Esther’s Story

Categories: Shop Talk

Interview with Recent Retiree, Esther Finn

As many employees and customers know, Esther Finn retired from Catalyst Powertrain in the fall 0f 2020. A few months into her retirement, we wanted to ask her about her time with us. As one with institutional knowledge, her perspectives and insights about the company are invaluable.

How did you get started at Catalyst Powertrain?

I was hired as a secretary. When I arrived, I discovered the duties were answering the phones, doing the bookkeeping, and handling invoicing – all the basics. Then I moved into doing all that plus parts, which included managing the inventory and the purchasing. At that time, there were two owners, Dave and Mike. There were two mechanics and me. It was a five-person operation, so I did everything that had to do with the office. As we grew, I took more and more sales calls and sold products, did quotes, a little bit of everything, you could say.

It’s rare today for anyone to stay with an organization for the bulk of their careers. What was it about Catalyst Powertrain that compelled you to stay so long?

I worked at Catalyst Powertrain (then, the company name was US Transmissions) for 29 years, and most of those were spent working with Dave. For a long time, it was a small operation. Dave doesn’t treat people like an employee; he treats you like a friend. So I worked with a good friend and I really felt like we were in it together.

What will you miss the most?

The people. No one ever misses “working” but I totally miss the people. And the customers – I have made friends with them over the phone. You get to find out about their lives and they about yours. When I was sick, a customer sent me flowers – these are all good people. 

I loved talking to people. Even now, I still have numbers for customers who stay in touch, so this was always more than just a job. Real friendships happen at Catalyst Powertrain – on the employee and customer side. It’s wonderful and I miss those connections.

Customers and employees say you were a driving force at Catalyst Powertrain. You are a big part of the legacy. What can others do to carry on your legacy?

I am not a driving force – I always just cared about all the employees. If there was anything to be said or done, I was there. If there is anything to carry on, it’s what is already there: people first, definitely. 

If people aren’t happy, the business isn’t in good shape. Most of the employees there now only knew me as the gal at the front desk. As the company grew, we hired people that took some of the roles off my plate. They probably didn’t know at one time I did all those things – selling parts, building quotes, handling the books and phones – juggling all those things. 

As some of my duties diminished and others were hired on, I was able to spend more time talking with people and connecting with them. I loved that! And the employees always made a point of taking time out just enjoying each other socially. We would make it a point to have lunch ordered in for birthdays, which happened probably once a month. Then we did just spur-of-the-moment things like bar-b-ques. All these things make it so it’s not just a daily drudge at work. So we had a treat at least once a month on the company which was a nice break.

What advice do you have for new employees?

To not be afraid to speak up if you see something. Talk to people – they will always listen. Maybe they won’t always agree, but they won’t shut you down, and that is important. They want to hear everyone’s point of view and it is a safe place to speak up. For example, if you speak your mind but Dave doesn’t agree, he’ll let you know, but you will have a chance to voice your thoughts/opinions. Not many companies or company leaders want to know what employees think.

What do you hope for Catalyst Powertrain’s future?

I just want it to flourish and grow. I want to see them hire more people and continue to take care of the employees. When I started, there was no 401k, but as soon as Dave could, he implemented that. He has never let anyone down – he really truly wants the best for them, it’s not about “this is my company” – it’s about success for everyone. He wants everyone to do well.

We at Catalyst Powertrain are so grateful Esther chose to spend her time with us, and for her selfless contributions that helped grow this company from five employees to over twenty. Her warmth and kindness is something we keep in mind with every phone call and every customer visit. Thank you, Esther, for leaving such a good legacy behind. From all of us at the company, we wish you well and we hope you are enjoying your retirement!