Theresa Alfaro Daytner manages federal and commercial construction projects worth as much as $86 million, and she has received plenty of recognition for her accomplishments—including acknowledgment from President Obama at a ceremony honoring female business owners. But every now and then, she finds herself reminding people who the boss really is.
People who don't know women like me make a lot of assumptions about what roles my husband and I play in the company. When we first started, people would ask me questions like, "So, how long have you been working for Allen?" Or, "Do you keep the books?" Like I'm supposed to be doing payroll or something.
It's great when people can see proof that I'm an entrepreneur. I'm the visionary—I run the business and develop the strategy and the long term. And believe it or not, between the two of us, I'm the risk taker here. My husband doesn't have the kind of threshold for risk that I do.
We met while I was doing accounting work for a general contractor, and he was a very proficient project manager at the company. I was getting bored with the accounting work, and I thought if he would just continue doing what he was doing, I could build a business around him. So I convinced him to quit his job and come be my first employee. To finance the business, I took out a home equity loan. Since his name was on the mortgage, I put the papers in front of him and said, "Here, honey. Sign this, but don't read it," because I needed him to sleep at night.
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be in charge and be the boss. My husband is the vice president of the company and focuses on the important things that need to get done today. It's a great fit, but it kind of explains the difference between that and the passionate entrepreneur who wants to change the world.
We have six children, so it's definitely a juggling act, being the CEO of a construction company and also a mother. You know how the fighters in the ring have a tag team? We communicate about our schedules, and it just seems to naturally come together. The kids eat dinner every night, and Allen actually does most of the grocery shopping and cooking. We do carpools and make sure everybody gets to their dental appointments, and he carries more of that load.
My kids keep pretty quiet about it most of the time, but just when you think they're totally oblivious to what's going on, they'll say something that really makes me feel good. Recently, something came up, and I wasn't able to drive my 16-year-old daughter somewhere she needed to go. I felt bad about it, and I was apologizing, and I said, "You know, I hope I do enough to make you feel special, and I'm sorry that I'm not here all the time." She said, "Mom, I'm really proud of the fact that you have your own business, because I can't imagine having a mom who was solely focused on just us. So don't be making any changes."
J.J. MCCORVEY is a reporter at Inc. magazine, where he covers a wide range of topics, including technology and business research. He has covered metro news for The Detroit News, and his work has been featured in Men's Fitness. @jmccorvey