Gaspar’s Construction in Seattle is a familiar and well-respected name to those that have been in remodeling for even a few years. And even though—or perhaps, because— Gaspar’s was founded by her father, owner Sarah Henry joined the company ready to cut her teeth and show that she has what it takes to run such a reputable company and continue to advance its good name.
A Different Path
After starting a career in human resources in the corporate world, Henry pivoted to join the family business in 2002, nearly 30 years after Rich and Cathy Gaspar began building the company on the principles of respect, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to quality. “There was always the discussion about going into the family business,” Henry says. “I hadn’t committed to that, but I did go to business school and had a passion for small business, and after some time, I decided corporate HR wasn’t for me. I knew I’d be able to make a bigger impact at Gaspar’s.”
Now that she’s at the helm of the business, Henry continues to emphasize the same pillars of excellence put in place by her parents. She built on their dream in 2007 by spearheading the creation of Gaspar’s handyman division, a move she says was a huge help during the slower economy. More recently, Henry was honored in 2017 with the Remodeler of the Year Award from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.
“I’ve found that one of the keys to learning how to operate successfully in a small business, and in remodeling in particular, is to continually have a beginner’s mind,” she says. “You should always be learning. Every day is different, and there is an opportunity every single day to learn something new.”
Improvement Through Improv
In 2019, Gaspar’s held a company-wide meeting at which the main draw was an improv professional. Improv comedy hinges on the actors’ ability to collaborate and to take challenges as they come in the moment—both of which remodelers face on a daily basis, too. “One of the activities involved taking a hypothetical scenario, like planning a party, and building on whatever the person before you said,” Henry explains.
So, if the first person says the party will be held at the restaurant down the street, the second person could follow up with, “Yes, and parking can be difficult, so keep that in mind.” The next person could add, “Yes, and there is a valet option if that makes it easier,” and so on—always beginning with the phrase, “Yes, and...”
“It was such an ‘aha’ moment for everyone, including me,” Henry says. “We tried the same scenario using the phrase ‘yes, but...’ and we couldn’t get past the second person. Since that session, we’ve made it a point to avoid using the word ‘but’ in our work. It helps us collaborate better with one another, and with the homeowners.”
This Year and Beyond
Henry didn’t set out with the express purpose of expanding Gaspar’s gender diversity, but today, 80% of Gaspar’s managers are women; the staff is nearly a 50/50 gender split; and two women serve as project leads in the field. She’s a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization as well as the Seattle Executives Association, both of which help her focus on how to bring her best to her work every day.
Keep an eye out later in 2020, when Henry—who spoke at the inaugural remodeler’s breakout at the 2019 Women in Residential Construction Conference—will take the mainstage at this year’s conference to address creating a workplace culture that aligns with the values and mission of your company.