Building success for women in business
Nobody knows better than Linda Rabbitt that timing isn’t everything. She started her construction business in 1989—“about 20 minutes before the recession,” she says.
The former history teacher from Michigan was doing marketing and public relations at Peat Marwick in the early 1980s when she saw construction booming all over Washington. She was a single mother raising two daughters, and the lure of the concrete gold rush was too powerful to pass up.
In 1985, Rabbitt was asked by a friend to join forces and start a construction company. The business did better than the partnership. She cashed in her stock, regrouped, and returned to the construction business just in time to watch the building bubble burst. The downturn had an upside for Rabbitt’s new company, Rand Construction. Her overhead was small, she could take on small jobs, and because she specialized in renovations and tenant build-outs, she didn’t have to invest in heavy equipment.
Rand turned out to be the little company that could. In 1996, it had $20 million in sales; a decade later, revenues had increased to more than $200 million. It’s the country’s 38th-largest woman-owned business. Clients have included General Dynamics, the Federal Reserve, and Conservation International. Rand has won more than 100 building and craftsmanship awards. “A woman-owned business needs credibility,” Rabbitt says. “The awards give us credibility.”
Rand Construction was selected by The Washingtonian as a Great Place to Work in 2007. Often when Rand makes a presentation to a prospective client, Rabbitt lets a project superintendent do the talking. She believes that good work should be recognized and rewarded.
She also recognizes the importance of connecting with the wider business community and helping other women. Rabbitt has been chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, president of the International Women’s Forum, and a leader in so many other groups that her husband once threatened to enroll her in “just say no” school.
A former Washingtonian of the Year, Rabbitt received the Washington Women of Genius Award from Trinity College for her “courage, excellence, and leadership.” She demonstrated that courage when she developed breast cancer in 2000. Even before she recovered, she was working with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Rand Construction built the coalition’s new offices pro bono.
Says Rabbitt: “My father taught me to leave things better than I found them.”