Advertisement
business

Build Your Own Company

How one woman started out as a secretary and found entrepreneurial success as the CEO of a multi-million-dollar construction company.

On the way to a meeting of the Women's Leadership Forum in New York City, I settled back on the train and immersed myself in the Harvard Business School case study that would be the topic of the forum. I've always thought of case studies as academic exercises, but the real-life story of Linda Rabbitt, the founder and CEO of rand* construction, a multi-million-dollar company based in Alexandria, Va., had all the ingredients of a compelling novel.

Rabbitt’s decision was a smart one that’s becoming more common, says Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg, who authored Rabbitt’s case study and also spoke at the forum. “If you leave on good terms, chances are former employers will reach out to you in the future,” says Groysberg. “It’s also a signal to other employees that the grass isn’t greener.”

Advertisement - Article continues below

Star power. Groysberg, author of Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance, specializes in studying women in leadership roles. He says that Rabbitt “does a lot of the things that stars do.” For example, star professionals have broader and deeper networks, and women tend to have more external networks than men. Women who make it to the top are survivors, and Rabbitt is the definition of a survivor: “She had to establish credibility in a heavily male-dominated industry.”

Being a woman in the construction business carried “zero advantage,” says Rabbitt. After she remarried, her second husband encouraged her. “He told me, ‘You keep thinking you need to be an engineer. But you need to be Lee Iacocca, selling the company and leaving the rest to your superintendents.’ ”

In his research, Groysberg found that when star men change jobs, they don’t do as well in their new organizations as star women who make a switch. One reason is that women have to rely more on their own talents, which makes them more portable. And they’re more thoughtful about making sure that their new employer is a good match, while men tend to move to boost their compensation.

Successful women also credit the support they receive from spouses who help out at home and fathers who told them anything is possible. Rabbitt would agree. One of her regrets, she says, is that “my father never saw my success.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know
Medicare

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know

There's Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and so on. We sort out the confusion about signing up for Medicare --…
September 16, 2020
Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
September 10, 2020
What Trump's Payroll Tax Cut Will Mean for You
Tax Breaks

What Trump's Payroll Tax Cut Will Mean for You

President Trump issued an executive order to suspend the collection of Social Security payroll taxes. How much could it save you?
September 17, 2020

Recommended

Retirees, Create An Emergency Fund for Rental Property
Business Costs & Regulation

Retirees, Create An Emergency Fund for Rental Property

Build a cushion to protect your income from an unforeseen crisis.
September 15, 2020
Help! I Can’t Afford to Sell My Business
small business

Help! I Can’t Afford to Sell My Business

Even if the deal sounds good on the surface, the effect on your personal finances may shock you. If so, you have options.
August 28, 2020
Audit Alert: Why Business Owners Shouldn’t Be Spooked by Captive Insurance
small business

Audit Alert: Why Business Owners Shouldn’t Be Spooked by Captive Insurance

You may have heard that this type of self-insurance is ripe for tax abuse, but when used correctly, it’s completely legit. So don’t shy away unnecessa…
August 18, 2020
Answers to PPP Loan FAQs (Now That There's Fresh Funding for the Loans)
small business loans

Answers to PPP Loan FAQs (Now That There's Fresh Funding for the Loans)

Small business owners are getting another crack at Paycheck Protection Program loans. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the lo…
July 21, 2020