|IN THE NEWS
Louisville Business First
By Rebecca Ray
March 8, 2004
Earning some respect
Pat Cundiff has built a $5 million business in a 'man's world'
Careful planning provided Pat D. Cundiff with the opportunity to turn her longtime interest in construction into Cundiff Steel Fabricators & Erectors Inc., a company she founded with the help of her family 10 years ago. While working as a clerk at Jefferson County High School, which was located in the old Louisville Male High School building at the time, she laid the groundwork for the business, which began operating in 1994. Cundiff retired from her school job in 1999.
Why open a steel business?
"Actually, it was right here in front of our faces. My husband had all the experience, and my sons had (experience). ... They were union iron workers" and always worked in steel.
Her husband has 38 years, and her sons have 18 years of experience. "And I always wanted to be my own boss."
How were you able to get the business going while still working?
“I knew I was going to take early retirement, and I wanted to own my own company. A position became available at the old Male (High School), and it was a step down to clerk. ... But I could work downtown. And on my lunches or before work, I would go to the contractor blueprint room” -- at contractors such as Badgett Constructors LLC and Sullivan & Cozart Inc. -- “to look at the prints and see if it was something that our company would want to bid on. “I got right in the center of all the contractors (by working) downtown. ... I did all the invoices and all the contacting of the contractors. ... (I) worked constantly on the phone. A lot of times I did not get any sleep at night ... I’d get up and start typing” proposals.
How do you describe your business?
“We fabricate and erect structural steel.” The company receives steel in a raw form, as beams and tube steel. She said the company’s certified fabricators transform the steel into beams, columns, stairways, handrails and other products. Preparation of the steel is done at one of the company’s two shops, on Knopp Avenue or Melton Avenue, and their union iron workers erect steel at job sites.
What has been your most significant project?
“Definitely UPS.” For United Parcel Service Inc.’s $1.1 billion Hub 2000 project, now called Worldport, about two-thirds of the platforms, stairways and handrails inside the main structure and wings were fabricated and erected by Cundiff Steel. “That was a big project and really shot us up. ... UPS has opened many, many more doors for us.” Companies call and say, “I watched you all the way through UPS” and liked the work. The company’s projects with UPS were valued at more than $11 million.
How has being a woman shaped what you’ve done as a business owner?
When she was getting started, “we did a huge project up in Speed, Ind., and the men really resented me being on the job site. I mean, it was unreal.” Also, when contractors called in those early days, “they would bypass me” and go to her husband, Gerald Cundiff Sr., or someone else on staff. “But they would say, ‘No, you need to speak to Pat.’ ”Now “when a contractor calls, they do want to speak to me. ... They know that I am the one who will make sure everything is done. ... You have to prove yourself, and I have done that.”
Cundiff Steel Fabricators & Erectors Inc.
Address: 4558 Knopp Ave.
CEO and president, chief financial and operating officer: Pat D. Cundiff, above
Owners: Cundiff and her daughters-in-law, Lisa Cundiff, who is corporate treasurer, and Connie Cundiff, who is corporate secretary
Top executives: Gerald Cundiff Sr., operations director and purchasing manager and Pat Cundiff’s husband; and their sons, Jeff Cundiff, field superintendent and engineering manager, and Gerald Cundiff Jr., shop superintendent, facilities manager and quality control manager
Projects under way include: Indiana University Southeast Library, Louisville Collegiate School, Hardin Memorial Hospital
2003 revenue: More than $5 million