The gig: Beverley Kruskol owns M.Y. Pacific Building Inc., a painting and construction company she co-founded in 1993. The 68-year-old supervises as many as 30 workers on projects including commercial properties, single-family residences and high-end homes, where her firm handles painting, drywall installation and carpentry work. Kruskol and her Tarzana company are something of an outlier in the construction industry, in which women made up just 9.3% of the construction workforce as of 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Embracing interests: Kruskol has always had an interest in working with her hands. When she was about 9 years old, she remembers trying to fix a broken iron using a screwdriver. When she plugged it in, the entire house lost electricity. "I was mortified because I was worried my father would punish me," Kruskol recalled.
When she was 21 she moved from South Africa to the United States and found bookkeeping work. But she had her eyes on the construction business.
Believing in an idea: Kruskol left the cold weather behind in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1970s to join her then-husband while he completed his medical residency. She took a job as a receptionist for a property management firm, hoping it would propel her career. Six months later she was promoted and worked up the ranks to eventually become a director. She wound up managing funding and real estate holdings for a firm with about 90 properties in its portfolio.
After getting her painting license, she launched her own business in 1993 with the help of her second husband (they have since divorced). Kruskol needed to find clients and had a lucky break when a contractor working on a home in a gated community in Torrance needed help with repairs caused by a gas explosion. Many homes in the neighborhood were damaged. Her client was so pleased and impressed with her care and attention to detail that he referred her to others whose homes had been damaged by the explosion.
"By the time it finished, I did 17 homes," Kruskol said.
Kruskol came to be the sole owner of the company in the early 2000s after her former husband left the company.
Overcoming obstacles: Kruskol has felt the effects of working in a male-dominated industry since her first days. Sometimes she was the only woman on a construction site.
"I'll go on a job site and meet a new contractor or architect, and they will always refer to the man that I'm with," she said.
"They realize halfway through that I'm in charge and all of a sudden it switches. I don't think its prejudice, I just think people are programmed" that way.
Although some people in the construction industry didn't take her seriously, Kruskol learned not to take it personally or feel threatened. She said it helps that she feels comfortable in her knowledge and that her solid track record speaks for itself.
Key management lesson: Kruskol came to recognize there was a need for more women in the industry and harnessed that potential.
Many of her female clients trust her more than her male counterparts, she said, because of her patience and attention to detail.
Once, while she was working on a painting job at a $10-million house in Beverly Hills, her client tested more than 60 colors before choosing one for her walls. It was a time-consuming task, but Kruskol didn't mind.
"In a lot of homes you communicate with the wife and you got to be able to do it respectfully, and a lot of men [in this industry] deal differently with women," she said.
"The bottom line is she isn't fussy. It's her home and you are in her home, and she has a right to tell you what she wants."
As a result, Kruskol has made lifelong friends with some of her clients. "I can't believe how many jobs I do where I end up getting invited to bat mitzvahs or dinners," she said.
Working with mission in mind: Kruskol said a key to a successful business is making people feel like they are part of something larger than just a business. She wants everyone involved to take pride in their work. As a result, some have been working with Kruskol for 30 years.
"I'm not easy all the time," Kruskol said. But she's cultivated a familial bond with her workers. "I watch their kids get born, graduate, get married and have kids of their own."
Looking toward the future: In the coming year, Kruskol would like to find a partner to help grow her company. She is cognizant that if she were to do it alone, it might jeopardize the quality of work and services her company provides.
Personal: Kruskol has one son and lives in Tarzana. She enjoys visiting museums and playing poker, sometimes participating in tournaments. She said she works closely with the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood and is an avid traveler and fan of the arts, particularly ballet.