Meet Andrea FitzGerald Part 2
MEET ANDREA FITZGERALD
In the second part of this 2 part series Andrea FitzGerald, Sidco Filter Co-Founder and Vice President of Strategy discusses going into business with her dad, building a family-oriented company, and some of the lessons she’s learned along the way.
In case you missed it, read Meet Andrea FitzGerald Part 1 here.
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Why filtration? What is the genesis of the Sidco brand and mission?
My Dad, Sid, had been in the filtration industry for over 20 years when we started Sidco. He was an owner of another filter manufacturing company prior to Sidco’s founding.
What makes Sidco competitive in the filters industry? What sets you apart?
We’re nimble, and we’re resourceful. We are constantly keeping close tabs with our customers, suppliers, and employees. Things can change quickly and knowing real-time status of these key elements to any business allows us to make adjustments and improvements quickly. We have designed our company to be flexible and responsive.
The decision-makers of larger companies tend to lose touch with that pulse. By the time they get an understanding of changes within the market, they can’t pivot fast enough to align with the market. This aspect has been especially crucial as we have navigated the COVID crisis.
Sidco is always looking for opportunities to make ourselves the strongest that we can be. We are very focused on continuous improvement. This requires us to be constantly considering where possible areas of weakness or deficiencies are located in our business.
What did your Father teach you about running a business effectively?
My dad’s father owned a little market, it was called Cutt’s Clover Market. My father grew up working in the store. He was a “serial entrepreneur”. From a young age, Sid was always focused on owning his own business. It was just a matter of “what was the right business?” He tried a variety of different things before he found filtration and started his first filtration company.
I was very fortunate that we have a great relationship. If anything, our relationship was enhanced by growing the business together. I really treasure the fact that when compared to other family businesses, we both really value the relationship. The business was never going to get in the way of our family. That always came first and foremost.
Our collaborations were important. When he was company President, he always valued my input, even though he ultimately would make the decision. Then, when the roles flipped and I became president, I valued his input, even though I ultimately made the decisions.
One of the things I learned from his shortcomings and limitations was that you have to build the team underneath you. Without that support, our organizational capacity is limited based on my own personal resources. That has been an evolution for me – not something that came easily over the years. It has proven to be very important to build a strong team in order to help the company grow.
Any guiding principles that you would say have kept you focused?
My father had a few mantras. One of them is “under-promise, over-deliver.” That has been a guiding principle for the business. I don’t like disappointing people. I like to make sure that my word is my truth. And then another is “work hard, play hard.” It is important to balance the work and play of life.
What were some significant challenges or instances of adversity Sidco has faced? How did you deal with them?
A few years into building the company, we lost our manufacturing supervisor. We were still really small at that point in time, and we did not have the financial resources to hire somebody. I had learned the foundational pieces of that role, and I had some bandwidth. So I took on the manufacturing supervision which put me right into the mix of making of our filters from every facet. I have worked in every area inside the company, which is not typical of a legacy family member.
How do you define “success” on Sidco’s terms?
The success of our company is only based on the happiness or fulfillment of those that you’re serving. Quite a few years ago, I did a book study on servant leadership with our management staff – Jude Rake’s “The Bridge To Growth”. That idea of this principle is essentially asking, “How as a leader do you serve those in your organization?” Instead, I think leaders often ask the question, “What are people doing to serve me?” But that’s very limiting and won’t build the kind of organization that will be strong and successful. The more our leaders can help build the strength and capacity of the whole team, the stronger we will all be.
How important is it to continue what you and your father started? How do you wish to carry on his legacy?
There are several components in that idea of continuation or legacy.
When we were getting ready to start this up, my Dad didn’t want the company named after him. He doesn’t have an ego, but it was such an easy name for us to remember and to leverage. One aspect of this legacy is that the company does have my dad’s name on the door.
Another part of that legacy is that we have provided a place for people to have a good livelihood. I take it personally that we are doing what is necessary to ensure that we have a strong, viable company for all of the people that contribute to it. So many people are able to provide for their families because of the company that we’ve built. This is the most important part for me.
Lastly, and it’s vital to me that this part continues, the service that we provide to our customers is an important part of what we have created here. We have always prided ourselves on building good relationships with people, making sure that we operate with integrity, honesty, and trust. It’s making sure that we continue with those principles over anything.
Andrea would love to chat with you about identifying new business opportunities!
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