Like many women in construction, Tina Gleisner didn't finish school dreaming about running a handyman business or educating homeowners. She wanted to be a teacher but student teaching showed her that schools didn't offer the flexibility she needed to be creative and make things happen. So Tina jumped into computers before they were known as “high tech”, writing her first Fortran program in 1970.
Tina began blazing new trails with a Masters in Computer Science from Rensellaer Polytechnic in 1973, where she was the only woman in the computer science department. After twenty-nine years at IBM, she was done living on airplanes and decided to put down roots with a handyman business in southern NH … but she didn't stop there.
Join us as we follow Tina's journey as a homeowner advocate for women who see the potential in owning a home, from living the life they want to building financial equity for a long and prosperous life.
What is your current role in the housing industry?
It would be easy if I could tell you I was a Realtor® or a remodeler, but I rarely fit into a standard job description. I'm the founder of HomeTipsforWomen.com, an online content business (HomeTipsforWomen.com) that provides valuable information to women homeowners who want the knowledge and tools they need to manage their homes with confidence.
The idea for this business came while I was running a handyman business (8 years serving more than 2,000 homeowners). I'll share just a few details to give you a glimpse of my creative spirit.
- Many women called my handyman business, and began the conversation with “I'm not sure I can describe the problem” or something similar. I would say “don't worry, let's talk and we'll figure things out together”, which I did through a series of questions that I asked slowly, until I had a fairly good idea what was happening and what was needed to resolve the problems. The first fifty articles in our library were first written as follow-up emails after these conversations.
- Many of my handyman technicians didn't like talking to women homeowners. I'd have to explain that it wasn't them or the women, but a lack of a shared language. It's the same when we talk to a doctor, lawyer or pharmacist because we're consumers and don't have deep industry knowledge. That's why my library focuses on the concepts and homeowner choices, for all facets of home ownership.
- Other women owned businesses serving homeowners came to me for help with their marketing. I already knew how difficult it was to attract homeowners for my handyman business, so I created a directory website with forty women owned businesses, called 4 Walls 1 Roof. I quickly realized we needed all types of real estate, construction and decorating businesses … but alas, the prototype is on hold until Home Tips can generate the money to launch the project.
What kind of house do you live in? What feature or space do you love best?
As a corporate employee, I moved frequently so we've owned a lot (more than a dozen) houses. It can take a while to figure out what's most important in a house, and for me it's lots of natural sunlight and nice views. It took a house hunting trip in Tokyo (lived/worked there for three years) to recognize how important sunlight is.
We bought our current house in Arizona for very good reasons … but they didn't have a lot to do with the house (laugh out loud). We left the east coast in search of clear, dark skies for my husband's astronomy hobby (that's Ted in the backyard talking to the landscape architect) and Fountain Hills has no street lights. My husband researched all prospective houses on Google maps, to make sure each house had:
- Backyard that was relatively flat and undeveloped, to support an observatory.
- Property that didn't have neighbors nearby that could block telescope views from the backyard, or make observing unworkable with lots of exterior lights.
- Location facing south where all the planets are found when you live in the northern hemisphere, and mostly open/dark views for one to two miles pointing south.
So the house is bigger than we wanted (3,000 square feet where I would have preferred 2,000), and while there's a lot of space we rarely use, there's plenty of room for two spacious home offices … and mine has a great view!
What was your first job in the housing industry? How did you find and decide to take the job?
After thirty years in technology, I was ready for a change. We bought our first house in California and enjoyed many aspects of real estate, so starting a handyman business seemed to combine the opportunity to start a business with houses which I had a lot of experience with (I thought).
We were half way through our 4-story addition when I made the decision, influenced by the great crew we had lived with for almost six months. I explored several types of businesses – home appraisals, mortgage processing and ultimately picked a handyman business for the creativity it allowed.
What was your biggest challenge in this job and how did you overcome it?
Starting any type of business is tough but when you don't know the technical side of what you're selling, it can be overwhelming. Overnight I had to be an expert in too many new things. The one that stands out in my mind is learning to speak the language (I was used to listening/understanding my husband) and recognize the concepts my technicians would try to explain to me. This took lots of reading, talking and asking for help … for about six months.
- Learning who to hire as technicians was a challenge at first, and equally important was firing them quickly if they didn't have the right technical skills or ability to communicate with homeowners.
- Building a network of business, marketing and construction people/companies to get the job done quickly and correctly, and joining the New Hampshire Home Builders was a huge help.
- Marketing was a big challenge and I'm glad it was because it provided the skills and insight that led me to create 4 Walls 1 Roof, and now Home Tips for Women.
What would you say are the top 2 to 3 highlights of your career in the housing industry?
That's a fun question and one I've never thought about since starting my handyman business more than ten years ago. There were so many differences between working for a global 500 company, and owning/managing a small business with less than ten employees. Looking back at the transitions I've made since jumping into construction, I would have to say the highlights are:
- Successfully branding myself as “the handyman” in southern NH, so that business owners across the state sought me out for marketing advice. This led to 4 Walls 1 Roof, and now Home Tips for Women.
- Building the expertise, writing skills and technology toolkit that enabled me sell my blog and newsletter content to my peer handyman owners across the U.S.
- Discovering my passion for helping women homeowners take control of their homes in all respects. From the financial decisions every homeowner makes, to maintaining and updating our houses, and enjoying the results with a more comfortable, satisfying lifestyle.
What advice would you give to women considering a career in construction?
This is an important question as you don't know, what you don't know when starting your professional career, or even moving from one industry to another. From starting a handyman business, I had no idea I'd focus on becoming a homeowner advocate and so can you.
- Build your confidence by developing a strong set of technical skills. They don't have to be back breaking, but you do have to invest the time (three to five years) to learn the concepts behind why things work the way they do … so you can lead and teach others as you progress in your career.
- While you want to focus on your core skills, you should also maintain an awareness of the business you work for. Learn how they attract clients, how they pick vendors, what their approach is to hiring the people you work with as you never know when this knowledge will be useful.
- Listen to you and discover your hidden talents and what gets you excited. You will do a much better job and be happier when you're doing something you love.