Introduction and Origins
When Dena Lund became Anvil’s President & CEO in 2021, our organization was ready to turn a new page. After enduring a period of collapsed revenue due to COVID retractions, Anvil was facing a genuine moment of struggle.
“There was unusually high turnover during year two of the pandemic,” Dena Lund shares. “It was also obvious that a lot of our workstations and technology infrastructure needed further investment.”
Beyond these immediate issues, something larger and far more encompassing was also at play during this period – Anvil needed to regain its’ identity.
“People were beginning to wonder who we were as an organization,” Dena shares.
And so, while Anvil set out to regain financial footholds following the challenges of the pandemic, Dena knew something far more significant, something far more personal, would need to be accomplished if we were to truly take a step forward as an organization – we needed to rediscover Anvil’s identity.
Dena’s time as Anvil’s President & CEO would come to be known not only by the stability Anvil gained, but by the unique personality she created for our organization. Dena instilled a feeling of pride among Anvil’s employees that had simply gone missing during the pandemic, a comprehensive collectiveness and sense of community.
Dena at an employee social in Billings, MT.
Prior to becoming President & CEO in 2021, Dena served on Anvil’s Board of Directors for two years.
“During my first board meeting, I had the privilege to watch as financials were reviewed and decisions were made on ESOP contributions, our 401k program, retention of capital, and end of year bonuses for all employees,” Dena says. “It really was about how Anvil supports its’ employees, something I can’t say about other companies I have been associated with.”
However, only a few months after joining our organization’s board, Dena watched as the world began to lock down due to COVID-19. As the long-term ramifications of the pandemic began to establish themselves, it became increasingly apparent to Dena that the well-being of Anvil itself was in danger.
A little more than a year later, Dena was chosen as Anvil’s President & CEO. Dena brought with her a diversity of thought, complimentary industry experience, and a unique leadership style as Anvil’s first female President & CEO.
“Getting people back to the office safely, reengaging with our team members, replacing equipment, and reconnecting with our customers all became extremely important,” Dena says.
Dena and Anvil’s Board of Directors. Dena joined Anvil’s Board in December 2019 as an Independent Director.
A Strong Business Acumen
Dena hit the ground running, beginning her tenure in July 2021 with a goal to help get business back on track.
“The first order of business was getting to know the business and the people,” she shares. “This included traveling to each branch office and meeting with employees. Every location has a unique culture and client base while still being One Anvil. It was important to identify the concerns of the employees and the client relationships that needed the most attention.”
Dena would spend much of her tenure focused on relationships with Anvil’s Department Heads and Branch VPs.
“My favorite part of the job is the one-on-one coaching and interaction with Anvil leaders,” Dena shares. “Each conversation is a two-way street – they teach me about the organization and keep me informed, and we collaborate on any challenges that they may be facing or potential opportunities for Anvil. It is an important time to slow down from the day-to-day activities and think on a strategic level. I am proud of the rapport that I have developed with each of these individuals, the evolution of their leadership, and our progress as an organization with their support.”
For Dena, having a team of leaders she could rely upon felt like a necessity. Under her stewardship, many of Anvil’s familiar faces would find the confidence to tackle new roles, and the responsibilities that came with them. A strong emphasis was also placed on attracting external talent to the organization and, as a result, many not-so-familiar faces were also introduced during this period.
“We started the practice of posting high level jobs internally and externally. This was revolutionary for us, at the time,” Dena says. “Taking a structured approach to choosing leaders and challenging participants on what was needed for a role so that by the time they were selected, they could really understand what we wanted to do moving forward. Having a leadership organization that is aligned on the company strategy, who are working toward the same goals, who have the skills to develop internal talent and client relationships – that is a big key to the future success of our organization.”
Dena, Derek Toffer, and Benjamin Taylor visit Dr. Kathi Hiyane-Brown, President of Whatcom Community College, to discuss Anvil’s support of local Cybersecurity training.
During this period, Dena and Anvil’s Executive Leadership Team worked together to refresh the organization’s five-year strategy. The team collected data and conducted a series of interviews with individuals from each of Anvil’s branches to find out what was working in their local markets – and what wasn’t.
“You have to ask the hard question sometimes – why would clients prefer to work with other organizations over us? It became apparent that Anvil appeals to heavy industrial clients,” Dena shares. “Clients that have complex systems needing high quality engineering and designs, who appreciate the value of getting the work right the first time with minimal field rework – they appreciate the level of service that Anvil can provide. As a relationship matures with Anvil, that’s where we shine.”
