As Gulf Crane & Equipment LLC, enters its 40th year of business, owner Nancy C. Caralla looked back over the path to her present post steering the company and the changes she has seen since she entered the industry.
Now based in New Port Richey, Fla., with satellite offices in Durham, N.C., and Genova, Italy, the company was founded in New York on Valentine’s Day 1971 by Caralla’s father, Michael J. Caralla Sr. He was, she said, a man who “lived, breathed, created, built, studied and worked in the crane/construction industry from the 1940s until 2003.”
It was inevitable that Caralla would become interested in cranes. Her father often visited the Manitowoc factory in Wisconsin, aiding their professionals with his experience and knowledge on what would work and what would not, keeping safety in mind first and foremost.
As is so often the way with a family business, Caralla began work at the company as a teenager. At sixteen she was file clerk and was handling accounts receivable and payable — and “all for one salary!” she pointed out. By seventeen she had been promoted to creating advertisements for used equipment for sale. At eighteen she was assisting with telephone sales, while still continuing with her previous duties. College and degrees in computer programming, health care and marketing followed, while she was still working part time for the company.
“No matter what profession I was working, computer, health care or marketing, there were always hours set aside in the day to work with my father and Gulf Crane & Equipment,” she said. “Working health care shifts on weekends gives me the flexibility needed to concentrate and devote 110 percent to Gulf Crane’s clients, associates, staff and projects. In this industry we must be flexible and able to meet with clients at their convenience, as travel is almost always involved and time is needed to view plans and show and inspect the machinery.”
Caralla’s father retired in 2003 and passed away in 2004. Gulf Crane & Equipment became idle for two years after his passing, which took a toll on the family.
Caralla then relocated from Florida to Asheville, N.C. From 2005 to 2009, as owner of the company, she “slowly took what was left, modified it, broke it down, made it to where we utilize our skills, training and knowledge plus an extensive database.”
Gulf Crane & Equipment provides quality service in the crane and heavy equipment industry. With a presence here and in Europe, specializing in sales of good used equipment and long-term crane rentals through associates, they provide clients with crane operators, parts, attachments and equipment inspections. The staff has more than 40 years combined professional experience in the crane and heavy equipment industry. Manufacturers represented include Manitowoc, Grove, Potain, National, Liebherr, Demag, Kobelco, Terex, Caterpillar, Volvo and Ingersoll Rand.
“We utilize a combined data base to assist our world-wide clients with their crane and heavy equipment needs and our customers appreciate the professional service and attention given to their inquiries and machinery requests,” Caralla noted. “We also communicate with contractors, architects, and review daily publications world-wide regarding future projects to anticipate equipment needs.”
Cranes In the Blood
“My father was vice president and general manager of the crane department in Gerosa Crane Service’s yard in the Bronx, New York, for 30 years,” said Caralla. “The first crane I was introduced to was the Manitowoc Model 4100WV Series II 230 ton lattice boom crawler crane. This crane impressed me at a young age, as did all of the earlier Manitowoc models; 4000WV, 3900WV, plus ringer attachments, and their boom sections.”
Caralla still has a profound respect and passion for Manitowoc equipment.
“There is not a more appreciated sight than to see Manitowoc cranes working with their bright red colored booms high in the air. Today those early models have been retired and new models have been introduced into the market with larger lift capacity and the new EPIC (electronically processed independent controls) replace the VICON (variable independent controls) operating systems.” Caralla commented.
It was only fitting therefore that in 1997 Caralla attended Manitowoc’s Crane Care EPIC training course at the manufacturer’s Manitowoc, Wis., location.
“It was a new path traveled and my father enrolled me as I wanted to learn everything about the new EPIC system and remain proficient in the crane industry,” she stated. “’It was a challenge for the class as they had never had a female attend this class before and I had never attended a class with fourteen highly skilled crane mechanics.
