The old saying about good things coming to those who wait is only partially true for Leslie Beard. She already had a good thing, she said; that was being hired not long after college as a customer service representative at WIN Energy REMC in 2000. But she was a marketing graduate, and that’s what she really wanted to pursue.
She then patiently waited, learning all about the cooperative business and WIN Energy REMC’s consumers, moving next into the billing department. Finally, after 10 years, a marketing position was created at the southwestern Indiana electric cooperative. Beard applied and was offered the new position.
Fast forward 10 more years to December 2020: After supplementing her past education and experiences with a master’s degree in business administration and many other leadership and personal growth opportunities the REMC offered, Beard was promoted to the chief operating officer.
“Once I got into the cooperative,” she recalled, “I realized this is a really great place to work. I believed in the business model, and the values, and what we do. And even though I wanted to be in that marketing position, the time that I spent in customer service and the billing department made me better suited for the marketing position. I learned a lot and was able to apply what I learned.”
Working in customer service and billing through the 2000s, Beard was able to apply what she learned at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. But the most important thing those experiences provided, she noted, was the opportunity to learn all the moving parts of the electric utility.
“If I would have gone right into a marketing position, I would not have had the knowledge and background to be as successful as I was with having that previous experience,” she said. “Timing is everything in our industry. We don’t have a lot of turnover, and so sometimes waiting pays off.”
Once she started in marketing in 2010 as a one-person department, she was able to use her deeper understanding of the business to better connect with consumers. Five years later, her role grew dramatically when she was promoted to director of marketing and member services. In that position, she directed and supervised 13 employees in the billing, member services, marketing, purchasing, and warehousing departments.
Rounding out her first year in the COO position, Beard looks back fondly on her previous roles and how they helped her get to where she is now. “You have to work toward where you want to be, and it takes time. But it’s definitely been good for me.”