How to Be a Builder – Like a Pro!

dawn matze woman builder on ladder renovation
Picture of Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dream. Build. Love.

Ladies, when it comes to construction – including any form of remodeling – it’s still a man’s world. Men may be physically stronger than us, which is very helpful, but our brains, determination and leadership abilities shine bright. These three tips are necessary to practice finding your feminine inner woman builder.


Watch for the Intimidation factor.

Keep Self-Doubt to Yourself

I’ve been intimidated many times at a jobsite when talking with an expert, or just dealing with an issue that I have no clue about.  This is so normal that it’s not even funny, especially when we are doing something new. 

We doubt ourselves. Somehow we think we are supposed to know everything. Men have the same doubts as us but they certainly don’t let anyone see that. They keep up the bravado of strength and ‘all-knowing’.  Come on, no one knows everything right? 

Women, on the other hand, tend to be more transparent, revealing their ignorance of a topic and end up catering to the male. And men eat it up. This is a form of intimidation.  We do it to ourselves Ladies! 

Why is it that we overshare our feelings? Perhaps holding tight and not saying anything may be a better strategy. Don’t be so eager to give someone else the power.

“As women, we need to practice our own strength, our own voice. “

Practice Your Own Strength

Women are very ingenious. We can use two tools at the same time – we can use our ability to allow a man to teach – in other words creating a feel-good moment for him – and then he does exactly what we want him to do.

At the same time you don’t want to give your power away. It’s a balancing act. As a female project leader you want to make sure they realize you are the boss and get the last say. You are paying the bills and writing the checks. Otherwise a man may take charge, run you over, and you end up not getting what you want.

We know that if the male feels more knowledgeable and is in a position of teaching or helping us then he feels good about himself. This is our superpower and our downfall. It’s our secret weapon of controlling the situation at times. 

We often get a bad wrap about stroking a male ego in this way.  I see it differently.  Keep in mind that it is our way of getting what we wanted anyway, right?  My belief is that we need to practice our own strength – our own voice – without going about it in the passive-aggressive manner (although sometimes that can be another tool in the toolbag).

Speak and Act with Confidence

As Woman Builders we must speak up and act with confidence even when we don’t feel it.

There are so many decisions to be made in a very short timeframe when you’re remodeling. Start making them gals. The more often you make decisions the better you become at it.

No hemming and hawing. If you’re not sure you may try and say “I’ll get back with you on that” and walk away. It’s okay to not know everything. I certainly don’t and neither does anyone else. Own the ‘not knowing’.

A Great Example:

On one of the very first large estates I built, my concrete guy couldn’t figure something out on the plans.  He threw the plans at me with anger, and said “Since you’re the bigshot builder, you tell me how this is supposed to be.” 

Of course I was completely frazzled and had no idea how to answer him because frankly I didn’t know either. 

In a very stern, strong voice I told him “Okay, If I wasn’t even here what would you have done in this situation?” His reply, as he pointed to the drawings, was “Well I’d do it this way”. 

My response was “Do it then!”.

I felt empowered, and brave that I stood up to him, him being the asshole that he was. 


Find Your Champion!

When you look different than all of the other builder guys, you really are different.  As a feminine powerhouse you wield a lot of strength. Often we don’t see it in ourselves. Find your champion refers to networking or teaming up with another. 

What I mean here is that when you feel powerless or stuck in your remodel it’s time to look for a champion. Someone that’s going to help you. In a way it’s a form of mutual respect.

Here's an Example:

Often when I go to the lumberyard, I get that same look as, ‘you’re really not the contractor’, and every time I must pull out my business card or license and show the man behind the counter. 

 When I keep shopping at the same places they see return business and a serious woman on the contractor warpath!  The same dude behind the counter now has my back and knows who I am after we’ve talked about where he lives, kids and family, his tennis game and where is he going on that next vacation. Next time I walk through that door, guess what – I get what I want!

When you make that connection, that friendship, you have someone going to bat for you every time, and guess what, that champion guy or gal will look for deals and help you avoid product pitfalls, giving you an edge in your project. You need them and they need you, a real champion.

If you have a champion, no matter where you go, they are constantly looking out for you. They have your back, let you know when the sales are, get you the best deal. They not only do their job but go above and beyond for you. That is priceless.

“Praise is the magic bullet everyone craves. “


Balance Persistence with Appreciation

There is nothing more powerful than a persistent woman that’s on a tear!  I admire driven and assertive women.

The powerful women I know don’t need to be obnoxious or overly bitchy. Real power is when she quietly asserts herself and takes charge without asking anyone’s permission. She knows what she wants.  She is the leader and boss lady. There is no craving for ‘proving’ she just is.

Pair Persistence with Praise

Persistence needs to be paired with praise.  There are many men that have helped on your team to construct this new bathroom or kitchen. Everyone involved needs the praise of a job well done.

There is a tendency when new at this to overly praise.  Use this when it is earned and deserved.  I’m not telling you to be a hardass, but be selective about your big praise and generous with the ‘thank-you’s’.

Everyone just wants to be appreciated. A generous amount of praise and thank-yous from the heart will go a long way with men who love to earn a woman’s gratitude for their work.

Here's an Example:

I used to think I had to be a tough cookie all the time.

One day this laborer who worked so very hard said to me, “Dawn, why are you always mad?” I told him that I wasn’t mad, just in business mode. 

Somehow, I never forgot his comment. It made a deep impression on me. I asked myself why I thought I had to be the ‘tough’ guy. Was I proving something to myself? To them?  Perhaps out of insecurity?

Praise was born in my vocabulary that day. I remembered my dad’s words: “Everyone just wants to be appreciated.”

Keep your eyes and ears open for the Intimidation factor.  It’s all-pervasive in remodeling, building and construction. Stand tall. Take charge even when you don’t feel like it. 

Remember to find your champion to help you win big in the process of remodeling. Persistence and keeping at it – not giving up or giving in – will empower you.  

Last, praise is a magic bullet that everyone craves and is the key to keeping those men (or women) on track to the finish line. 

With these three tips you can do anything you want in your home renovation project – or in life – with confidence.

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