Meet a Woman of Asphalt: StoryBuilt’s Jeani Ringkob
BY AsphaltPro Staff
In 1981, Clarence and Sandy Brasier formed Brasier Asphalt, and their daughter, Jeani Brasier, worked for the business starting with an office position in 1994. She would spend summers travelling with her dad on sales calls and projects. “These road trips taught me no matter what we did, we were in the business of serving people; our individual customers, everyone who makes up the agencies they serve, the public using the roads, our employees, their families, and even the communities we work in. This has given me an incredible point of view throughout my life and been a perspective that gave me an advantage in all aspects of life.”
By 1997, she began a part time sales role alongside her dad while studying marketing at University of Colorado. “After graduating from college, I continued to work in sales and marketing for Brasier Asphalt until taking a marketing position with KOCH Industries in their Pavement Solutions and Performance Roads divisions in 2002. Then I moved to Vance Brothers in new product business development. I returned to Brasier Asphalt until 2008 when I took an active owner role in an agricultural commodity trading business with my husband John Ringkob. I worked directly with business owners and leaders in 2018 and have since grown StoryBuilt Growth Strategy and Marketing to help owners and leaders in the construction industry identify the best strategy to grow their businesses and execute to get results.”
Her career started in the family business but has included achieving a marketing degree and developing her own company within the construction industry with StoryBuilt Growth Strategy and Marketing. Despite a busy workload and family life, Ringkob took time out to share her story with readers and encourage other women of asphalt.
AsphaltPro: What experience from working in the Brasier Asphalt office environment or field environment would you share with a woman entering the industry today to encourage her?
Jeani Ringkob: I started cleaning the office, filing and being an assistant to our office manager whenever I had spare time. It was important to start here because it gave me a behind the scenes look. We all love the thrill and excitement of the actual project. Yet without that behind-the-scenes support team, there would be no managed finances, on-time payroll, bills getting paid, permits getting filed—all the things that are vital but don’t get recognized at the end of the day. My mom was a meticulous bookkeeper and very driven to ensure we were financially sound. In an industry that requires bold risk takers to build businesses, this was a secret weapon to ensure we succeeded even when things fluctuated or the unexpected happened.
My dad was also great about giving my mom and the office team credit. This was good for me and the rest of the team to hear. As women, we can get anxious to prove ourselves. No matter the role we play, we need to embrace our characteristic of nurturing and appreciating those that make each piece possible.
In the field, my biggest women mentoring moments came later. After my dad died unexpectedly in 2000, it was all hands-on deck. My mom had been a dental hygienist who also did the books for the business and kept the home front running while my dad traveled extensively. She already carried a lot of the load. Yet from that very first project after he passed away, she’s almost always been on site for the last 22 years. She learned to operate the steel wheel and we had a tough time getting her off. She didn’t know it at the time, but she was showing me what it meant to lead during a crisis. She was devastated and heartbroken, yet she put herself out there. In front of customers, partners and our whole team. She saved our company during those difficult years.
Women are your best tool in times of crisis and businesses will face crisis. Having multiple women in key leadership roles is scientifically proven to help teams make better decisions but I know with certainty we can be the glue when push comes to shove.
AsphaltPro: StoryBuilt Marketing began in 2017. Could you share with the audience how marketing your business to the asphalt marketplace specifically changed once COVID-19 interrupted workflows in 2020? And how did you address it?
Jeani Ringkob: Like a lot of parents and especially moms, I found myself in an overwhelming situation that felt impossible. When COVID-19 hit, our kids were ages 10, 9 and 5. I had to get ruthless about the tasks on my schedule. It forced me to take some of the same strategic models and frameworks I use with clients to determine what this incredible hurdle could look like if I made it into an opportunity and then executed a plan to ensure I hit my objective.
AsphaltPro: How many employees did you start out with when opening for business in 2017 and how many employees does StoryBuilt Marketing have now?
Jeani Ringkob: I run my business to be super flexible to meet my client’s needs. I started with just me and now I work closely with a team of independent subcontractors. This lets me stay focused on my area of genius, which is strategy, finding opportunities and turning them into execution plans that get organizations profits, growth and results. Not being committed to a full team of specific skill sets allows me the freedom to focus on what is best for my client and then build the team to meet their unique execution needs.
As my project load has increased, I’ve been reaching out and tapping into specific skill sets in the industry to support my clients’ needs. Many of these are women. It is a great fit for many women who are looking to stay involved in the industry, continue to work on exciting projects and develop the lifestyle they want. Many of them are moms. I’m always looking for people with skills in the areas of design, research, copywriting and project management. Women with skills in these areas have an incredible opportunity to bring value and create solid careers in asphalt.
AsphaltPro: How can women in the industry encourage not just other women, but contractors/producers in general, to share their good news and promote themselves more widely?
Jeani Ringkob: We need to start with ourselves first. One of the things we miss early on is deciding what success looks like to us as individuals. Both professionally and personally and then being very intentional about setting goals, building what I call an “advisory board” of mentor, mentees and peers. Know what you want! During this process it is also important to acknowledge that there are seasons in life and careers. Be willing to adjust the course when things feel strained or off track.
Next, we can start looking at our environment and how we want to influence and shape it. Whether that looks like encouraging other women in the industry or the teams and people in our industry at large.
