When a business remains in the family for generations, you will likely feel a mix of pride and pressure to take over the company. After all, you probably have the same entrepreneurial drive and it can be a great way to jumpstart your career path. Should you start your own company or take over the family business? Both come with their own sets of pros and cons.
With more than 20 years of experience in the elevator industry; Veronica Querales has continued to demonstrate her expertise and passion for the business as Co-Founder and President of Kohtler Elevator Industries, Inc.
In 1993, Veronica began working in her family’s elevator service company while still in high school, working in many different positions from cleaner to general manager. Her current role as president, CEO, and co-founder of Kohtler Elevator Industries sees her take on many responsibilities, including providing strategic leadership for the company, working with management and employees, and establishing long-term goals, plans, and policies. She also identifies marketing opportunities and participates in educational opportunities and professional organizations.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to face my fears, be grateful, and always go for your dreams. I now know I can achieve anything by asking questions, being creative, and working closely with the right people. I love new challenges — they’re opportunities that will help me grow and learn more.”
While continuing to work in the elevator industry, Veronica obtained a B.A. degree in Business Administration Management and Accounting and an Electrical Engineering degree from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, along with an M.B.A. degree in Business Administration International Management from the University of Phoenix.
Throughout her professional career, Veronica’s biggest inspiration has been her father. While it was difficult to get over his passing, she has faced her fears of overtaking the company and has since become a successful businesswoman by following his example. Kohtler Elevator Industries is exporting their products to all USA, Caribbean and Virgin Islands. We received the certification of Nationals Women’s Business Enterprise and the nomination for the 2017 TOP Entrepreneurial Awards by Miami Chamber of Commerce’s.
What inspired you to take over the Kohtler Elevator Industries? What was going through your mind on that day?
My father was and continues to be my greatest personal, professional inspiration and inspiration for everything I do. Despite not having him with me physically, his light still shines my way.
Our dream was always to have an elevator manufacturing company in Miami. When my dad died, in my mind, there was a war of thoughts between what I should do and my stepping out of my comfort zone. It was between throwing away all the sacrifice of so many years or keeps fighting for that dream and move forward. One day I was about to close down the business. But then something clicked in me… more determined to keep the dream alive I could not be. Every negative thought that came to my mind transformed into positive. Every obstacle, I saw as an opportunity to learn to grow and learn even more of my industry. That moment was like Monique Hayward describes in her book “Divas Doing Business” as “the-last-straw-is-breaking-the-camel’s-back moments”.
In your own words, what do you do?
My current role is President CEO and Co-Founder. I am responsible for providing strategic leadership for the company by working with the management and employees to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies. I identify marketing opportunities by detecting consumer requirements and making sure that our clients receive the best quality in our products. I participate in educational opportunities and conferences and am a member of several professional organizations. I am always looking for new technologies to help us in manufacturing of our products. This enables us to work at our highest capacity and give our customer the best quality combined with the best lead time.
What fulfillment does being a business owner give you?
Balance in my life! I’m the owner of my time and that is the best thing ever! With me as a business owner and my husband as Field Manager in an elevator transactional company, we have been able to create that balance we need so we can be with our kids as much as possible. It is amazing how slowly I discovered that I could handle everything. I wake up early every morning (4:15am) so that I have time to myself when everyone else is asleep. The first things I do are pray and ask God for his wisdom and guidance. I make sure to review all pending tasks on my agenda, write my goals for the day, and then head to the gym at 5am. After that, I take my kids to school where we have our morning chats. Then, I do what I love to do… BUSINESS! When the day is over, I spend quality time with the best partner, dad, and husband and we divide our activities with the kids my 13 year old son plays travel baseball and my daughter 9, does competitive Gymnastics…both my husband and I are extremely involved in their lives. We want to be sure that we are present in every stage of their lives. I always do my best to make sure I have enough quality time with them and my husband. It is not hard to balance work, family, and personal time when they are all things you truly love.
What makes Kohtler Elevator Industries special?
We offer custom-made and standard elevator cabs, entrances, and doors of the highest quality in a wide variety of designs, structural variations and finishes.