“There I was in my scrubs as I chose not to wear cover-alls. I was paired up with a very highly skilled mechanic from Australia and the instructor was kind and treated me without bias amongst my classmates. It was a positive experience, and in the final test I was in the top five of the class, receiving my wooden plaque upon successful completion,” Caralla went on. “The knowledge of computers and electronics was put to good use in this class. This step in the right direction was positive for both myself and Manitowoc with the proven ability to have a female attend this class with successful completion. My father was very proud of my completing the class and it was a pleasure to share the new knowledge with my father, and two brothers, also professionals in the crane/construction industry.”
A Woman’s Touch In a Man’s World
Caralla pays tribute to her father and brothers for preparing her to work in this field.
“They did not always approve, were not always supportive, did not always agree,” she acknowledged. “However; they taught me how to understand and see things from a man’s prospective. They taught me the true meaning of bottom line, how to stand ground, and get to the facts and nothing but the facts. Today my brothers, Michael and Stephen, are very supportive of my decisions, my views, visions and goals.”
Caralla’s siblings also are involved in the company.
“Dolores tends to the clerical aspect of business in the Florida location, and our brother Stephen is a great resource person who makes himself available to us and also has the expertise, knowledge and skills in the crane industry,” Caralla said. “With his 30-plus years experience in the crane industry it gives us great pleasure to assist our clients with their crane and heavy equipment needs.”
Words to Live By
Gulf Crane’s motto is “We’re ALL In It Together!” and the company displays it because, as Caralla stated, “it defines every profession in the construction industry working as a team building a project — no one goes it alone. When we view and think about the Burj Kahlifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, that project could never have become reality without the strength, unity and teamwork of every professional. They were all in it together to create a most luxurious and magnificent structure. I type it often, I say it often, I believe in this one line.”
Caralla described her role as captain of the ship. Her duties are varied and while her focus is on international sales and marketing, she also oversees daily operations such as the training of sales engineers, planning of sales summits, machine inspections, project bidding and proposals and client communications, not to mention dealing with marketing mailings and equipment listings worldwide. And, in a unique twist to the crane business, Caralla uses her health care knowledge with her crane customers too.
“Today if we cannot sell the crane to the client I offer a free blood pressure check,”’ she said. “Why not? It’s a great way to promote good health and offer health care teaching.”
While this offer produces smiles, this past October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Gulf Crane became the first U.S.-based crane company to promote and raise donations for the Susan G. Komen For The Cure fund. The Cure logo, a pink ribbon loop, inspired Caralla to instruct Gulf Crane’s IT administrator to change the color of the company logo to pink for two months. For every donation Gulf Crane mailed a magnetic pink ribbon to the donor to show their appreciation, and the company raised $240 in two months, presenting the check to the Triangle, N.C., office of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Caralla viewed the fundraising effort in part as “a way to get the word out to the men in the industry that breast cancer does not care about gender — men get breast cancer, too.”
It is common knowledge that while the industry is changing its views on women workers there is still a tendency to regard it as a male preserve.
As Caralla observed, the situation in the United States has improved somewhat in the past 20 years but not as much as she would like to see.
“It has a lot to do with gender, definitely. However, that will change over time. The stereotype remains boys play with trucks and cranes, girls play with tea sets and dolls,”’ she stated. “’I am confident that as more professional women enter this industry as a career choice, respect and common grounds will be established.”
It is not an unlikely progression, as Caralla noted many overseas males welcome the female gender into the industry.
“One of the associates with whom we work from Novellara, Italy, Stefano Fraccarole from Effeci Boccole Corporation, encourages the ladies to become proactive in all areas. Effeci Boccole manufactures parts for Caterpillar, Volvo and other earthmoving machinery,” she explained. “In conversations with Stefano he has voiced the great respect he has for professional women in the construction, crane, and heavy equipment industries. His support is greatly appreciated as is his encouragement of females in the profession.”
“Gulf Crane sales engineer Massamiliano Lazzari from Genova, Italy, also has the same prospective regarding professional women in these industries. Max stands by my daily challenges as a team mate with mutual respect and assists in many new projects on the board. He has a great attitude working with women, and shares in the projections and ideas for Gulf Crane’s bright future and we appreciate his knowledge, professionalism, and friendship.” she added.