As for encouraging other women, what I find moves the needle most and be the most rewarding is small groups and one-on-one relationships. Find small groups of women, either through coaching or mastermind groups of women with comparable goals and life situations. These are wonderful places to generate ideas, share knowledge and have safe places to get feedback on struggles. Just make sure it is filled with positive characters. Keep in mind these groups do not necessarily need to be in the asphalt industry. Sometimes I like having fresh perspectives that come with getting outside the context of my every day.
Finding a mentor and/or mentee within the industry can build an incredibly rewarding relationship. I think Women of Asphalt has done an incredible job with their mentorship program; it has certainly fostered great relationships for me.
The influences around encouraging and supporting women in the industry are varied. Some cultures and situations make this effortless and some are more challenging. We need to always assess which situation we are in or want to influence. There are two terrific books I would recommend here, and they are of contrasting perspectives. “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, but even more so I would suggest reading the opposing perspective, “Lean Out” by Marissa Orr.
There are wonderful things about our industry but like any industry there are some ugly things still hidden in the closet. I have had the opportunity to work in both situations. There are times we need to lean in and elevate a great situation and group of people and there are times leaning in does a disservice to the progress that needs to be made. We do not need to lean into cultures, teams or situations that are broken. Stepping back and saying you will not support a broken system speaks volumes and can make bigger impacts, especially when you take into perspective what you want for your career and life.
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AsphaltPro: What do you think is the most important skill you have brought to your position in the construction marketplace?
Jeani Ringkob: The fact that I have spent time out of the industry and that I am a fervent consumer of knowledge around growth strategy and business development lets me bring knowledge and perspective that our industry is hungry for.
AsphaltPro: Could you tell us about some changes you have seen take place in the asphalt pavement maintenance culture since the time you worked in your family’s company?
Jeani Ringkob: Two things stick out to me.
- The Women of Asphalt is such a great organization. They are just starting to see the potential they have to make a great impact. It takes an army to pull something like that off, but they have brilliant, motivated members and I am so grateful for it. I joke about how I needed this when I was out peddling asphalt and felt like the only woman in the world.
- I still get dumbstruck by just how many and how diverse the women in our industry are on a regular basis. Sometimes I wonder if there really were more women out there and I just did not realize it or if social media and technology has made it more apparent and easier to connect. It is both.
AsphaltPro: Let’s talk about perceptions of our industry. It’s a fact that asphalt pavement maintenance and preservation can be hot and dusty. How do you respond to people who say it’s a “dirty job?”
Jeani Ringkob: Sometimes the dirtiest jobs are the most rewarding. This is the work that builds the backbone of our country. The best evenings of my life came after I looked back at miles of blacktop that I was part of laying down and watching the public drive safely home on. Get outside, get dirty and build something that will last. That is some of the most rewarding work we can do as people for other people.
AsphaltPro: What do you think is an incorrect perception that we, as an industry, can re-educate young people about to encourage more women to consider a career in the asphalt industry?
Jeani Ringkob: The generations entering the workforce now care about the impact their work has and I really admire them for this. It is a better way to approach life when you know you will spend 20-40% working. I know without a doubt this is one of the best industries to tangibly connect your work to outcomes and impacts. Whether it is road safety, environmental impacts, innovation, creating jobs, building infrastructure and so on. As an industry, we need to be better at two things: understanding what the next generation is looking for in careers and aligning ourselves with that; and inviting a great workforce into the story of the asphalt industry. We have not done an excellent job of telling our story in a way that gets people excited to come alongside us. This means there is an opportunity to nail that story and get it out there.
AsphaltPro: What is the most challenging aspect for you of being in the asphalt marketplace?
Jeani Ringkob: For an industry that has always been innovative in products and solutions in the field we have some pretty deep ruts we like to stay in when it comes to running our businesses, looking at profitability, building cultures and so on. I have seen some good indicators that this is changing but I still hear people say, “because we always have,” “that’s how it’s done,” “we’re not X, Y or Z type of industry.” If we want better results, we must look for better solutions and new opportunities to grow, try new things and break the old mold. Our industry is primed to take off here.
AsphaltPro: What is the most rewarding aspect for you of being in the asphalt marketplace?
Jeani Ringkob: It is hard to top standing on a brand-new blacktop surface and know you had something to do with building that piece of road, but it still comes in second to the people. I just love people. I have been in different industries, and I have never felt more part of something than when I walk back into a room of asphalt people. It can be hard to pinpoint but I have witnessed contractors help other contractors get started in their own market, agency owners and contractors elevate one another and grind through the toughest of times together, suppliers become vital partners to emerging contractors and providers…
People are attracted here and then more importantly, they stay here (or come back in my case) because people are helping people succeed here. Asphalt people can compete one day and collaborate the next. It is a beautiful place to make an impact.
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AsphaltPro: Will you tell us about a person who served as a mentor for you and share a piece of advice from this person that you would like to share with other women in the industry?
Jeani Ringkob: There are so many, it is hard to pick one. Mike O’Leary rises to the surface for me.
Mike has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. At every point in my career and even as I lost my father and became a mother, he was a lighthouse. Sometimes far away but always on a solid surface I could find and center myself on. When I think about the times my career was really synchronized and I was hitting my stride, I realized he was more present, and I was open to his support, advice, and confidence that I could do it. One thing I love about our industry is not the women mentors I have had, and I have had a few great ones in this industry (my mom and Ashlye Batson to name a few) but there are some men that will really come alongside and support women here.
Mike modeled this more than told me this, but he showed me the importance of relationships. I am an introvert by nature and need time alone to recharge even though I love to connect with people. Watching and seeing the power of how he builds relationships is inspiring and opened my eyes to how relationships can move mountains.