top of page

Leanne Watson is the Head of Talent Acquisition at H2O Care Partners where she helps find talent for their entrepreneur partners. Before she joined H2O Care, Leanne wasn’t sure she was the right fit for the job opportunity. One conversation with the CEO Keith Caldwell quickly changed her mind. She recognized the value of the partnerships H2O Care was building and the importance of matching the right talent with the right opportunity and in the right culture for their overall success.

H2O Care Partners is building a premier network of residential water treatment companies through strategic and empowering partnerships.  H2O CP’s first partner, H2O Care, has 3 Massachusetts locations and has provided full-service, innovative, and reliable water testing and treatment systems to clients for over 30 years.

Transcript

Introduction

Leanne Watson: I remember being a little kid and I remember being outside and I think somebody had fell or scraped their knee or something and I just immediately ran to their aid, made sure they're okay. I actually went into my parents’ bathroom. I remember getting like the surgical like bandages that are super giant.

You know it was just a scrape but I just wanted to make sure that they were okay, but more importantly I sat there and I listened. I let them cry. I let them talk about how angry they were because I think they ruined their scooter or whatever. And that was when I knew and I think I was honestly probably like eight or nine years old so I knew at a very young age that I was absolutely meant to help people.

Didn't know what that looked like. Tried multiple avenues and it all led me here.

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Everyday Heroes, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the people who are building our companies from the inside, every day, often out of the spotlight.

With this series, we want to pull those heroes out of the shadows. We want to hear their stories. We want to share their stories. We want to understand what drives them, why they do what they do, how they might inspire and support others to become everyday heroes too.

In this episode, I talk with Leanne Watson, the Head of Talent Acquisition at H2O Care Partners.

Leanne Watson: My name is Leanne Watson.

I'm originally from Southern California and wow, fun facts about me. I'm ambidextrous. I know a lot of people don't think that I am, but I can write with both hands. I have a rescue beagle; her name is Gidget. She is amazing. She's about 13, but still has the spirits of a puppy. She's my everything. So, we go on lots of runs and hikes together.

My siblings and my nieces and nephews are still out in California. My parents are actually retired living in Lake Erie.

Anderson Williams: And where are you based?

Leanne Watson: So, I kind of split my time between Buffalo, New York currently, and then Pittsburgh as well.

Anderson Williams: So that's a pretty far cry from California. How did we end up in Buffalo and Pittsburgh from California?

Leanne Watson: So, I actually went to Penn State. So 'We Are!' for all the Penn Staters out there. My uncles all went there. They took me to a football game. Absolutely, I love sports. So fell in love with it. And I knew that's where I wanted to be. So packed up my stuff and shipped out and I ended up moving to Pittsburgh for work and then I found someone and now we live in Buffalo and we split our time between our Pittsburgh and Buffalo homes.

Culture is Crucial

Anderson Williams: So that I had a little more context, I asked the CEO of H2O Care Partners, Keith Caldwell, who nominated Leanne as an everyday hero, to describe the company and to give me a little bit of a sense of what it means to be the head of talent acquisition there.

Keith Caldwell: H2O Care Partners is a shared resource platform where we partner with leading water treatment, entrepreneurs and businesses across the United States. And provide resources to help them continue to grow, whether it's support of finance and accounting side, marketing, technician recruiting, or across, you know, sort of any other of the key functions. So, Leanne has a really challenging job where she acts as a partner to each of our different businesses who are in different markets and slightly different specialization areas.

And her goal is to understand exactly what makes those companies tick and what the culture is like and what the job is going to be like day to day for a technician. And her goal is to be a resource to these business leaders to help attract the best talent to these organizations. Because at the end of the day, you know, water treatment, like many other industries it's all about the people, and at the end of the day, technicians are the lifeblood, right, of our businesses.

And it's them that are out servicing the customer and working as hard as they can every day to provide the right water treatment solutions for homeowners or small businesses across the United States.

And Leanne makes it her mission every day to serve our customers, our business leaders, our great water treatment entrepreneurs. And if she can help make these partners 10%, 20% better at recruiting, that's what's going to help our businesses win at the end of the day.

Anderson Williams: Keith mentioned the importance of culture, and Leanne doubled down on it, and why it's so important specifically in how she does her work and supports their partners.

Leanne Watson: Culture is something that's super, super crucial when it comes to adding any kind of talent. And the best part about our platform is, you know, what may work in, let's say New England, for example, might not work in the Midwest or in the South. So, we're able to really just try different strategies and different opportunities to where when we all come back together, we're able to share best practices and creates, I call it a standard, but customizable playbook.

And I think that's something that's super, super unique in what I've seen in my career, because we're not trying to have them fit our model. We're creating our model based off of each of our partners. And it really just is a true testament to everyone I've come in contact with all the business leaders.

I think the one constant factor is going to be collaboration. We're always, always just communicating with each other and really helping to identify what's going to make us the best of the best. And the most important thing is all of these business leaders truly, truly wholeheartedly believe that their talent is everything to their business.

