Working from the Island – Constance Goodwin

Constance Goodwin designed her office as "a conversational space." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Working from the Island is an occasional series about Martha’s Vineyard residents who take advantage of advances in high-speed broadband access to the web and digital communications to telecommute, doing business off-Island while enjoying life on the Island.

Constance Goodwin has a huge smile. Her hair is short and red. Her thin, athletic body reveals more than hints of the modern dancer she once was. When she was on the faculty of Temple University and The University of the Arts in Philadelphia during the 1990s, she had summers off. That gave her time to sail up to the Vineyard with her husband, Richard Cascarino. They would tie their 40-foot, center cockpit sailboat to a mooring in Vineyard Haven Harbor for a few weeks early in the summer, spend a couple of weeks living on the boat, then head back to Philadelphia before the crowds got too big.

That seasonal migration ended when she left academia to take a year-round consulting job, but they still wanted to spend time on the Island. “We weren’t sure if we liked the place or the place and the boat,” she said. After a several vacations spent on the Vineyard without their boat, they decided it was the place they liked and made tentative plans to move here “some day.”

“I told Jay Wilbur, the Vineyard Haven harbor master, if he found me a mooring for our boat, we’re moving,” she said. “I’ll never forget when he called me. I was working in Texas at the time. He asked me if I was serious, and I said of course I’m serious. He said he had a mooring. I said I’m putting the house on the market, and as soon as it sells we’ll move. And we did. Within about five months.” They built their house in 1999 and moved in full-time in 2006.

Ms. Goodwin, who now runs her own consulting business, said she was able to make the move from the mainland because, “I traveled anyway. My clients have been everywhere. The only adaptation was accepting on the front end that it was going to be inconvenient. It is worth every ounce of inconvenience.”

She added, “I don’t charge my clients for that extra leg. That was my choice. It’s that comfort, that sense of belonging, the peace that it brings both of us living here that makes that inconvenience worthwhile.” Mr. Cascarino moved his hair dressing business from the Philadelphia area to Maggie’s Salon in Vineyard Haven.

Goodwin Associates, Ms. Goodwin’s firm, is a consulting practice, which specializes in “Leadership as a Performing Art,” which, she says, is “a design methodology that builds an executive leadership platform for success.” She said she brings “an aesthetic sensibility to leading and running a business. I develop creative business artists, who are very present, very authentic, and are able to synthesize things from disparate sources in order to run their businesses and connect with their people and then connect themselves to their strategy and the execution of that strategy.”

The telephone is one of Ms. Goodwin’s main tools. Some of her work takes the form of conference calls. “Conversation is my medium.” She says she designed her office, which looks more like a casual living room, “as a conversational space, not just a desk and a computer.” Sometimes she sees clients here on the Island in her above-the-garage office in West Tisbury.

“I had a leadership conference here a few years ago. I have not done that often, but I would like to do it on a more regular basis. It has to be a match with my clients,” she said. “It is so peaceful here, it is not like being in Houston or Philadelphia. It can be very productive for them when they come here.”

Travel seldom takes Ms. Goodwin on the road for more than four or five days at a time. “I’m usually gone a week a month, total,” she said. “It might be split up into two increments. Four or five days at a time really helps me establish a rhythm as opposed to literally popping in and popping out for an afternoon. I find that it works well.”

When she starts with a new company, she said, she works with them usually no less than a year. She has had a client in Texas for eight years.

Ms. Goodwin says she has had four careers since settling into her current work. She has a doctorate in aesthetics and taught art history and creative writing. She worked as a professional modern dancer in New York and Philadelphia. She taught dance anthropology, dance history, and dance technique. She rode and trained three-day event horses. She worked for a consulting company, and she now has her own business. She has no plans to retire. “I’ll retire when I die,” she said.

She exudes a sense of optimism when she speaks. “I believe that things work out, and they do if you let them. When people get tangled up they are usually caught up in ‘right and wrong’ or truth. Things have to be a certain way. You’re right and I’m wrong or the other way around.’ What are the other possibilities? Just consider the other possibilities for a minute.”

Ms. Goodwin said, “I like to think I’m connected to the universe. Connections are the basis of all things. I like to say that there are only two reasons things fail: one, you get your feelings hurt, and the other is your expectations aren’t met.” She and those two contributors to failure are rooted in not being connected.

Ms. Goodwin and her husband found a connection in West Tisbury. They looked for a house and ended up building one on two acres. She said, “We decided we wanted to live in a year-round community, not one where people disappeared for nine months of the year.” She said that her husband has a green thumb that is the equal of his hair dressing skills and has turned their yard into a beautiful garden.

“The things we do take up all the treasury will allow and the time too,” she said. She rides her upper level dressage horse six days a week and plans to ride in shows as soon as she works out a few kinks. Mr. Cascarino fishes in his spare time.

“We sail for fun,” she said. “We will run down for cocktails on the boat sometimes at the end of the day. We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date. Things have worked out better than we could have imagined. It is like living in a piece of heaven.”