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Insight: Heather Couture

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Heather Couture

By Michelle St. Onge Photo by Jessica McCafferty

Hometown: Malone, NY and Alton Bay, NH

Family: Eric, husband of 28 years; two grown daughters, two grandsons, and three pet beagles

Education: A.A.S., Business Management, Hesser College

Occupation: VP and Senior Commercial Relationship Manager, NBT Bank

Community Involvement: Rotary, Board Treasurer for Adirondack Economic Development Corporation.

When someone asks New Hampshire native Heather Couture how she ended up in the North Country, she smiles and answers, “It’s because of the internet!” Couture and her husband met, married and settled down to raise their daughters near Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee. Spending time outdoors was important to them, including hunting, fishing and hiking. When their children were getting older and heading out on their own, the couple decided to buy land they could explore. They turned to the internet and their search led them to purchase a large parcel in Malone, New York. “It was random, since we didn’t know anyone up here,” Couture explained. “We started coming here for long weekends or for a week at a time. We really enjoyed the area and the people and decided to make it our home.”

Couture is one of those rare professionals who has worked in the same industry throughout her career. She started in banking as a teller and was promoted to manager at the age of 22. “It was around that time I realized that management was not something I loved doing,” she recalled. She found her passion in commercial banking and enrolled in night school to earn her Associates degree. Eventually she landed at NBT Bank in Plattsburgh, where she commutes daily.

Couture lives in an Amish-built house that she describes as “off the grid.” The property includes a large garden and an off-and-on farm that at one time included cattle. She describes her life as having a nice balance between work and home. “I am content here,” she concluded.

Couture recently put down her spreadsheets, barbells and gardening tools to join Strictly Business for a conversation about the lessons she’s learned along the way.

SB: How would you describe your job?

HC: In the banking world, I am considered a commercial lender. What I really do is commercial relationship management. I help my business customers to expand and succeed in their business. Money is a big part of helping them get where they need to go, but my job really involves getting to know and understand them first.

SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?

HC: Early on I learned the importance of really getting to know my customers, and that means a lot more than just their financial numbers. When you work with business customers, you get to know them on a personal level, but you also get to understand them more on a professional level. These are business owners who get up every day, and work 60-70 hours a week. I want to know what drives them to work in that business, and what motivates them. It is so important to make that relationship priority number one.

SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

HC: One piece of advice that I try to pull into my day on a regular basis is from my mother. She always told me that what you focus on is what you’ll find. That is true whether you focus on the good or the bad. If you get up and focus on how terrible the weather is, you’re more likely to have a bad day. If you get up and focus on the things that you’re grateful for, you will bring that into your day instead. Try to focus on the positive things, and you will find more of them.

SB: What is your favorite quote and how does it speak to you in your life?

HC: A saying that I like to live by is “All the magic happens outside of your comfort zone.” Living with this in mind has broadened my horizons. A lot of the highlights in my life came as a result of doing things that were completely outside my comfort zone. Whether it was jumping out of an airplane, learning to ride my motorcycle or going to CrossFit for the first time, I have developed so many great relationships from doing things that scared me at first.

SB: What book have you read recently that you would recommend to a friend or colleague?

HC: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, by Marilee Adams. That book can help you overcome negative self-talk, which is a destroyer of all things that are good. We have to speak to ourselves the way we would speak to others. This is a great way to start putting some of those practices into play. I think everyone could benefit from it.

SB: What do you do in your free time?

HC: My husband and I are big into hunting and fishing, and we spend as much time outside as we possibly can. I love yard work and have huge vegetable and flower gardens. I am a workout fitness buff, and I exercise five or more days a week. But most of all, I love spending time with my family. I take monthly trips back to New Hampshire to visit my two grandsons.

SB: If you could talk to your younger self, what advice would you offer him/her?

HC: I am a bit of a ‘Type A’ personality, and I think looking back I would tell my younger self to relax through life a little bit more. I would still work hard, but I would pay more attention to playing hard as well, because life goes by so quickly.

SB: What habits do you have that contribute to your success?

HC: I usually wake up at 4:15 am each day, so I can get to the gym by 5:15. I spend time every morning keeping a journal. I track my workouts, diet, and sleep, so I can stay in tune with taking good care of myself. That is so important to me. I also write daily affirmations to strive for the goals I have for each day. Finally, I list three things I am grateful for to help set a positive tone for the rest of the day.

SB: If you could start your professional career over again, what would you do differently?

HC: If I had to start my existing career over again, I don’t think I would do anything differently. I have no regrets, and I am exactly where I am supposed to be. But if I got to pick a new career, I would have become a health coach or a personal trainer. Being physically active is such an important part of my life today. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have picked an occupation that would allow me to be more physically active.

SB: What are you most proud of professionally?

HC: I’m really proud of the fact that my customers often seek my advice when they are facing a difficulty or challenge. As a banker, lender and a relationship manager, I have customers who will call me to ask for my opinion before they make any other phone calls. To me that means I’ve earned their trust and built credibility. I’m proud that I have customers who see me as a trusted advisor and think of me along the same lines as they think of their accountant or their attorney.

SB: How would you like to be remembered?

HC: I’d like to be remembered as someone who made a positive impact, whether it was in a personal or professional capacity. I always try to leave the room better than the way I found it. I am a positive person and a team player.

SB: What is something no one would guess about you?

HC: Well, since I am always dressed up at work, I think people are surprised by the fact that I spend half of my vacation time hunting, dressed in camouflage. I really enjoy sitting still in a tree stand, with just the birds and me. There are no cell phones, and there is a lot of self-reflection you can do during that quiet time. You have to take yourself down a notch, and that’s really good for the soul.

SB: When you find yourself having an off kind of day, what do you do to get back on track?

HC: Sometimes I’ll just pull out my journal and read what I wrote that morning about what I am grateful for. If I’m feeling irritated or off, that can help me to reset. I also keep this short video of my grandson on my phone from when he was just learning how to walk. It’s only about five or six seconds of him walking towards me, and then he has this big smile right at the end. Watching that can always makes me feel better.

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