We invest in exceptional people to create exceptional companies. Since 2001, Alpine has believed that inspiring growth in people is the most sound way to build growth and revenue. We start within our own offices, and share our learnings with our portfolio companies. Here are some of our favorite stories about heroes being unleashed.
Steffi Decker is all about thinking far into the future. As CEO of Evergreen Financial Technology Group, a division of Alpine Investors-backed platform Evergreen Services Group, she’s set on building a generations-long legacy through a supportive company culture and a product that reaches an ever-expanding number of U.S credit unions. Below, the Haas MBA grad and former rower shares lessons she’s learned from two years of leading at Evergreen, how she leans on Alpine for support and the many chances she sees for lasting impact.
I started my career in a very different industry and at a very different pace than my current role at Evergreen. After I graduated from Duke, a professor connected me with Chong and Koster, a media firm that specialized in digital communications for high profile clients. When I was younger, I believed that electing the right people and advocating for the right causes was the best way to make a difference in the world. With this idea, I entered the political world in 2007 and found it fascinating. I saw the rise of digital marketing and social media and got to apply those tools to our work. First, the firm ran digital advertising in Al Franken’s senate election. Then we worked on other senate races, including the online advertising for Harry Reid, the underdog majority leader from Nevada.
As the firm expanded to work with technology, publishing and retail companies, I ran most of the politics and advocacy work. I worked on dozens of senate races, house races, gubernatorial elections, and on national progressive advocacy work in areas like women’s rights, reproductive rights, gun violence prevention and climate change. I got to be involved in things I cared deeply about while building the firm.
Impact Through Business
Over time, I realized political races are short-lived entities. A senate race will raise and spend a hundred million dollars, then self-destruct within two years. On the other side of the coin, Chong and Koster worked with a retailer who had been in business for over a hundred years. Working with this retailer allowed us to do marketing experiments that lasted longer than the entire political cycle. In both extremes, I saw how the workplace can give people an opportunity to become their best selves. I loved hiring and developing people, and I saw the impact that business could have on communities. Thinking beyond politics, I wanted to grow larger, more complicated businesses because I believed I could make a bigger impact at scale.
After leaving my job and spending 10 months exploring new parts of the world— I biked the coast of Thailand, kite surfed in Spain and hunted for truffles in Croatia— I realized that it was difficult to find my purpose while sitting on a beach, so I decided to go back to school to get an MBA. I spent the next two years at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, a truly transformational time for me. I realized that the people I worked with mattered more than anything else. Any b-schooler spends a lot of time thinking about what he or she is going to do; I realized what mattered just as much was with whom you’re going to do it.
I realized that the people I worked with mattered more than anything else. Any b-schooler spends a lot of time thinking about what he or she is going to do; I realized what mattered just as much was with whom you’re going to do it.
When I heard about Alpine and its PeopleFirst thesis, I knew we would have a shared definition of success. I was excited about Alpine for several reasons, but most importantly, I wanted to work in an environment that would challenge me. And with Evergreen Service Group, which acquires companies and supports their growth over an indefinite hold period with a focus on IT companies, government service providers, and application management companies, I found it exciting to build something that will endure.
Within the Evergreen Financial Technology Group (EFTG), we are building a constellation of great businesses that support financial institutions. Our mission is to provide top-tier technology and best-in-class service to financial institutions. Communities everywhere count on local financial institutions and these institutions count on software and service partners for their success. EFTG strives to be the best, permanent partner to those institutions. We started with Bradford-Scott 2.5 years ago, and now we have a constellation of six businesses— and growing, including Sharetec, one of the leading providers of core processing software for credit unions in the United States . The financial landscape is constantly changing and I’m passionate about our role in bringing financial institutions the tools and services they need.
When I first arrived at Bradford-Scott in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I was surrounded by people unlike those I grew up with or went to school with. However, from my first day when my sales leader hosted me at his home, I felt welcomed and accepted. My time in Indiana has been life changing and not just from a work perspective— I also met my husband while living in Fort Wayne. We now live in South Bend, Indiana, with our three dogs (all Hoosiers).
Mentorship & Leading from Behind
My first six months as a leader taught me that empowering people is harder than it looks. I thought that part of leading would come naturally to me, but I found myself trying to control too much and being too top down about decisions. I realized that the only way our business could scale was if I truly let go and enabled every person at the company— from new employees to more senior leaders— to own the agenda, objectives, successes, and failures of the company. You can’t empower people if you can’t let go. We rebuilt processes so that team leaders set their own goals, and today we make sure that everyone feels like an owner. Since then, we’ve hit a lot more goals.
Tal Lee Anderman, Alpine’s Chief Talent Officer, has been a constant friend and ally. We’ve spent hours on the phone talking through challenges and opportunities. I‘ve also loved the camaraderie among Evergreen CEOs— there are six of us— and I appreciate the way we can always reach out to each other for support. We’re all going through similar things.
I‘ve also loved the camaraderie among Evergreen CEOs— there are six of us— and I appreciate the way we can always reach out to each other for support. We’re all going through similar things.
I’ve been through several iterations of Alpine’s formal mentor program. Each time I identified a few areas where I wanted to grow and get guidance, and they matched me with functional mentors who had experience in that role or tackling that challenge. In the beginning I chose to focus on our software product. Alpine matched me with a woman in an ASG business who helped me think about some of our software challenges, including product development and the product roadmap. They also connected me with a CTO who has helped me reimagine how we approach software development at ShareTec. My advisor, mentor and spirit guide Dorothy Walter (Alpine Partner and CFO) has been a rock for me in my journey.
We just acquired a great business out of Vancouver called Lodestar that provides data warehousing and business intelligence. This is a solution that every credit union and financial institution needs. I’m excited to see Lodestar’s new CEO Divya Konuru and the great team there expand the business. We support credit unions which tend to reach underbanked, under-resourced populations. We provide them with higher-quality software at a fair price. That software allows them to reach out to communities who most benefit from their services.
My mission is to run a great company where people can grow, thrive and become their best selves. Having my leaders tell me that this work is changing their lives gets me out of bed in the morning. As we grow this business and acquire more businesses, we get to make more businesses better. And that means we get to help change more lives. It’s a virtuous cycle and the driver of meaning and purpose in my life.