2011 Minority Contractor of the Year
Cheryl Sment, Interstate Sealant & Concrete Inc.
Cheryl Sment developed a simple philosophy as an emergency room nurse that she finds equally effective while running the day-to-day operations of her concrete company.
“Some days here are just like the ER, prioritizing what’s most urgent and necessary to least important,” said Sment, CEO of Waukesha-based Interstate Sealant & Concrete Inc. “The difference here is that no one is dying or bleeding severely; put that into perspective, anything can be handled with a cool head.”
It’s an analogy Sment never expected to make. But, after spending 17 years in emergency care and critical care transport, she tried several entrepreneurial pursuits such as subdivision development and home building. That led to Interstate Sealant & Concrete, which Sment acquired in 1998 after a banker suggested she buy a company that was going out of business.
The next four years were a blur, Sment said, as she juggled two jobs and raising two children.
“I would work days in the ER. I would do the books and reconcile accounts and do the paperwork in the evening or in the middle of the night,” Sment said. “And then I was part time for critical care transport from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.”
It was hard, Sment said, but it’s been worth it.
Today, Interstate Sealant & Concrete is closing in on $10 million in sales serving airports and military bases.
“She’s come a long way really fast,” said Emeran Leonard, Sment’s mentor and chairman of TEC Midwest, Brookfield, an executive round table group.
Sment has proven herself as a smart, no-nonsense woman in a man’s field, he said.
“We have this mindset that women can’t make it in a man’s world,” Leonard said. “Guess what world she lives in? She does a great job. She can be tough, and she can be sweet. She walks the talk.”
Sment does things “a lot better than the guys,” said Mike Debelak, general manager of Michels Corp., Brownsville.
“She understands the strengths and weaknesses of her company and herself,” he said, “but she’s not afraid to try to stand up and better herself.”
She’s also not afraid to get out on a job site in high heels just to show another contractor she knows what she’s talking about.
It’s all in a day’s work, Sment said.
— Jessica Stephen