Meet a Woman of Asphalt: Superior Asphalt’s Danielle Sands
BY Sandy Lender
Although Danielle Sands grew up sharing the construction business with her father, she joined the asphalt industry when she began her career with Superior Asphalt Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1999. Since then, the company has grown and her expertise in aggregates and asphalt has grown alongside the company owner, Jeff Kresnak. Sands is now the chief financial officer for Superior Asphalt and she took some time to share with readers her experiences as a Woman of Asphalt.
AsphaltPro: What was the catalyst for joining the industry?
Danielle Sands: My father owned his own excavation company. I grew up riding in a dump truck in the summer and plow truck in the winter. I would pack a laundry basket with all the things I needed in the morning and would return when he came home. Sometimes for lunch, sometimes not until dinner. When I was looking for employment in 1999, Jeff was using a placement agency to find an accountant and business manager. The rest is history.
Jeff and I have been on an adventure together. He has been a real influence on me throughout the years. He saw the potential I had. He understood my strengths and abilities and knew exactly how I could complement the company; He gave me the opportunity to grow within the company.
When I joined the company, we were a lay down only company and I was the entire administrative staff. We were a $4MM company with approximately 25 employees.
AsphaltPro: What part of your education relates best to the career track you’re on and to the post of CFO?
Danielle Sands: I received my Associates in Business Management and my Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Accounting in 1994 from Lake Superior State University.
AsphaltPro: What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities that you most enjoy as the CFO for Superior Asphalt?
Danielle Sands: Superior Asphalt is the $50MM company that still operates as a small business. We are able to make quick management decisions and steer the ship without the lag of many levels of management. I enjoy interacting with the crews every day as well as the mundane business tasks. This helps us keep a pulse on the needs of our most valuable resource—people.
AsphaltPro: Why did you choose to become an executive in finance? What about that position is most rewarding to you?
Danielle Sands: I love business and the day-to-day operations and inner workings of the company. It has been most rewarding to work alongside Jeff Kresnak, owner and president, and Rick Browley, CEO, as Superior Asphalt has grown to a $50MM company that employs 145 people. The people are the success of the company. I enjoy being able to see and interact with all positions of the company. We are like one big family.
AsphaltPro: What would you say was the most challenging “obstacle” you, as a female in the asphalt industry, had to overcome in the past 20 years, and how DID you overcome that obstacle? How do you think other women in the industry can incorporate that skill or habit into their work life?
Danielle Sands: I think the most challenging obstacle was being taken seriously as a female in a male-dominated industry. Consistency, fairness and being humble to always be willing to learn from others have allowed me to grow at Superior Asphalt. You have to be willing to admit what you don’t know and seek the answers.
AsphaltPro: You have the respect of the men and women with whom you work at Superior Asphalt. Could you share with other women of the industry how that level of trust and respect is earned or nurtured?
Danielle Sands: Men respond to strength. You have to be tenacious enough to hold your own but also show respect and fairness to everyone. We train people how to treat us.
AsphaltPro: Could you share with a young woman just starting in our industry what top two or three characteristics you view as vital to commanding respect in this industry?
Danielle Sands: Consistency and fairness. Not everyone is going to like you at all times. I call it a win if they can say you are fair.
AsphaltPro: What is something you would tell a young lady to encourage her in this industry?
Danielle Sands: You can do and be whatever your heart desires. Work hard, be dedicated and persevere.
AsphaltPro: What is the most challenging aspect for you of being in the asphalt business? (And how do you power through that?)
Danielle Sands: No two days are ever the same; I power through it all by staying calm and very organized.
AsphaltPro: What is the most rewarding aspect for you of being in the asphalt business?
Danielle Sands: The employees. They are our most valuable resource. Some of our employees have been here for 20+ years. We raised our kids together. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of something like this.
AsphaltPro: Will you tell us about a person who served as a mentor for you and share a piece of advice from her?
Danielle Sands: My mom. She worked two full time jobs when I was growing up and she taught me work ethic. She is the strongest person I know. She told me: “No one is going to take care of you but YOU.” Personal responsibility is as important as work ethic. If you make a mistake, own it, learn from it and don’t repeat it. Mistakes are an opportunity for learning. Work hard and you can do anything you set your mind to.