Celebrating 30 Years by Celebrating Our Leader, Christine Fletcher
Those are the feet of our Founder and President, Christine Fletcher. This particular day we were down some technicians due to illness, so she put on her steel toed boots and went on an installation call in order to get the job done. Someone had to crawl a space that was less than 2’ high above a garage to get the plumbing through – and Christine got right in there and did it.
When asked to give a tangible example of Christine’s leadership style, almost every person asked pointed to this day as the perfect illustration. It reflects her grit and ‘get it done,’ participatory attitude.
Christine is one of the original founders of Secondwind, along with her husband Crispin Fletcher and Jan Beauvais. When Crispin got the idea to start Secondwind, Christine was happily and gainfully employed at Digital Equipment Corporation. She was the Plant Materials Manager and that department had over 400 employees. Chris was 34 at the time, and she was one of the youngest people, and women, to hold such a responsible position.
Getting into the water business came as a business opportunity. At the time Digital was offering buy out packages to her whole manufacturing plant. She took the offer and went to join Crispin in starting Secondwind. As Crispin, now retired from the company, explains “the total package that is Christine came to play in our new efforts; her understanding of business, finances, budgeting, manufacturing processes, and personnel management all were brought to bear and she never looked back.”
When we asked Crispin for a word that comes to mind about Christine at that time he answered, ‘brave.’ He elaborated, ‘She ground it out with me for years of money stress day in and day out. She saw the possibilities we had even though we both knew she could have left and gotten a hugely rewarding job in other businesses, but once, years later, she told me it was about the people and the challenge of making this little company successful. She wanted to impact peoples’ lives for the better.”
That is exactly what she has done.
Humble. Compelled. Teacher.
We interviewed Christine for this piece, but what she didn’t know is that we asked for comments about her from others in the company as well. We’re publishing this article without her proofing it because we wanted to reflect exactly who she is a leader in the eyes of those who work with her every day. As Marketing Manager, Melissa Leroux, says, Christine is ‘humble’ and would never center herself in a piece like this.
But, if you want to understand Secondwind, you need to understand Christine.
Melissa went on to say, “Christine sees the good in everything and everyone around her. Her door is always open, and she welcomes communication with everyone. Christine goes in the warehouse every single morning to greet the technicians and answer any questions they have before they start their day. She’s willing to help in any aspect of the company at any time.”
Kristi Jackson, Finance & Administration Manager describes Christine as a teacher, trusting, and compassionate. “From the first day of employment, Christine immediately trusts that you will do the right thing and is confident in your abilities to make a difference at Secondwind,” she says.
Vicki Coltey, who has been with the company for 25 of its 30 years, knows Christine well. “She doesn’t believe in the phrase ‘Not possible.’ Everything is possible, from fixing really bad water to supporting everyone in the company. She will work through any weather that may come our way. She is what sets the example for the culture here at Secondwind.”
“The word that comes to mind when I think about Christine and her passion for Secondwind and our customers is ‘compelled’,” muses Certified Water Specialist Jesse Gagnon. “There is a drive in Christine that compels her to be the best individually, and for Secondwind to be the best water treatment company. Because of this compulsion, she is never satisfied with “good enough” and this drive in her brings out the best in all of us individually.”
When asked about Christine’s leadership style, Certified Water Specialist, RJ Brown describes her leadership style as participative. “Christine is active in discussions, teaching, providing feedback and that supports me in a way that works. It allows me some flexibility to grow, make decisions (even if not correct at the time) and to be able to learn from decisions whether they were good or bad. She also is an absolute optimist, which makes it hard to have a negative attitude.”
Supporting Our Customers and Employees
How does this benefit our Secondwind customers? “Christine’s faith and optimism in people means every customer deserves the very best we can give them,” offers Steve Guercia, Commercial Water Manager. “Customers are not opportunities to make money. They are people that deserve to have great water and everything that means towards a better quality of life. Each individual customer is as important to her as is each individual employee.”
A Legacy of Excellence and Compassion
As Christine begins to think about retirement (which won’t be soon as she likes to be busy), one of her big projects is to help Secondwind transition to an employee owned company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). An ESOP is often formed to allow employees the opportunity to buy stock in a closely held company to facilitate succession planning. It gives workers ownership interest in the company and aligns the interests of their employees with those of their shareholders.
This desire to leave the company to her employees, both through bonuses in the form of shares, as well as the option to buy in, embodies Christine’s commitment to the people who make up Secondwind as well as our customers.
When asked what she would like her legacy to be, Christine replied simply, “When I’m retired, driving down the highway and see a Secondwind van on the road, I want to know that the person driving that truck is truly happy going to work every day. I want that to be what I leave behind for everyone at Secondwind.”
Most of us would say that this legacy is already very much in place. Thanks, Mama Bear.