Women in Construction

CMP Exterior’s Christine Pandolfi featured in High Profile magazine

The following article appeared in the April issue of High Profile magazine.
https://www.high-profile.com/issue/women-in-construction-2023/ (page 8)

Women in ConstructionMarch 2023, West Suffield, CT: Five years ago, Christine Pandolfi, a highly experienced interior designer/builder for high-end residences and restaurants, began to think about shaking up her career a bit and finding a new challenge. She had long been fascinated by the idea of bringing residential quality craftsmanship to commercial construction and the ability to operate a “well-run” commercial construction company.

Out of all the ideas she explored, the commercial siding business concept took hold, and in 2017, Christine and a longtime client and business mentor opened CMP Exterior, a Connecticut-based trade contracting firm. The company’s goal would be to bring quality and expertise at a fair price to an underserved market. While Christine is president and majority shareholder, she also credits her partner for guidance, as the luxury residential construction market and commercial construction market are different.

Today, CMP Exterior is an up-and-coming business that has been doubling its revenues each year for the last three years – and 2023 promises the same.

That alone is a great business success story by any standard.

It’s an even more impressive track record, considering the last three years also included a worldwide pandemic, labor shortages, and ongoing supply chain issues.

And perhaps most impressive – CMP Exterior is woman-owned and led – something you don’t see every day in the traditionally male-dominated commercial construction industry. According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), women today make up about 10% of the construction industry overall – and just 13% of construction businesses in the US are women-owned – with that number itself a significant – 64% – jump from 2014 to 2019.

But first, a little background: Commercial siding is broadly defined as the exterior finishes on a building. Finishes range from masonry to thin brick to plank siding, each requiring its own specialized underlayment of vapor barriers as well as methods of installation.

The commercial siding business requires a unique blend of skills:

  • Understanding the architectural intent of the building’s exterior and coordinating the exterior finishes to meet that aesthetic.
  • Ensuring the siding system integrates with the building’s structural framing system and the substrate that supports the exterior finishes.
  • Being well-versed in construction means and methods.
  • Ensuring that the siding installation crews are well-trained and following all quality standards.
  • Making sure the installation crews are working efficiently but also with safety in mind.
  • Orchestrating the installation process on each project to meet the owner’s schedule, following the direction of the general contractor, and coordinating the siding work with the work of other trade contractors on site.
  • Having the business acumen to deal with supply chain issues and project labor and recruiting and training installation crews to perform the work to exacting standards.
  • And along the way, continuing to drum up new business to keep growing and expanding.

Christine has mastered all that and more. Today, CMP Exterior includes staff to perform cost estimating and take-offs; coordinate material ordering and delivery schedules; and to mobilize on-site, manage the work and the installation teams, and install the products to specifications.

As much at home in the boardroom as on a job site, Christine is a hands-on leader who is involved in every aspect of her business – from actively procuring new work, bidding, and estimating new projects to overseeing field installation, ensuring the work meets her exacting standards.

But that’s not to say starting a new trade firm was easy by any means, particularly since her educational and professional background was more on the residential side. Stereotypes aside, commercial construction can be a rough-and-tumble work environment. Given the traditional male culture, breaking in and proving herself was one of the biggest hurdles Christine faced.

Always determined, Christine’s direct, no-nonsense approach, coupled with her passion for excellence and exacting knowledge of her product line and construction standards, has helped her make major inroads and earn the respect of her counterparts, male and female alike.

Other evidence of Christine’s success is her expansion into new markets and landing new clients. During the initial years of operation, CMP Exterior was working with one or two regional general contractors. As her reputation continues to build, she’s been able to expand her client base to include nearly a half-dozen regional general contractors. At the same time, she has expanded her geographic reach outside of Connecticut into Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware.

So how did all this come about?

For Christine, her interest in art, design, and construction has been a life-long passion. Initially, college included a business degree because she feared that interior design might not be a sustainable career. Not feeling satisfied, she returned to college to study art, architecture, design, and construction and never looked back. Building would be her forever path and love.

After college, Christine began working in the interior design and architecture field, with a focus on the high-end residential, luxury office, and restaurant markets. She was intrigued by the construction aspects of her work, of exactly how all the diverse building materials came together and worked together to create aesthetically pleasing spaces.

Early on in her career, she began working on large remodels, and the builders needed to follow her lead on the implementation of the often cutting-edge design. So many of the general contractors overseeing the construction pushed back on constructability or simply did not have craftsmen skilled enough to execute the plan.

Frustrated by being told her ideas couldn’t be brought to fruition, she dove in and started learning the construction trades, working with quality craftsmen and like-minded people who understood her vision and helped her solve the challenges.

It was in that circle of true quality craftsmen that CMP was born. Always learning new skills, Christine was able to organically grow her first business – residential design and construction – which soon morphed into design-build and general contracting.

Always detailed-oriented, she paid close attention to what other designers and builders did and did not for their clients and added those extra steps to create an experience that set the firm above its competitors. Christine would often say to clients, “If you give us your house to design and remodel, we will give you a lifestyle in return.”

After a long and successful career in the residential market, however, Christine was ready for the next challenge – starting her own trade firm. The idea was to take the same principles that made her so successful in the luxury market and bring them to the commercial market. Today CMP Exterior is a steadily growing trade contracting firm that has consistently earned the respect of and accolades from her growing roster of clients.

As a woman in the construction industry, Christine has faced all the expected challenges from a more conservatively-minded industry. While times are changing, old viewpoints die hard. And female or not, any newcomer into this industry has to prove themselves and establish themselves as knowledgeable, dependable, trustworthy, and committed to meeting schedules and budgets.

Christine has successfully navigated the many challenges of a new business, as evidenced by her steady and remarkable business growth, the ever-growing respect and recognition by her peers, and her ability to continue expanding her business into new regions with new and repeat clients.

“Christine started from nothing and created a business that’s not only a top performer but also profitable. Christine is a shining example of a person who goes after what she believes in, brings her passion and commitment to every undertaking, and is, ultimately, someone you can count on, without fail,” says Mike Kolakowksi, president and CEO of KBE Building Corporation in Farmington, CT. “As a contractor and a business owner, having the kind of trusting relationship Christine has built with our firm and other contractors is priceless. Male or female, anyone would do well for themselves to follow her example.”

Other contractors concur:

“Working was Christine was refreshing,” says Brian Parmenter, project executive with Callahan Construction Managers of Bridgewater, MA. “We had a great experience with CMP all the way from contract negotiation through to punch list. She and her team are very easy to deal with and very detailed-oriented.”

“In my opinion, CMP Exterior has proven to be a premier siding contractor,” adds Wayne J. Foley, project manager with Callahan, who worked with Christine on two senior living projects in Massachusetts. “Working with Christine on the management side was a pleasure, as all her paperwork was in order and was produced quickly and efficiently, along with needed changes that were priced competitively and executed quickly. From manpower to materials, the schedule was managed effectively throughout the project, and as a result, the project was delivered on time and within budget. Christine brought a teamwork mentality to the job site and always provided an effective solution to job site issues.”

About CMP Exterior
Headquartered in West Suffield, CT, CMP Exterior, LLC specializes in commercial exterior coverings and provides expert installation of vinyl cladding, fiber cement, PVC trim, and specialty siding. Our team of professionals provides clients with on-time, on-budget, superior installation with exceptional results. www.cmpexterior.com