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At Waters Corp., the mantra endures: Add something of value

Jim Watters (left) and Chris O'ConnellChris Morris for The Boston Globe

When Chris O’Connell became CEO of Waters Corp. three years ago, one of the first things he did was to pick up the phone and call Jim Waters, the company’s founder.

“I guess I’ve always carried the belief that strong values and culture are the keys to businesses that are built to last over time,” O’Connell says. “To me, those things set the great companies apart.”

That call led to what O’Connell calls a “wonderful friendship,” one that was on full display this month as O’Connell and Waters joined a previous CEO, Doug Berthiaume, at the lab equipment company’s Milford headquarters for a panel discussion to celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary.


Waters left the CEO’s job after the company was acquired by Millipore in 1980, and Berthiaume took over in 1994 when it was spun out and became independent again. But through all the years, the executives say the culture Waters instilled at the outset remains intact.

And what a humble outset it was. Waters launched the company in 1958, in the basement of the Framingham Police Department’s former building, with five employees. The rent was low, Waters says, and the space was available. “My office was right under the police station’s bathroom,” he says, “so I heard every time they flushed the toilet.”

Eventually, Waters’ company expanded within the building, and later to another site in Framingham, before moving to Milford in 1973. Its big break came when Dow Chemical in the early 1960s asked Waters to customize its refractometer for Dow’s use. That technology helped the company grow from 50 employees to 400, Waters says. Now, Waters Corp. has more than 7,000 employees in 31 countries.

In particular, O’Connell says, the company has not lost sight of a mantra that Waters drilled into his employees in those early years: “Deliver benefits.” The meaning? “In everything you do,” O’Connell says, “you have to add value. Don’t just provide a product. Provide a product that enhances a customer’s environment.”


Today, a wide range of items — from lipstick to craft beer to aspirin — are tested on Waters lab instruments before they reach consumers. The company generated about $2.3 billion in revenue last year, mostly from clients in the life sciences sector, and recently started work on a new, $215 million precision chemistry plant in Taunton, its largest-ever single capital investment.

Waters, who is about to turn 93, visits the Milford headquarters about once a month, usually to have lunch with O’Connell. Waters’ presence on campus inspires younger employees who never had the opportunity to work for him.

“We’ve grown into this big sophisticated global company,” O’Connell says. “But we never lost sight of our roots.” — JON CHESTO

Vacation-home choice was a slam-dunk

The Globe’s readers recently ranked Narragansett as New England’s best beach town. Some would argue with that choice. (Dennis came in at number two, followed by P-town.) But probably not Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca.

The cochairman of Bain Capital just made his newest investment: an $8.2 million vacation home in the Rhode Island town. The Providence Journal reported that his family had rented a five-bedroom home overlooking the water there last year. That home, 5,200 square feet in size, came on the market this year — and Pagliuca jumped at the opportunity to buy it. The Journal reported that it was the highest price ever recorded for a single-family home in the town. Pags and his family spent Labor Day weekend in their new home.


“We liked it so much, we purchased it,” he told the Journal. “Spending the last summer there, [it was] just kind of a magical vacation. . . . Great weather, great beach, great people.” — JON CHESTO

Mass. gets a statewide LGBT chamber

Many states have a chamber or association that’s focused on gay- and lesbian-owned businesses, but not Massachusetts – until now.

The Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce held its launch party on Monday, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The chamber’s mission involves small businesses, but it has the backing of some corporate heavyweights.

Harvard Pilgrim, the software firm PTC, and Eastern Bank were the first three corporate sponsors to pledge $25,000, raising $75,000 to get the chamber off the ground earlier this year. Executives from all three were honored Monday: Bob Rivers from Eastern, Michael Carson at Harvard Pilgrim, and Jim Heppelmann of PTC. Governor Charlie Baker also spoke, and received the chamber’s business inclusion award.

It was Baker’s signing of an executive order in 2015 that included LGBT-owned businesses in the state’s supplier diversity program that was the spark behind the chamber’s creation. Initially, business owners wanted to develop a roster of lesbian- and gay-owned firms. But Grace Moreno, the chamber’s executive director, says the group’s mission is much broader now.

“The focus of the chamber is to put more money into the pockets of LGBT-owned businesses,” Moreno says.


The chamber’s two-person staff is based at the CIC shared workspace, at 50 Milk St. in downtown Boston. Moreno says at least 18 companies, including the initial trio, have agreed to be corporate sponsors.

The donations could help them recruit employees or clients from the LGBT community.

“It opens an entire market to them that might go to a competitor,” Moreno says. “At the end of the day, they’re businesspeople, they’re looking at their bottom lines.” — JON CHESTO

He’s retiring — but he’s still available

After 40 years in the natural gas industry, Nick Stavropoulos is hanging up his hard hat — at least for a little while.

Stavropoulos is best known here for his leadership at Boston Gas, and then its successor companies, KeySpan and National Grid. But he has been in San Francisco since 2011, helping to restore confidence in the safety of Pacific Gas and Electric’s pipeline system after the explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010.

He’s stepping down as the company’s president at the end of the month. He plans to split his time between his family’s homes in Boston’s western suburbs (in the warmer months) and Arizona (during the colder ones).

His sister and only sibling died unexpectedly a year-and-a-half ago, which prompted him to do some soul-searching. (He turned 60 in March.)

“Running the day-to-day operations of these big entities, it takes a lot out of you,” he says. “It’s a 24/7 job. There’s no other way to say it.”

He had promised PG&E he would spend three years helping it recover from the San Bruno blasts, which killed eight people. Maybe five, tops. But he stayed for seven-plus years. He still misses Massachusetts, where he grew up, where most of his friends are, where he calls home.


Stavropoulos is retiring and doesn’t want another full-time job. But he’d still like to work with higher-risk industries, including utilities, on a project-by-project basis. He has been following the news about the Merrimack Valley explosions and would be interested in helping, if asked.

“My goal is to have a portfolio of interesting things to work on,” Stavropoulous says, “things where I can make a difference.” — JON CHESTO

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.