THE WRIGHT EFFECT
As our time in the Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) Program draws close, I would like to utilize this capstone article to share my experience coming into the Wright family of companies as part of an established organization. Ownership transition is a complex moment within a company, stirring emotions in employees from anxiety to excitement. The adjustments and changes implemented by Wright Service Corp. (WSC) following the acquisition of our company have benefitted us greatly. In addition, my participation in the LEAD Program has changed my perspective of work-life from just a “job” to a worthwhile cause and I shall expand upon why.
Our company, Spectrum Resource Group, Inc. (SRGI), operates mainly in northern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, and was acquired by WSC in 2017 as the company’s first expansion into Canada. During that time, I worked seasonally with SRGI as a production faller in winter within the mountain pine beetle program. I joined on again in late summer to supervise herbicide crews in a forestry capacity. Outside these roles and during the rest of the year, I was employed by other companies gaining experience and a diverse perspective within the forestry industry. When the acquisition was announced company-wide, I remember hearing a general sense of unease and hesitancy among the boots on the ground. These feelings were mainly rooted in the unknown or the narrative that we were now beholden to shadowy corporate America. The unease seems laughable in hindsight but prior to 2017, an international entity or organization as vast as WSC had not previously existed in our sphere of industry which competes primarily for forestry work as a service provider. Our clients, largely lumber mills and the government, operate at an international scale but this was novel in SRGI’s niche of the industry. With time, we all learned more about WSC and our place within, and trepidation was replaced with a sense of inspiration. Albeit, with so many seasonal employees it took time to circulate our newly acquired knowledge through the workforce, but with perseverance it did.
With this change came opportunity and there were great and equal parts of both for us at SRGI. For myself, opportunity soon presented in the form of a project manager role for the local utility in a consultant capacity with a commitment to SRGI as my sole employer. I read a good deal about WSC and the family of companies to learn about the history, mission statements, values and the employee ownership model. I contemplated the changes a company like that could make within SRGI and it was rather obvious that this transition could very much be the breath of fresh air our company and industry needed. Thus, I jumped in and signed on. Not long into my position, I began to observe tactile change. Within months I witnessed an injection of new equipment as our older fleet was retired. Soon, my worn-out and beat-up 1-ton pickup was replaced with a new F-150, much more fuel-efficient, and outfitted appropriately for the role, making a strong statement about professionalism. Other changes included a modernization of the company logo and website, standard letterheads and PowerPoints, new computer hardware was distributed, and cyber security protocols were implemented. Most of these changes were small and subtle, others significant, and a few were painful such as software and email transitions. However, all these changes had a net benefit and could be seen to align SRGI with an incredibly successful business model. I am thankful there was support available through the transition and I have much gratitude for the IT department especially. Operations here continued adapting and functioning rather well.
In 2020, I was nominated by our division manager for the WSC LEAD Program and subsequently invited to take part. At the time, I was not entirely aware of what this would mean or entail but twenty-four individuals much like myself were chosen to participate amongst the five thousand Wright employees. The bi-annual program would include personality assessment and training, courses in public speaking, joining of a professional association relevant to our industries, seminars on leadership, planning and the assignment of a mentor to help guide us along the way. The program was quite immersive and no half measure from my experience. I witnessed firsthand how invested our company is with their employees and how the mission statement, values and vision are integrated with intention.
Our group came from eight companies across WSC and had roots in operations to consulting to accounting. Despite not being able to meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to connect and learn remotely about each other. Our ability to share stories, advice and ideas across the continent offered insight into each other’s unique roles and perspectives. Many of these individuals and their pursuits were not on my radar prior to the LEAD Program, but through this, I quickly realized there is great diversity both dedicated and talented within the company. I simply had a limited grasp of the extent of the endeavours occurring beyond my operation.
Perhaps of most value in the LEAD Program was the opportunity to have a mentor and shadow them at their work for at least three days. These mentors are executives, regional and operational managers; leaders who have proven their merit but were distinctly separate from our own operation, division, or subsidiary of WSC. My mentor was Matthew Searels of CNUC, and I was able to confide in Matthew throughout my journey and learn from his valued perspective and experience. This was incredibly beneficial to ground the topics I was studying in the program as he was exemplifying them daily. It must be said again that for me, the job shadow was the most impactful component of the program as I was given access to thoughts, ideals and epiphanies that likely would have taken years to formulate. Thanks to my time with Matthew, I was able to see CNUC’s mission, values and vision thoroughly integrated into daily affairs and a division running like a well-oiled machine. Having the opportunity to step out of my sphere and observe someone else’s without my own routine and duties compelling my attention gave me an opportunity to focus on what is different there at that moment from what I know and am accustomed to. I was able to begin painting a target or vision for where I would like to guide my interactions and operations.
In summation, I am incredibly grateful to be part of the Wright family and even more so to have taken part in the LEAD Program. I am fortunate to have witnessed the “Wright Effect” from inception at SRGI and found much good to come of it from physical resources to accountability to employee engagement. With regard to my own personal development, lessons learned in the LEAD Program have made me more effective, accountable and much less stressed. Great things can be achieved when you gather and train a group such as this and I very much look forward to collaborating with these talented and driven co-workers in the future. The Wright cause is one that will stand the test of time.
By Joshua Quaite, BSc, Reforestation Operations Manager