Dave Veale interviews Bob Ferguson, Vice President, RCI as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
Watch the Interview:
‘I had a young family and an extended network of friends that I’ve come to cherish here in Saint John. It’s a great place to raise kids and I didn’t want to lose that. I took a position where I could deliver the value to the organization, but maintain my residency here,’ says Bob Ferguson, vice-president, member sales and services, for RCI.
Bob Ferguson can answer this question in the affirmative.Ferguson is the vice-president, member sales and services, for RCI, the world’s largest vacation exchange business with over three million members worldwide.
In North America, RCI has more than 1,500 employees – over 300 of them right here in Saint John. The regional headquarters are in Indianapolis, but Ferguson is based in Saint John.
Ferguson believes profitable businesses are built by people with job satisfaction and a healthy work-life balance, from the senior executives to employees on the front lines of service delivery.
I began our interview by asking him about the guiding philosophy that motivated his decision to be based here, rather than Indianapolis.
Bob: I had a young family and an extended network of friends that I’ve come to cherish here in Saint John. It’s a great place to raise kids and I didn’t want to lose that. I took a position where I could deliver the value to the organization, but maintain my residency here.
Dave: You have five different locations across North America and you are running the sales division from Saint John. How do you do this?
Bob: It requires a good deal of travel, so I spend about half of my time here and half in Indianapolis. Even though we have locations elsewhere, most of the work gets done in Indianapolis and Saint John. I certainly do a great deal of work virtually – on the phone, webcast or video cam. I’m decked out with pretty much all the tricks of the trade.
Dave: You knew you were ambitious, you want to see success in the organization and you want to be hands on. At the same time, you want to have balance. You’ve got a young family and family is really important to you. So, how does that happen? How do you make sure you don’t get out of balance?
Bob: It’s about quality and not quantity. The quality of the time that I spend at work and the quality of the time that I spend at home. I tend to focus of the quality of the time versus the amount of the time.
Dave: What is the biggest challenge to identifying those boundaries or retaining them or honouring them?
Bob: You need to realize that you are not needed in every circumstance, right. Some of this comes down to basic leadership.
Good leadership is about clear direction, it’s about delegation and it’s about good time management. It is about the ability to set clear expectations for yourself and for others.
Dave: I’m going to change gears here. What makes your contact centre unique?
Bob: I think we are unique because we understand the value of people. I know that sounds somewhat cliché but for us it is not just a slogan or just a saying. It’s a culture we try to strive to adhere to in the organization “¦
We look at it from an engagement perspective. We may be the leaders of the organization, but a handful of people can’t do it by themselves. You need collaboration and you need a force of will to get it done and that doesn’t happen by just a dictatorial style. People need to be informed, they need to be engaged and understand the common challenge. And we strive to make sure that is clear.
Dave: How do you go about making sure people are valued?
Bob: A lot of (what we do) is not revolutionary. For instance, as the vice-president of the organization, I (visit the) front line associates on a regular basis and ask them what they think about what we are doing. It’s not that we don’t trust the mid-level or front level leaders but for the organization it is important that we hear straight from our front-line associates.
Dave: I’ve heard you guys do a really good job of acknowledging when people are doing well. Could you share an example of that?
Bob: Here in Saint John, we closed down the contact center (for the day), bussed 400 people down to our cruise ship terminal and had a celebration. It was a celebration of the work and the effort of our vacation guides, our front-line associates and the work that they do to send our members on vacation.
We are big believers that happy people make happy customers. If people love what they are doing, that it will extend into the experience that they have with our customers.
Dave: Last question. Who has had a great impact on you and who you are as a leader?
My mom is probably a major inspiration in my life. When I was six, my dad passed away and she had a house full of kids on her own and she did really well. She raised six kids, brought them up and they all became successful on their own.
Certainly I drew on her capability to overcome adversity and remain positive. I don’t think I could have done what she did.
So for me, I will always be in awe of perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, a capability to see beyond the moment and keep striving toward the goal.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears every other Thursday.
Published Thursday April 22nd, 2010 in the Telegraph Journal
Photo of Bob Ferguson: Cindy Wilson, Telegraph Journal