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Homeowners generally do not have to hire environmental consultants. A person can own a home for 30 years and never have to deal with one.

However, with increasing frequency regular homeowners are having to deal with environmental issues and that means hiring an environmental consultant. Environmental consultants address environmental discharges and pollution on your property. Homeowners have to hire environmental consultants when their oil tanks leak or when their septic systems fail. Sometimes, environmental consultants are required when a homeowner has a problem obtaining drinkable water from a well that services the house.

Historically, environmental consulting has been a male dominated field -- at least in terms of the business owners. One New Jersey firm, Brinkerhoff Environmental Services, is changing that status quo. In a state with many environmental problems and consultants who deal with those problems, Brinkerhoff is the largest female owned and managed environmental consulting company in the "Garden State." Certainly men work at and hold important positions at this mid sized firm, but women dominate the top ranks.

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with two officers: President Laura Brinkerhoff and Vice President Eileen Della Volle. From their company's success it is clear that their management style must be working.

Brinkerhoff was started in 1989 by Laura Brinkerhoff. She has been in the environmental business for 25 years, with a degree in geology and geophysics from Boston College. She grew up in a small Connecticut shore town.

Laura was in the oil and gas exploration business before moving into the environmental business. Her business has about 50 employees and services all of New Jersey and neighboring states. Not only does Brinkerhoff perform every environmental task that a homeowner could require, but it also does work for many businesses and local and state governments in the New York and New Jersey area.

I asked Laura if there were any advantages to being a woman owned business and the largest woman owned environmental business in New Jersey. While she did not see any particular advantages, she noted that people often ask her if her father started the business. For the record, Laura started the business.

Eileen Della Volle disagrees with Laura about whether there are gender advantages in the environmental clean up business. Eileen is the Vice President for business development at Brinkerhoff and has been with the company for 4 ½ years. She was a director at the company before being elevated to Vice President.

Eileen believes that today women have more opportunities in business and more opportunities to make key decisions. Eileen told me that she does very well with men and women in business because she is aggressive and makes a point of identifying the individuals that she needs to get in touch with.

Eileen remembers that in high school she left her typing class because her typing instructor warned that if she did not want to become a secretary she should not take typing. While in those days typing was considered mandatory for women, Eileen decided that she did not want to become a secretary and bravely left the classroom.

To Eileen, the secret to success is simple. She says be nice to everyone. She says many people who are lower on the ladder ultimately become decision makers and business leaders. Thus, Eileen has the attitude of giving to everyone on an equal basis. Eileen credits her mother for much of her success; her mother always assured Eileen that she could do and become anything that she wanted.

In addition, Eileen and Laura both agree that integrity is the most important part of having an environmental business. Both understand that when people need to hire an environmental consultant, they are under a lot of pressure. To Eileen and to Laura, the key is making sure that they always are honest and provide the highest level of service at cost effective prices.

They agree that you should always "do the right thing for the right reason."

The company has a main office and several field offices. While there are not many female owned environmental clean up businesses, Brinkerhoff Environmental Service's success proves that this can be and should be an equal gender opportunity profession.

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