Guest Column — Fighting Gender Politics in the Home Improvement Industry
How Janice Lopez, co-owner of Storm Guard of North Metro Denver, is challenging the gender stereotypes in the workplace — one roof at a time.
There truly is a stigma surrounding home improvement and restoration contractors.
As the local franchise owner of Storm Guard of North Metro Denver, I understand that the home improvement industry can sometimes be intimidating. This is especially true for female homeowners, who tend to shy away from taking charge of home improvement projects for fear of being taken advantage of by contractors. It is also true for women like me, who own businesses in male-dominated industries.
Prior to opening my Storm Guard business back in 2015, my background was in human resources management in call center environments. I was used to very fast-paced, customer service-oriented work that occurred in an office. I was very hesitant, and even scared, to make the leap from the call center environments I found great success in to the home improvement industry. This was due to my lack of hands-on construction knowledge.
However, I was confident I could learn the construction and the roofing industry, especially with the help of my brother, Russ. In fact, it was the strong business and people skills I brought to the table that really tied our Storm Guard concept together and helped us build relationships within Denver’s local communities. Russ and I quickly discovered that by combining our complementary skillsets, we truly could operate a roofing and construction business that combats negative perceptions around contractors and the construction industry in general.
Even though I was very confident in my ability to enter the roofing and construction industry, I personally experienced the stigma that contractor work is no place for a woman. Early on in our business venture, I took my Storm Guard branded Chevy Silverado to a car wash. A gentleman walked across the parking lot and approached me to comment on how sharp the truck looked with our Storm Guard branding. He then proceeded to say, “It’s really great that you are out here washing your husband’s truck for him!” I nicely and confidently corrected the man by sharing with him that the truck was mine and that I actually owned Storm Guard. I could see that he was struggling to process the fact that a woman like me could own a construction business. This was a pretty shocking experience for me because I had never felt this kind of stigma until becoming involved in construction.
I have also encountered this stigma in my day-to-day interactions while managing the tradesmen and contractors we employ. When coming into a male-dominated industry, you must be on your game and demonstrate high-quality credibility, especially to the team you oversee. As a woman, it’s a lot tougher to build that level of credibility. In my role at Storm Guard, I negotiate the labor and material pricing. I also order materials and assign approved work out to our crews.
There was definitely a learning curve and it took some time for me to build up a level of competence that was respected by the men in my industry. However, I have demonstrated my skillset and built a level of trust with them. They are comfortable discussing pricing and job scopes with me and are ready to take on assignments provided by me, a woman. I think they also appreciate how I care for them and that I treat them as part of the Storm Guard team. I buy them lunch and do other small things to show my ongoing appreciation for the work they do for us. It was very clear to me that, for many of them, this was something they had not experienced before. I think they appreciate it and it has fostered long-term, high-quality business partnerships.
I have noticed this stigma pattern and how it impacts female customers as well. For example, even before I opened Storm Guard, I would take the lead on my own home improvement projects. On several occasions, I would schedule a contractor to bid a project for me. The contractor would come to my home and only address my husband, essentially ignoring me. They would avoid talking with me so much that my husband would often point to me and redirect the conversation to the “person in charge.” Now, in my role as a female business owner, I train my team to handle customers equally. Regardless of whether we are providing services to a man, a woman or both, it is our job to ensure that all of our clients feel heard, respected, and well taken care of throughout the process of repairing or improving their homes.
With my current understanding of the construction industry and ongoing support from Russ, my suppliers and my crews, I take pride in providing exceptional customer service to all homeowners and business owners in our community in an attempt to combat its negative stigmas. While it took some time, Russ and I now feel that we’ve built and grown one of the highest-quality teams of contractors in the greater Denver area. Our team wouldn’t be able to operate as smoothly as it does without taking the time to build lasting relationships between us.
Over our years of operation, my team and I have been dedicated to restoring homes and businesses after natural disasters and repairing exterior damage caused by sometimes unexpected storms. Whether it’s the recent Marshall Fire catastrophe, strong winds, heavy snowfalls or frigid temperatures, every Denver resident knows that Colorado is a storm-based environment. When these storms get violent, Storm Guard of North Metro Denver is there to lend a helping hand. As an owner, I continuously emphasize how important it is to have a reliable and trustworthy team that’s able to provide proper customer service to those homeowners who find themselves in difficult situations resulting from weather events.
For more information, or if interested in contacting Storm Guard in North Metro Denver, please visit https://www.stormguardrc.com/co/denver-north-metro/.
Storm Guard of North Metro Denver is locally owned and operated by fourth generation Colorado natives, brother and sister, Janice Lopez and Russ Barber. As a trusted name in the insurance restoration industry, Storm Guard in North Metro Denver specializes in professional roofing and restoration services, serving Denver, Brighton, Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, Longmont and the surrounding areas.