What’s the best part of your job?
The variety. I deal with everyone from staffing to succession planning, 21st street, training, employee relations, labor relations and I’m responsible for our relationship with state government and the air transportation department. It’s the variety I like, because on any given day, week or month, my attention can be focused in a different area. And I like being in a decision-making position.
What’s the toughest part?
Dealing with people who can’t be successful because of themselves, and they refuse to accept that. If somebody can’t get up and go to work consistently, if they’re openly belligerent and very difficult to work with, they won’t stay with us. You look at 21st Street, and those are folks who’ve found themselves in some personal circumstances that precluded them from pursuing economic independence. We gave them the opportunity to do that, and they seized that opportunity and have gone on and flourished. Contrary to those folks, there are others who refuse to modify their ambition, attitude and conduct that would enable them to succeed. That’s the toughest part.
What does being a strategic business partner mean to you?
We have a senior staff that consists of the chairman and four people, and I’m one of those four people. I’m part of the decision-making group for this business. And we’ll approach $2 billion this year. Because I understand where the business is going—we’re partners. If you look at the mid- to late-1990s, the most difficult issues businesses had to deal with were HR issues: the absence of a qualified labor pool, the need to hire qualified people in the face of that, the need to train, the need to retain. We’ve been an active partner in the business as everyone looks to us to find solutions to reduce employee attrition or increase retention, and to find and keep qualified people.
What are the personal rewards you get from your job?
There are several. We’ve had 30 graduations from 21st Street now. When I see people who’ve taken an opportunity to turn their lives around, and are now economically independent and making a professional and personal contribution to a company, that’s probably the most rewarding thing that I get involved with. In addition to the over 200 people who’ve graduated, our trainees average three dependents. So you have those 200 people plus 600 children who’ll grow up in homes where there’s a productive, self-respecting adult who’s earning his or her way as opposed to being a welfare household. When you understand all the ramifications of that, it makes it terribly rewarding. Regarding the balance of my job, this function has brought great change to our company over a decade and a half. It has been change that’s been implemented in a way that contributed to the changes that needed to be made as opposed to being disruptive. We’re a different company today than we were 15 years ago. We’re a better company.
Workforce, March 1999, Vol. 78, No. 3, p. 81.