Lita Abele’s journey to the corner office stands out as an LBM success story with several plot twists. She arrived in the U.S in 1981 as an immigrant from the Philippines, taking jobs as house cleaner and nanny. Drawing from her inner strength — and unlikely inspiration from a bold character in a prime-time soap opera — Abele followed her dream to own a business. She learned the ropes of the lumber industry from her husband (Merrill Abele, now semi-retired), and is now pulling the strings as president and CEO of U.S. Lumber, an industrial and commercial supplier based in Woodbury Heights, N.J.
“I remember watching that show 'Dynasty' and especially Joan Collins,” Abele said. “I liked the way she conducted herself. She had style. Her character was mean sometimes, and I don’t want that. But I liked her style, and every time I saw that, I thought to myself: I want to be a businesswoman and a boss.”
Abele’s persistence and personality were revealed in the details of a story she shared during a presentation at the Top Women event in Chicago:
“A prospective customer didn’t want to give me any time at all, no time. They would just close the door. So I said, ‘OK, what time will the superintendent come to the site?' They said, 'Six o’clock.' So, before six o’clock, I am already at the site. So when I got there, he cannot say, he’s not there. I just forced myself to the door. And I said, 'Just give me five minutes. Not even five minutes, three minutes.' I just introduce myself, I gave my card, a [U.S. Lumber] pad and some pencils, and he became a loyal customer.”