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Business Woman Carol Campbell
Business Woman Carol Campbell: More than Tonka Trucks
The Valley Business Outlook - Women in Business by Melissa Harris
“I want to say I liked to play Tonka trucks as a kid, but that’s just not true”, jokes Carol Campbell, when asked how she became owner of a company specializing in rigging, millwrighting, heavy hauling, plant relocation, concrete pads, foundations, structural steel installation, and demolition work. However, the answer is not that simple for Ms. Campbell, who plays the active roll in a predominantly male dominated industry as the President and CEO of Chicopee Industrial Contractors.
Constructing Her Future - When asked what she aspired to become when she was a little girl growing up locally in an Italian family, Campbell claims to never have really known where life might take her and jokingly adds “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”. Campbell married after high school and entered into the world of motherhood. Self-enrichment through education was something that was little discussed throughout the earlier years of her life; however, as she continued to get older she realized the need to continue her education. It was not until she was in her thirties, did Campbell engage in her quest to take those thoughts seriously and attend UMASS. A self proclaimed A-student, she earned a degree from University Without Walls in organizational leadership, human resources, marketing and finance. The decision to earn her degree later in life was the best decision for her, as she confesses that she wouldn’t have been a very good student if she attended right after high school.
Campbell had played the part of a legal secretary, tried out real estate, project management, and worked in the Marketing and Development office at UMASS, as well as doing some consulting. However, upon the nearing completion of her studies at UMASS, Campbell felt rejuvenated, and found herself facing the world with the “bright eyes and enthusiasm of a 22 or 23 year old.” She was in the position to try something new and didn’t fell anything could hold her back. Her son was getting older and her motherly responsibilities were not as restricting and her new found enthusiasm sparked the strength to take on new endeavors.
Building a Business - The founding of Chicopee Industrial Contractors actually happened while she was still attending the university, and was established in February of 1992 with her then husband at the time John Ramsay, an engineer who is no longer associated with the company. The venture could almost be described as ready-made but it was risky at the same time. Previous to the entrepreneurial embarkment, two rigging companies had shut their doors either by force or by choice in the area. Feeling that she had the opportunity to take a huge risk, Campbell looked at the situation and saw a labor market skilled and ready to work as well as an open marketplace bereft or a rigging industry. She explains that the endeavor took off; bringing together groups of individuals that otherwise probably wouldn’t have met in other circumstances, put proving to be a prosperous venture. Despite the horrible economy that faced Campbell at the onset, she was able to pull the company up and through “the struggle of incontrollable issues of the business world” as she rationalizes it.
Located on North Chicopee Street in Chicopee, the company assumes the building that once housed Hampden Ale Brewery, obtained by Campbell during foreclosure. “It’s been a very good community to do business in,” Campbell comments in regards to the location North Chicopee Street location in Chicopee. Today, the company employs twenty people, eight on which have been with the company since its onset. With the goal of providing “The Permanent Solution to Your Temporary Problems,” Chicopee Industrial Contractors has a long list of happy references, having completed major projects such as plant relocation, installations and shut downs for companies such as Lenox/American Saw, Top Flite Golf Company, Mead/Westvaco, as well as many other companies throughout Massachusetts and variou7s locations throughout the country. In addition to larger projects, the company is credited for completing smaller projects such as installing the dinosaurs at the Springfield Quadrangle and relocating the statue of Joseph and baby Jesus for the Sisters of Providence.
The Woman Wears the Pants - The only woman we know of in the area to hold such a position in this type of industry, Campbell will admit that she has been met with some adversary along the way. Challenged when she first entered the field, there were times she struggled and felt tested in the market place. Campbell also shares stories about how she would often times be faced with people asking for Mr. Campbell, assuming she was a man, or how one gentlemen called back and stated that he’d been talking to the secretary but didn’t get her name, unbeknown to the fact that he was talking to the company’s owner. How has she dealt with such stereotypes? “I use humor in everything,” she says.
She will also admit that working with mostly men has had its challenges as far as communication is concerned. “Communication is not difficult, but shown to be different at times,” she explains, and points out that she has discovered that while women may like to talk things through, men like to fix things. “It’s something, I have to be consciously aware of,” she says in regards to the different communication styles between men and women.
“What’s important to me in business is the same to men in life. Equality and respect. Not only that I get it but that I give it,” says Campbell. Campbell stresses not only equality and respect, but also the importance of team, and has built a corporate culture around those three things. She would say that her advice to any person looking to go into business would be,” You are only as good as the people which you work with… invest in the best.” Campbell has done just that, as her employees are including in every aspect of the business and she shows a commitment to them through reinvesting in the company by way of training employees in hard, technical, and soft skills, as well as in safety training and cross training. “We’ve been in business for thirteen years because of the staff and crew, it’s not about me,” she says. Together, they have achieved renewed status in the industry and have been a Paul Harris Recipient from the Rotary International in 2001 and Business of the year from Chicopee Chamber of Commerce in 2001 for “solid work ethic, a strong workforce, and a true commitment to the community.”
Some Heavy Hauling - Campbell sights the best part of her job as the excitement of the challenge and the fact that she is always learning something new. “I love what I am doing 99% of the time,” she says, as she is always entertaining her true entrepreneurial spirit, never doing the same thing twice, and never bored. She does add, however, that there are downsides to owning your own business, such as the fact that you’re never away from work, which it’s always with you. Most importantly, she adds is “the stress that I carry for the responsibility of twenty people.”
Campbell keeps very busy, as she is involved in a list of organizations, serving on the board of directorships for Chicopee Chamber of Commerce, Chicopee Rotary, Specialized Carriers and Rigging Foundations, Chicopee Savings Bank, Fine Arts Center Gala Committee, Elms College, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and Visiting Nurse Association of Chicopee. In addition, she is affiliated with a variety of organizations such as Business Networking International, International Maintenance Institute, Masterminds, Woman Owned Business Alliance, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Installing in Time and Future - In her spare time, Campbell enjoys boating in the Long Island Sound to a place which she calls her “little piece of heaven” and enjoys getting away several times throughout the year to a Florida retreat where she enjoys a week long purification that includes a strict vegan diet, where there is nothing bad for you, you undergo four to five workouts a day, and you undergo various spa treatments. Although this may seem like torture for some, she finds the purification process to distress and promote happier well being. Another way she distresses, and a means she has shared with everyone in the company, is by bringing her dog, Abigail, into the work place. A new and now permanent fixture in the company, employees are told, “go pet the dog” during times of stress. Campbell looks forward to getting older and explains that she no longer has any fear of aging. “You can’t control everything… although I tend to be a control freak,” she says. She feels she is getting smarter with age, is not as uptight, and is always learning more. “I don’t mind admitting I don’t know everything,” she will now admit but never would do so in her younger years. As far as her future plans are concerned, she is now engaged to a “wonderful man” and is excited for what the future may bring in both her life at work and life beyond.