For the past seven years, Vanderslice has run Building Supply Installers, a unit of Thorne Lumber in Chillicothe, Mo., and Cameron Lumber in Cameron, Mo., that installs insulation and fireplaces in a service area 50 miles north of Kansas City. She handles all sales and manages the four-man, in-house team of installers.
"I've been around construction for 20 years. [In 1997] I went back to college and got my business degree. When I left, I worked for a drywall manufacturer in the credit department. I had an offer to go into sales. I sold all the goodies that went with drywall, and then the guy who owned the company started selling insulation. I spoke with builders and tried to be a one-stop shop: metal studs, lumber, drywall, insulation. I got into fireplaces, and it just grew from there."
My Typical Day
"I'm usually up about 4:30 a.m. Some builders I deal with, if you don't call them by 5, you're late. I try to be out on the jobsite by 6. I see what's going on with the job, what phase they're in. Then I go out and do cold calls–I drive around, and if I see something going on, I stop.
"What builders are interested in is someone who truly cares. When they hire me and say 'Hey, Reba, I'm going to give you a shot at this,' I do exactly what I said I'd do. I'm with them before it starts, when it starts, during construction, and when it's done. And that's what they like. They see I'm there all the time. They don't like that about other people–they never see 'em."
Most Memorable Rookie Mistake
"When a builder hires you, don't deal with its customer. If that home-owner calls and asks what it costs or wants to do something different, don't do it."
A Woman Managing Men "I treat people the way I want to be treated. The guys that want to work for me, I ask them, 'Do you have a problem answering to a woman?' I tell them the process of what we do, how important it is to me to have a job that's done right. We're not just out here to service somebody; we're out to be here a long time. I've only had one man challenge me. He doesn't work for the company anymore, of course, but that was his choice."
"Even considering what's going on in the market, I still want to double what I did in sales. If that means going out beyond my usual 20-mile radius, I'll do it."