Meeting Rich Jarrette feels a little like meeting Clark Kent; mild mannered and quiet. He may not be “Superman”, but he truly is a super man. Early in his career, Rich spent more than ten years navigating the “big-box” retail management landscape at Sam’s Club (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc). He passed up an opportunity for advancement to explore a different future for him and his (now) wife. When they arrived in the North Country about ten years ago, Rich decided the best way to learn about our region was to attend local government board meetings; defining “us” by the spirit, flavor and composite of those events. Laying some serious roots, Rich got married, bought a house and had a child right here in Plattsburgh, tending to his family’s future in a rewarding career and fully involved in a multitude of community organizations and events.
Hometown: Pine Hill, NY Age: 38
Education: BA, Political Science (and additional work toward Master’s in State and Local Government)
Community Involvement: Current member of the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary, member of Saint Peter’s June Festival committee, former board member of the Clinton County Historical Association
What’s most exciting trend happening in the community right now?
There’s an energy that’s less about singular attempts to reinvent our economy, and more about cooperation, interdependence, being responsive to community development, by appealing to multiple segments of the population. There’s debate about responsibly balancing resources with need. Forward-thinking and experienced community leaders are exploring opportunities that leverage our significant resources, in a comprehensive, but focused way. I see a lot of talented and interested people, seeing potential, working together, building momentum, and it’s exciting!
What is something that no one would guess about you?
I was born in New York, but both of my parents are naturalized immigrants, from different countries. I grew up traveling to South America, frequently, spent considerable time with family from the Caribbean. I experienced exotic foods, music, language, environments, and culture. I saw shades of contentment, education, welcoming, and humanity. These experiences continue to inform my worldview, and I hope they extend to our daughter.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I left an opportunity for advancement (and a raise), so I could explore a different kind of future with my (now) wife. We made that risky decision, together. It was a choice for our family of two, and our future together. We’ve since compounded that risk by marrying, purchasing a home, and having a child, in Plattsburgh. Wish us luck!
What’s your biggest professional success?
In big-box retail management, building relationships with small businesses in various communities, to address customer concerns, and develop sales potential; in manufacturing, transitioning responsibility for customer care of a single product line, manufactured in a single location, to multiple product lines, manufactured in two locations, with considerable international market reach, and the addition of a complete OEM-customer care solution.
What’s your dream job?
Small-business ownership—everyone wants the ability to self-determine future successes: finding a niche, offering a great product, using their strengths to capitalize on growth by building relationships, being responsive to customers’ needs, and challenging the conventional to create opportunities.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I’m very dedicated and loyal—to my family, my work, and my community. I want the best for them. When I can spend my time in pursuits that include common activities, it’s great, but sometimes disparate priorities fail to intersect…and it’s a tough choice to allocate time to each, appropriately. There’s flexibility in each relationship, though, and I’m fortunate to have it. Of course, my heart is with my wife and (almost) three year old daughter. Every decision starts and ends with them.
What important lessons have you learned in your career?
Really listen when being spoken to. Be humble. Know that you are always part of a team, and that your job is to help your team members. Say “thank you”, a lot, and be sincere and grateful, every time. Do your best.
What would make the North Country a more enjoyable place to live and work?
More ideas exchanging, and more participation in community efforts. It’s not enough to say there’s an opportunity. Give your suggestions, engage in challenging conversation; work collaboratively, as much as possible, and take pride in developmental accomplishments. Attend a local government or community service organization’s meeting. Suggest an opportunity for your workplace to get involved in a community effort. Participate in a church function. Talk to your neighbor.
Who is your mentor and what have you learned from him/her?
Business is about relationships, value, and your best effort…but those words inform life, not just business.
How do contribute to the culture of your company?
(See above) I try to be nice, present, and active as much as I can. It’s a big place, with a lot of people, but I believe we’re all working toward the same goal—customer satisfaction. My coworkers are my customers, and I like to greet them, ask about what they do, and learn how they do it. I often need their help, and saying “hello” is a great way to communicate respect for their contributions, and grow a relationship. Our vendors are my customers, and I’m regularly in communication with them about product specifications, sales team support, and end-customer concerns. I learn from their explanations, see trends before they affect our operations, and appreciate and thank them for their help. The consumers of our end-products are my customer, and as long as I’m doing what I can to support their inquiries, earn their trust, and give them another reason to do business with us, I’m doing my best to offer them a great value—a product and support combination. It helps to have the support of a great management team, also—keen to help me develop and be part of our operation and its’ successes.
Write a note to your younger self… Don’t wait so long. It’s possible to be too careful. Engage the world around you (but sooner, if you can).