And so, they'll do whatever it takes.

Intergenerational Opportunity

Anderson Williams: In our conversation around culture and the importance of matching talent to culture, Leanne specifically mentioned the fact that the partners that make up H2O Care are often made up of intergenerational teams. I know from my own experience that this is a lot more than whether or not you like technology or use it well.

It's just not that simple. So, I asked Leanne to say more about what that looks like for her work and what the opportunities and challenges are of an intergenerational workforce.

I want to ask a little bit more about that, Leanne, in terms of the intergenerational workforce conversation, because I think that's a conversation we don't have enough of. And when we do, we often are stereotyping or blaming Gen. whatever, for their shortcomings.

Talk to me a little bit from this talent acquisition standpoint, as well as this culture, how you think about that multigenerational workforce, and what are some of the opportunities and challenges that you see within H2O Care Partners for that intergenerational and multigenerational workforce?

Leanne Watson: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. I think we hear that quite often just in our community alone, let alone, you know, talent acquisition, always trying to blame a different quote unquote generation. So, I'll start with the opportunity there is when we bring on, you know, the next generation of talent, for example, and this is something that again, our business leaders on our platform have done a tremendous job at.

It's really empowering those who have been in the industry for decades now to essentially share their gift and to create a space where they can be trained and pass on all the knowledge and customer service that they've been doing for the past 20, 30 years. So that's a wonderful opportunity. We're always valuing our talent's opinion.

Now the challenge with that is not everybody usually agrees, right? And that's a natural human response. You'll get the initial gut reaction frustrations of, oh, they're not doing it right the first time. And you know, we're not doing it the right way or the way that I did it, you know, back in the nineties.

And the way to combat that or embrace that is, yes, you're absolutely right. But let's focus on the beauty of that. You know, the materials are different. The way that we learn things and execute are a lot different than it was back in the nineties. So instead of just creating that natural pushback, let's take a step back and just embrace change.

You know, change is just inevitable to all things in life. And to again, create that space for our older generations that, hey, it's okay. Things change. We're going to adapt. We're going to adapt with you, but it's also an opportunity for you to give back because when you joined, you know, the company 20, 30 years ago, you knew that you wanted to be developed properly. So now let’s give that same opportunity to the new people coming in.

Natural Calmness

Anderson Williams: I don't know if you've heard it as clearly as I experienced it in the interview, but I had to pause to share some feedback with Leanne as I was struck by the first few minutes of our conversation.

You seem Leanne to have a natural calmness and sense of perspective about you. Is that an accurate early observation?

And if so, where does that come from?

Leanne Watson: It is. It comes from just again, being very blessed and being raised well, you know, kudos to my parents for instilling that in me. You know, at the end of the day, life happens. And if it was predictable, it would be called life. You're going to be faced with a multitude of challenges and adversities.

And at the end of the day, you cross that bridge when you get there and you identify what could go wrong. But you also don't harp on it. And so being calm, I've overcome a lot of, uh, a lot of hurdles in my own lifetime and my own career. And I'm still here, you know, I'm having a conversation with you and that's something to be proud of.

And that's something to take joy in every single day. And that's what I like to express to everyone I come in contact with that, hey, it's going to be okay.

Anderson Williams: This sort of calm and perspective is invaluable in any entrepreneurial venture, but I wondered how it impacted Leanne's particular approach and success in talent acquisition.

Leanne Watson: I think the fun part for me, because I never work, you know, I love what I do. So, the most fun part every day is just really recognizing that every person is different. No matter whose company name I say, no matter what their titles are, what they're looking to accomplish, I'm able to really peel back the layer and figure out what's important for them.

So, I do, I have my own set of questions, but really the first question is, how can I help you today? What are you looking for? Why are we having this conversation? I don't care what's on your resume. Not that I don't care, but I don't, in all honesty. What I care about is what makes you tick. Who are you doing this for?

 

What are you doing this for? And then we can together figure out if this particular role that we're recruiting for or sourcing for will be a good fit.

Trust But Verify

Anderson Williams: So, I was curious, how does someone in talent acquisition get acquired as talent? I wanted to know how Leanne got to H2O Care Partners in the first place.

So, I'm curious to go back in the story a little bit and hear about what brought you to H2O Care in the first place. And what was it about that particular opportunity that fit what you were looking for?

Leanne Watson: Yeah, the beauty of a five-to-ten-minute conversation. It's kind of how I get candidates to talk to me.

I actually had someone LinkedIn message me saying, hey, got this company I'm recruiting for. I have no idea if you're going to be a good fit. But if you want to upload your resume, it'll kind of give us the result of it. And again, you know, being in the field, you're kind of a little bit are skeptical. Is this an, you know, MLM scheme kind of thing, but I did, you know, why not?

So, I did. And I remember getting the results and in the subject line said, your resume matched perfectly and somebody will be in touch quickly. And again, perfect is an absolute, you know, 100%. All right, I guess I'll take your phone call, but I'm not really in a good headspace for that. So, I got the phone call and he did, he explained the company, what it was all about.

