Courtney Yeager, executive director, United Way of Kennebec County, Augusta (September)

Courtney Yeager

When I was a child, growing up in a house with three sisters, my mother’s response to a typical sibling squabble was, “Just love each other.” Mother does, indeed, know best. Of course, I ended up loving my sisters very much, but her phrase left a much deeper imprint on me than she could imagine. I took her advice for our family a step further because I realized that I — like everyone else — had an endless supply of love to give. I spent time volunteering at a soup kitchen to show people in need that someone cared. As a college student, I spread love to younger children by becoming a mentor. And now, at United Way, I am lucky to make a career out of connecting those who want to give with those who need it most. If I could have it my way, the whole world would “just love each other.” We’re inching closer and closer to that ideal world every day, and United Way is one of the best ways that people can spread love and make an impact.

Alicia Gallagher

Alicia Gallagher, co-owner, Blend Salon, Richmond (July)

Probably Katelyn (Lavallee, her business partner). She gave me the push. She’d tell me, “It’s going to be fine!” I just didn’t think I was ready. I get comfortable. Even right down to the space. I said, “It’s too small. It’s too small. It’s not going to work. ” She said, “It’s going to be fine! This can go here, that can go there. It’s going to be fine!” It came out really, really good. It’s been awesome.

 

Rick McCormick, Jokers & Rogues Brewing, Gardiner (August)

Rick McCormick

Growing up, my stepfather (Bob Nowell) was a barber. He owned his own shop, a small shop in Farmingdale, Bob’s Barbershop. And he always worked for himself. Right out of school, and he just worked for himself and loved it — absolutely loved it. When I got out of college, I went to work for the government and didn’t really enjoy it. So when it came time for my midlife crisis, when my wife (Susan) was tired of me complaining, it was time to decide let’s do something. Let’s try something completely different. We opened this in 2012. Seven years.

(My stepfather) enjoyed cutting hair. I don’t enjoy cutting hair, but boy, I love — I love talking about beer. I love helping people with their beers, with their wines. I enjoy teaching. You know, it’s when they come in they are a little confused, but you see the look in their face when they get it and it’s like, “Oh, my God, this isn’t rocket science. This is easy, and it can be fun.” I love that. I really love that.

When you have a retail shop, you’re a slave to the open sign. You are, you’re absolutely a slave. (When people go into business for themselves) they do have the idea that you sit behind the counter and collect the money, and there it is and life is good. Yeah. That’s part of it. But most of it is getting things ready for (customers) to come in, being prepared for that. Being able to take care of them when they’re here, you know, giving them a good experience. Yeah. (Building a customer relationship) is really important in this business. They have so many options of where they could buy. Not so many brick and mortar anymore, but, you know, online and everything. They can go wherever they want. So you’ve got to provide them a good experience, make them feel good.

 

Nick Alberding, CEO, Pine State Trading Co., Gardiner (January)

From left, Keith Canning, Gena Canning and Nick Alberding Nick Alberding

My uncle Charlie Canning, who hired me in 1987. He passed away about five weeks ago. I spent years and years and years working at his side and certainly under his tutelage in various positions. There were other senior people in the company that influenced me, but if you ask me who the biggest influence was, there’s no question it was my uncle Charlie. He taught me at the end of the day no matter what to treat people with respect. He may have had a great business story, where he was a second generation leader with my uncle Jack. They had a lot of success. When you got to know him, he was very humble and no matter who it was, he treated them with respect. I don’t care how smart, how savvy you are. If you don’t start out treating people well, getting to know them, you will never make it. Particularly in a company this size, you’re going to be successful if they are successful.

I learned a lot from him from the business standpoint in banking and finance and how business flows. But he always treated everybody who worked around him with a tremendous amount of respect and I have sort of tried to do the same.

One thing about Pine State, it’s treating people not only with respect, but treating them as if they were family. People go through different things in their lives, and they spend, as you know, a third of their life or more at their jobs. Being there to support them in good times at bad is one of the advantages of frankly owning a family company and working for a family company.

One thing about Keith (Canning), Gena (Canning) and me, there are three of us — and we own the business equally and we have worked together for 32 years. For quite a few people it’s quite a surprise that if you read about third generation family companies, the failure rate’s pretty high. There have been a lot of studies about why that is. I would be remiss not to recognize that Keith, Gena and I … I tip my hat to Keith and Gena because the three of us have been able to navigate our way relationship-wise with each other, with other family, with our second generation and with the employees, which isn’t an easy feat.

So when I say Charlie is the biggest influence on me, I would say in a close second, Keith and Gena have been significant influencers and certainly partners. We’ve just been so tight together. It’s an amazing story, really, when you look at the three of us, that we have been able to stick together through thick and thin. It surprises quite a few people. The company’s been on quite a ride for a long time.

Alan Smith, executive director, Augusta Food Bank, Augusta (August 2018)

Alan Smith

Don’t accept reality. That’s from John Dibiase, a mentor and boss I had 20 years ago while I worked for Mead Paper Co.

Everyone will tell you that you can’t build a building, or expand a program.

We started a capital campaign two years ago to raise enough money to build this building (161 Mount Vernon Ave.). We needed $700,000. Within 18 months, we had what we needed. You have to make your plan, dream your dream and make it happen. Let it succeed or fail on its merits.

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