This is the first in a three-part series telling the Secondwind story through the years. Contributors to the series are Founder, Crispin Fletcher, Vice-President Jan Beauvais, and President Christine Fletcher. Look for Secondwind25: Evolution and Secondwind25: Progress.
by Crispin Fletcher
How did Secondwind Water Systems get its start, and has it really been 25 years? I reflected on this recently and realized that, for me, getting to the point to start Secondwind actually began 27 years ago.
It was 1986 and I was invited to be a crew member on a Nordic 44 sloop and sail in Prince William Sound, Alaska for a week. My brother-in-law and his family chartered the boat, and they needed a deck ape to do some heavy lifting. They thought of me. We sailed that sleek boat around the Sound, racing porpoises and watching Orcas and sea otters, and absorbing the astonishing place that it was at that time.
A few days into the journey, a strong storm came on us and we hid behind an island to avoid the full gale. During the night, the anchor started dragging and we had to try to reset the anchor in the teeth of that storm, or risk going up on some overturned barges that had sunk during the tsunami from the earthquake of 1964. It took us four tries and all our energy, but the last one held. As dawn broke, I went above to see the situation, and an eagle passed over the mast, gliding to the island that had protected our little boat.
At that moment, I realized I needed a life change; I needed a “Secondwind.”
That fall I enrolled in a Master’s program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England.
Forward to 1989. I was enjoying my education and was at the point of finishing the program. I considered many different options for my future career, but one singular event drove me to act. In March 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran up on Blighe Reef in Prince William Sound, the very place of re-visioning my life, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil. It changed the beautiful Sound forever. I was devastated, and I am still deeply saddened to know that it has not recovered in any meaningful way to this day. That event created new focus as I reflected that I was trained in business, had a newly minted environmental degree, had always been very mechanical, and realized I could start my own business. I would name it “Secondwind Environmental.”
1989 was a rough year for the New Hampshire economy. My wife, Christine, was feeling the pressure from her company downsizing, our partner Jan, had the same experience at Sanders, now BAE Systems. We became what we call, a three legged stool, each bringing unique skills and values to Secondwind. Christine was trained in finance and business management, Jan was trained in biochemistry and engineering and I had the mechanical energy and environmental focus.
While it was years before we articulated our company values, it was natural for the three of us to make Secondwind into a company that reflected our values: minimizing our environmental impact, enhancing public safety, using the best available technologies, committing to design excellence, and caring for each of our customers and each of our employees as one of our own, and always being a good corporate citizen.
25 years later, Secondwind Water Systems is still striving to live those values. While it is no longer like that little 6-person boat when things get rough, we still feel pretty small in the ocean of business, and the gales impact us like everyone, I certainly feel safer with a little help from 35 of my Secondwind shipmates.