Joan Cravens Construction
Quality Home Construction
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Joan Cravens is one tough lady. She won't take anything less than top quality in her products, her workers -- or herself.

As owner of Joan Cravens Construction Company, she can be seen on the job site each day, coordinating subcontractors, sweeping, hauling lumber, shoveling dirt or moving sod.

"I'll do almost everything that needs to be done," she said. She admits that at 51 years old, she won't be able to do that much physical work forever. One thing is certain, however: she will never give up her standards.

Cravens said that being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field has actually helped her.

"Being a woman contractor is more of an asset than not, when it comes to clients," she said. By taking an interest in details and paying attention to what clients would want, Cravens said she can build a house that is- exactly what her clients want. "The clients are grateful for the good job I do. They are appreciative that I've built the best house money can buy."

That kind of client satisfaction comes from 25 years of experience in the construction business.

"You learn a lot by experience, Cravens said. "Each time you make a mistake, you remember it and don't let it happen the next time. The number one thing is to do the best that you can possibly do. It's not as important to be the fastest, or to make the most money. Do an honest, good day's work, care about the work you do, and your business will succeed."

Cravens reported that she has had no trouble getting respect from subcontractors either.

"I would say I'm strict," she said. "I'll call a worker back and make him do a job over if it's not done right. I've never said a curse word in my life, but I get my point across. I think one reason they respect me is that I treat them like they're human. I think that's important to everybody."

The career came as a surprise to her. She began by fixing up the house she was living in, "just so my children and I could have a roof over our heads."

"I didn't think I could do it. I didn't intend to do it, I didn't plan it, one thing just led to another," Cravens said.

One of the keys to success in her industry, Cravens said, is to keep up with the changes. She has taken formal courses as needed, but admits that most of what she has learned has been on the job. "The school of hard knocks," as she put it. She also thinks its best to talk to other people in her field. "Find out what others in your field are doing. Seek out professional organizations in your field."

Cravens believes that contractors should be licensed, and that licensing standards should be enforced. "If a woman or man knows nothing about construction, they won't make it. As long as people get educated and licensed, they (the contractors) will do a good job. Good contractors want 'teeth' in licensing laws in Mississippi.

"I'm not in this business to get rich. I'm in it because I love what I do, the satisfaction of knowing I've built a pretty house. And my customers are like family to me. I can drive around and see my accomplishments. It's interesting to think about all these houses that will be here after I'm gone."

That legacy is all Joan Cravens could hope for.

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