After thirty eight years as one of Brinkman’s top supervisors and division managers, in 2016 we said “bon voyage” to Fred Schutter and his wife and life partner Brigitte, as they sailed happily into Fred’s well-earned retirement. Dirk and Joyce hosted a farewell party complete with songs and speeches and libations in September after the company AGM. Here’s an excerpt from Dirk’s speech, which true-to-form celebrates the intermingling of business and friendship that has made Brinkman a family affair for decades:
Fred, our original arguments about company protocols and practices ultimately formed the ground of reforestation as a business. These debates ranged from the question of what a supervisor should operationally decide independent of the CEO/office, to what makes sense as policy and should be strategically shared with all crews, vs what remains a question of preference. We argued for so many hours in so much detail that thirty years later much of it is lost in lore because now that is just how you do it.
But I want you to hear that I acknowledge how deeply and powerfully you contributed to the company’s and the industry’s best operating practices. These balances still guides the collective governance balance between the remote project manager and roaming regional manager. You helped make ours the most effective organization in treeplanting.
And you showed other project managers how. For decades, you and your brother Bob ran our most profitable reforestation crew. Your discipline of optimizing every planter’s production every hour every day drove the highest planter earnings and maintained the highest planter loyalty. Your professional focus on prioritizing quality and client service above all anchored two long term regional relationships, still key to our BC reforestation season. Your system and disciplined practices created work continuity for our long term planters through many corporate ownership changes and radical restructuring of the clients’ forestry divisions – amazingly your system has sustained our relationship through almost forty years of these changes.
This business journey has been a life journey, a journey of friendship and, yes, sometimes one of conflict. Issues sorted themselves out and the friendship remains. Through the Schutters we learned the importance of an extended family. Your and Brigitte’s and Martin’s friendship with Joyce and I and each of our kids will endure, and we hope you will always be a part of our family.
Most of all, for those who do not know how true you have been to your name, this account illustrates you are a true Schutter. What is a Schutter? A Schutter is a Guard, a Guardian. You have been a guardian for all of us, guarding what we value most: how to trust each other.
Dirk’s speech was followed by a celebratory rap and toast from Baba, who marked the occasion with some custom lyricism about Fred’s contribution to the company and Brinkman community. Here’s an excerpt from the rap:
Costa Rica was Brinkman's first international wave of expansion
Freddy was made for this challenge, but what really attracted him?
Was it the tactical action or the waves on the beach crashin'?
Or the chance to live like Pablo Escobar in a hilltop mansion?
An incomparable palace
With a Kootenay twist on Central American stylish
The perfect staging ground for cutting deals with Terra Vitalis
Along with the team: Ricardo, Diego
The three amigos, the "Parrita Pendejos"
Who converted the ranches of Costa Rican cattlemen
Into rich habitats that local species inhabited
Freddy the entrepreneur, clever and passionate
Transformed the land from grass to timber stands on it
Yes, Freddy’s earned some downtime and deserves thanks
But I keep expecting him to admit this is just a prank
I've never known this company without Fred at the centre workin'
And I don't really identify him as a restful person
He's energetic and mentally with it and extroverted
Which is how every crisis that comes across his desk gets averted
I can't exactly picture him chillin' in a hammock
Unless it's dipped in a freezing creek, or something similarly drastic
He's a friend and an inspiration, so I can't wait to see what's next