Changing the Playing Field: Why We Need to Hire More Women, and How to Get Them

Payroll is a nasty mistress, and the dues are owed every Friday. An entrepreneur knows this all too well. And boy, don’t we need good help to run the service calls on our board, so we can earn revenue, so we can help those people like we wanted to do in the beginning? It may be time to change the playing field…

Early one evening, my husband and I loaded the wagon with some drinks, snacks, and our beautiful daughters and began the short walk around the block to the park. Our neighborhood park isn’t a playground; it’s simply a green space with trees…the kind that is sponsored and have a ‘donated by’ plaque underneath them and some picnic benches.
Our neighborhood park is perfect for snacks, drinks, and playing tag. However, on this day, it wasn’t a game of tag, it was an obstacle course race. Palmer, our four-year-old, is a runner. All she wants to do is run, so we set the course and aimed down the field, around the tree, and back to the start/finish line.

Naturally, for the first few races, my husband let Palmer win…I even let Palmer win. But then, my husband turned around and whispered to me, “This time, I’m going to win…I want to see how she responds to losing.” “Oh, shoot,” I thought to myself, “if I know my daughter, this is not going to end well.” The race began and quickly ended. Palmer boldly expressed her feelings and unenjoyment from losing…but her response, well, her response surprised us. Instead of sitting down and crying in a pool of self-pity, she proclaimed, “Again! I’m going to race again! But this time, you can’t race with me; I’m racing alone.”

She took off running.

She simply changed the playing field.

As you can imagine, she won that race, the race of running alone – but who’s to say she cheated? There was no rule book; a family evening in the park doesn’t mean you can’t be the only runner…she thought outside of the box, changed the playing field, and adjusted the course so she could guarantee the outcome. She wanted to win, so she changed the game, and she won.
Nationwide, there’s a hiring crisis within the trades, specifically contracting. It’s no surprise, we all know there are not enough skilled workers, technicians, and tradesmen…so if there is a hiring crisis, a natural progression would be to look beyond the current work pool and look outside of the norm, which is why attracting women is the obvious next step.

The diversity quotient proves a profit increase of 33% within a company by diversifying – new talent, new ideas, new skills…women are already in the workforce, but too often, they’re performing roles bordered by society; “Oh, that’s a women’s job,” or, “Oh, that’s a man’s job.”

The trades are an excellent place for women who like to work outside of an office. I recently got the chance to talk one-on-one with HVAC installer Melissa Yarb from Clearwater, Florida. At the Women in HVAC conference in Boston back in September, she won the hearts of the conference attendees with her quick wit and relatability as one of the technician panelists, and she has quickly become a celebrity within the group. She provided some great insight into the perks of working in a so-called “man’s world.”

She commented, “It’s not just air conditioning!” This field has helped her do things she never thought she’d be able to do. Thanks to her AC career, she has honed her overall handywoman skills. She can now change out her own hot water heater, she can do woodworking; she has a strong mechanical inclination. “When the AC busts at my own house, I don’t have to rely on anyone else to come and fix it! I love the personal benefits,” she remarked.

“This field is expensive! If you know how to do it yourself, think of the cost savings in your home alone!”

These are invaluable skills to know, especially when something goes wrong in the middle of the night when you’re all alone, or just simply when you don’t have it in your budget to pay someone else to do it.

Melissa and I also talked about how often people talk about the flexibility of the contractor’s world. Melissa commented that this field is not flexible in terms of what people usually mean when they say flexible – so let’s not paint the wrong picture. “The thing most appealing to me is that I don’t have to sit at a desk all day – I can go on rooftops, see beaches, go in a van every day…” There is flexibility in the workspace, but it isn’t necessarily flexible in terms of its hours. But it has the amazing benefit of meeting different people and seeing new spaces. Melissa loves the social aspect.

