For this week’s blog, we invited Linda Leary to write a few words about her extensive experience in Alaska business. An intriguingly diverse set of titles follows Linda; international trucking and logistics expert, outdoor industry small business owner, expert networker, mother, entrepreneurial mentor, fly fisherman, board member… the list goes on. As multifaceted as Linda’s life and career have been, one common thread can be found throughout: it shows the power in the conjunction of reinvention and growth. We are appreciative of Linda’s candor and believe that there is a great deal to be gleaned from her winding path through the world of business in Alaska and beyond. We’ll let Linda take it away from here…
Hi there, my name is Linda Leary. I am the founder of Fishe, an Alaska-based outdoor gear and apparel brand that focuses on making fishing clothing for women. However, I have not always been known as “Linda from Fishe”. For the antecedent part of my career, “Linda from Carlile” was my alias. Fresh out of college in rural Maine, I arrived in Anchorage in 1982 and picked up a secretary job at a small transportation company. I progressed through several roles and eventually settled into Carlile Transportation Systems where I stayed for 30 years. From there, the company grew, and I personally grew right along with it. I became a partner, and eventually the President, expanding operations and managing our team of over 700 employees until we sold in 2013.
Leaving Carlile and founding Fishe ten years ago was a pivotal moment of reinvention for me. Peers and colleagues questioned: “why would you leave a career you are so established in for something completely foreign?” In a resolute tone, my answer was always “why not?” While the outdoor industry was a new realm of operation for me, I felt confident in my ability to adapt lessons learned in the trucking industry to my new endeavor. In my back pocket I held a strategic understanding of business, a steadfast network of capabilities, and an insatiable desire for personal and professional growth. Even though the daily operations and products produced by these two industries could not be more different, the fundamental strategies for success were remarkably similar.
In 2022, the phrase “the great resignation” has morphed into an all too common buzzword. Throughout all sectors of the economy, workers are shifting across all levels of the corporate ladder. Throughout my career, I have come to regard the only constant as change, and the upheaval in today’s economy is no exception. In anticipation of change, I have worked to build transferable skills that are advantageous to me regardless of my job title, financial situation, or industry of work. Should high-level change resonate with you in some way, I hope the following themes detailed in this article can help you make these career movements vertical, and not lateral or descending.
Strategic Business Knowledge
To begin, perhaps the most imperative skill bridging all parts of my career has been a strategic understanding of business. Within this realm, growing, maintaining and anticipating are my main focuses. First is growth: at both Carlile and Fishe, a significant amount of financial and intellectual capital have been devoted to bolstering existing streams of income, as well as creatively working to forge new ones. Next comes maintenance: I am conscious to lean operations where I can and use the financial capital saved, to reinvest. Last is anticipation: not only anticipating threats to success, but having the forethought to take action on future obligations and opportunities before they arrive. As a business person, a solid grasp on these concepts can never be taken away from you, no matter the circumstances you are operating under. I hope you find this a comforting reality, should you personally be facing a transition within the work world.
The saying goes “Alaska is the world’s biggest small town.” When it comes to building a network within the business world in the 49th state, this statement wholeheartedly rings true. I have a strong belief that networking is not about what you can gain from other people, but what you can give. I network not only because it is something that I thoroughly enjoy, but because I find that the help I have created for others always comes back around in one way or another. My employees at the Fishe shop in Anchorage are constantly telling me of folks who come in and head out the door with a “Tell Linda I say hello! We know each other from…” I feel immensely grateful for my network both in and out of Alaska that has helped to float me across the boundary of my business transition and beyond. If you are facing a transition, in either your professional or private life, I cannot recommend enough the importance of leaning into your network.
Reinvention and Growth Mindset
I found that the most impactful moments of my life have occurred in the depths of reinvention. Stepping into the unknown is both an impetus for growth and a cure for stagnation. With an attitude that I can do anything I set my mind to, I am far more comfortable in the realm of the unknown, than if I rest on my laurels. Operating within this space leaves life outside of my comfort zone feeling like an old friend. It gives me a reason to consistently set new goals – often even loftier than those that preceded. From those often astronomically high goals, we work backwards to break such an intimidating task into attainable and realistic action items. My advice to you is to face change with celebration and optimism, instead of apprehension.
I hope that you, the human in the face of change, finds these three principles to be of help. In a period of economic history fraught with uncertainty, there is no better time than now to shore up your resilience by building transferable skills in the context of the work world.
As for what’s next for me, I will continue to lean into the assumption that change is the only constant in business. With that, I plan on continuing to operate outside of my comfort zone by expanding our product line to encompass warmer water species and new product categories. As for my other life goals? To catch a tarpon in Florida and to catch a sheefish on the fly in Alaska… I’m working on those!
To close, I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to Sadie Maubet and Laura Bruce for the invitation to share my thoughts on the APCM Wealth Management blog. Talk about exemplary cases of tenacious and dynamic businesswomen!