December/January, 2002

 

 

 

 

There's a New Sheriff in Town

Kristine Gittins becomes Triadís new president as possibly 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 company. 

Strong Background 
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 almost contagious. 

"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 difference." 

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 day. 

Bright future 
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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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004