Meeting challenges comes easy to Alpha boss lady

What do you do if you arrive at the office one morning to find the boss gone, the company’s files missing and its bank accounts closed? If you’re Deborah Giannini, you incorporate a new business that same day and take the reins. More

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A PBN SPECIAL SECTION: 2011 BUSINESS WOMEN

Meeting challenges comes easy to Alpha boss lady

PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
ALPHA FEMALE: Deborah Giannini, owner of Alpha Metal-Works Inc., took the reins of the company in 2009 after the previous owner deserted the firm.
Posted 5/16/11

What do you do if you arrive at the office one morning to find the boss gone, the company’s files missing and its bank accounts closed? If you’re Deborah Giannini, you incorporate a new business that same day and take the reins.

It’s now been a year and a half since Giannini formed Alpha Metal-Works Inc., a precision-welding company that acquired the remains of Alpha Precision. In that time, business has blossomed and Giannini has settled into an industry she never imagined entering.

“I hit the grand [slam],” Giannini said. “This is exactly what I’m going to do with my life.”

It was not always that clear. Giannini spent many years in the legal field as a paralegal working at top-notch law firms in Providence. She dabbled in housing law, corporate law and other specialties. She had two children, Gianna and Thomas. She then retired, ready to spend time raising her children.

Her life, though, would take a sudden turn on May 10, 2008 – Mother’s Day. Giannini woke up at her Cranston home unable to feel her toes and paralyzed from the neck down.

She spent weeks at Rhode Island Hospital as doctors attempted to diagnose her illness. She dropped to a mere 80 pounds and, without feeling or the ability to move, could not hug her children.

While many paralyzed patients fall into despair, Giannini said she made the best of it. At one point, she asked the nursing staff to rearrange her room so she could watch construction on the Iway project below, telling them, “Do you know what people are paying for this view?”

Doctors eventually diagnosed transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation in the spine that affects about 1,400 Americans a year. Only about one-third of those affected ever fully recover.

Giannini thanks a mix of good medicine, God, the staff at St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island – the Providence clinic where she later stayed – and sheer determination for her full recovery.

After her discharge from St. Joseph clinic in July 2008, she was determined to rebuild her life.

She landed at the business that would one day become Alpha Metal-Works Inc. after a chance conversation with Chris Serafin, a second-generation welder. Serafin mentioned the company he worked for, owned then by a relative, could use someone with business and legal experience. Giannini offered to lend a hand for free in return for the opportunity to re-enter the professional world.

Soon Giannini was painting walls, putting out flowerpots, installing a microwave and cleaning up the industrial shop.

She set up a desk in an empty office and assisted in cleaning up the company’s books by taking a hard line with customers behind on their payments.

On Oct. 16, 2009, she headed to the office as usual only to find the owner gone and with her many of the company records. Serafin, who had once owned the Johnston-based company, was not ready to do it again.

Giannini flew into action. She filed incorporation papers, fired off a letter to customers outlining the new management and promised Serafin he would stay employed and be able to care for his family.

Alpha Metal-Works now counts several Fortune 500 companies among its clients. Giannini has a five-year business plan to grow the company, buy her own building and operate 24 hours a day. •

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