Following in the Family Footsteps
By Riley Bunch | Photography by Mary Grace Johnson
When Elizabeth Rotundo was 4 years old, she often lent a hand at her father’s office. Between different odd jobs fit for a little girl, she would mention to staff members that one day, she would be the boss there.
In 2014, Elizabeth’s prophecy came true.
At the age of 28 — the same age her father was when he started the company in 1983 — Elizabeth purchased CME Associates, Inc., becoming president of the family-owned business.
Now, paving the way for women in a male-dominated industry, Elizabeth has adapted to increasingly technological times, while maintaining core values her father instilled in her.
The company works on construction sites to provide materials, evaluation and technical support to owners and professionals. The engineering firm is responsible for ensuring building sites are fit for specified projects, and building materials are up to construction codes and standards.
When she was a child, Elizabeth saw the challenges of running your own business firsthand. Her father often came home at the end of the day exhausted and consumed with work. Pondering one day taking over her father’s company initially made her nervous, Elizabeth admitted. But with that apprehension came another important lesson.
“I remember driving home from school one day, my dad said, ‘What do you want to do when you go to college?’” Elizabeth recalled. “When I answered with being unsure, he said, ‘Whatever you do, you should be your own boss.’”
After college, Elizabeth took the position of human resource manager at CME. As time progressed, she took on more responsibility and her father began to work from home more often. Eventually, she became the executive vice president. She realized being a business owner wasn’t as intimidating as she once thought, and officially took the reins from her father.
“People really embraced it,” Elizabeth said. “Everyone was congratulating me, telling me they supported my father for this long, and they would support me, too.”
Becoming president didn’t come without challenges. Elizabeth worried about facing backlash as a woman taking an important role in a predominantly male industry. The company’s technical managers — most of them older men — had decades of experience in the field. Luckily, her fears were soon quelled.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team, honestly,” Elizabeth said. “Most of those people [working here] when I took over are still here. All of those men are very supportive of me and very helpful to me.”
Another initial worry was competition from other local businesses, Elizabeth explained. But thanks to Governor Cuomo’s promotion of women-owned businesses, collaborative opportunities have changed the way CME interacts with potential rivals. Instead of bidding against each other for projects, CME and similar companies have begun teaming up to provide clients with extensive services.
“It’s opened up opportunities to work with companies in different ways,” Elizabeth said.
Her family remains her strongest support system. While her father acts as an adviser, Elizabeth makes the final decisions.
“When my dad was telling me about taking over the company, he really taught me about being honest, and how much risk is too much risk,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth has implemented new programs to best serve clients’ needs. The company’s use of onsite technology to gather and present findings to contractors — rather than traditional paper forms — has made CME a pioneer in the industry. Elizabeth and her employees pride themselves on a quick report turnaround, so the building process can start as soon as their team steps off the site.
Looking forward to the future, Elizabeth said it’s important to her to keep the company in the family. She hopes the legacy her father passed to her will one day be carried on by her own children. But she doesn’t have plans to leave CME anytime soon.
“How long do I want to run it? I could run it forever,” Elizabeth said. “I wouldn’t mind.” SWM
To learn more about CME Associates, Inc., visit cmeassociates.com.