Among the scrap metal, a heap of lessons
NAME: Linda McCabe
Background: In 1980, Linda McCabe ditched her teaching career and moved into the sales department of her father’s South Side iron and metal reclamation business. there she boosted annual sales to $5 million, and took the reins in 1986 when her father fell ill. In April 1999, she sold the firm and dove into her next endeavor: promoting women’s individual and collective advancement through semiformal networking. She launched “Feminin Forum” in February 200 and is working to grow the concept.
Q: What prompted you to leave teaching and work in the scrap metal industry?
A: I had been thinking of switching careers. I quit teaching and started working in my father’s office. The topic of sales cam up a lot. I said I wanted to try it. My dad said, “What the hell do you know about the scrap business?” We decided I’d try it for a year. I went out and got business…I got lots of cutomers.
Q: Was it perhaps an advantage being a woman in that industry?
A: I think so. Scrap iron and metal has always been an extremely male-dominated industry. There was only one other woman running a company. And in the manufacturing industry – people who were my customers – there were maybe 10 women out of 300 people in major decisiion-making positions. Being female made me a little bit different when I walked through the door of a potential customer. I think they were a little bit more interested.
Q: What drew you to business?
A: It wasn’t so much the scrap business, which my husband had been in before. I was truly in love with the business part of it, the entrepreneurial part, the marketing and planning. I found it romantic.
A: Yes. It’s like a dance. Having relationships with your customers, suppliers, vendors. I was fascinated with the effect of everyday decisions and how they related to the economy, and how the economy related to the business. Knowing what to do, what to say. I found it romantic, intriguing. And scary.
Q: Why was that?
A: Whenever you do something you’ve never done before, I think you’re frightened. I never ran a company before. I never had 30 employees depending on how well we did for their salaries. That’s part of the dace, too. I vacillated between thinking “I cannot believe I’m doing this” to being thrilled about the possibilities.
Q: Did you have some mental or emotional “touchstone” that kept you strong and steady?
A: there are four concepts: First, I learned to view failure as a friendly adviser. That’s very comforting , and it helped me to not be afraid. Second, I became accustomed to self-doubt; but I learned to trust myself, to keep my belief in me steady. Third, I learned no to compare myself with other people. No one has a secret or a magic formula. An finally, I learned not to worry about what I lacked, and to focus on my talents and strong points. Those four concepts really made a difference.
Q: Are those the seets that germinated into Feminine Forum?
A: Yes. I was walking and thinking about a business group I belonged to. the group had helped me and I liked the setting (informatl talk sessions, with food and drink). Thinking about what kept me going sparked this dream. Ideas started to emerge. the scrap business was booming, and we were getting offers from firms wanting to buy the company. So my husband, son and I sat down and laid out goals (her father had passed away by this time). We siad if we got what we wanted, we’d sell. If not, we’d keep going. We got what we wanted.
Q: So you had the personal and financial freedom to make Feminine Forum a reality?
A: Right. It was one of those lightning bolts from the sky. I believe women naturally have wisdom and we have wonderful, individual talents. Fiminine Forum is like going to the beauty shop, only lit’s for the spirit and the mind. It’s like an advisory board. Businesses and organizations have them. Why not do the same for women?
Q: How does it work?
A: Once a month, 10 to 12 women meet. First, they discuss a reading or two that’s mailed out beforehand. the readings are current and pertain to women and women’s interests. then a facilitator leads the discussion to members’ particular concerns, recalling the past month’s conversation. Next we move on to new issues. Topics might include self-esteem, relationships, business skills or women’s status in society and how it affects our behavior and success.
Q: As a venture, how is it going?
A: I network but I don’t advertise. So it’s a little slow taking off. Most people react to this as a great idea, but they see it for others. I want them to see it for themselves. Even though it [Feminine Forum] offers solutions, women feel so overwhelmed they hesitate to invest in themselves when it comes to time.
For more information about Feminine Forum, cal 847-419-9300.
©2000 by Tribune Company