As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Kronebusch.
Having hand-selected and overseeing RE’s Sales teams and developing all sales processes, Chief Sales Officer, Ali, has made it her mission to ensure that Reconstruction Experts consistently goes beyond clients’ greatest expectations. Responsible for Sales & Marketing at RE, she works closely with each division of the company, including Destructive Testing, Expert Witness, and Roofing, to build a deep understanding of how each sector works and using that expertise to revolutionize the customer experience in occupied space services. Ali’s impressive background in property management and experience working with attorneys and engineers results in a profound understanding of ways to continually transform RE’s offerings to more effectively serve the end user. Ali’s ability to drive sales in each of our existing and emerging markets has resulted in $100s of millions in sales, along with an extensive roster of gratified clients.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I am originally from a very small town in Montana that has a population of only 2,000 people and most of my time was spent around family. My dad was an electrician, and I had many uncles who were general contractors. I was basically born into this field of work. I seemed to always be surrounded by a diversified group of people within the industry and it taught me to truly see the value in individuality. When I was exploring different job opportunities, it was important to me that I found employment where people come first, and they could always be themselves. Stumbling upon Reconstruction Experts I not only loved that it was the industry I most greatly knew, but how much of a people company they truly were. So many groups of people come together to work on one similar goal, restoring homes. It really is so much more than the surface level reconstruction concept and that’s what ultimately pulled me in.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Honestly the COVID-19 pandemic was the most interesting thing to happen during my time as CSO. Fortunately, our company’s quick-to-think method helped us pull it together as a team during one of the world’s most unprecedented and unexpected times. We take pride in the cumulative effort to achieve success and our ability to quickly shift during the pandemic impressed me more than anything. As a face-to-face industry, it really took some adjusting to continue the momentum. With the help of technology, we carried on gracefully without missing a beat and achieved one the most successful years in RE history.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was one of the first [and only] salespeople at Reconstruction Experts. It was vital not only to RE’s future, but to my own, that I worked as hard as I could to understand every angle of the market and prove myself within the industry. One of the first events I attended was a golf tournament, and like a typical sales event, we had a booth to share material and build relationships. I neatly organized and packed a large black bin with everything I had to bring to be as prepared as possible. I loaded the bin in the golf cart and it somehow slipped falling directly onto the gas pedal. The golf cart took off in full force and I immediately began to chase it as it was heading straight for the parking lot. Before I knew it, the cart slammed right into the car of a very successful CEO in attendance. Beyond mortified, I apologized, promised to fix it and then carried on with the day. Throughout the event multiple people came up to the booth starting their conversation with “did you hear about the girl who chased after the golf cart?” I had no choice but to confess. The embarrassing and at the time, soul crushing, mishap taught me that no matter how incredibly defeating a moment feels, there is always a positive. In this case, the disaster was the door that opened conversations which in result, created important business relationships. It’s also a reminder to not take yourself too seriously. Sometimes misfortunate situations just happen beyond our control.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I want to highlight our culture at RE, which our founder and president Drew Anderson is a big advocate of. We see tremendous success because we hire team members who all contribute different skill sets to the company. We don’t discriminate based on one’s gender, age or race-which is unique to the reconstruction world. When I first started at the company, being a young female was never an issue. One of my greatest inspirations is Richard Whitten, CEO of RE, who looked at me solely for the quality of my work. Ever since my very first day at RE, he gave me his undying support and encouraged me to reach my fullest potential. He has become one of my greatest mentors and someone I respectfully look up to. He brings years of experience in multiple business environments, and his work in strategy, operations, and finance have allowed him to create scalable systems and a well-defined culture. He is pivotal in the growth of RE’s business and routinely allows me and the rest of the team to be the best we are individually.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I practice for every possible situation whether it be for a sales pitch or a meeting with another company for acquisition. I learned it helps me feel more confident and comfortable when I talk through it beforehand. Nerves can sometimes get in the way but staying true to my most genuine self helps. Practicing makes me feel more prepared and simultaneously eases those nerves helping me stay true to who I am. I also feel a smile goes a long way. It creates a judge-free atmosphere and helps you earn trust within the room. With that being said, I always remember to keep a smile on my face.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Some organizations may only look for a specific person or similar qualities in the hiring process. However, if everyone is the same you are putting a cap on your company’s success. Diversity allows for new perspectives, opinions and ways of communicating. That means various races, gender and age to transform and create the ultimate empire. We wouldn’t be able to run the business without a fresh and unique take on what we do, and that’s what I truly believe created our success. We also take pride in our female executives and the fact that most of our leadership is made up of women. It’s one thing for women to be in a leadership position, but to make an impact in a predominantly male field of work is what makes RE special. Two women I want to highlight who have played key roles in RE’s ongoing success are Vice President of both our Colorado & California regions, Ashley Douglas, and Vice President of Administration and General Council, Tami York. Without their inherent drive in creating results that are truly transformative, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Every different person, mindset, and perspective allows the company to be what it is. We work in four different states and with thousands of people who come from various backgrounds. To really listen and hear our client’s perspective it’s critical to have a diverse group to service them correctly. There is no one size fits all mentality. This is why we have a lot of women in leadership roles. We at RE believe that caring for our clients emotionally allows us to perform our jobs to the best of our ability.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
