Kim Lineberger is a woman in a man’s world.
As the president of Lineberger Construction Inc., a Women’s Business Enterprise, she’s usually in the minority on site visits and preconstruction meetings. But she’s not in the minority in winning work.
“You always have to have your competitive pricing,” Lineberger said. “But sometimes the guys are more apt to listen to you when you prove yourself. Sometimes you can communicate with them better, and I think it’s the difference in the way men and women communicate with each other.”
Lineberger is in no way new to the construction industry. Her company has been in business for nearly 20 years. She also sits on the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board.
And in those 20 years, Lineberger said she’s fielded a lot of questions about her company, including skepticism about her experience.
“About six months ago I went for a preconstruction meeting, and I was sitting in the lobby waiting for it to begin. The electrical engineer and civil engineer walked in and asked if I was from Lineberger and if I was the contractor. When I told them yes, they looked me up and down and said, ‘How long have you been doing this?’ There was a series of questions.”
Lineberger, who has a degree in civil engineering, said the owner later noticed her licensing board tag and realized she had been on the board for 10 years, and warned the other contractors that she could easily beat them all.
But it’s not always that easy.
“The biggest thing is networking—it’s so awkward,” she said. “You don’t have lunch with the guys or hunting trips with the guys. The decisions and the types of camaraderie that is built in those sessions on the golf course or in a cabin don’t happen when you’re a female because, quite frankly, it’s awkward because of the different sexes.
“I’ve called suppliers early in the morning or late in the evening, when there’s an issue on the jobsite and I’ve got to have something right away. Their wife will answer and it’s like, ‘You’re with who? And you want to talk to my husband?’ Even with employees it’s a hurdle to overcome. I don’t want your husband; I just want his materials.”
Lineberger Construction Inc. has managed to thrive, however, making it through the recession when its peer companies failed. The company, which does grading, paving, soil stabilization, trucking, water, and sewer and storm drain work, was in survival mode for several years until recently, when the economy has turned around.
“It was almost a weeding-out process,” said Chief Operating Officer Jan Lineberger (Kim’s sister). “The companies that no longer exist were the ones that couldn’t really survive and tighten. The ones that are still in business knew how to do that, so it’s a more competitive market now. The people who are still here are good at what they do, so you have to be one better.”
Jan Lineberger said a lot of that tightening and efficiency came from using software in their business. Lineberger has used HCSS HeavyBid for 15 years and recently implemented HeavyJob to manage jobs more efficiently.
Kim Lineberger said HeavyBid helped her estimate work by allowing her to set up master estimates to copy and edit instead of starting each bid from scratch.
“I’m able to bid more work,” she said. “My estimates are based on historical performance. I can see a similar job and figure I can do so many cubic yards based on that scenario.”
She is even more excited about how HeavyJob will record and report data on current jobs. Since bringing in Jan, whose background is in IT, and her son, who will be the Chief Financial Officer, Kim Lineberger is able to focus even more on making her company as efficient as possible.
“With HeavyJob we are able to control our costs and know our numbers immediately so we can react,” she said. “Right now our reaction time and the information (without HeavyJob) is a two-week lag. I want to know the next morning, without building all these spreadsheets, how much it cost to do the job yesterday.”