Any company can say, “We make it easy,” but when Chris Daigle, President and Founder of Winterberry Irrigation, or Matt Faherty, the company’s Manager of Business Development makes this promise, you immediately sense that they really do have your back.
According to Chris, “You sometimes work with a golf course superintendent who voices concerns about the dynamics of a job site. I always respond by saying, ‘Don’t worry about how hard a task is. Just tell us what you need done and the manufacturers you’d like us to use, and we will make it happen. We are here to execute your vision.”
This willingness to tackle the task, meet the deadline and deliver the job well done, whether the need is for installations, maintenance, refurbishments, pumps, GPS mapping, wire tracking or water audits, are no doubt some of the many reasons Winterberry Irrigation has an ever-expanding list of satisfied clients.
Growing at Precisely the Right Pace
With offices throughout Connecticut, Winterberry serves the irrigation needs of golf courses and athletic fields. The company’s many projects include the historic eighteen-hole Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Connecticut, the year-round Montaup Country Club overlooking Mt. Hope Bay in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. At The Greenbrier in West Virginia, Winterberry has completed work on The Old White TPC and is currently under contract working on The Greenbrier Course.
Although sports fields weren’t the company’s initial target clientele, expanding into this niche and providing irrigation services, such as those at the 60-acre sports field complex at Marshfield High School (MA) and the athletic fields at Yale University, helped Winterberry continue to grow, despite the economic downturn of 2008.
Originally intending to focus solely on Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the company soon found its motto evolving from “Serving the Tri State area” to “Serving New England” to an expanded commitment of “Serving the East Coast.” As word of Winterberry Irrigation’s reliable service continues to spread, requests come in from around the country and across the globe, leaving the company’s management wondering if its message will soon be one of serving the nation or even the world.
In fact, Winterberry Irrigation’s executives are choosing to grow at a calculated pace. They are strategically selecting upcoming projects so that current jobs are never compromised and so the company can ensure that the owners can be on job sites with their fingers on the pulse of every project. Chris calls it a “boots on the ground” approach to business.
Corporate Culture Built on Family Values
Despite his company’s continuing growth, Chris remains a man with his feet planted firmly on well-irrigated ground. “Our company is built on family values,” he explained. “My amazing wife of twenty-one years and I are raising our three little boys, ages five, eight and ten. The hours in this business can be long, and there’s a need to be away from home more than I’d like.
“It’s tough to be in this business and support family values. But our commitment to family values is just as important as our steadfast commitment to our clients; it speaks to character and is reflected in our corporate culture.”
Chris added, “Here’s a simple example of how we walk our talk. During our work on the golf courses at The Greenbrier, one of our guys was concerned about being far from home on his son’s twenty-first birthday. We told him to get on a plane and go home; we’d see him in a few days.
“We are a team. We all picked up the slack and never faltered in the high standard of workmanship we were providing our client. Our customers are critically important, and so are birthdays shared with your children.”
In spite of the challenges of supporting a family values commitment, you can still find representatives from the Winterberry crew on the job, seven days a week. Chris observed that Christmas might be the only day all year that you won’t find at least a few of the company’s employees at work. “We understand that clients have emergencies and that our responsiveness is important to their bottom line. That means sometimes we’re working on the Fourth of July or other holidays.”
No doubt having many services in-house makes it easier for Winterberry Irrigation to mobilize quickly and respond to the needs of its clients as well as to deliver seamless service while on the job site. The company’s experienced and well-trained team includes licensed electricians and plumbers, a full estimation department and a strong administrative staff. Personnel for the irrigation company is just over fifty workers, but company-wide, there are approximately 180 Winterberry employees in various specialty areas, including its landscaping and garden companies.
Winterberry also owns its own pump company, has over fifteen years of experience in welding HDPE piping and does all its own GPS mapping. “Our CAD renderings are highly accurate,” Matt said. “We invested in state-of-the-art equipment and have implemented a GNSS system paired with AutoCAD software that allows for the creation of accurate as-built drawings to provide our clients the precision they need to locate all the irrigation items on their project. Golf Course Superintendents and their staff can use our mapping to actually find their heads and boxes.”
Is This Your Job or Your Career?
In 2016, Winterberry Irrigation invested nearly $20,000 in training for its employees. Every employee participates in weekly safety training; they have a minimum of ten hours of OSHA training and the foreman has completed thirty hours. On the job, all crew members wear uniforms, safety goggles and high-visibility shirts and vests. While this type of financial commitment to ongoing education and safety training for workers is typical for Winterberry, it is not the norm at most companies this size.
Chris, who has been in the irrigation business since his first part-time job at the age of sixteen, tells his team that their work at Winterberry is not a job, it’s a career. “If you don’t see it as a career, then you need to collect your pay and move on,” he explained. “We pay people fairly and treat them well. We don’t cut corners. As a result, I think we have special people, some of the most talented people in the business.”
How Can We Help?
Following the historic flooding in June 2016 that caused widespread damage throughout West Virginia and resulted in the cancellation of The Greenbrier Classic, Matt contacted Kelly Shumate, who is responsible for oversight of the courses at The Greenbrier. In the wake of the destruction wrought by the 1000-year flood, he asked Kelly, “How can we help?”
Chris immediately made the ten-hour drive from Connecticut to West Virginia, apologizing to his wife, saying, “Honey, I’ve got to go.”
As it turned out, the Winterberry Irrigation team was at The Greenbrier throughout the summer of 2016 and still has a crew on the job there today. To make their employees more comfortable during the extended time away from their homes and families in Connecticut, Winterberry rented a private home and tried to rotate their teams in two-week shifts. If it’s true that how a company treats its employees is a reflection of how it treats customers, then Winterberry Irrigation’s clients are in excellent hands.
Building a Legacy
Chris admits he has no way of knowing if any of his three young sons will someday carry on the family business, but the reflective tone of his words communicates that he would be pleased if they did.
He clearly recognizes, however, that his efforts today define the legacy he will leave for the future. He is adamant that Winterberry Irrigation be recognized as a company that sticks to its quotes, that is careful not to take work away from the irrigation consultant on a job and that pays a fair wage, upholds union guidelines, provides accurate payroll records, stands behind its work, plays by the rules and seeks always to overdeliver on its promises.
Find out more about Winterberry Irrigation at www.winterberryirrigation.com.