Linda Alvarado, CEO of Alvarado Construction, spent her time on stage weaving together a story of perseverance, chasing a dream, and not taking “no” for an answer.
“We very often stereotype ourselves,” she began. By the end of her talk, it was clear she is an adamant believer that anyone can do anything. “It’s not about gender. It’s not about equality. It’s about opportunity.”
From an early age, Linda’s parents, both Hispanic, instilled a strong work ethic in her. Even in elementary school, when she would earn a few dollars here and there, her parents said it was an “investment in character, not a bank account.”
When she was told in the 1960s that girls didn’t do high jump at school, her mom marched her to the principal’s office … twice … to ask why. In a few short years, more girls joined in, and Linda excelled at the sport.
In college, she insisted on joining the grounds crew instead of working in the cafeteria, or other positions pressed upon women. I could totally relate to Linda when said she was thrilled to find a job where she could wear jeans and boots, and finally ditch the skirts and high heels.
Through a summer job as a contractor, Linda realized she found her niche. After learning the trade (starting with concrete), she started her own construction company in the 1970s. One lesson she learned early on: finding people is hard! (Some things never change, right?)
Prior to owning her own company, she had learned to do pitches and apply for jobs using only her initials – never her full name. Again, it’s not about the gender or equality, it’s about opportunity.
“Start small, but think big,” Linda would remind herself. Despite being denied loans by six different banks in pursuit of those bigger jobs, she persevered. It took two years, but eventually she found a bank to give her a small loan.
Over time, she grew from building bus stops to mid-rise apartments and condos in Downtown Denver to the big leagues, literally. We will get there in a minute.
As they were getting bigger and bigger jobs, like the Colorado Convention Center, the growth “was not just marketing, it was reaffirming to our customers and employees we could continue to grow.”
“Taking a risk was difficult, but I was really beginning to like it,” Linda said with a smile.
In 1991, she was invited to join a small group of entrepreneurs trying to bring a Major League Baseball team to Colorado.
That process, again, reinforced growth is about opportunities, not diversity.
Drawing on a baseball analogy, Linda encourages an open playing field – setting any stereotypes aside. Everyone gets three strikes and four balls.
Linda also learned to be an early adopter of technology. For example, automated/computerized scheduling was a game-changer when it first came on the scene. Still, “in every industry, we have the best technology … but ultimately, we have to recruit the right people. It’s not just about building communities. My job, and our job, is to build people.”
“Life is not like a brochure. It is always under construction.” Linda said in closing. “But, we can get there through innovation.”