April 8, 2016

Trish Sandau, Northern Colorado Traffic Control

2016 Women of Distinction - Real Estate, Construction and Development

As founder of Northern Colorado Traffic Control in 1993, Trish Sandau has created a business that suppliers rate as one of the industry’s top in Colorado.   

“The challenges in business for me are more about our industry than about being a woman,” she said, adding that her company isn’t generally the lowest bidder for a job but is rated high because of performance, consistency and reliability.

“Thirty years ago, people thought that if they got a truck and some cones, they could be a traffic control company,” she said, “but it’s a complicated and highly liable company that has a lot of risks — more so than people would think. To get respect in the industry, you need to know all the regulations and the permanent and temporary traffic issues.”

Even though Sandau stands out as a woman in a business that’s considered traditionally male, she said she could count on one hand the number of times she felt disrespected by men.

Her advice for being treated equally is to just make sure you know your job.

As a business owner, Sandau credited her company’s success to a focus on employees.

“The key to being a good company is to have long-term employees,” she said. “Our employees are as much a part of this company as I am. They’re what drives our reputation.”

Sandau uses the word “partnership” a lot. She refers to NCTC’s employees as well as its customers as partners.

One way she keeps employees engaged in their jobs and feeling like partners is to give them a voice, both formally and informally. For example, every year, company staff and their spouses attend a two-day retreat that includes entertainment as well as planning for the future.

“It’s really paid off to get to know their families and for them to get to know each other,” she said. 

Retreat topics include focus on how they can improve things that directly affect everyone, such as safety. “They’re a part of decisions rather than decisions coming from the top down,” she said. “Our employees are hard workers who are loyal and humble. I believe in treating them with respect.”

Keith Reichert, a former construction manager for an asphalt paving company, said, “We used her company at times when she wasn’t the lowest priced, just because we knew the work would be done correctly and without any concerns on our part.”

Sandau stresses the need for constant improvement. Current upgrades include a move toward paperless and having GPS devices added to all the trucks.

“When I started, we had beepers, but now we use iPads and other resources,” she said. “We keep bringing things up a notch.”

Upcoming projects include creating hiring and recruitment videos. “Of course, the large corporations are doing this already,” she said. “We’re just doing what we can to be on the cutting edge.”

Sandau places knowledge of the job at the top of her list.  She said her employees are trained well, and that’s one reason they give first-class service. Business ethics rate high as well.

“We’re the first on a job and the last to leave at the end of the day,” she said, “and if someone overpays us, we call them.”

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