White Center Glass’ Abby Fisher Says the Best Way to Advance To a Leadership Role Is to Make Yourself Invaluable

She also stresses that a leader must learn to ‘first be a good listener’ and to then communicate effectively
Updated: Thu, 03/26/2020 - 15:59

Abby Fisher may have been the beneficiary of a well-planned small-business succession plan, but she also recognizes the future is not guaranteed to any person or business. That means Fisher is focused on preserving and expanding the legacy she has inherited as the president and owner of White Center Glass, which provides greater Seattle homeowners and small businesses with window repair/replacement, shower door, fireplace, glass and tabletop installation services.

Fisher’s mother, Fern Falaschi, purchased the company in 2004, and Fisher took over ownership in 2018. Under her leadership, the company, founded in 1965, has experienced steady sales growth, averaging 14.5% per year. Fisher describes her growth formula for the 10-employee company as follows: “Take risks while not putting the bottom-line at peril.”

Fisher, now a resident of Burien, grew up in West Seattle and places a high value on community involvement and networking. She chairs the board of directors at the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, is currently a chapter president for Business Network International as well as a member of Discover Burien and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Fisher also cherishes spending time with her husband and children, particularly traveling when possible, and is the proud mother of a U.S. Marine.

What are the most important characteristics of a good leader and what leadership traits are overrated? Recognize that to communicate effectively, you must first be a good listener. Then, learn to speak to each person in the way they "hear you.” Each person takes in info differently. I’ve been told leaders are fearless. That’s not true. Through preparation and by building a safety net, you can appear fearless, but I’ll never allude to being fearless.

As a woman, what is the most significant barrier to becoming a leader? As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I find that you have to fight to be viewed as legitimate. Some people still carry assumptions about the types of work women do and don’t do. The truth of the matter: I’ve been in the glass industry longer than my lead technicians.

How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations? Take on tasks and responsibilities and execute them with proficiency. Make yourself invaluable on the next project.

What key lessons did you learn from a woman who has inspired, mentored or sponsored you? My mother, Fern Falaschi, was the previous owner of White Center Glass. While working together, she taught me crucial business lessons. She coached me through the ownership transition and showed me how to take risks while not putting my bottom line at peril. Her role was key. She helped me learn what it means to be an effective leader.

What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders? Do not ever let someone tell you what you are worth.

How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts? Networking is vital, not only to growing your business but sustaining your business. Word of mouth can only take you so far. I leverage my relationships within BNI [the Business Network International] and the West Seattle and Metropolitan Chambers of Commerce. I’ve taken on leadership roles and continually expand my sphere of contacts. In that way, I continue to acquire new clients. 

What would you do differently in your career? I would have learned, earlier in my career, to triage issues and delegate tasks.

Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon? In the kitchen. I meal prep for the week so I can spend as much time as possible with my children.

What would be the title of your autobiography? “Measures of Success — Meals from a Business Mom.” I'd write a cookbook with stories and quips. The cover art would be a Pyrex measuring cup with cash, a cellphone and keys hanging out.

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