During her early career, Holly Tanner never planned on becoming an executive in the construction industry. While her now-husband Lawrence Tanner literally was raised in the construction business, with his parents both being successful contractors, Holly was formally educated in physical therapy, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1996 and starting out in health care. That was her plan, anyway.
Then Holly and Lawrence got married in 2001, four years after he had formed L.H. Tanner Construction Corp. in Melbourne, and she found herself in the midst of a growing enterprise — with projects that included residential and commercial construction, renovations and restorations. The same year they married, the company expanded to also encompass site development, such as for city streets, public parks and parking lots, along with pier and shoreline work.
The company, in essence, beautifies residential interiors/exteriors and improves commercial spaces that range from health care facilities and institutions to restaurants and gyms. Plus, government projects are part of its portfolio, as is marine construction.
In turn, Holly Tanner, who became company president, did what she always has: She learned.
“I am a constant learner,” she said. “I have to continue learning. If I don’t know it, I reach out to resources. … I am not afraid to ask for help and also to continue learning; I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Steadily, she learned about the basics of construction, ultimately advancing into business development, daily operations, customer care and marketing. That learning approach also counts in her “second career.” She continues as a physical therapist, maintaining a position with Health First two days a week.
“I have two lives,” she noted with a laugh. “I try not to mix both. People in the construction industry don’t know I’m a physical therapist.”
Yet, the construction industry does know Tanner’s style — friendly, for sure, but also willing to confront a good challenge.
“I love a challenge. And I will tell you this [dual careers] is challenging,” she said. “But I also feel that hard work pays off, even if it’s in an area that you’re not comfortable with at first. There are always opportunities to learn and continue to grow, no matter what your age is, what you gender is, no matter what your industry is. It should be limitless.”
Not that things have always been easy. From concept through completion, L.H. Tanner Construction offers ideas and guidance, as well as drafting, value engineering and licensed contracting, among other services, mostly across south and central Brevard County. The company has eight to 10 full-timers, depending on the project load. Approximately 60% of the work is commercial. Meanwhile, the business of construction, of course, can often be difficult. In troubling times, Tanner goes back to old lessons learned: She listens.
“As a physical therapist, I’ve been a caretaker. I’m open-minded,” she explains. “I know I can’t take care of everybody, but I listen — whether it’s taking care of employees, owners or subcontractors. That’s my style, really to really listen. Communication and listening.”
It’s no surprise then that the company has successfully built lasting connections with thousands of Brevard clients, she said, by virtue of being “relationship-driven.”
‘We work with clients to ensure their needs are being addressed … so that the construction phase will be a seamless experience,” she said, simply. “Our ‘hands-on/in-house’ approach makes it possible for us to leave each and every client with lasting value.”
Also, she applauds the local business community, citing, “Even though it’s the construction industry, I have not felt there has been a gender bias at all, especially how I’ve been treated.”
For many of the same reasons, while there is temptation to broaden the company’s geographic footprint, there are no current plans to do so, even with another family member now joining the operation. Joshua, the stepson, has decided to extend the family lineage in the construction business.
“There is so much [work] here. The economic boom is awesome,” described the physical therapist-turned-construction exec. “These are our roots, and we really have been fortunate. Brevard has been very good to us.”
In other words, one hand helping another.