Ray was hired to wrangle Ecotrust’s numbers and he did that well. But Ray’s legacy here found its roots in the deep caring that he felt for his coworkers.
There were many reasons why Ray was not the obvious candidate for Senior Staff Accountant at Ecotrust in 2003. He came to us with a traditional “for-profit” background from the East Coast. He did not have an extensive professional background in social equity, conservation, or economic development. But with the benefit of hindsight, Ray was just the right person at just the right time.
Ray took to Ecotrust like a duck to water. He successfully navigated the challenges of an organization that valued “tolerance of ambiguity” — a value that rarely sits easily with those tasked with the important work of balancing the books, making sure everyone gets paid on time, and managing complex intercompany transactions. He brought to the job deep reservoirs of patience, tenacity, and good humor. And in a complex, busy workplace where urgent things sometimes arose at the last moment, Ray always got the job done. Even when that meant spending a Saturday at the office — probably too many of those!
Ray’s primary job at Ecotrust was making sure we were keeping track of the money coming in and going out. But as is the case with finance and accounting positions in most small companies, he wore multiple hats. Ray was also tasked with many of the human resources functions at the organization, and this is where Ray’s compassion and creativity found fertile ground that positively impacted both his contemporaries and all the Ecotrust staff that came after him. Here are just two examples.
When Ray came to Ecotrust, the organization had a medical benefit that paid a set percentage of the cost of insurance premiums for employees. This was (and is) a fairly standard model. Ray observed that while it was an “equal” benefit across the organization it wasn’t a “fair” benefit because the people with the lowest salaries paid a higher percentage of their wages for health insurance premiums. Ray helped guide the organization to a new graduated model in which the benefit was inversely related to salary and Ecotrust paid the full cost of insurance premiums for entry level positions. This novel “un-equal” approach to benefits was fairer and better reflected Ecotrust’s values.
Ray joined Ecotrust later in his career. Maybe this partially explained his tireless evangelism for 401(k) plans. All new employees had an initial benefits meeting with Ray. None of them escaped that initial meeting without a discussion of the power of compound interest and the importance of starting to save for retirement NOW. For those right out of college, this could be a startling conversation. But Ray didn’t stop with education and encouragement. Ray knew that not everyone could afford to set aside 6% of their salary to earn the 6% match that Ecotrust would contribute to a staff member’s retirement plan. Under Ray’s encouragement, the policy was changed to a 3% grant and a 3% match. In this way, employees at all levels start saving for retirement as soon as they join Ecotrust.
Ray’s warmth, dedication, and kindness made him much beloved during his time at Ecotrust, and he was also the rare person who found things like insurance premium co-pays and 401(k) matching policies interesting and important. And Ray understood that “God is in the details.” That, coupled with his hard work, creativity, sense of fairness, and caring, means that even staff who never met Ray will benefit from his efforts into the future.
Thank you, Ray. We miss you.