The C-Suite: Spencer Bruce
President & CEO
Louisville Water Company
Louisville Water began as Kentucky’s first public water provider in 1860 and today delivers a safe, high-quality supply of drinking water to 850,000 people in Louisville Metro and surrounding counties. Louisville Water is only the water utility to have trademarked tap water.
How did your childhood prepare you for your work today?
I was very fortunate that I had a great childhood. I grew up about an hour from Louisville in Anderson County Kentucky. Both of my parents were High School Teachers and I have a younger sister. I always loved sports, especially basketball, and when I was nine, my family moved to a farm. It was those three factors that prepared me most for my career at the Water Company. All three: my parents, participation in sports and living on a farm taught me one important lesson, you have to work hard to succeed in life.
Throughout my life, I applied this lesson and it helped me become the person I am today. For example, when I was young, we heated our house with wood. So, every fall, we would cut and split enough wood for the winter. That was a family job; it was hard work but the results were a warm house all winter. Sports also taught me that in order to effectively compete, you have to put in the work. If you want to play more than the other person on your team and if you want to win against your opponent, you have to practice to get better than they are. The bottom line is, working hard gives you the opportunity to succeed.
When I left home, I carried this lesson into every part of my life. When I went to college at the University of Kentucky, I was always in competition with my classmates which pushed me to spend extra time on my studies. By the time I began my first job in Charlotte, North Carolina, I worked hard because that’s what I had always done. I didn’t really do it for a promotion or for career opportunities. This character trait had just been engrained into who I was as a person. However, like sports, I quickly realized that when the effort is there, the results will follow.
How do you define success?
Society today would probably say that success is defined by how much money you make, where you live or what possessions you have. That’s not success to me. To me, success is defined as who you are as a person. I define it by my Christian faith, how I share and exemplify that faith, how I care for my family and how I contribute to helping others. That’s why I feel so fortunate to be a part of an organization whose mission is public health. Every day I get to work with people whose goal is to ensure we provide the safest, highest quality water to improve the lives of those who live in our community and help our community grow. Clean water is essential to all life and a healthy, thriving society. In order to achieve this vision, we constantly do research to determine how we can improve upon the great water we already enjoy, we implement technologies to enhance the services we provide to our customers and we upgrade our infrastructure so that we can reliably supply our product now and for future generations. I think we all sometimes take for granted the fact that we have a clean, safe, abundant supply of water – I know I did until I came to work for the Water Company. Over the past several years, we have opened a museum and used our school education program to help the next generation understand the importance and value of this precious resource.
To me, success can be summed up as follows: Success is not something you buy or a possession to obtain, it’s how you live your life and how you affect the lives of those around you, both personally and professionally.
What are four criteria that you believe are essential in leadership?
Integrity, Passion, Execution, Inspiration
What is one piece of advice you would give a young person who wants to become a future business leader?
That’s a tough question in that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one piece of advice. However, I would probably say “Don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid to take a risk; don’t be afraid to set the example for others to follow; don’t be afraid to lead others even when you’re not in a defined leadership position and don’t be afraid to capitalize on an opportunity when it presents itself. Finally, always give a 100% of yourself in whatever you do – whether that’s at work, at home, at school or volunteering. Always give all you have.
Someday when they write your eulogy, you hope they say . . ..
I hope that my friends would define my life in the same manner I defined success. Someone who had a strong Christian faith, loved his family, worked hard and made a contribution to his life and his community in a meaningful way. I would hope that these traits could be an example that others would want to follow. I guess it could be summed up in an epitaph that read something like:
Here lies Spencer Bruce. A devoted father and loving husband who strived to set an example that others could follow.
Diane Tobin, Ph. D. is currently the Special Assistant to the President at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. She is the former Executive Director of two non-profits, a co-owner of a for-profit business and a former Dean of the College of Business and Communication at Spalding University.