Before long, many of Anvil’s core relationships would grow increasingly secure following the general uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Anvil is in a good place and headed in the right direction,” Dena says proudly.
Dena and members of our Denver branch location.
A Big, Beating Heart
Of course, righting Anvil’s ship in the wake of economic uncertainty does not paint a full picture of Dena’s time as our organization’s President & CEO. In fact, it was only half the battle.
“Anvil as an organization did not recognize just how spectacular they were,” Dena says. “It became important to share our stories internally as well as externally, raising the profile of our excellence to the outside world.”
In addition to the high-quality work we regularly provided for our clients, Dena understood that Anvil’s employees deserved more than the simple satisfaction of a job well done – they deserved recognition and community.
Dena Lund with Patty Gonzalez and Michelle Hawkins.
“After being in lockdown, it was important to have some personal interaction and many of us, myself included, became acclimated to working remotely and not engaging in person.”
Before we returned to our offices in April 2022, Dena organized a Professional Development Workshop for all Anvil employees. The Workshop included a seminar with Debra Fine – a former engineer, author, and keynote speaker – centered on developing rapport and professional relationships through cultivated conversation.
“The all-employee event addressed the first of several skills needed to take Anvil to the next level,” Dena explains. “When we have a positive level of rapport with others, it becomes easier to weather the storms when they happen. Building relationships during a crisis is difficult but having working relationships makes it easier to reach positive solutions when issues arise.”
When Anvil’s employees were finally able to return to their offices, Dena took as many opportunities as she could to bring us all together. Many of our employees, those who didn’t have the privilege of working with Dena on a regular basis, will remember her time with Anvil by the events she organized throughout our various branches, such as the Paper Airplane Flyer and March Madness Free Throw contests.
Dena’s inaugural Paper Flyer Contest in Bellingham. An ice cream truck can be seen in the background – fun was definitely had by all.
“We just need to take time to have fun and it is a great way to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise run into,” Dena says. “I like to enjoy myself and when you combine fun with work and some positive memories, it adds to the connection you feel with your team.”
For Dena, it was these very connections that she cherished most.
My happiest memories at Anvil are the same today as they were when I started. Meeting team members from all over the organization and finding out what they do, how they got here and what drives them. It has been a privilege to be the executive leader of this organization, and I am continuously inspired to do my best knowing who I am doing it for.
Dena with Anvil’s current Senior Leadership Team, Dan Lewis, Werner Plagge, Eric Peterson, Derek Toffer, Cheryl Ladouceur, Vance Foster, Adam Wells, Patrick Glicker, Cody Steinmetz, Chris Harrell, and Michelle Hawkins.
The Future and Dena’s Legacy
One of the individuals Dena worked closest with was Cody Steinmetz, Anvil’s next President & CEO. When Dena joined Anvil as member of our board in 2019, Cody served as one of Anvil’s five Branch Managers at our office location in Billings, MT. When Dena became President & CEO in 2021, Cody had been recently named as Anvil’s Chief Operating Officer. After two and a half years of working with him, Dena has nothing but praise and admiration for her successor.
“Cody doesn’t just make leadership suggestions – he lives them,” Dena says. “He doesn’t hold someone up to a standard that he doesn’t set for himself. Cody is hardworking and an excellent team member. He is a great student of Anvil and knows our business inside and out. Cody has a vison to grow the company and recognizes how that can provide positive career experiences for our team members and he also likes to have a little fun.”
Dena and Cody Steinmetz.
Regarding the future of our organization itself, Dena maintains a similar level of optimism and positivity.
“I think that the future is exciting both as an organization and for employees,” Dena affirms. “The organization is investing in our leaders and individual team members, as well as modernizing our technical infrastructure and updating our workspaces. These advancements will enhance our client’s experiences while continuing to make Anvil a great place to work.”
As Anvil prepares to say goodbye to Dena Lund, we can’t help but wonder what she plans to accomplish next. After all, for two and half years, our organization has followed her direction through some of the most challenging moments in our company’s history. No matter what Dena decides to do next, we will be watching. So – what is next for Dena Lund?
“Right now, I have a large stack of books on my coffee table,” Dena jokes. “My husband and I have several local trips planned. My original goal with Anvil was to be an Independent Director. I am still interested in pursuing Board service, and I will be networking to find new opportunities. I expect to maintain an ongoing relationship with Anvil, and support the organization when needed. For other personal activities, I have always liked to write.”
Thank you, Dena, for four incredible years with Anvil. We are forever changed by your influence.
Dena Lund at Anvil’s 2023 Christmas Party with a group of young Anvil employees.