As we continued chatting, I asked Melissa what her top piece of advice would be to the women considering entering the trades. She wisely said, “Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it – because you can – I do it every day – don’t tell yourself you can’t, because you can. Don’t worry about what naysayers say – do what you want to do – do what you enjoy!”

At the end of the day, we are all in it to help people and to utilize our hard-earned skills and craft (wo)manship.

But payroll is a nasty mistress, and the dues are owed every Friday. It’s time to change the playing field. Take a look at your messaging and give it a makeover – update it so it’s inviting and inclusive of women; the same goes for your company image. Make your company a place that appeals to women, from your branding to your overall business model. Make your company the only runner in the race.

Danielle Putnam is the President of The New Flat Rate and Women in HVACR

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Your Body of Work

“You’re not just getting a couple hours of my time, you’re getting what it took me my entire life to cultivate into these hands and this heart.” 

If you’re in the skilled trades, you’ve no doubt heard a version of this statement. You might even have used it yourself to support your pricing. It might surprise you then to learn, Phil X, a studio musician, made this comment. Sooner or later, we are all called on to validate the value we deliver. While many address this situation from selling your value, I approach it today from the standpoint of building it.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw


Your Body of Work  

Pamela Slim, the author of Body of Work, defines it this way. A body of work is everything you create, contribute, affect, and impact. It’s the personal legacy you leave behind at the end of your life. This includes all the tangible and intangible things you’ve created. 

Stephen R. Covey often used the funeral service as a way to provoke thinking on a lifetime of building value or not building it. He’d ask his readers to imagine that they were in the back row of their funeral service. What did the speakers have to say about their life?

Pam’s book is about creating that desired life. Focusing on meaning, skill development, professional network development, craft, and mastery, Body of Work is a perfect life-map for those of all ages.

“The secret to high performance and satisfaction – at work, at school, and at home – is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.” – Dan Pink in his book Drive.

Pam uses this quote in her book and goes onto say that those who structure their careers around autonomy, mastery, and purpose, the main themes in Drive, will build a powerful body of work. Drive is perfect complementary reading to Body of Work. By the way, if you’ve ever thought, “How do I motivate my coworkers?”, you need to read Drive!

Based on eight primary tools, Body of Work helps us design and create a life of value.


The Wisdom of Others

When our ancestors were running free, loose, and wild on the Serengeti, they weren’t doing it in isolation but ran together in tribes. In developing our body of work, we need, and some of us crave, the wisdom of others to survive and thrive.  

Between books, magazines, the internet, and our industries, collecting and assimilating that knowledge can be a daunting endeavor. We’re going to explore one source of wisdom and then use its example to harvest more wisdom in the future.


Tribe of Mentors

Tribe of Mentors, written by Tim Ferriss, is a book profiling approximately 140 successful people. Tim reached a point where life questioned him. “How could I best reassess my life, my priorities, my view of the world, my place in the world, and my trajectory through the world?” 

He thought, “What if I assembled a tribe of mentors to help me out?” Hence the book, which is based on a set of 11 questions that Tim asked each participant. These questions are well thought out and designed to help facilitate a quality answer. 

For instance, instead of asking, “What’s your favorite book?”, which for someone like me, is a labor-intensive question, he asks, “What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why?” Or, ‘What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?”

The wisdom from Tim’s mentors only takes up a couple of pages, making Tribe of Mentors the perfect read for the busy professional.


What else can the author teach me?

Whenever I read a book, I always take a step back from the book’s content and try to absorb other lessons. In Tim’s case, it’s the book’s format. He doesn’t publish the answers to all 11 questions for each, just the most insightful ones. If you’re a business owner, consider developing two sets of questions to ask others who have traveled the road before you. One set contains only a couple of questions, those that can be asked in person. The other set can be asked via email or in an interview.

Use some of Tim’s questions and add a few of your own. File the knowledge you collect either by topic or person and use it to enhance your body of work.

You are the director of your own story. Be intentional! Work on building your tribe of mentors and developing a fruitful body of work.


Dave Rothacker


Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area!