How to persist as a resilient entrepreneur when the odds are against you
On The Resilient Entrepreneur Podcast, Greta shares her story of persisting in entrepreneurship when the odds are against you
Greta talks to the Resilient Entrepreneur podcast with Michelle Mercier
America has always been the land of opportunity. For a young girl whose family fled a civil war in Albania, emigrating to the United States meant freedom, safety, and unlimited opportunity. Like many young adults, Greta Bajrami dreamed of owning her own business and creating something new. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d end up in roofing.
But that’s exactly where her journey led her. As a freshly minted college graduate during an economic recession, Greta searched for any opportunity that would feed her family – and she took a leap into the roofing industry as a foreman.
Already this resilient entrepreneur jumped out of her comfort zone.
At first, having a young, female, millennial roofing foreman was a novelty to the crew – this was completely unheard of in her industry.
But the novelty quickly wore off, and the crew expected Greta to prove herself and earn their respect. Greta made it her mission to know everything there was to know about roofing.
She read every book and took every certification she could. She called manufacturers with questions and tailed the crew with a notebook, writing down every detail as they went along. To succeed as a young woman in an older-male dominated role, Greta knew she needed nothing less than excellence to earn the respect from her crew and her industry.
Why not go all the way?
Along with determination and grit, Greta brought a fresh pair of eyes to the roofing industry. Having completed several business projects in college, she couldn’t help but see gaping areas in need of improvement in a lagging industry that hadn’t changed much in decades.
Knowing that she could bring process improvements, new inventory management techniques, and cutting-edge technology to transform roofing and the customer experience, she thought “why don’t I start my own roofing company – and see what I can do?”
So she went out on her own – and it wasn’t well-received.
Everyone in her immediate circle wasted no time telling Greta that she was crazy. A young millennial woman running her own roofing company? Unimaginable.
Close family members told her that roofing was no place for a woman. Even her male friends in the roofing industries questioned her decision – how was she going to start a business with no network of family and friends? So many roofing companies (and other construction companies) are passed down from father to son, from generation to generation. She was starting from zero.
Still, as a resilient entrepreneur, she persevered. She bought the necessary roofing trucks and equipment. She and her crew knew their trade well, and their young management team developed a more efficient way to bring top quality. Now they just needed some customers.
At first, it was a struggle like many nascent businesses, especially those with large overhead costs like expensive equipment and employees. In the beginning, Greta was afraid to charge full price because she was told that no one would hire a woman. Until Golden Group Roofing built up a solid reputation for excellence, she charged almost 30% less than her competitors, assuming that everything she had been told about her customers was true.
It wasn’t easy to keep the faith.
Between the heavy start-up costs and undercharging their first customers, there were days where her business accounts were in the red. Seeing her peers on social media in their business suits and trendy attire with seemingly glamorous office jobs made her look at her own dirty hands and wonder if she made the right decision.
Then Greta’s low point in her early career was when her newly assembled crew was working on a large project outside of Boston.
“The general contractor was looking for the construction supervisor on-site, and it happened to be me,” said Greta. “He didn’t like that very much.” He expressed his surprise and displeasure loudly in front of her crew – proclaiming loudly that he didn’t want to work with a woman.
“As a leader, when someone tears you apart in front of your team, it’s the worst feeling…and it takes a long time to overcome it.”
How everything changed for Greta and Golden Group Roofing.
At that point, “I learned to live with the fact that people weren’t going to accept me – a teen mom trying to make it in the Worcester area,” said Greta.
“I became okay with the fact that people were not going to support me – and once I got over that, everything started to change.”
Today, Golden Group Roofing is a multi-million dollar premiere quality roofing company.
“Once I found the strength to accept that, everything changed,” said Greta, Yes, there is still plenty of discrimination in the roofing industry against women, immigrants, and different ethnicities.
But Greta and Golden Group Roofing stay completely focused on what makes them different – their cutting-edge technology, premium roofing products, fully trained and certified year-round employees, and unparalleled customer service.
How did she do it? In this podcast, Greta shares her top advice to entrepreneurs.
Evaluate the market and identify the holes.
Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing – instead, see if you can find gaps or holes, and fill them with a quality product or service. Fill a niche that isn’t being served – or bring existing products and services to the next level of excellence.
You don’t need to attract everyone – just attract customers that value YOU.
Stick with what you’re good at. Never let a potential customer try to talk you down from your quality offerings. That’s what makes a resilient entrepreneur that will stand the test of time.
Greta has had consumers request to use low-quality products to keep the price of materials down. While it’s tempting to make modifications, Greta knows better. Her company stands behind the quality and integrity of each installation and she can’t in good conscience install products that she knows won’t withstand the harsh weather elements over time. Her brand is built around a quality installation that protects her customer’s homes for years to come.
Forget the sales process – just put out a great offer.
When Greta started in the roofing industry, the high-pressure sales tactic was common. Prospects were given “ballpark estimates” and asked directly for the sale.
Right from the beginning, Greta wanted her product to be something that her customers felt completely comfortable with and look forward to. “In business, the best thing you can do is give the customer enough knowledge to make the best decision for themselves,” said Greta. “And that’s how we got the success we have today.”
Visualize where you are going and map out a track for yourself.
Lastly…don’t worry about your competitors – the only thing you are competing against is what you did yesterday. Don’t look left, don’t look right…stay focused straight ahead on where you’re going on your journey.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and tears,” Greta told the audience. But If a teen mom can make it in a male-dominated industry, so can you.
Are you a resilient entrepreneur that needs blueprints from success?
Now you can get Greta’s blueprints for success from her upcoming platform The Rootless Entrepreneur.