It was in fact Max, as Lazzari is known, who coined Caralla’s well-known nickname Lady Crane. Caralla’s response?
“Cute! I embraced it and appreciate it, too.”
Gulf Crane & Equipment LLC, first entered the international market in 2000, working with French contractors. Then in 2006 came the Internet, which opened doors that were not available in previous years, and the company proceeded, as Caralla put it, “full steam ahead.”
The company hosts its own website at www.gulfcraneworld.com and last year Gulf Crane & Equipment joined Facebook. Caralla had been enjoying her personal page and thought nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The company’s web presence has been a great success. Today, with the aid of Facebook friends, Gulf Crane & Equipment networks with more companies, individuals and professionals from around the world, and in every language than ever before.
Some results of this interaction have led to other ventures.
It was through the company’s Facebook friends sharing posts, interests and professional information that led the company to renewable energy in the form of solar and wind technology. More specifically, interest was raised by a Facebook article by an associate that mentioned Redstone College and their class in Denver on wind technology. Then the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provided and shared information regarding wind technology through its Facebook page.
Caralla described subsequent events. “Curiosity began to develop and that excitement, that passion for knowledge, and better understanding broke through, driving me to enroll in their wind technology class. It begins in May of this year and I will be attending. This class is majorly sought after by the male gender and I anticipate acceptance and mutual cooperation from classmates without bias.
“I am attending this class to learn as much as I can about these awesome structures –- the turbines –- and the renewable energy benefits taking place worldwide. I look forward to completing this course in 2012 and working with crane companies worldwide as well as construction professionals erecting these structures and developing new wind farms. Where there is a crane –- you will find me!”
Despite her close association with cranes, Caralla does not own a crane nor, she said, does she wish to own one today or tomorrow.
“I, along with our two full time sales engineers, enjoy assisting crane owners, construction professionals around the world with their sales, purchases and rentals. After wind technology school I/we will be able to offer additional services to aid their projects.”
Caralla wished a female currently attending the wind technology class great success and touched upon the topic of women contemplating a career in construction.
“It is never easy, the door will not always be held open, and at times we work twice as hard to prove ourselves in this industry,”?she said.
However; she feels it is not where someone is employed or what industry is chosen, but rather it is about being yourself, treating others as you expect to be treated, standing your ground, and learning as much as you can, because “knowledge is power.”
She advises women wishing to found a business to do their homework, ask questions, interview other business owners and consult professionals such as attorneys and CPAs. She also recommends registering with the United States Women’s Chamber of Commerce (www.USWCC.org).
In running a business as both a health care professional and a crane/heavy equipment professional Caralla declared one common denominator remains: customer service. She sees customer service as another term for human interaction in all industries and her philosophy is to treat every individual with dignity, integrity, respect, understanding and compassion.
As she put it, “Patients and clients; they ask for assistance with a sincerity, they ask for suggestions and answers and expect honesty, they deserve all the above. We work with crane professionals, construction professionals, all industry professionals from every corner of the world and all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. They do not expect anything less or different — the common denominator remains.”
A 1997 project might be cited as a good example of the company’s commitment to this ideal. Gulf Crane was retained and assigned to sales and rentals for Essex Crane Service in Florida. Working for Essex Crane from 1997 to 2002 Gulf Crane increased the former’s crane rentals statewide by 50 percent in a very competitive market.
“During these five years clients came to know and appreciate Essex Crane for their excellent service and the well-maintained Manitowoc cranes that made their projects successful.”’ Caralla noted. “It was a long-term relationship and a rewarding one to our company.”’
As for the future, Gulf Crane & Equipment LLC, is registered with the U.S. military and the federal government as an outside contractor and is presently bidding projects in cooperation with military personnel.
Future plans include providing services with renewable energy solar and wind projects.
A Final Word of Advice from Lady Crane
“Every great structure that is built starts with one thought, an idea that begins on paper and transforms into buildings that make up our infrastructures in society. The construction industry of which we are part is a collection of energetic, determined, creative individuals — men and women — making a difference one step at a time,” she said. “Bottom line? Never lose the passion of why you chose to be where you are today.” CEG
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