This was not the usual request for vacation time. When she joined Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles, Financial Operations Manager Mary Rose informed me that at some point she'd need about three months off to row a boat across the Pacific Ocean. All by herself.
For a lot of employers, that would have been a deal-breaker. In fact, Mary, 48, had had to quit an earlier job the first time she took on the Pacific.
But Supporting Strategies is different. Yes, one reason we've been named to Entrepreneur magazine's Fastest-Growing Franchises list is that we consistently deliver top-notch customer service that puts the client first. But another key component is that we provide a flexible work environment for experienced bookkeeping professionals, with redundant systems and cross-training that give our team members the freedom to pursue their passions without giving up their careers.
Mary, Mary, Row Your Boat
Now, you might think that someone who sets out to row across the Pacific Ocean would have a track record of competing in extreme sports, or would at least be an elite athlete. But that's not the case here. Mary, a native of the Australian island of Tasmania, became a long-distance rower after attending an inspiring talk by Roz Savage, who used ocean rowing to raise awareness of her environmental advocacy.
Mary decided she would do the same in support of her cause: conservation projects dedicated to endangered bird species. She formed a nonprofit called Chirping Central that has raised about $60,000 so far.
Mary hopes to raise awareness, and additional funds, for her cause by breaking one of her role model's records. In 2008 Roz Savage made a solo row from California to Hawaii in 99 days. Mary hopes to do it in as few as 90 days, if the conditions are right. But she's bringing supplies for 110 days. ("Hopefully it won't take longer than that!" she tells me.)
The more I learn about Mary, the more I admire her. I can't imagine the single-mindedness and strength of character it takes to spend three months alone in a 20-foot boat, rowing up to 18 hours a day, battling massive waves and unpredictable weather. Her planned route from Ventura to Waikiki will cover about 2,400 miles. But the actual distance could be closer to 3,000 miles when you account for drifting. To keep that drifting to a minimum, there will be long stretches when Mary won't be able to sleep more than an hour or two at a time.
A Solo Crossing, but a Team Effort
For three months, our Supporting Strategies | Los Angeles team will be able to track Mary's progress each day, and I'm intrigued and inspired at the prospect of following that tiny dot as it crosses the vast Pacific. This effort speaks volumes about Mary and her perseverance, her stamina and her dedication. And I clearly see each day how those traits also translate into the quality of work she delivers for her clients.
Thanks to her teammates back here in Los Angeles, those clients will continue to receive the same high-level service in Mary's absence. As Mary has been cross-training to get in shape for her grueling row, we've been cross-training our team members to fill Mary's role while she pursues her passion.
Besides supporting Mary's effort through our flex-time policy, we are also supporting her with a financial contribution to Chirping Central. We encourage you to do likewise!Mary will depart Ventura sometime between May 27 and May 31, depending on weather conditions. Please join us in following her progress via a satellite tracker, Facebook and Twitter!