Women in Business: Emily Rucker

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Class of 2018 Women in Business Emily Rucker President & Founder Rucker Fine Homes, Alma

Residence: Alma

Education: B.S., criminal justice, Tulsa University

Professional background: Rucker established her business in October 1996, which has since built about 420 homes. Rucker is the first woman to become president and trustee of the Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders, the first woman to become president of the Arkansas Home Builders Association and the first female homebuilder to serve nine years on the Residential Committee of the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board. Before she started Rucker Fine Homes, she was a parole officer for the Arkansas Department of Corrections for four years.

What inspired you to pursue your current career? I started flipping houses because I could work during the day while my children were in school and it not interfere with their busy schedules. This led to new construction, a 24/7 job and the total opposite of why I started. It’s a busy lifestyle but with many rewards.

What’s one key leadership lesson that’s stuck with you during your career? You can’t lead others farther than you’re willing to go. I never ask anyone to work a holiday or weekend unless I’m willing to work myself. We work as a team, and all my subcontractors understand this and, I think, appreciate this attitude.

What goals do you have in the next three to five years of your career? To perfect our selection process and to enable our homeowners to confidently make choices for their new home in a streamlined, logical process. And to find a better work-life balance so I can enjoy my grandchildren more.

What was your dream job as a kid? I wanted to work for the FBI and was fascinated with solving criminal cases. I ended up in criminal justice long before the degree was popular.

What’s the most important aspect of achieving a balance between your career and your family? Respect and understanding. This is the most elusive and frustrating part of a career. Everyone wants to be available for their clients, but everyone needs time away from work to refresh themselves.

Of all the mentors in your professional career, who has been the most influential? Three men believed in me. Lance Johnson from Springdale and Paul Walker from Fort Smith both encouraged me and helped me with opportunities, and I am grateful to them. My husband, Steve, while we do not work together, helps me stay focused on the big picture of my industry. You can get so caught up in the mundane day-to-day that you forget to look at the big picture and work on your business and not in your business. Steve has vision.

What achievement are you most proud of so far in your career? The respect of all my subcontractors I work with and clients I’ve built houses for who’ve become lifelong friends. Their referrals mean so much to me. When someone asks a vendor, subcontractor or former client for a referral and they refer me, that’s as good as it gets.

What’s your biggest passion? Helping people build their dream house and seeing their faces when they cry at the end and thank us for making their dreams come true. To hear a woman say, “My house looks just like I thought it was going to look,” makes my day. I want to organize everything and be the best I can be, and I want to see my granddaughters grow up and be happy and healthy.

What advice would you give your younger self? God’s timing is always perfect, but I wish he had asked me to start younger and given me the confidence to step out and not fear failure.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself? The name Emily means industrious, and that is me. Also problem-solver, peacemaker and encouraging.

What qualities do you feel are most important in a company leader? Passion. Optimism. Dedication. Consistency. Appreciation. Fun-loving.

How do you spend your time away from work — if there is such a thing? There’s no such thing. Homebuilding is a lifestyle and is 24/7. Clients text me change orders on Sunday while I’m at church. I can bid a house riding down the interstate in a motorhome. I never leave home without a backpack of work to do.

Last good book you read? “Control Your Day Before It Controls You: The 7 Steps To Mastering Your Time” by Mark Richardson. I’m still working on his method. I always say I plan and plan, and God laughs and laughs.

Do you feel like we’re getting closer to gender equality in the workplace? Yes. You have to believe we are for it to happen.

What is something unique people would be surprised to know about you? When Steve and I married, I carried a gun and handcuffs and worked as a parole officer for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. It was a dream job but not compatible with motherhood.