doing, but he really loved the business and wanted to see it thrive and survive.
The good thing my dad did for me was he exposed me to every job imaginable. He never left me in the office, I always went to the jobsite and he taught me everything about being in the field. Between 2002-04, (my dad’s) health deteriorated and he stopped having the same focus on the company. It became apparent to me that I had no choice but to step up and take over. We went through some real transitions. I think it’s safe to say, for all intents and purposes, my company is completely different than my father’s company, but I think each worked for their time.
R&R: What’s been your most rewarding moment?
Mason: There have really been so many proud moments, from passing my CR – which was a challenging class – to handling a $2 million project at Old Westbury Gardens, to passing clearance on a mold remediation where two companies had been in before us and couldn’t.
TISH HUMMER: Owner, Assured Success Consulting Services, LLC
Tish Hummer is involved in the restoration industry, albeit in a different way. Unlike the president/owners of restoration companies and instructors that are featured in this piece, Tish is an industry sales trainer, marketing consultant and the owner of Assured Success Consulting Services LLC.
“I began my career in 1989 as an insurance agent in Ann Arbor, MI. After three years of struggling to build a business with three babies at home, I left for a restoration contractor marketing position. I later became an estimator/marketer/VP with the second company I worked with. During that tenure, I represented our company in DKI as one of the first 75 member companies and traveled representing the Central Coast Chapter of that organization as their marketing representative. I later was voted into the VP position of the same chapter. This experience gave me an opportunity to know and to be mentored by some of the largest and most influential independent contractors.”
After holding several more positions in the industry, Tish followed her passion to teach and began consulting in 2009.
“I came into the industry when there were just a few women. It has been great to see how women have influenced this industry and continue to do so by striving to elevate the status of a restoration career and promote professionalism. My proudest moments have come in my current business. Even though I’m a fledgling consultant, I have clients whose whole idea of marketing in this industry has been changed.”
TAMMY STOKES: General Manager, Oklahoma Disaster Restoration
Tammy Stokes started in the industry in 1995 when she began working for her husband’s family-owned restoration business. At the time, the business was in debt and had just lost its only sales representative and estimator.
“When we came on board, I learned how to use a measuring tape, draw a diagram and turn on the charm with customers,” she says. “My husband also joined the business full-time and became the ‘doer.’”
Now an 18-year veteran of the industry, Tammy is also an instructor in ethics and fire damage restoration for continuing education credits in the state of Oklahoma in addition to her General Manager position at Oklahoma Disaster Restoration.
“In order for me to have worked my way up to the role I am in today, I first had to work in the field,” she says. “I remember going on fire packouts when I was pregnant in 1996 with our first child. I cleaned boxes, I worked on water damages, I did mold remediation and I had a trained nose. The second thing I did to get where I am was I hired qualified people who I thought were better than me at certain tasks and I let them do what they were good at. I was initially a micro-manager, but once I was able to trust others, we truly blossomed and I became available to work on the business instead of in the business.”
LISA LAVENDER: COO, Berks Fire Water Restorations, Inc.
Lisa Lavender and her husband started Berks Fire Water Restorations in 2000. Having begun her professional career as an accountant, the beginning of the business was also Lisa’s first introduction to the restoration industry. Now, 13 years after the businesses’ inception, Berks has about 50 employees and serves a seven-county area in Pennsylvania. Berks also opened a training center – Restoration Technical Institute – in 2012. Lisa is involved in every facet of the business as COO. She says, “I am thankful to have a lot to be proud of and do not take it for granted.”
On why she got involved in the industry: The industry is exciting. There are endless opportunities, new challenges around every corner and ever evolving techniques, products, equipment and processes. It is very rewarding to utilize your skills and expertise to truly help and serve other people.
On what she’s most proud of: Our management team is made up of people who started with our company, found their passion for our industry and worked their way up into the leaders that I work with today. I am proud that we have continually reinvested in our team, plant and equipment over the last 13 years to best serve our customers.