Note: Sept. 22 was American Business Women's Day, which nationally recognizes the accomplishments of businesswomen of diverse occupations.
Music was her calling at age 20. The talented singer had planned to be a choral director.
But after some soul-searching, Erin Wakefield changed her major to business finance and dove into learning the family business, The Wakefield Corp., a Knoxville, Tenn., drywall and metal studs framing subcontracting company her father started in 1986.
By 2006, she was managing a $6 million project for the new Jack Case Center at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Under her leadership, The Wakefield Corp. hung and finished more than 1 million square feet of drywall in about six months. At the time, the project was the largest that the company had ever taken on.
Today she is co-owner of Wakefield Corp. and their Chief Financial Officer. Her accomplishments were recognized this year with the Greater Knoxville Business Journal's 40 Under 40 award.
Here Erin answers a few questions about herself and offers a few tips for women in business:
What's your number one tip for success? Stay true to yourself. The world we live in has changed so dramatically, even since I started in this industry. There are too many things put in our path that can cause us to make decisions we might not necessarily make. Hold firm to your values and beliefs and what has gotten you to where you are today. Stay true to that, and you can’t go wrong.
What is your management style? I am definitely more of an intuitive and “feeling” kind of manager. I want everyone on the team to be successful and to love what they do. I tend to put others’ feelings and happiness before my own. That can lead to being taken advantage of at times. I think over the last 18 years I have learned to adapt and be firm when needed, yet still be understanding and compassionate about our people and my job.
Who do you look up to? My hero is probably my dad, Jim Wakefield. Even when he started this company in 1986, he never let business take him away from his family. Despite a long commute to his office from our house, he never failed to have breakfast started for my mom, brother, and me. Then as we became busier with extra-curricular activities, he never missed them. Even if it meant going back to the office late after a game, concert or track meet, he was always there to cheer us on. That has continued now on to watching his grandchildren in their activities. He has shown me how to do both - run a business and love your family - with everything you have.
What are you most proud of – personally or professionally? Personally, I am most proud of my three children – Zach, Kane, and Samantha. They keep me crazy busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The purest form of joy I receive is from being with them and watching them succeed and be happy. Professionally, I am most proud of my dad entrusting The Wakefield Corp. co-owner Grant Bryant and I to run the business and continue the legacy he started 30 years ago!
Any advice for rising businesswomen? If you choose to be a mom and a businesswoman, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do both. Does it take a super support system? Yes! And a lot of energy I didn’t know I had. But it can be done. And to see my kids there the evening I received my 40 Under 40 award was the highlight of my night.
Learn more about The Wakefield Corporation here.