By Lee Sutter, February, 2000
Her name may be diminutive, and at 5-foot 6 1/2-inches and 120 pounds, she’d be considered a shade over bantamweight in the boxing world. But as a local contractor, Tina Humphrey is a dynamo. She casually mentions, “Did you know I did the Cambria Pines Lodge?” It’s something that those who knew may have forgotten, and Humphrey is proud of designing it. Rightfully so. The lodge, rebuilt in the early 1990s when the historical one burned down, is a showpiece.
And, after 10 years as a designer/general contractor, Humphrey’s looking for more members of the so-called “fair sex” to work with. “Kind of flush them out of the woodwork, so to speak,” she says. Her list of reasons is as long as one of the blueprints she unrolls on her truck hood at a job site.
Women are better at communication, says Humphrey. “Basically, that’s why I got into (construction) in the first place, because I saw a lot of waste, miscommunication, lack of communication.” The lifetime Cambria resident believes that’s not a problem with her and her clients. When Humphrey talks to people in the early stages of designing their home, she learns such things as whether or not they are morning people or evening, people. Such details help her with the design, so the evening people aren’t flooded with light through east windows at the crack of dawn, for example. Finding out if they entertain a lot, for instance, also gives her a heads up on designing the home.
“If there’s a lack of communication between the architect and the clients, then the completed plans that come to me aren’t necessarily what they want,” the former draftsman observes. She walks the clients through the plans so they understand what the plans really mean, she says. “That way, I can avoid disappointment when the project’s completed.”
Women’s intuition comes into play as well, this 39-year-old believes. “I think I can kind of get in their minds a little bit,” Humphrey says, and make changes “before we can even dig one shovel in the ground.” But, communication isn’t the only thing that puts women ahead of the game,as far as Humphrey is concerned.
“I just find that women are typically more efficient,” she says, but she doesn’t want to knock the men in the trade, many of whom work for her.
“There are male contractors out there who are good at what they do,” she quickly states, but there aren’t a lot of women in the construction trade, and she wants to find more. As an example, she mentions a woman tile setter she’s hired for various jobs. “She shows up on time, she has a good rapport with the clients when they show up on the job, she’s basically all-aroundcost-effective.”
And, Humphrey knows that time means money in the trade. Sub-contractors and workers who show up late or not at all, can hurt her reputation and relationship with the clients, who count on her meeting the timelines she’s promised. She manages to accomplish this without neglecting her three children. “I am a mommy first and a contractor second,” the single mother says, adding, “I usually let my clients know that early on. To some people, that compromise is unacceptable.” If it isn’t, she refers them to other contractors, she says.
There are more personality differences between men and women that Humphrey sees that affects their relationship with clients. “A lot of women don’t let the ego get in the way, not that men can’t get in touch with their feminine side, but their ego gets in the way.”
The discerning people who build in Cambria want something unique, something suited to them, which requires the designer to be versatile, she believes.
And Humphrey indicates that she’s sensitive when it comes to dealing with the home builders, especially the middle-aged and senior citizens. “I don’t go in right always and connect with the woman,” she says. “That’s very intimidating to the man. I try to split my attention between both parties, hear what each is saying.” In doing so, she usually notices the man and wife like different things. By her truly listening, she can pick up on such things and feed these differences back to them to ultimately come up with the ideal home plan. “It helps them resolve different tastes they may not have know about ‘till we got to the end of the job.” Catching these differences early on saves time and Humphrey suggests the couple get together and discuss those issues.
She likes to stay one step ahead while building the home. “I like to think of the things that they haven’t yet thought of,” says Humphrey. “When they get the key, and I’ve moved them in, there isn’t anything that was overlooked.”