But more importantly, he really just deep dove into number one, the CEO and who he was, where he came from, and kind of what the expectation was for this role. And then two also really explained just Shore, right? How they were just backed by them. And I knew the name coming from finance, you know, and I was just like, okay, I know of the name, which is a good sign.

So, we did that, had a great conversation. And immediately I was just intrigued. And I went to Google Shore Capital and I knew about microcap and all the portfolio companies, but most importantly, what caught my eye was just that level of support, you know, the website and just the reviews and things like that.

And the next phone call was Keith was our CEO and was just absolutely just an amazing phone call. Cause again, you know, when you're meeting those types of higher ups and you're not the smartest person in the room, you really don't know what to expect, but to really feel that, yes, it's going to be hard work and the expectation is super high, but to also for him to understand that we're still human beings and I'm here to support you in whatever you need.

That was a really, really big turning point for me. And I think we're both excited after that. So, it was just, yeah, it was absolutely phenomenal. The rest is history from there and so happy to be here.

Anderson Williams: So, I love that in the context of your sort of calm and presence that you showed me a little skepticism there as well, maybe some cynicism in the process.

But quickly, it sounds like got to a place where you made some personal connections and some value and culture kinds of connections in those conversations.

Leanne Watson: Absolutely. Trust but verify, right? That's the name of the game.

True Impact

Anderson Williams: It's clear that Leanne and Keith made a powerful connection pretty quickly, and that has continued to play out in their work together.

But Leanne's sort of personal philosophy around connecting and supporting people extends beyond her job. She has invested countless hours in the Pittsburgh Young Professionals Group, so I wanted her to share why that work was so important to her.

I know that you've been really active, including serving as the President for the Pittsburgh Young Professionals Group.

Will you just say about how that fits into this story and this perspective and why that work is so important to you?

Leanne Watson: Yes, yes. Shameless plug. Um, yeah, if you're living in Pittsburgh, you're planning on moving there, highly recommend this organization. So, I first moved to Pittsburgh in 2014 and just wanted to make some friends, do a little bit of networking, again, new environment.

And did a quick Google search, found this organization, and went to an event and loved it. In the first year, I went from member to being placed on the board of directors. And then I actually led as president for a few years after that. I also see myself as a servant leader. I always want to be part of something where I can give back to the community.

And I always make it a point to leave something better than I found it. And when I first joined the board, there was just so many opportunities to really grow the organization and really, again, make a really big impact in the Pittsburgh area. So, during my presidency, you know, I mean, I was the first African American woman to be the president of the organization.

We are the oldest young professionals networking organization in the country. So that speaks volumes. And I actually served as president during the pandemic and that came with its own challenges. You know, it is a mainly social networking organization, and we're still here with. The highest membership numbers I think we've ever had.

So, it's awesome. It's very sad to be leaving, but I'm just very proud of this board that's coming on and they're going to do such an amazing job, but I definitely do, like I said, strive to be in the community, to make a true impact and to just show people that they can do it, that they can be part of something bigger and be happy to serve.

Her Proudest Moment

Anderson Williams: So, when you think about your journey from California to Pittsburgh and Buffalo and through finance and into H2O Care Partners, that work in the community, this sense of personal philosophy that clearly, deeply guides you and roots you in the decisions you make and how you approach the world around you. What have you accomplished, Leanne, that you're most proud of?

Leanne Watson: Is it cheesy to say this moment right here, Anderson? I'm not sure.

Anderson Williams: If that's it, let's roll with it.

Leanne Watson: Yeah. Right. No, in all honesty, it's my whole career. It is such a huge accomplishment. There's a reason why I like to learn a new industry, you know, and really just be a voice for the people that I'm offering these opportunities to.

It's such a huge accomplishment to be recognized. And to be heard, that was always the next step before I joined this team was I, I wanted to be in a place where I can not only obviously hire people and hit metrics because I, you know, selfishly, I'm good at that, but, um, on the flip side, just having an opportunity to be heard, be valued, and support it.

So, it's so amazing. And I'll tell you even, you know, at our board meetings, you know, in Chicago at Shore and being in a room where these are the best of the best. These are, these are the moguls. These are the goats. I think the young kids now call it just being in that room full of the best of the best.

And for them to just look at me and hear me and take into everything that I've learned and to the insight that I'm given. That is such, such a huge humbling and proud moment. And I can't wait for the next step. I know that we're just going to go so far.

Anderson Williams: Leanne Watson is an everyday hero whose superpower is her sense of calm amid the hustle of a startup or the challenges in everyday life.

Leanne uses that calm to help ensure the right people get matched to the right opportunity and the right culture, a match that can help transform a life and accelerate a business.

If you enjoyed this episode, check out our other Everyday Heroes at www.shorecp.university/podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. There you will also find our other series Microcap Moments and Bigger. Stronger. Faster., each exploring the people and processes that make the micro-cap space unique.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing, and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Leanne Watson and Keith Caldwell.

This podcast is the property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice. An offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the Terms of Use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

bottom of page