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Ransome CAT Leader Discusses Women’s Role In Industry

A fourth-generation family-owned business looks to the great-granddaughter of its founder to lead it into the future.

Mon July 14, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Giles & Ransome Inc. is a fourth-generation family-owned business and is the fifth largest family-owned business in the area. The company’s president and fourth-generation owner also happens to be a woman, Kristin Bromley-Fitzgerald. Kristin’s great-grandfather founded the business nearly 100 years ago. She is the daughter of Wayne Bromley, who currently serves as chairman.

“Many companies do not make it to a fourth generation for a variety of reasons,” Fitzgerald said. “Those that do, do it with hard work, great people and innovation. The strategy of Ransome is based on providing our customers with solutions to help them be more productive, more efficient, and to save money. Solutions are difficult, but there is a recipe to it. Surround yourself with a diverse group of men and women who sit at the table and bring new ideas and different perspectives. I tell a story to every new employee that joins Ransome. The story is about the pride that I have about how the people of Ransome, both men and women, have worked shoulder to shoulder with the contractors in our region over the last 100 years, helping them to build the infrastructure here in such a historic city. What gets me excited is the challenge of doing this even better over the next 100 years throughout the entire region.”

Fitzgerald joined the business in 2001 following her graduation from Ithaca College. She was originally set to have a marketing role in New York City in the World Trade Center, but plans changed with the occurrences of 911. Instead of going to New York for a couple of years and then joining the dealership, she joined the dealership right away.

“Caterpillar Inc. gets involved with the next generation before they even start the business, and they have a very detailed plan for different roles they want you to have in the organization, giving you a little bit of flavor for each of the areas of the business,” Fitzgerald explained. “So, currently I’m the president of Giles & Ransome, and I’ve been in various roles, so I have strategic responsibility for all of the organization.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Caterpillar, who has always been a significant influence on my career. They too are very focused on diversity and inclusion because this drives new ideas and innovation for the company. Cat is very supportive and encouraging of women in key roles in the dealer network as well as within their own organization. They believe that this is a competitive advantage for them.”

Fitzgerald noted that she was always interested in the business.

“Just being a part of a family-owned business and seeing my father working as the third generation, I always had a lot of pride in wanting to be a part of taking us through the fourth generation and hopefully to a fifth generation,” she said. “I knew throughout my entire childhood that I wanted to join the company once I graduated college.”

A number of Fitzgerald’s contacts within the “Caterpillar world” are women, including many who serve as managers on the district level, and a number of women are joining the Caterpillar dealer network, as well.

“I’ve had a number of dealer principals who have known me throughout my career who have recommended that women talk to me because I’ve been involved in the business,” she said. “I’ve definitely seen a growth with the number of women in the dealer network — less so perhaps in the local construction market, although I do know some women who are involved locally. It just seems to be more prevalent in the dealer world than it has been in the past.”

Fitzgerald said that her experience has been a very positive one, both inside and outside the Caterpillar realm.

“In general, I think it’s just been a positive thing,” she said. “I’m involved in a local organization for young presidents, where there has been more women’s involvement, because there are more women that are running and owning businesses than there have been in the past. It’s been nothing but growth, really.”

One thing that Fitzgerald has found to be important is to have people in a professional network that she can get feedback from on how to grow and become a better professional.

“I’ve found it impactful for me to have other women and other organizations who I can talk to about professional issues or personal issues that I have in trying to grow my professionalism,” she explained. “I also have a female executive coach, which I’ve found helpful.”

Fitzgerald feels that the future of women in construction will be “onward and upward,” with more diversity in the construction business than there has been in the past.

At Ransome, women work in a variety of key roles, from inventory control, administration, service, and warranty to the oil lab and finance. All of these positions are critical to the success of the business.

For example, one of the women working in administration is Barbara Martin. She started with the company when she was 19 after having her first baby (Wayne Martin, her son, serves as building construction manager and has been with Ransome for 25 years.) Barbara’s job was to type the warranty paperwork for sold units and forward them to Caterpillar. Her job was extremely important because it could have cost Ransome thousands of dollars in unclaimed warranty repairs from the manufacturer.

Also in administration at Ransome is Linda Walton, who is the “go to” person for every employee when they need to enroll their families in the healthcare plan, and everyone in the company knows who she is.

“Linda Walton (1965) will celebrate her 51st year, and Barbara Martin (1966) will celebrate her 50th year with us when Ransome celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2016,” Fitzgerald said.

Dolores DeStefano (1978) holds a key role within Ransome Engine as the administration manager. Dee processes all of the orders for the engine division, and manages many of the processes within the division and the claims back to Caterpillar.

Fitzgerald explained that Barbara Anderson (1972) and Pat Vanbuskirk (1986) provide sales support for the construction sales group. Their responsibilities include ensuring that the equipment orders are processed and the units leave with the appropriate attachments. Suzanne Cammerano is the Construction Divisions, asset manager.

“She manages and orders every piece of construction equipment for customer orders as well as the rental, which is tall task,” Fitzgerald said of Cammerano.

The women who work in Ransome’s service area manage the coordination of the company’s technicians.

“Sharon Seiferth, field service manager, started in 1996,” Fitzgerald said. “Her job is to schedule our technicians to repair our customer’s machines. She has the respect of both the technicians and our customers. Her husband is also in the construction business as a masonry foreman. Her counterpart in Whitehall, Pa., is Katie Lawler, who performs a similar role at that branch.”

Barbara Levar joined Ransome in 1989 in the product support area. Fitzgerald explained that she has been on the construction service support side of the business and has the knowledge of how to service customers, what their expectations are, and how to meet them.

“Her vision on service execution will help us grow more loyal customers,” she said.

In the parts department, which Fitzgerald noted is an essential component to any heavy equipment dealer, Gisel Buchanan (1972) helps manage millions of dollars of parts inventory, while Rose Scavetti (1986) ensures that parts orders are processed in a timely manner.

“In the Finance and Credit Department, Dawn Smolsky (1988) refers to the salesmen as her customers,” Fitzgerald said. “She handles and processes financial documents for deals negotiated in the marketplace. Charlotte Morris is the credit and collections supervisor who came to the business looking for a career, and 25 years later, thrives at her position with a smile. Palma Maglio (1985) works in collections and is tasked with keeping accounts current and protecting the financial integrity of the organization.

“Knowing most of these women over a significant period of time, I believe that they were drawn to Ransome for a number of reasons,” said Fitzgerald. “Some of them were referred to us by people in the industry, while others were seeking employment with a secure, family owned business that was a good place to work. There are countless other women here within the organization and in the industry who work hard every day to get the job done and to keep our customers up and running. It’s a privilege to work alongside these women every day.”

A Great Industry for Men and Women

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