A Lesson in Leadership to Navigate Troubling Times

A conversation with Rozanne Garman, President and CEO of RHD, a GC in Olympia, Washington.

M/WBE Construction Company Owner Rozanne Garman shares her challenges and hopes for the industry

The pelting rain didn’t slow the job site activity as I visited on a cold January morning this year. The crew was diligently removing scaffolding from another successful project under the direction of their leader, Rozanne Garman, President and CEO of RHD Enterprises, a general contractor in Olympia, Washington.

Clad in bright yellow safety gear with her new logo proudly displayed, Rozanne called out directions and marveled at the Historic Brew Tower slowly being revealed. It had been boarded up and all but written off until RHD won the award to complete the Phase I renovations. With serious structural damage and nature taking its toll over several decades, the challenges to solve were immense, but she fearlessly took them on with the courage and determination that characterizes her and her company.

I have to admit that I am the last person to add valuable insight to the conversation about race and inequality raging at the moment. Although I’ve faced small business difficulties that come with being an entrepreneur, I am from an average middle class background and wouldn’t know what a business barrier based on discrimination would even look like.

Rozanne, on the other hand, is a minority woman in a field that has been unquestionably dominated by older white males since the dawn of time. She is tough as nails and instead of shrinking away from it, she embraces her identity and uses it to enrich the quality of her community. I reached out to her to listen to her perspective.

We worked with Rozanne and her team to develop their brand as they positioned themselves for growth and I was impressed by her optimism and leadership abilities. This SBA Small Business Person of the Year for 2017 puts that character into action by volunteering on several boards representing the minority business owner’s point of view.

““Thurston County is made up of a 74.4% white population,” Rozanne says.  “I’m grateful to have a seat at the table by serving on several boards within the community because representation matters.”  

She accepts the responsibility and actively speaks up works to advance the conversation around social and racial justice. She calls out makes it a point to speak up when the minority and women-owned businesses are not part of the discussion, and takes the initiative to turn words into an actionable plan.

“The goals we set today will benefit the future,” she says. “Not only for businesses but the economic ecosystem as a whole. We can’t just take action for action's sake. We have to be intentional, develop a transparent plan with actionable steps and execute for the benefit of the entire community.”

As far as branding goes, she encourages other industrial companies to reconsider their approach to diversity. She hears many of her colleagues mention the scarcity of minorities in the different fields but questions suggests they review their strategy by asking a few questions.

“Does your brand company culture truly show acceptance, diversity and inclusion?” Rozanne challenges. “Are diversity and inclusion represented within your leadership?  If people were to look at leadership and staff pictures on your website, would this be reflected? Do you just talk about it or purposely drive for it with a systematic process for hiring and outreach? A truly diverse culture starts with your core values and no matter where you are with cultural competency, there is always work to be done.”

Following her brand promise of setting the bar and then raising it, Rozanne and her team also work with several organizations behind the scenes to help families struggling to live, especially in these troubled times.

Volunteering and community involvement hasn’t caused her to overlook her main purpose of keeping operations flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the crisis hit, her biggest concern was how to scale up her booming metal fabrication division. Their projects are getting larger and increasing in frequency so much that when given the option to work from home that they were able to continue operating during the shutdown due to the essential nature of the projects.

It was important to keep communication open during the confusing first weeks of the shutdown.  The team continued to thrive despite most team members working from home.  “I threw them a pizza party out of appreciation,” Rozanne says. “You have to admire their dedication despite everything going on around them.”

Rozanne hopes her seat at the table will open doors to all ethnicities Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in order to improve the industry, community, and the world around us. Her example of leadership is a story worth telling and it was an honor to share it.


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