The best advice I ever received and would pass on is listening to your folks. Having good people around you is very important but listening to them is imperative.
As CEO of Green Structure Homes of Alabama LLC, Barbara Stokes is on the ground in a vital effort in humanitarian relief with a specialty in Disaster Relief Construction.
Since she and her husband, Scott, founded the Huntsville-based company, its team has worked extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the private sector to offer a range of safe, permanent housing and commercial solutions using proprietary, state-of-the-art design, engineering and manufacturing techniques that range from modular to on-site construction. It has worked on land planning and installation of utilities, built housing for school campuses and residential developments, as well as a long list of military projects, including bullet-resistant guard shacks.
“We work closely with our team every day to see that ideas are brought from concept to completion efficiently.” Barbara graduated from Mercer University in 2001, majoring in biomedical engineering and physics, as well as studying the subjects applied at GSH, including manufacturing and management, structures and properties of materials and thermodynamics. She worked for Pisces Corporation and Boeing before bringing to GSH expertise in government contracting and, above all, a desire to support FEMA’s mission.
Just as important in her life is being a mom to three and volunteering in the Huntsville community, although her days are now busier than ever as the team works on its biggest project to-date. In September 2017, post Hurricane Harvey’s Texas devastation, GSH was awarded by the federal government a $28 million modular buildings contract to be completed by March 2018.
Where did the idea for Medical Valuations come from?
I liked the idea of medical valuations because it effectively combined my interest in business with a more technical field. Professions in the medical field (generally) require a lot of technical knowledge and understanding that I’ve been able to apply to my role here at GSH of Alabama. More importantly, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, something that medical professionals do every day. My work would enable them to carry out their mission, similar to what we do at GSH today.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start every morning very early and end up working late almost every night. It is important to me to be able to find a balance between working and spending time with family and my kids. I try to plan my day so that I can spend the maximum amount of my time with my kids, often volunteering at their school. This balance is crucial because doing things I enjoy and being active in the community helps me to relieve stress and be at my best while working, no matter what time of day it is.
How do you bring ideas to life?
GSH is very fortunate to have a talented design and engineering team in-house. I work closely with the team every single day to see that ideas are brought efficiently from concept to production. For instance, the fire suppression system now in MHUs went through this process. After developing the concept, our team worked with local fabrication shops to design and prototype a functioning model before scaling it up to production. We are always looking for ways to continue to make our homes safer, more durable and more comfortable for their end users.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about the increasing number of women in business leadership and STEM-related fields and hope to see this trend continue long into the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always try and take time for family and to give back whenever possible. It isn’t always easy to try and make time, but it helps to put things into perspective and reminds me of why all of the hard work is worth it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could go back, I think I would tell myself to never underestimate what you can accomplish if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to work hard.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Having a balance between your work and home life is so important. But, finding places where they blend can be so satisfying. We have a bunny in the office as an unofficial “mascot,” which can be a challenge to take care of, as many pets are. However, having him around makes the office feel more inviting and comfortable. It’s a great ‘ice breaker’ for some employees that typically would not venture outside their comfort zone, improving communication among our team. Sharing your workspace with animals sounds like it can be distracting, but we find that it boosts morale and builds a stronger and happier work environment. Happy employees are more productive, and this is great for business!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always try to stay a few steps ahead of where our business is and focus a lot of attention on growth. We’re entirely dependent on the strength of our team to continue growing, so I try to give employees the most enjoyable work experience possible. If your employees are happy, they will do better work, which in turn creates a better result for your customer, and ultimately your business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
GSH is a woman-owned business, giving us the ability to take advantage of certain SBA programs as a tool for growth. This how we began working with the U.S. Government initially. The SBA has lots of resources available to all small businesses, and I would strongly recommend looking at the resources the SBA offers.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
I think that failures are essential to future success. I couldn’t point to one failure as a turning point in my career. Failure comes with the territory. If something can go wrong – it will. But, you can’t give up. The most important thing I ever learned from failure was how to accept it, learn from it, and move forward. Don’t let failure paralyze your path ahead. If you get knocked down—pick yourself up and get back in the game.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Building a business is very hard work and highly specified to your market, but the best advice I ever received and would pass on is listening to your folks. Having good people around you is very important but listening to them is imperative.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Last Friday, we took the office to lunch. It ended up being a nice break in the day and allowed us all to get to enjoy the time we all spend together just a little bit more. Afterward, everybody had a very productive close to the week, so in addition to being very enjoyable for everybody, it was more than worthwhile from a business standpoint. We are definitely planning to do it again soon.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use the Microsoft Cloud, more specifically Azure and SharePoint (through Office 365). These tools help us all to collaborate with one another, no matter where our employees are. This is crucial because we often have employees all over the United States. Before, keeping in touch and keeping track of our homes in transit was difficult. Now, we can support our employees and quickly resolve minor issues before they become big problems later on, providing a higher quality product.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I really enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers: The Story of Success”. I believe that family, culture, and friendship all play significant roles in developing a successful person, and I try to support those points both in our culture at GSH and in my own home. The book offers a lot of insight into what one could do differently to create an environment to promote success.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” Babe Ruth
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.