Lady in Red
LPC Scaffold Services, Inc. brings form and function to construction process
“You have no idea what people say on social media,” says Cynthia Santa, the President of LPC Scaffold Services, Inc., located in Ocala, Florida.
It seems that, no matter how successful a female business owner in construction becomes, she inevitably hears an odd comment. One example appeared on Cynthia’s LPC Scaffold Services-branded Instagram account @bossladycynthia. In the photo, she was in a warehouse wearing a red dress, surrounded by two of her employees. “The user wrote that he was sick of seeing women in photos, taking the credit, when the men did all the work,” she explains. “I was surprised. Had he never heard of a female in construction?” But instead of deleting the comment, she responded. “I had to stand up for myself. So, I explained to this person that I was the owner of the company and that he should stop assuming that ladies are just pretty faces.”
Her company boasts 25 employees and is bonded and insured to erect and rent scaffold and install exterior facade design and construction. Her firm is both minority and women business enterprise (MBE and WBE) certified.
Cynthia is passionate about helping more women enter the construction industry. “I want to show women that it’s no longer a boys’ club,” she says. “You have to have a vision, a passion, and an entrepreneurial spirit to make it, sure, but you can have a place at the table.”
Cynthia’s dream to be an entrepreneur surfaced at an early age. “I remember being a kid and dreaming of my future business,” she says. “I wanted to set my schedule, and I knew I wanted to be a hands-on mom when the time came. But I also wanted a career. So, being a business owner made perfect sense.”
Scaffolding—or scaffold, as they call it in the business—was not the business she thought she would start. “The idea to start LPC Scaffold Services came to me because I was tired of seeing old, ratty, unsafe scaffolds,” Cynthia says. She was working with another company when she had a moment of clarity. “I was on a site walk one day and saw some shabby looking scaffold. I thought to myself, ‘If I was the owner of a beautiful, multimillion-dollar building and saw old, dirty and unsafe scaffold on it, I would be upset.’ So, I looked for a local and affordable scaffolding subcontractor that could provide a safe and beautiful scaffold. I didn’t find any. So, I saw an opportunity to change the industry in Florida.”
Cynthia started researching scaffold options that would be both aesthetically pleasing and meet OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s) high safety standards. “I saw a lot of poorly manufactured and knock-off scaffold, and was getting frustrated that I couldn’t find anything better. But, I eventually found Layher, a higher steel grade scaffolding manufacturer in Germany that purported to be both high-quality and beautiful.” Cynthia had to see it for herself. “I flew to the company’s headquarters in Güglingen, Germany, to inspect the manufacturing facility and learn more. I wanted to see and feel the product.”
That tour opened Cynthia’s eyes to new possibilities. “I fell in love with the workmanship, warranty and safety testing. The steel is beautiful. It’s a game changer. My competition uses a lot of material that may not have a greatest testing or safety record,” says Cynthia. “It was a no brainer.” The companies decided to partner with her.
Now, LPC Scaffold Services proudly owns Layher’s Allround Scaffolding systems. “This scaffold is very versatile and safe,” Cynthia. says. “It can be adjusted to all terrains where the ground isn’t flat or even. One foot can be at different surfaces and heights than the others, so if you’re working on a ramp or another uneven surface, you can maintain your safety standards.” The Protect System Scaffold System is used for protection from noise or the weather or to protect passersby. It can also be fitted with materials to block the view of passersby. “This is incredibly important at Walt Disney World—they don’t want to interrupt the guests’ experience during construction.”
Above aesthetics, safety is paramount at LPC Scaffold Services. “People are taking safety even more seriously, and rightly so,” says Cynthia, who notes that OSHA has changed the safety regulations around scaffolding systems. “Besides Disney, we work on high-end commercial facilities, where the Allround Scaffolding system is key.”
Instead of using bolts or pins like other scaffolds, the Allround Scaffolding system uses what she calls ‘wedge locking.’ “There’s no pins in our scaffold. Instead, we hammer in one connection to another. One end has a wedge, which matches the radius of the other connection,” Cynthia explains. “The fit is perfect and very, very tight. This means that any forces, like wind or someone accidentally hitting the scaffold with a piece of equipment, will be absorbed through the scaffolding system.”
But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Because Cynthia wants her team to provide the most benefit to the client, the firm added 3D rendering and BIM (Building Information Modeling) services to its offerings. “With every estimate, we give a full 3D PDF design of the project,” Cynthia says. “This allows the client to get a real look at the scaffold, elevations and how the scaffold will be seen on the job site. The client can literally count how many pieces of the scaffold will be used.”
Additionally, the company offers BIM designs in its proposal when requested. “The BIM capabilities bring the proposals to the next level,” she says. “And, the client can share the renderings with other contractors, which makes the project run so much smoother. There are no surprises.”
Stopping “surprises” on the job site is very important. “We think of the client’s concerns from the beginning,” Cynthia says. “Just think how dangerous a project can be. When the painter and the electrician are working on a ceiling, each in their boom lifts, can they work safely? Can you have five lifts in the same work area? I don’t think so. So, I specialize in custom scaffold dance floors.”
Formally called “advanced floor design,” the dance floor is a large, typically very tall platform that resembles, well, a dance floor. “It’s one of the things that people don’t think about during project planning,” she says. “How do you get the engineer, painter, electrician and whoever else up there? How can multiple people work on a tall ceiling together safely? We build a tall scaffold, lay down planks and build safety rails around it. And we remove the possibility of lift-related accidents.”
Maybe that’s why high-profile engineering companies and contractors rely on LPC Scaffold Services for their projects. “We love working with all-star companies like Acousti Engineering Company of Florida and Tetrad Building Group LLC,” explains Cynthia. “They work with us because we become their partners through and through. We think about the entire team and any access problems before we get on the site. This helps their projects stay on time and budget.”
Above all, Cynthia is passionate about helping women in construction. “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if my husband owned the business, I would be a millionaire,” she laments. But instead of complaining about female representation in construction, she decided to help change the industry. She is a member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), and regularly meets with and mentors other women in construction.
“I have had the pleasure of doing business with, what I feel, are female entrepreneurs of character.” But, she says, the industry has a way to go. “Male participation really outweighs that of the female.”
She continues, “I feel strongly that we need to express the importance and strength of women in construction. A lot of women feel like they need to depend on someone else. But that’s not true—you can be your own boss. You can build a business for your children, and you can be a mom and an entrepreneur. I want to show other women that it can be done.”