Reina Reeves – I didn’t like being told it wasn’t a role for a woman…

I didn’t like being told it wasn’t a role for a woman and that I should do something else.
In this blog, we speak with Reina Reeves, a branch manager for Lords Builders Merchants in Beaconsfield. On equality in the workplace, diversity and overcoming confidence knocks.
Reina talks about what it’s like working in a male-dominated industry and how she got to where she is now…

Tell us a bit about your current role:

I am a branch Manager for Lords builders merchants in Beaconsfield, looking after a team of 21 colleagues. No two days are ever the same and I have found that as a manager you have to wear ” many hats” to lead your team and also fit in where needed. I could be looking after the transport one day to helping out in the yard the following day. I  always aspire to lead from the front and create a team that is as multi-skilled as possible. 

Give us an idea of how your normal day pans out:

I generally get in early to open up the branch and get everything ready to begin the day – this could range from general administration duties such as the banking to overlooking the deliveries for the day ahead.
I tend to have a 5-minute catch up with all the department heads to confirm that everyone is in and whether we have any setbacks that need addressing that may affect the days’ productivity.  We go through the previous days’ sales what issues we faced and then we go through what we want to achieve for that day. 
We may go through ideas that the team put forward ranging from improving productivity, branch layout and branch standards.
I ask my team to come up with ideas instead of me telling them what I think needs to be done. I would never ask people to do things that I would not consider doing myself, so the ideas need to be beneficial to the branch as a whole.  
I ask my team to come up with ideas instead of me telling them what I think needs to be done.

What made you choose this industry?

I initially started as an administrator helping a friend who was an assistant manager at a builders merchants, it was something that I didn’t think I was initially going to do, I started answering calls as I hated hearing the phone ring. I just took the orders down and started to want to learn about the products they were asking for.
It wasn’t a role that I thought I would end up doing or even considered but I wanted to learn all about different aspects of the business as branch life was so diverse.

How did you get into the position you are in now?

Hard work and fear of failure – 
I worked my way up the ladder to the position I am in now, I enjoyed many aspects of being in a builder’s merchants. I loved going from sales to merchandising and stock control and eventually taking up a role as an assistant manager. I enjoyed each process and promotion, I felt that I gained more of an understanding of the business.
I felt  I missed many opportunities trying to progress up the career ladder. In my experience at the time having children set me back. I often felt I wasn’t the right fit because questions would be asked about how I would cope with a young family.   I often struggled to get the work-life balance correct.  I felt guilty about working long hours to get ahead or felt that I needed to be working when I was spending time with my family. This made me work smarter.   
“done is better than perfect”. if you keep striving for perfection your never going to be happy.
As the years went on and more females were beginning to work for a builder’s merchants it becomes a little easier, changes were taking place even if it felt very slow. I told myself what  I do paves the way for someone else who wants to go down the same path.

What do you want to achieve in the future?

There are so many things I want to achieve! from being comfortable with public speaking to learning a trade or obtaining a degree in merchanting. I want to take my own advice and not limit myself
At the moment I am focusing on the present, enjoying my career with Lords and seeing the branch I am running, reach its full potential.I’m looking forward to what the new year will bring.
I do have career progression in mind and hopefully have the attributes to one day work towards becoming a director.

What is your motivation in life?

My family – they are very supportive of my role. The girls only know me working for a builders merchants, they are so used to the environment, people and the role that I am in. They are very aware of the business. My passion for the job – I love what I do and cannot see me doing anything else. Working at Lords for the last two years has been highly rewarding.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

It has always been a struggle and still is. I find it difficult to switch off and relax. Early on after having my first child I felt that I had to work harder, being the first in last out to prove to others that I was dedicated. Now I get organised and make sure if there is something going on at school with my daughters that I spend the time to be there and be present by not taking calls. I may work a little later to catch up but I am learning to compromise and prioritize what is important.
I may work a little later to catch up but I am learning to compromise and prioritize what is important.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

Be confident. Don’t let others define you – be you. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

What barriers have you faced in your career?

The ones that I have given myself – I have suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’ where I doubted my own accomplishments early on in my career.
I am very proud of what I have achieved but tend to owe my success as a team effort rather than saying I achieved any accomplishments on my own merit.

What motivated you to keep going?

I didn’t like being told it wasn’t a role for a woman and that I should do something else. I enjoyed my job and I loved the interaction with customers, suppliers and the work comradery.

What barriers need to be broken down in the industry?

Make the workplace as diverse as possible. Don’t allow roles to be stigmatized to a gender.

What 3 tips would you give to young females starting their careers?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it will only improve your own personal development.
Understand the industry you’re in – knowledge is power, be ahead of the game
If you’re given an opportunity say yes and then research or learn about the task in hand.
“seize the moment”

What’s great about being a female in your role?

Your often “the only one” in many groups, you’re always going to be remembered,
It can be a good talking point as people are genuinely intrigued as to how I got into this industry.

Why is “yes she can” important to you?

It’s supportive, empowering and full of likeminded women in the industry.
It’s valuable to share our stories and experiences, I feel you are not alone. If things are happening to women all over the industry it will empower women to do something about it. It only takes one person or group to make a stand and highlight improvements that can be made within the industry.

What do you say to your male colleagues about equality?

Support one another – to make changes you need to be aware of the issues that may be occurring at the workplace. Be encouraging regardless of gender. The problem of bias is not down to women to solve but collectively as a team, branch and as a company.
Equality should not benefit one gender over the other but it has to be fair. 
Does diversity really help organisations?
I think it builds better relationships within the workforce, broadens your customer base and improves your bottom line. You want to work for a place that makes you feel valued and that you belong.
Did you love Reina’s story as much as we do? Why not have a look at our other blogs highlighting some more amazing women!

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