Molly Swanston’s Journey to Leadership
Family businesses often follow a traditional path of passing down the keys to the next generation.
But for Molly Swanston, the decision to take the reins of the family business was a journey of self-discovery and purpose.
Craft Beer to Construction
After pursuing communication studies in college, her passion for people and her knowledge of craft beer pushed Molly to switch gears and move to Michigan, where she worked in sales at a popular craft brewery. But when another company approached Molly with a job offer, she called her parents, Mike and Linda, for some advice. What she got was another job offer—to come back to Fargo and work for the family business.
Molly and her parents discussed the idea for nearly a year as Molly considered the offer, but she had more to consider than simply whether the construction industry would be a good fit for her. While in Michigan, Molly met her now-wife, Alexa, who also lived and worked in Michigan.
“I don’t know if you have ever tried to convince someone to move to North Dakota,” Molly said. “But to people who have never lived in the state, it takes some time to go through all the selling points.”
After a little persuading, Alexa agreed to move with Molly to Fargo to explore whether the family business was her calling. “I didn’t know a ton about the business, so I started out answering phones and then moved on to other roles so I could really get a sense of how things ran. When I started, I had three questions I needed to answer for myself:
- Would I like it?
- Would I be good at it?
- Would the people at the company accept me?
It turns out, the answer to all three questions was a resounding “yes,” and in 2020 when her dad retired, Molly became the fourth generation Swanston to take the helm at the family business.
“I give so much credit to everyone who has made the company what it is today,” said Molly. “My dad hired some of the smartest, most talented, and genuine people, and I am grateful to have them working by my side.”
Molly has learned a lot from her colleagues at the company, and when asked if she goes to her dad for advice, Molly is quick to answer, “I’d be foolish not to. He ran a very successful company.” She added that she also goes to her mom for advice and that her entire family is extremely important to her.
And family looks a lot different to Molly today than it did when she moved to Fargo seven years ago. Molly and Alexa were married in 2016 and they welcomed their first son in 2021. Things changed for the better again in February, when their second son made his appearance (three weeks) ahead of schedule.
So, how does Molly find a balance between her work life and her personal life? “Balance?” Molly joked. “There is no balance.”
For Molly, it’s more like a teeter-totter than a balancing act—sometimes work requires more attention, and at other times, family needs come first. What makes it work for her is communication. “When our son was born early, I needed to be with my wife and the kids. I couldn’t go into the office every day, but the team kept me informed so I could focus on my family and be where I was needed most. And now, it is our busy season at work, which keeps me away from home a bit more. But my wife was born to be a mother, and she makes sure everything runs smoothly. She keeps me updated so that I always know what’s going on at home, even when I can’t be there. So, in both my professional life and my personal life, me and the people around me play to each other’s strengths and it all just works.”
Forging Her Path
And when it comes to work, Molly recognizes the weight of her family history and the advantages that her last name has afforded her. However, Molly Swanston is not one to rest on her family’s laurels. Her determination to prove herself based on her own merit and hard work is what sets her apart. She believes that she was not only given the opportunity to run the business but also to elevate it to new heights.
“I have so much appreciation for my family and all of the people who worked hard to establish and grow the business, Swanston Equipment,” said Molly. “I believe I owe it to every one of them to do what I can to make it the best it can be, and I am passionate about that.”
Her unwavering sense of responsibility towards her family drives her to work toward the betterment of the company, but it’s obvious Molly’s commitment to the business goes beyond the familial obligation. She has developed a deep passion for the industry and a drive to uphold the values and legacy that her family has built. All the Swanston Equipment Company presidents have shared strong principles and held a common belief in serving the customer.
“Many of my dad’s best friends started out as customers,” said Molly. “That kind of bond only exists when there’s mutual respect between both parties. My dad always valued his customers above everything else, and I feel the same way. If the customer doesn’t exist, the company doesn’t exist.”
In addition to her appreciation for the customers, Molly cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the team at Swanston Equipment that has supported her on every step of her journey. “They welcomed me with open arms, and I have learned so much from them,” said Molly. “Without them, I could not have come as far as I have, and none of this would be possible.”
Paving the Way
Molly also understands the value of representation and the significance of paving the way for future generations. She feels honored to be in a position where she can be a role model for other women who may be struggling to establish themselves or break glass ceilings. When asked what advice she would give these women, Molly says she encourages women to be vocal about their aspirations. “Why would anyone give you something if you don’t have the courage to ask for it? If you are told no, ask what needs to be done to achieve your goals, and then do those things. If you are told no again, move on and achieve your goals elsewhere.”
For Molly, success is not just about achieving her goals; it’s about making a positive impact on the people around her. Professionally, she wants to be remembered as a strong leader who cared about her team, who lifted them up, and helped them reach their full potential. As a mother, she wants her children to grow up as strong and independent individuals who know that the world is full of opportunities. She hopes to instill in them the belief that there are no limits to what they can achieve.
Molly’s journey has been challenging, rewarding, and inspiring. It has taught her the value of hard work and reinforced the importance of family. She is grateful for every obstacle she has faced, as they have made her a stronger, more empathetic leader, partner, and mother.
As she looks to the future, she knows that there will be more challenges to come, but she is ready to face them head-on. With her family behind her, her team by her side, and a passion for her work, Molly Swanston is unstoppable.