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With a style somewhere between a construction foreman and a mother hen, Laurie Brock Lisk handles a tough customer for her scrapyard's recycled materials on the telephone, chats with a secretary and directs a truck driver to the right pile of plastics in her scrap yard, shouting over the roar of a front-end loader.
Her company, Max Brock Co. Inc., markets its paper, corrugated cardboard and metals in Pakistan, India, China and Korea in addition to local markets. In 1998, Max Brock operated with $3 million in revenue.
At 46, Brock Lisk, president and owner of her family's 104-year-old concern begun by her grandfather, is one of an increasing number of women successfully reigning over family businesses.
A 1997 Arthur Andersen/MassMutual study of 3,033 family-owned businesses with average annual revenue of $9 million reported just 5 percent of those businesses had female CEOs.
But more than 25 percent of those businesses, or about 760, believe their next CEO may be a woman. About 18 percent of those businesses reported that a woman may be named as co-CEO in the next generation.
Brock Lisk, who had been a social worker in New York City, didn't plan to take over the business, she said. She returned to Buffalo in 1979 thinking, "I'd go home, make some money, and go back," she said.
She began as a truck dispatcher and then in sales for Max Brock subsidiary Buffalo Bale, Tie and Wire Co.
When her father took a vacation in 1982, "I got a taste of leadership in the business and I liked it," she said. "I just stayed."
Her older brother, who runs a bar in Fox, Alaska, and a younger sister who works as an interior designer in New York City had little interest in operating the business. Brock Lisk gradually took over operations after her father became in …