Sheriff in Town
Gittins becomes Triadís new president as
the first woman to head a forestry equipment company
Women have made incredible
strides in the workplace over the past few decades. Where rarely a woman was
seen - the senate or police force - they are now common place. But there are
still areas women have yet to penetrate. Not because men are keeping them out,
but because women have just never gravitated to those jobs - until now. Last
April, Kristine Gittins became the first female president of Triad Machinery,
Inc., and possibly the first female ever to head up a forestry equipment
Kristine's no newcomer to the forest equipment industry. She started at Pierce
Pacific and for five years learned the ropes. When Triad, based out of Portland,
Ore., started up in 1992, she came on as controller, moved up to VP of finance
and eventually climbed to VP of operations. When Mike Hildebrandt sold his half
of Triad to Link-Belt in 2001, she was offered the role of president. Once a
person gets a chance to talk to Kristin, hear her enthusiasm, vision for the
company and her knowledge of the industry, it's obvious why she was the person
for the job.
Transition to the Top
Kristine says because she knew the people in the company and she was
involved with the customers and employees, the transition has gone smoothly.
"I think if I had stepped in as a woman from the outside it would have been
more challenging," explains Kristine, "But most of the relationships
were in place. We have a working relationship and know who we are as people and
have mutual respect for each other." "Since Link-belt purchased us,
there has been a lot more Japanese involvement, which we welcome. They are
incredibly supportive. But the women president was a little difficult for
them," recalls Kristine with a smile. "They were just concerned at
first what the customer would think of me. When they saw it was fine with the
customers they relaxed. They've been really great."
Where are the girls?
Why has it taken until the new millennium to see a woman at the head of company
like Triad? Kristine believes there may be two issues. First, it's only been in
the last 15 years that women began fully integrating into all different types of
industries. And second, fewer young people are going into the industry at all.
"It would probably be harder for a women to get a job in sales. I know
there was a woman working for Totem, but they are few and far between,"
says Kristine. "In the operational part of it, however, men and women are
equally accepted. I have a woman equipment manager, and she comes to all our
meetings and is part of our group and is fully accepted. I'm not seeing women
being excluded, especially in our organization."
Even though it's a male-dominated
industry Kristine says the men she deals with have been "fabulous."
"They are really men of character and men of their word. They work hard.
They are committed to their families. And they are great to be with. And they
have been nothing but accepting - they have fully included me in their
world." "I think that people in general are generous with those around
them," adds Kristine. "I think gender and those issues don't matter
when there is trust and you work hard. A committed employee is just that - an
employee - not a gender."
Handling Company Changes
Triad has seen a lot of changes this past year and Kristine says her first
concern is for her employees and the customers. "There
have been a lot of transitions to make this year and we are making them. Our
biggest goal has been to make our employees feel safe and valued," says
Kristine. "We want the people inside the company to know that their jobs
are safe. And we want our customers to know that we're going to be there for
them - that we are making wise financial decisions. "For me personally,
Triad has had a couple years of transition and I am trying to create an
energetic team, making it fun to go to work every day." As Kristine talks
about providing extraordinary customer service, her focus and excitement are
"I think it's the only reason
we are here in the marketplace. It's how our customers feel when they're treated
by us that is important to me. They know we will call them and get back to them.
All the products are good out there. It's customer service that makes the
Rallying The Troops
At Triad, employees are finding that their president is a "hands on"
type of gal - making the teamwork a reality versus a concept. Kristine travels
to a branch every other week and sits down at a meal with everyone to listen.
"We talk about what's going on and what possibilities there are. We're
always looking at new possibilities whether it's a new niche market, customers
that we haven't seen yet, or new products," says Kristine. Sometimes it
turns out to be the littlest thing. You have to be open and listen, because it's
the employees that are right there. They're the ones talking to the people every
Triad has a unique mission statement - creating successful futures. Kristie's
proud of the company's mission statement, which she says echoes her personal
views. "We really live by it. I am very committed to it personally. You get
a lot more personal satisfaction out of helping others - it's a lot more than
selling equipment for us. "Although we love to sell equipment," adds
Kristine with a smile.
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