WESTBROOK – Growing up in Milo in a family of teachers, Beth Sturtevant never imagined she would one day be the principal owner of one of the most established construction management companies in Maine.
She was one of only three females in her engineering class at the University of Maine. An interest in surveying had steered her away from forestry and in the direction of engineering. She earned a degree in civil engineering technology in 1981 and joined the CCB team in 1982 as a field engineer.
Sturtevant was given the opportunity to be a 10 percent owner soon after joining the Westbrook-based construction and project management company. In 1985 she became a CCB project manager, and in 1990 she earned her certificate in management from the University of Southern Maine. In 2004, Sturtevant purchased a majority and controlling share of CCB, becoming president/principal owner.
Though the company markets itself as a women-owned enterprise, Sturtevant says gender is not “the driving force” behind customers’ decisions to do business with CCB or behind employees’ desire to work there.
“Most people want to work with a good company in a good culture,” she says. “I’m a very hands-on owner, setting direction, setting expectations, and bringing people along. Mostly it’s about creating the culture where people want to work.”
Since the company has been around so long (60-plus years), Sturtevant doesn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur, but she does pride herself on her ability to set the direction of the business and keep it financially on course. She says her preparation as the vice president of operations for 10 years gave her the foundation she needed to take the reins as principal owner of a company that employs 115 people year round and 250 during the construction season.
While she spends more time behind a desk than she does outdoors these days, Sturtevant is proud of how far she has come and loves being her own boss.
“You get to decide your direction,” she says. “When you work for yourself, you have a lot more flexibility.”
Q What were your most important needs in getting started?
A Having the opportunity presented to me and then me having the courage to seize upon the opportunity. I didn’t really know what my “needs” were when I began. I definitely stumbled along, but just kept going because I was pretty sure I could do it. I was really capable at some things and other things, not so much. I worked really hard on the “not-so-much” stuff.
Q What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A One that quickly comes to mind was to not shy away from working hard. My parents both were very hard-working people. My first job was having a paper route when I was 13 and I kept it until I graduated from high school. Then my father, who had retired from his job, took it over and kept it for many more years. I come from a family of girls, my mother and three sisters. My father was the only man in the house. My mother was a strong, capable force in our house and all of her daughters experienced that. There was not much “squashing-down” of the girls in my house.
Q What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A Well, in the construction world, it’s unusual, but it doesn’t get me work because of it. I don’t feel like I have any particular advantage because I am a woman-owned construction business. Mostly, I consider myself a business owner of a construction company. I do feel like my perspective and ways of doing things and making decisions is influenced by my experiences of being raised a girl in a culture and society that has very strong ideas of what girls/women “should” do or how they “should” behave. I want girls and young women to know they, too, can be successful business owners in a field that has not traditionally been led my women. Construction is a great career; it’s fun and rewarding and it’s way cool to point out to your kids and your friends what you built.
Q What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A Really grow your knowledge of all-things financial. You’ve got to understand the world of finances and how to leverage financial resources to succeed for the long-term. You’ve also got to be willing to put in the long hours in order to succeed and always surround yourself with people you trust and that trust you.
Q If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
A There is always the benefit of hindsight and “lessons-learned” and there are lots of wrong decisions I made, but I can’t think of anything of significance that I would have done differently. I’ve had good people around me throughout my career and that has made an immeasurable difference to me. I’m happy with how it has gone so far.
– Joanne Lannin
Beth L. Sturtevant
65 Bradley Drive, Westbrook