Barbara Myrick’s father dreamed of one day opening his own construction company with his six sons at his side. However, it was his daughter who would become the construction entrepreneur.
A New Jersey native, Myrick settled in Colorado Springs after spending 10 years as an air traffic controller in the Army. She and her then-husband renovated the home they were leasing to buy, prompting Myrick to open her own company, B&M Construction, in 1993.
“I was outside one day and someone said, ‘Who did your construction?’ I said, ‘Oh, we did,’ and then I said, ‘Well, we just need to open a construction company,’” Myrick said. “So I took $500 and I started a business.”
B&M Construction has expanded from its original purpose of foundation and flatwork to include furniture procurement and electrical divisions, offering its clients full design and furniture services and all electrical needs on commercial, municipal, federal and state projects. The company is based in Colorado Springs and has satellite offices in Tampa, Fla.; Santa Clara, Calif.; and St. Louis, Mo., with another opening this year in Dallas, Texas.
“We’ve been very mindful on how we grow,” Myrick said. “Now we’re venturing into becoming our own small business manufacturer for systems furniture. Hopefully I’ll accomplish that in the next couple of months — I’m giving myself by September.”
As owner and president of B&M Construction, Myrick has developed strong working relationships with other industry leaders, including architects, government officials and engineers. She serves on the state’s Minority Business Office Advisory Council and the State Electrical Board, and is a member of the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce board of directors as well as serving as a regional representative for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Myrick lives in Colorado Springs and has three adult children, including a daughter who works for her as the company’s strategic business officer. She spoke with the Business Journal this week about the challenges women-owned businesses face, as well as the importance of developing a skilled trade workforce.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I think one of the most rewarding things is the lives that I’m allowed to touch every day. When people ask me how many employees I have, I say, “Oh, 49,” but really it’s more than 49. It’s like 250 people, because when I look at the family structure and you average five people in a family … I added it all together, and those are lives that we touch every day by employing them and giving them opportunities to succeed.
Money is really, really good — it’s a means to get you the things that you want in life. But what satisfies me every day is to know that I can help my employees obtain some of their dreams of owning a home, or buying a car, or being able to send their children to college. It’s still a family setting. We haven’t grown that much that I still can’t touch their lives and be a part of who they become as individuals. I believe everybody has professional goals, but they have personal goals as well, and I want to be a part of helping them accomplish some of those things.
We have an electrical apprenticeship program that is growing. We have an on-the-job training program outside that with our carpenters. We do believe in training and developing and growing people within the company. I’m a huge proponent of hiring vets if we can — if I could hire all of them, I would.
What are some of the biggest struggles business owners face in construction?
Manpower is definitely one of them. Finding skilled labor is a huge problem across the entire industry. I don’t think it just affects the construction industry. I believe it affects every industry within the country.
My generation, we wanted our children to have and do better than us, so we were pushing children to go to college and we forgot about the trades. I think trades can be very rewarding, personally and financially. Now we’re backing up and saying, ‘We have this problem to fix.’
How have you seen the construction industry change?
I go back to 2008 all the time. When I look at 2008, a lot of businesses were closing, but we were growing and I was just shocked. … It was because of the clients, but the industry has grown. … Women are getting into construction and environmental and IT and utilities. That’s good to see that women are coming out of their comfort zones and finding themselves in a male-dominated industry and being successful. We do have our challenges, but we come together and we just do it. Our approach is different than men. How we think and how we make decisions are totally different than our male counterparts, but I see women are becoming very successful.
How is workplace culture changing for women, especially in male-dominated industries?
People talk about the #MeToo movement and equal pay. I feel that is going to get addressed. I think women now are more inclined to speak up and share their feelings and demand respect. I just know that we have to work a little harder and be a little smarter and be creative, and be sure of who we are when we speak, and speak with authority and knowledge. If we cry, don’t cry in front of them — close your door.
I actually had the opportunity of hearing a brigadier general at the Space Symposium last week. She was talking about how women don’t stick together, or lift each other up or help each other along the way. She said, ‘Why can’t we do those things? Why can’t we help each other out and give referrals and not be jealous of another woman’s success, but be proud that she’s risen? When we make it, go back and lift another woman up.’
To me, it doesn’t matter what color you are. If you have the drive and motivation to do it, then do it, and surround yourself with positive people that can help you get there. Not everybody thinks like us — I don’t want everyone to agree with me. I want those women to say, ‘Have you really thought about this? What is the purpose of doing it, and the vision and the mission?’
What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome as a woman leader in a male-dominated industry?
Access to capital is a challenge for women. Mentoring is a challenge for women. Being mentored and being a mentor is a challenge for women. There are definitely some struggles that women go through in business, especially in a male-dominated industry. You definitely have to work harder. You have to be on top of your game, and I think sometimes women take themselves out of the equation because they cast doubt on themselves instead of saying, ‘This is something I can learn,’ or ‘I’ll bring somebody in to help me get there.’ …
Being in control of your business — I think that’s where I struggle with a lot of women-owned businesses — them saying no and not just having a business and allowing the men to make the decision, and then hiring women and putting them in those roles of authority. At B&M, my daughter is a strategic business officer who I currently am training to be a COO. I have a program manager who oversees the team in California, Florida, Texas, St. Louis and Colorado. She has really a huge part in the development of her team and training. Then my accountant is a female.
My aspiration really is to have female electricians and female carpenters and female project managers, and getting females to really believe they can do those things. We do have challenges as women-owned businesses. It’s a constant proving of ourselves.
What are your hopes for the future of Colorado Springs?
I’ve been in Colorado since ’89 … I’ve grown with the changes in the community where I’ve just seen so much growth. Some of it was planned, some of it wasn’t. My hopes for Colorado Springs is that we not only manage our growth, but we become more inclusive and the opportunities are forwarded to everyone within the community. Because our landscape is changing, our mindset needs to change and grow. … I hope that we become more of a community where we bring in the 25- to 45-year-old professionals who want to raise their families here.
I love this community. … I believe you can dream your dreams and accomplish them here. You just can’t dream them and not do something about them. You have to dream them and then believe in your dreams.