My job is to make sure that our leaders at Reconstruction Experts have the tools to operate at their fullest capacity and make all decisions as their best self. I make sure they feel heard, safe, and incredibly encouraged to express their ideas. No idea is a bad idea in my book. It has the potential to turn into something by at least getting our minds working.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
It is an enormous “myth” that being a CEO or an executive in the construction industry, or really any industry, is a man’s job. Women are capable of so much with the ability to show empathy. It’s also so much more than being a “boss”. It’s about being a leader and guiding your employees down the right path. When you can emotionally understand where your team is coming from then you can ultimately be a better leader.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women in the C-suite are oftentimes looked at differently just because they’re a woman. Which is wild to even say out loud in 2021. Some of our peers just don’t expect it, but it’s important to not be put off by their reaction. If anything, own it. You can often change a person’s preconceived notions about you if you stay confident and show them exactly why you have a seat in the suite.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I quickly learned it’s not just about the job at all. As a CSO it’s not just about sales. The skills and assets it took to get me to this point in my career no longer carry the same weight. My main job is to make sure my team is nurtured and feels both seen and heard. It takes patience and time to build trusting relationships, but it’s absolutely vital if you want a team that will reach their highest potential. Everyone learns at a different pace, but everyone also has something unique to offer.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
It is so important to not sweat the small stuff. It drains your energy and then you’re unable to deal with the bigger picture. A laugh a day does the trick for me. The work is intense and there is an incredible amount of pressure. If you don’t give yourself a little bit of grace it will be really tough to get through it. Trust yourself, take each task one by one and most importantly, listen to your gut. Those three pointers help me on a daily basis.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Every person you encounter has something of value you can learn from. Do not shut the door on a person because they may be put off by your position, first impression or even gender. Take a step back and get to know your peers for who they are. It’s best to listen fast and talk slow.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Making people feel important has always been my top priority as a leader. It helped me get to the point where I am today. Regardless of who I’m speaking to, I make it a point to treat them as if they’re the only person in the room.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. The tasks you have set for the beginning of each day will most likely change, and that’s O.K. Whatever is thrown in front of you is there for a reason. I have learned to tackle and work through what is presented to me in the moment.
2. When a decision or a task being worked on doesn’t go as planned, don’t let it get you down. What may originally seem like a loss, no matter how detrimental it is in your career at that moment, can be used as a great learning lesson and opportunity to grow. Looking back, I am so thankful for those moments and if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be where I am at today.
3. The advice and expertise of my mentors shaped my success in the most positive way. When I was first hired with Reconstruction Experts, I often misunderstood why I wasn’t given certain opportunities I thought I was ready for at the time. Listening to my mentors and waiting until I was truly capable and skilled enough to take on certain roles was pivotal in my growth at RE.
4. No matter how much work there is to be done, making time for myself and my family is crucial. When first stepping into a new role at a new company, it always feels necessary to work extra hours to prove your worth. It took me some time to see that working on myself, and blocking out hours for personal time, greatly reflected how well I did at work. I am able to bring in more business and succeed when I have a healthy and balanced life.
5. My role as Chief Sales Officer has never been about me. My role is about everyone else at Reconstruction Experts. What you give is what you get. When I give my team support and respect, that’s what I get in return.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would influence a movement to bring out more pride and confidence in all the women who work in the field of construction. I would love to offer the tools it takes to succeed so when a female walks into a room full of men, they don’t see it as a barrier or a problem.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan
One of the core fundamentals at RE and within the sales and marketing team is to bring confidence to our clients when they are dealing with extremely complex problems for their properties. It’s a lot to handle emotionally and can be a difficult place to navigate when your home is stripped from you unexpectedly. Our mission is to provide the emotional support and care to get them whole again, and of course bring them home. The reason we are able to do this is because our company culture revolves around teamwork and a collaboration built on a foundation of trust. Richard Whitten undoubtedly created this culture. A trust-based environment where everyone knows the end goal and works like crazy to get there…as a team. We are the best at what we do, and this is not a ‘one man’ job. It’s without a doubt a team effort.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook, is someone I so greatly admire. It goes without saying she is ultimately one of the most successful business leaders in the nation, but she also broke the status quo as a woman in the C-Suite. I would love to hear her story and feed off her energy which successfully built and maintained the powerhouse she runs today.