Most Admired CEO Pinnacle Award winner: Linda Alvarado – Denver Business Journal – The Business Journals

Organization: Alvarado Construction
Industry: Construction
Title: CEO
Headquarters: Denver
Linda Alvarado has never been one to quietly adhere to the role assigned to her, and her many accomplishments are a testament to that grit and determination.
In 1976, she founded Alvarado Construction despite naysayers who both claimed a woman didn’t belong in the male-dominated industry and suggested she change the name of the company to conceal her Hispanic heritage.
Luckily, Alvarado ignored them and doubled down, building a lucrative construction business that’s been crucial to the development of the Front Range: Alvarado Construction worked on the Denver International Airport, Colorado Convention Center, Empower Field at Mile High, Xcel Golden Service Center, Kaiser Permanente Baseline Medical Offices in Boulder and many others.
Alvarado has built more than buildings, though. She and her husband, Robert Alvarado, started Palo Alto Inc., an operator of franchise restaurants such as Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. In 1991, Alvarado also made history when she became a co-owner of the Colorado Rockies — she was the first Latino man or woman to co-own a Major League Baseball team. Along the way, Alvarado has earned the Horatio Alger Award and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, among numerous other honors.
So what explains this resolve? Alvarado gives credit to her parents, who she said did not raise her and her five brothers to fit into predetermined gender roles. In fact, when Alvarado’s high school told her she couldn’t join the high school track team and compete in the high jump because she was a girl, Alvarado’s mother met with the principal until he relented.
Alvarado has followed in her mother’s footsteps when it comes to pushing those around her to embrace change. That includes accepting technology in the construction industry, she said, but it also entails changing attitudes about race, gender and who is capable of great accomplishments.
She shares more wisdom here:
What are you most proud of? One of the No. 1 things I’m most proud of is moving to Colorado. I think had I stayed in any other city or state, I would not have had the opportunity to — as I like to say — get into the game, start new businesses and meet people who were champions, I believe, of change. And look how the city has grown. Being part of that, I think, is one of the things that is more important than maybe how big [my] companies have grown.
How do you motivate your employees? I think it’s critical to motivate employees by letting them know they are an important part of our team.
Alvarado Construction has played a big role in transforming Denver. What is the next transformation you want to make in the city? It was very important, but also inspiring and motivating, to be one of the lead contractors [on key Denver projects]. The next step I see is “how do I continue to enable the communities to grow?” Not just inside the facilities, but outside of them by being involved in community, civic and educational organizations.
You’ve taken on leadership roles in fields typically dominated by men. What advice do you have for young women eager to break down similar barriers? One of the challenges, of course, in my career was I was constantly told I don’t look the part. I didn’t fit in. Don’t be distracted by people who say, “She’s a girl.” “Women can’t do this.” “It’s always been done by men.” Conventional thinking is history. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. You just get stronger and get better at your game.
How do you give back? One of the things that I believe has been very critical is getting involved in boards for the Rose Foundation, the Colorado Hispanic Chamber, the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation, but also motivating people and creating opportunities for others to make a difference in the community.
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