Liên Randle of Mitsubishi Electric
This industry professional explains how respect, confidence and hard work can lead to success.
From Paris to Africa and Atlas Elevator Co. to Mitsubishi Electric, Liên Randle has experiences worth sharing. Born in Florida to a U.S. Air Force pilot and Vietnamese mother, Randle has lived in several fascinating places – Hawaii, Japan, France and California, to name a few. After graduating from high school in Northern California, Randle enrolled in San Diego State University. “After one year at San Diego, I sent an application to the University of Paris, Sorbonne,” Randle said. She moved to France “on a whim,” but eventually became distracted from her studies.
After two years of mediocre college work, Randle’s father said she could continue going to school on her own dime or get a job. She chose the latter; spending most of her time working in restaurants and bars until she landed a job at the Union Bank of Finland. Over her five-year stay in France, Randle became fluent in French and learned how to work hard enough to put a roof over her head, recalling: “There is nothing like becoming fully responsible for yourself to make you appreciate your parents and all their hard work.” Although Randle never completed her college degree, she says it remains a personal goal. However, the lack of a college degree has not kept Randle from a successful career in the elevator industry – one that started at Atlas Elevator.
Shortly after Randle’s father retired from the Air Force, he tried to become a commercial pilot; however, “[the] airlines said he had too many fighter pilot hours and would get bored flying commercial planes,” Randle said. With seven children to support, he started selling Bestline Soaps door-to-door. Eventually, and by what Randle calls “divine intervention,” a friend of her father’s offered him a position as a service salesman for an elevator company in Los Angeles. “Five years later, my dad was the proud owner of Atlas Elevator, which was founded in 1918 by Bill Ambrose.”
In 1977, Randle got her first elevator experience at Atlas filing, sorting parts, dispatching trouble calls, etc. “That’s how I spent my summers until I graduated high school,” she adds. A few months after she returned from Paris, Randle’s parents invited her to attend a National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) convention in Hawaii. Little did she know how significant the association would be to her future. “I specifically remember meeting Marie McDonald and wondering if someday I might be like her, a successful businesswoman,” Randle reveals.
In 1990, Randle’s father offered her a job as a sales representative. “I figured, as long as I was going to work, I might as well work hard for someone I know and love,” she said. Randle started at Atlas the same week an NAEC convention was being held in Boston, which her parents attended, leaving her to manage the office. “It was sink or swim,” she said. “So, I dove right in and swam as hard and fast as I could. I had a dream to catch up to. I wanted to go to the next convention and get on the board like McDonald.”
Over the next 15 years, Randle moved from Sales to Management and, as she puts it, “Had a hand in almost any and every job that needed to get done, including the occasional job as an office janitor.” During this time, she became active in the industry and attended as many conventions as possible. In 1998, she was elected president of the Northern California Elevator Industry Group, and, in 2001, Randle became president of NAEC, making her the youngest person and first woman elected to the position.
By the time Randle became the general manager of Atlas, her husband, Patrick Meehan, younger sister and two brothers-in-law were also involved in the family business, but not to the extent Randle and her husband were. Unfortunately, in 2003, Randle’s father passed away, causing family turmoil and resulting in the company falling apart. “I ended my career at Atlas in September 2003, and my husband and I moved to San Diego,” Randle remembers. “My father’s plan was not executed, his legacy was sold and a family destroyed. The scars run deep and will be difficult to heal. It’s been eight years, and I still don’t speak to my family.” She also insists that much of this situation could have been avoided “had we simply held regular family meetings as recommended by countless professionals.”
Despite the professional and personal challenges she has faced, Randle continues to work hard and has been successful. In 2008, she started working for Mitsubishi Electric’s Elevator and Escalator Division and currently holds three unique positions. “As a national contracts manager, I review all new construction contracts and some modernization and service agreements,” she explained. In addition, Randle serves as logistics coordinator, overseeing the movement of products manufactured in Mexico to the various branches in the U.S., and the San Diego branch manager, bearing responsibility for the operations of the local office. Since taking on the management of the local branch, as contracts manager Randle has improved maintenance operations by 30% and has negotiated more than 100 national agreements including one very important contract she leveraged into Mitsubishi Electric’s other divisions: “We are currently working on a systems-wide modernization package for this customer’s entire Asia-Pacific portfolio,” Randle explains, ”I am very proud of this deal.”
“I find my job incredibly satisfying, particularly knowing that all I learned at our small, independent, family-owned business was meaningful.”
She might hold various upper-level management positions, but Randle is engaged and communicative with her employees. “Trying to force or coerce an action or change [from an employee] is fruitless. I find it much better to share knowledge and information and even resources, if needed, to guide action and/or change,” Randle said.
