Laura Acosta – Perseverance is KEY!

Becoming a business owner was never in my plans, especially not as the owner of a tow company.  I graduated from California State University at Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in communications and psychology.  The weekend of graduation my father offered me a job at his towing company, and I accepted the offer since I did not have a job at the time.  My plan was to stay there for only a year and then go back for graduate school.  Well, here I am seven years later operating my own tow company.  

In those seven years, I learned how to be effective in handling all the challenges that come with owning a towing company especially from the perceptive of being a woman in this industry.  If someone were to have told me seven years ago that I would run my own shop, I would never have wanted that challenge or even have had the confidence in myself that I could be capable of doing so.  As my father says, “You have to have tough skin and a stomach made of leather to be able to handle this industry.”  As a woman, that behavior does not come naturally, and there’s a lot more that must go into developing that type of character. 

I come from a family that has an extensive history in the industry.  My grandfather migrated from Mexico back in the sixties with my grandmother and their children.  Then he started his tow company in 1978 with one truck.  Forty years later, because of the ambition of his sons and key business partners, that company is one of the biggest tow companies in southern California.  Thus, the pressure to live up to that name can be overwhelming at times.  I must say without my core group of best friends, the support of family, and my faith in God there is no way I could have gotten through it. 

Women in this industry are not uncommon, and I have been inspired by them including one of my female drivers who operates a tow truck; but I feel that there is still much more to be done to find acceptance and to be integrated into this male-dominated field.  This journey has not been easy; there was so much work I had to put into my own personal growth before I could feel confident in making decisions and introducing ideas into the business that would not have been considered before.  I had to gain confidence in my decisions.  It was vital for me to master my emotional intelligence to be successful and to learn not to take anything personal.  I also knew that I really had to learn the nature of the industry that meant understanding the basic functions of a tow truck, geographical locations, equipment, logistics of towing, etc. I became certified by the California Tow Truck Association (CTTA). This certification included a three-day course of physical and educational instruction. Here I learned how to roll over a vehicle with proper chains and moving the correct cables. It was intimidating but I knew that for me to gain some credibility I had to know what I was talking about. This is a very instrumental point that we may not have to get into a tow truck and tow but at least be knowledgeable in the area. It has gone such a long way for me, I am able to understand what drivers are talking about, even with mechanics.  Getting involved in the industry as much as possible is key.  I have also joined the Women of the Towing & Recovery Association of America plus local business groups such as city chambers, etc. 

Working in this industry takes a lot of hard work and time.  It is the nature of towing that it is very demanding in time and dedication, and one must be willing to make the requisite sacrifices. This took some time for me to accept, but as I have learned more about the business, I’ve grown to love it and have become so invested that at this point it doesn’t even feel like I’m working. 

With the grace of God, I have been blessed to have an abundant number of resources.  My family and key managers at their business have given me support and guidance, and they have never viewed my gender as an issue in working in this industry.  I continue to learn all aspects of the business from purchasing of equipment, applying for city contracts, managing human resources, and most importantly establishing a respected name for the company and myself.  There are certain points of advice that have stuck with me and have helped when making decisions.  For example, my uncle has imbedded in me to always abide by my word, i.e., if I commit to a deal—no matter if I hear of a better one, since I have already given my word, I must stick to the original plan.  Another adage from my father is that “in life it is not about what you have but who you are.”  I’ve kept this advice in mind in how I treat my employees or people with whom I do business.  

Yes, I do not fit the description of a typical tow owner, but that is okay.  I bring my own distinctive way of doing business.  I may not always be right or make the best decision, but that is part of the journey in growing to become the best possible employer and recognizing that my people are my most important resource.  I make it known to my employees that without their hard work and sacrifices, the business is nothing.  Employees are such an essential part of the success of the company.  I try my best to make them feel that they are part of the team.  Taking time to speak with them, asking about their families, working with them when unexpected issues arise, etc. are all key factors in developing a healthy professional work relationship, but the true test of caring is being there during their more challenging times.  That is where trust, loyalty and respect are gained.

As an innovative, progressive leader my purpose in continuing with a perseverance mindset in this industry is to show my younger sisters and any other interested women that with hard work, faith, a core support system, and most importantly, the dedicated passion to succeed, it is possible to make a place for yourself in this or any related career.  I hope my story inspires women just as I have been inspired by all the other women in this industry