Michele Medaglia is president of ACC Construction, a company founded by her father, Al Medaglia, in 1984. After taking the reins at age 25, she expanded the company’s focus from office interiors to full-service construction. The company’s client list includes industry heavyweights like Tishman Speyer and SL Green Realty. And it has done work at iconic towers like the Empire State Building. The company, which is based in Midtown, has 70 employees and is currently overseeing $100-plus million in projects throughout New York City, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut. In recent years, notable deals have included upgrading the Durst Organization’s lobby at 1133 Avenue of the Americas, renovating 30,000 square feet of office space at Macy’s Herald Square headquarters and building out Tiffany’s 11,000-square-foot retail store at 37 Wall Street.
What were you like as a kid?
I was all over the place. I probably had ADD and needed Ritalin. I gave my parents a good run. I grew up in a big Italian family with all of my cousins. We spent Friday and Saturday nights together. Our parents played cards and there was pasta and sauce everywhere. Everyone was yelling, but that’s the way we talk.
Did you always want to join your dad, or did you have other aspirations?
That’s such a long story; we need wine for that. In high school, I wanted to be in fashion. When I was a sophomore, my father was doing a project for a fashion company and he got me a summer internship. Parts of it were amazing, but it taught me it wasn’t what I wanted to do. The next summer my father said he needed a receptionist for two weeks. I’ve never left.
So you worked for your father through college?
I went to Hofstra University, which was 20 minutes from where we lived. I commuted my first semester and hated it, so I made a deal [with my dad] to live on campus and work for him for free. I worked every day I had off, every holiday, every vacation and spring break. I graduated on a Sunday and went to work Monday. All my friends were going backpacking through Europe and I was like, ”I’m not backpacking anywhere. I’m going to stay in a five-star hotel when I go to Europe.”
What do you like about real estate and construction?
I love that it’s not repetitive. I could be playing golf on Monday and on Tuesday I’m at a lunch with clients, then have a meeting in the office and have a big presentation that afternoon. The next day I’m at three job sites. There are challenges, but that’s the fun part. You figure out how to solve them.
What’s it like for you as a woman in such a male-dominated industry?
Pretty good. The people I work with here are amazing and a lot of my clients appreciate good work, whether you’re a female or a male. But I know it’s tough for women in this industry. I see it.
Do you feel like you got a leg up because your father started the business?
I felt I had to work harder. You really earn respect; you don’t stomp your feet and demand it. And the way you earn it is you work hard and you work as a team. So it was a lot of effort and very little sleep.
You took over the company at 25. How did you show clients and employees that you could handle it?
I’m a person that doesn’t go to bed until the dishes are in the dishwasher and the house is cleaned. If I can get something done today, I get it done today. And if a client needs something, you keep letting them know, “I’m on it.” That builds trust. I’m relentless. I will stay up until 4 a.m. to finish a project. I have completion issues.
What’s your greatest weakness?
I sweat details. Sometimes I have to pull back and not get too much into the minutiae of things.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
My children. I still can’t believe I carried two human beings in my body. And I worked. I was going up and down ladders. Okay, I got on a ladder once. But I did it.
How’d you manage when they were babies?
I built a nursery in my office. It was me, my kids and a nanny. That’s the beauty of being in construction. I’m not afraid to take down a wall. I had a Johnny Jumper on the door, bouncy seats and the changing table. I saw them walk for the first time — I wasn’t missing that for the world.
Is it easier now that they’re older?
It got easier and harder. They need you more when they’re 13. My daughter is on three lacrosse teams, so I’m on a field almost every weekend. My son runs cross-country on the varsity team as an eighth grader. I don’t think there’s any such thing as balance. Some days, it’s all work and other days, it’s all your family and you have to put work on the side. I always try to focus on the here and now.
What would be your last meal?
Rigatoni with vodka sauce. I’m not a big dessert person, but if I had to end the meal with dessert, I’d end it
What’s always in your bag?
Do we have enough time for this? My favorite lipstick, two cell phone chargers, Purell, pens and highlighters. I also have Hollywood [fashion] tape, safety pins, Krazy Glue, tissues, gum, Tylenol, Advil and a Shout stick. I have plenty of business cards and I carry them in every bag. Oh, I’m prepared. If the lacrosse uniform hem has come down, I’ll Krazy Glue it if I have to. I like to think of everything. I carry the Mass cards of my grandparents for good luck and good vibes. They’re with me all the time.