While Randle admits to not having an official mentor, she does suggest that those she admires are outspoken and confident. “In addition, [they] had great respect for their field personnel, which I believe is a key factor in success,” Randle suggests. She also claims that working with family requires patience and respect: “Once you’ve mastered that skill, being respectful to others becomes second nature.” Other specific traits Randle admires are resourcefulness and brutal honesty, both of which she claims come from her father and husband, respectively.
“My father was meticulous, analytical [and] organized and paid great attention to detail. My husband often tells me I am my father’s daughter. I agree and submit that this is one of my most successful management skills.” – Randle
When it comes to her mother, Randle notes: “She believed in me and believed that there was nothing I couldn’t do.” This encouragement pushed Randle to try anything new and different. “If I were to summarize my mom’s love for me into a piece of good advice, it would be: think big and be confident,” Randle said.
Married for more than 20 years, Randle insists her husband is still the person she can count on the most. “He has helped me through so many tough times,” she explains. She also respects his objectivity and ability to “keep tough situations in check.” When Randle finds herself in a difficult situation, she tries to remove all emotion from the equation, “So I can maintain an objective outlook, like my husband.” This mentality has not only proven beneficial to her, but it has allowed her to help others.
When asked what one of her biggest professional challenges is, she admits “overcoming others’ perceptions” of her has been difficult. Throughout Randle’s life and career, she has battled several stereotypes, including being a woman and the boss’ daughter.
Being the boss’ daughter also gave people the permission to assume that Randle was “lazy” or “privileged,” and many saw her youth as inexperience. However, Randle argues, “I work hard. I have earned my keep. I wear my experience, laugh lines and gray hair as badges of honor and experience.”
“I am kind to others, and I will speak up and speak out for what I believe is right and just.” – Randle
When Randle was elected NAEC president, she remembers a member commenting, “The founding fathers of NAEC must be rolling in their graves.” She adds, “During a break at one of our Contractor’s Meetings, an attendee told me he had a hard time understanding me, because ‘Women have such high-pitched’ voices.” Randle says she overcame those initial perceptions by being confident in herself and the person she is, an attitude she gained from her mother’s support.
Despite these obstacles, Randle still believes her job and being involved in the industry are very rewarding. “Sharing my knowledge with others and helping them grow into successful contributors to the company and community mean a lot to me. Knowing my past experience and success [are] not isolated or related to being part of a family-owned business is also particularly satisfying,” Randle said.
“I measure my successes now in terms of the success of others that work [with] me. I find sharing my knowledge with others and helping them grow professionally is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.” – Randle
With more than three decades of experience in the elevator industry and several managing positions, it’s no surprise Randle takes pride in industry accomplishments. “The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a time in my career when I was particularly proud to be a member of the vertical-transportation industry, but more specifically, California’s vertical-transportation industry,” she said. Randle elaborates by telling a story about a seminar she attended and the time she spent with a woman confined to a wheelchair. According to Randle, the woman said there was no friendlier place for the handicapped than California, where major strides were being made at the time to improve accessibility.
During her time on the NAEC board (and, specifically, as president), Randle says she learned many valuable lessons and skills she uses today. The Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program was launched the year she was NAEC president. Initially, Randle admits being opposed to the program while she was a first-year board member, because she believed the association was not ready to tackle such a feat. However, eventually, she came to greatly support the program, because she strongly believed in the safety of all “who use and work with any form of vertical transportation.”
Randle and her husband worked together for nearly 10 years. “Now, we both still work in the industry, but not together,” Randle said. In their free time, they enjoy vacations in Hawaii, particularly Maui, where they have visited every year for the past five years. The couple also enjoys African safaris and have been longing to return to Tanzania since their honeymoon there.
Despite her work schedule, Randle still makes time for other important things. She attends Catholic Mass regularly and was baptized almost four years ago. Through Building Owner’s and Manager’s Association, Randle’s local branch helps Promises2Kids, which supports children in foster care, by donating school supplies and toys. Through the Christian Community Services Association, Randle and her husband sponsor a family in need at Thanksgiving and Christimas. In 2011, she ran her first 5K race in support of Rivers of Hope Foundation, the San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers’ foundation for foster children.
As for retirement, “I think I have at least another 10-15 years left in me, if my eyes and hands don’t fail me,” Randle said. However, when she does retire, she would like to become a professional speaker: “I have always wanted to be a mentor or big sister to someone and never had the opportunity.” She feels being a speaker would be similar to being a “mentor to the masses.” In fact, Randle has even drafted her first “potential” seminar: “It would be called, ‘Get Over It!’”