What makes us special is that we can provide a faster lead-time in drawings and manufacturing time, delivering quality and easy to install products to our consumers. Our previous experience in the field has allowed us to be acquainted with the best manufacturers of quality products in the industry.
What are your goals currently? As in vision and mission? What problem are you trying to solve?
Every year we set new goals. For the next 4 years we want to increase our sales to 7-10 million dollars. Instead of have two work shifts, we will have a new 25,000 sqf space where we will have a single work shift. The vision of Kohtler Elevator Industries is to remain committed to providing the highest level of service to independent elevator contractors and design professionals, always remaining vigilant to produce the highest quality and safest product at the most competitive price with the best lead time. Our philosophy is to put our customers first and make sure they feel confident that they are buying a great product. Right now we are working on our marketing strategies to be able to get all the companies that provide service and install elevators and elevator inspectors to know our product and its high quality.
Who are your clients?
Kohtler Elevator Industries clients are mostly elevator companies that provide service and install new elevators. We also have some architecture and design companies. We deal business to business and always ensure that the final client is satisfied with the end product. We have many transnational companies and local companies all over the United States. We ship our products to all of the United States and export all over the Caribbean and Virgin Islands.
‘’A country that was not mine in an industry led by men full of paradigms towards women. There is that you have to fill with knowledge and know your product fully’’
Can you tell us what how you went through this? How do you see Kohtler Elevator Industries solving this issue?
I’ve come to realize that I should never be afraid to be a part of what is known to be “men’s work” and that I will gain respect based on by knowledge about the industry and my capabilities to do great work. I work hard to learn as much as possible about the industry, market, customers, and competitors. However, the most important part is to know as much as possible about every aspect of our products because when I am asked questions, people can tell I know what I am talking about. Nowadays, there are more women working in industries and areas which were dominated by men for many years. As the owner of Kohtler Elevator Industries, Inc., I never saw this as an issue because I know my product truly well. Many of our clients, at the beginning of our relationship, didn’t know that they were dealing with a woman. Our main focus is giving the best customer service, we are here to serve our customer, make their work a little easier.
As Sharon Handary, the former executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research once said: “Women business owners are changing the face of business, both literally and figuratively. The dynamic growth and expansion of women-owned business is one the defining trends of the past decade, and all indications are that it will continue unabated.”
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
Being a business owner has brought me many benefits. The most important one, I was able to create that balance of being a mom, wife and business professional. I have the flexibility to schedule my work. Participating in those important family events as a family means the world to me. Although I have to work long hours, but being self-disciplined, this is not a problem. I can make my own wealth, I determine my income. It takes a lot of hard work, but that hard work has paid off. I can work from almost anywhere and that is a huge benefit. I can work from almost any part of the world as long as I have access to the internet. Creating new products/services or processes to do things easier. One of my favorite benefits of being an entrepreneur…I love the brainstorming for new ideas, products, and services.
What 5 steps would you advise and give our ladies who starting their own business?
My 5 steps that I can give to those ladies starting a new business are:
- Define your WHY….why do have or want a business? Why is it important to you? Knowing this will help you be clear in every step of building your business.
- Set GOALS for your business.. It’s really important those goals need to be specific, measurable and have a time limit. Setting your goals will help you create a solid plan to conquer your goals!
- Have a plan for your Money… Businesses are made to make money… this not a hobby. Be careful when you risk your personal finances. It is imperative you know how much money you are willing to spend on the business before it funds itself.
- Get Operational—know the logistics and platform of your business. Think through the logistics. This will help to run it efficiently.
- Design your marketing strategies…. You need to know your branding and customers, think how do you want your customers to know you. Who are your customers? This is your target market.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Yes!! I’m always thinking entrepreneurial. My mother tells stories about all the things my sisters (all who are entrepreneurs in this industry) and I would do as young girls to sell things from around that house so we could make money.
Tell us about your first entrepreneurial experience as a kid?
I sat down with my mom and sisters to come up with the name of our first business venture. We sold cupcakes at school, our parents’ office and to our neighbors. One summer, we sold more than 600 cupcakes! We sold our school text books to younger kids. With some of that money, we would buy used books and different things for us. What a great memory!