At the heart of any successful boss, manager or leader, is exceptional character. They guide with encouragement and compassion, learn from others, and constantly celebrate the work of their team. OnlineNW COO Eric Yeaple is a great leader.
Since 2006, Eric has been a valued member of the team. This month, he will embark on a life change as he and his family prepare for a brand new chapter outside of Oregon. As we wave goodbye to him and wish him good luck, we are seizing the opportunity to recognize and thank him for his time at OnlineNW.
Eric moved from Ohio to Oregon in the fall of 1999. He quickly found work, but it wasn’t until 2005 that he began to search for a position that would fulfill his genuine professional aspirations. He says, “I didn’t ever seek security, I wanted variety.” Eric described OnlineNW in the early days: a small telecom company established in the 90s, operating out of a residential basement space. There were maybe a dozen employees and a few hundred customers in the Yamhill valley area, and the company was hiring for a new field tech position. Eric applied, got the job, and started his first day of training on March 20th of 2006.
Reflecting on the earliest moments of Eric’s time at OnlineNW, CEO Kathy Tate says “After our interview, I had no doubt he would bring a breadth of experience and knowledge to our organization and that his character and abilities would be a huge asset. Of course, he exceeded my expectations and over the next 15 years he would become a great leader in our organization and help to shape every aspect of who we are today.”
Current OnlineNW field technician and tower climber Phil Lopez recalls training Eric in the early days. He says, “I can remember the first day and time I met Eric in Kathy’s office.” Phil described a mutual realization between him and Eric that they were quickly becoming best friends from day one. “We had some fun times while working and training that I’ll never forget.” Reminiscing on the early days, Phil told a story about one of his favorite moments working with Eric.
“It was a snowy day and he and I attempted to take a generator to the Lafayette tower during a power outage. We succeeded in the delivery of said generator, but did not succeed in the leaving of the tower in a timely manner. We proceeded to get my truck stuck in snow, in a very precarious location. We were stuck there all afternoon and well into the evening before a friend came up and was able to pull us out. One of the bright spots of the day, besides the view and good company, was meeting our little mouse friend—Mr. Bo Jangles.”
Phil says, “Trying to narrow down some of my favorite memories of working with Eric is definitely a hard thing to do. The list is endless to say the least.” Describing the value of his personal friendship with Eric outside of work, Phil says: “It’s not often you get to meet one of your best life friends at work. I’ve probably had more lunch dates on 3rd street with him and I sharing a cookie, than anybody else in my life.”
A few years into his position as a field tech, Eric was asked to fill a sales position after an injury on the field. This development of his position was unique, because he was operating both in the office as a sales representative, as well as outside in the field to perform corporate installs. Later, after he was promoted to operation’s officer, Kathy Tate became the CEO of OnlineNW and asked him if he would be interested in filling the chief operating officer position. He gladly accepted, securing his decade-long role as OnlineNW’s COO.
Eric regards this moment in his career as his biggest personal success at OnlineNW. He says that it was not only a huge growth opportunity, personally and professionally, but it was humbling and empowering to be recognized at this level. New work responsibilities prompted him to shift his outlook, especially to start thinking about things at a deeper capacity. He describes developing a growth mindset during this time, as his new position reminded him not to get comfortable and to constantly move forward through challenges. “Too often, people look at struggle as a bad thing,” Eric says. “But struggle is good, it forces you to grow. I always tell my girls, ‘life doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.’”
Reflecting on the dynamic evolution of his roles at OnlineNW, Eric said that the company has always reflected a deep consideration for the character and personal development of every staff member. “It is really indicative of our [company] culture,” he explained. “We believe in growth from within.”
Kathy’s decision to offer Eric the COO position was informed by years of observing his strength and commitment as a strategic and collaborative partner. She described Eric as always having a complete dedication to the company, employees and customers, stating: “He is one of the best examples of a compassionate leader that I have ever known. I have learned and benefited greatly from my time working alongside him.”
Looking back, Eric’s favorite part about working at OnlineNW was the people. He defines OnlineNW’s culture with three words: discipline, collaboration and curiosity. These are the foundational characteristics that all of the company’s developmental processes have operated by. “It’s what we write all of our hiring materials around,” Eric said, explaining that those three elements are hard-wired into the company philosophy. Alongside working with a great team and witnessing the successes of others, he described another favorite part of his day-to-day: that everyday’s an adventure. “It is really dynamic and there’s always so much going on,” he explained, applauding the interconnected work of every company division.
On that note, Eric remembered one of his favorite projects at the company, which included teamwork from every department. It was a creative, multi-platform sales initiative aimed at notifying our audience of our unlimited wireless plan. The office-wide collaboration was a reflection of the learning culture and bottom-up leadership structure at OnlineNW, which enabled people in all fields to work together, despite different areas of expertise and skill level. It is not unusual for the company to challenge its employees to do new things and learn from their environment. Eric says, it is to “provide [employee] opportunities for autonomy, mastery and purpose.”
Moving forward, Eric will fill a new position as a business development manager for a company in his home state, Ohio. He anticipates acclimating to a new organization and team, and discovering opportunities for his own personal and professional growth. His journey to Ohio will begin with a road trip just after his last day at OnlineNW on the 25th.
As Eric begins to exit his role at OnlineNW, he feels comfortable and confident passing the baton. “It felt like the right time for me to go,” he said, expressing respect for the company’s leadership team. Leaders like Danae Kelley, current OnlineNW operations manager, who will be taking on a majority of Eric’s COO responsibilities as he transitions out. Moreover, Eric expressed absolute gratitude for the people he worked with during his time at the company, and for all of the knowledge given to him by the OnlineNW team. “I stand on the shoulders of giants.”
As we say our goodbyes to Eric, we will miss him dearly. Kathy says, “I am thankful for every day that I was able to work beside him and he has done an excellent job in setting us up for success after he is gone.” Looking to the future, she says: “I am proud to be able to continue growing the company using the foundations that he and I have built side by side. I know that Eric and I will remain lifelong friends and I am eager to share all the successes he will have in his next chapter.” Phil expressed his farewell with a quote from one of him and Eric’s favorite movie scenes, Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption: “I guess I just miss my friend.”
Taking what we learned from Eric’s leadership at OnlineNW, we will continue to hire team-oriented individuals based on their character, as well as focus on the important opportunities ahead of us such as impacting our local communities and levelling up the rural connections of our service areas. From all of us at OnlineNW, we thank Eric for his time and dedication as a valued company leader, a visionary collaborator and a great friend. We wish you the best.