Kelly Olson, the first woman President of Western States Equipment Company, addressed the business community at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Speaker Series luncheon on December 12, 2022, at the Riverside Hotel in Garden City.
After working for Albertson's in the accounting department, Olson began her role as President in 2018. She shared her favorite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which she has carried with her for most of her career:
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Kelly spoke about the Western States' purpose: "Building our communities for a better tomorrow" and said the company's focus on caring is significant. She said that caring extends beyond the pandemic and that they strive to make caring for others one main focus of their business.
Olson highlighted three unique and exciting things about Western States. First, the company gives their employees eight hours of "VTO" per year, which is paid "volunteer time off." She shared a video of some of Western States employees' volunteer work in the region, including building a pathway to Zoo Idaho. They also supported "Mini Joys," a nonprofit outreach that uses gentle miniature horses and big-hearted volunteers to bring joy and hope to those struggling.
Second, the company has an exciting "Cat Command" remote operator technology, where an equipment operator is not physically inside the equipment but can operate it remotely from anywhere in the world. This option makes operating heavy machinery far safer in high-risk situations.
Finally, Kelly discussed Western States Equipment's intense and innovative "Technician Academy," which is the only program accredited by the Association of Equipment Distributors. The nine-month education program is filled by nine students at a time, followed by a two-month internship. Olson said this program has been instrumental in creating a skilled workforce and was built through partnerships with local high schools. A competitive scholarship opportunity is available to offset the $5,000 tuition. When WSE Technician Academy students graduate from the program, technicians will be at the "apprentice" skill level and are ready to enter the workforce. If the students opt to stay with WSE, they can participate in a nine-year WSE Technician Career Development Program, which continues technicians' development and education.
An audience member asked Kelly what she gets excited about when she thinks ahead to the coming year. "I get excited about growth and technology," Olson responded.
This CEO Speaker Series was made possible by sponsors Bank of America, Western States Equipment, Blue Cross of Idaho and Idaho Business Review.
Speakers for the 2023 Boise Metro Chamber CEO Speaker Series will be announced early in 2023.