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'All I could imagine was, here goes everything.'

February 11, 1986|PERRY C. RIDDLE

When she was in the eighth grade in Denver, Kathleen Crowley organized a school newspaper because her small Catholic school didn't have one. Crowley is now co-owner of Admiral Electric, Inc. in Sun Valley, where she organizes manpower and electrical material on construction sites.

When I got out of college in '68, we were in the midst of it, burning bras and demanding our rights, and all of that stuff. I was impressed and I liked it a lot. I was right there with them, marching. I definitely wanted a career, and I did not want to be on the adding machine and typewriter. That was not my idea of a career at all. That was slavery.

When I moved to California in '71, I had no money. I needed a job badly. That's why I took a job running an adding machine in an accounts payable department. Just to make a living. After three months I had four people working for me. They ran all the adding machines and I did the final edits. And then we started through the computer conversion, and a lot of people were frightened of it. I saw it was a real timesaver. So I went to school, and they sent me all over the country to look at other installations. Before I knew what was happening, I was heading up that department, sitting in an office with 23 people reporting to me.

When I left that job I was burned out. I was just looking for something new. I was hanging out at the Van Nuys Airport. A friend had an airplane there, and we were washing the plane. One of the owners of the original electrical contracting company--he's a classic airplane buff--said: "You know anybody who's looking for a job? I'm in the electrical contracting business, and we need to look at systems and computer conversions for our company." I interviewed with his partner and they brought me in. I was a total novice. I mean I knew nothing about construction or electrical. That was in '78.

When the bottom dropped out of new construction, our office staff got cut almost in half. We had to start wearing different hats if we wanted to stay. So I started scheduling manpower and material. There was no way that I could sit in the office with blinders on. Suddenly, I was out there on these job sites, and all our electrical material started making sense to me. I just fell in love with the whole idea of construction. You plan and engineer everything and this is the final product.

Then two years ago the owners decided to retire, and I had a chance to own part of the company. I was on a real high when the owners approached me because they thought I was capable of handling something like this. It took a number of sleepless nights to make that decision. At that point, I felt pretty comfortable in my life style. I was single and I owned a home and a car. I didn't have many limitations. Everything that I'd worked for up to that point was on the line because we had to borrow a whole bunch of money. And all I could imagine was, here goes everything.

I knew that you're never going to get it working for somebody else, unless you're chairman of the board. I wanted to stay in that field, and the only people who I could see who make it are owners of construction firms.

Now I'd have a tough time doing anything else. It took a lot of work, but the rewards are a lot greater than being an employee because you have control.

I don't think there's the business opportunity in any part of the country like there is here. Certainly not for me. Where else could I have progressed as high and done this much? I've gotten encouragement to improve myself and grow. I've never been held back, being a woman. Maybe I was just lucky, but I don't think so. I think it's the way business is done in Southern California. When I'm in other parts of the country, I don't see the enthusiasm. After living here 15 years, I'm still astounded by the money in Southern California.

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