Thus far my articles have almost exclusively been dedicated to themes to service my colleagues in the fields of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contact Center management. This writing is not an exception. BPO is a people-intensive industry in which organizations are defined by their ability to attract and retain talented personnel. What kind of company do you want to work for?
People, especially the expanding millennial workforce, respond favorably to organizations with a well-communicated sense of purpose and are led by leaders with progressive insight, vision, and compassion. The importance of charitable activities through which companies and their employees can solve individual problems and have broader community engagement cannot be overstated. Charitable programs add credibility to brand, equal to or beyond that of earnings and dividends. More significantly, they provide unforgettable moments and paint the time people spend with companies as positive experiences with lasting illumination.
Charity is “the voluntary giving of help.” One of the seven virtues, the word charity is often used interchangeably with love. I know this, but I’m not sure where I learned it.
Apartment 3J, 180 Troy Avenue, Albany Projects, Brooklyn, New York. Sometime in the early 1960s, a small boy interrupted his mother to ask if he could stay up a little later and watch The Millionaire, his favorite TV show. Though he couldn’t yet form the words, he found the show’s premise, hopeful and inspiring. His mom said yes and that night for sure there would be no monsters in his closet.
The Millionaire was all about a wealthy philanthropist who, through his agent, a poised, dignified gentleman named, Michael Anthony, would present unsuspecting recipients with “a cashier’s check for one million dollars.” Each unique episode told the story of how this unanticipated charity would help them face mounting challenges in their lives. Somehow their benefactor knew and the doorbell rang just in time. “I’m Michael Anthony…” the visitor always began. He presented the gift and he never left without the subtle suggestion that in time they should “pay it forward.”
Although Robert Fredrick Smith was born in Denver - a long way from Brooklyn - in December of 1962, just a tad late for the show’s original run, I enjoy the speculation that he caught a few of the 206 episodes of The Millionaire as they re-ran on CBS. Whoever knows what experiences give birth to an idea? If not this or not solely this, I am positive of the influence of his Ph.D. parents, both educators, or the fact that his mother carried him in her arms during the 1963 March on Washington. He was not quite 9-months old, but who’s to say that as Dr. Martin Luther King eloquently offered the words, “I have a dream,” young Robert’s soul was not subliminally and permanently touched? If not one of these or any of these then surely the words a young carpenter once spoke in Galilee, “…for this is why I have come.” Mark 1:38.
Whatever his inspiration, on Sunday, May 19th, 2019, investor Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stood in front of the 400-student graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and announced that his family was making a grant to pay 100% of their student loans. This is clearly an initiative to help them begin their adult and professional lives without the burden of the department that they were certain to have been pursued by for many years to come. Mr. Smith, of all people, understood the business equation, expedite positive cash flow. The personal equation is even more substantial, however, invest in the asset of infinite possibility, reinforce it with a sense of charity, legacy, and pride. Take this gift, make the most of it and then pay it forward. The world will be a little better for it.
I watched Mr. Smith’s speech on CNN from the Philippines and I was awestruck by the gesture. Between stories of war, starvation and political unrest, between meteorological catastrophes and toxic, immature tweets, a single man made an unselfish investment in the future of people he didn’t even know. Candidly, I have never wished for or am sure I would ever want 4 billion dollars net worth. To prove this, I have exhibited the poorest personal investment and savings habits as the years have gone by. But I do wish and will strive to be as unselfish as I can be on, at least, a relative basis. My life has been a continual trail of blessings and perhaps underserved opportunities so when the man said, “pay it forward,” I applauded. (I also liked the movie.)
So, what now? I’m the General Manager of a small BPO that supplies accounting, healthcare, real estate, technical support, and graphic design services to US companies. Our president and I have been preparing to launch a charitable grant program for our employees to help them with their personal challenges. This can be anything from unanticipated medical expenses to the restoration of property loss and personal debt. I had the honor of helping to launch and administrate a similar program in another company and I know, first hand, the rewards of being on the giving end of Robert F. Smith moments, though a little smaller in stature.
Charity makes organizations great. While mob mentality and bad intentions can be contagious. The effects are usually short term and often a cause for deep regret in later life. Human kindness and generosity, however, are compelling and irreversible life-long influences. As leaders in our industry, regardless of your role, you can have a profound impact on the character of your organization and the advancement of mankind, one person at a time. Remember, you yourself are the recipient of the hopes, prayers and good intentions of so many others. Pay is forward.
Passionate about mentoring and developing the industry’s future leaders, in 2000, Ron authored Fundamentals of Call Center Management, a guide intended to help entry level managers, as they begin to master their craft. Having spent 20 years with category leaders, American Express, Nestle, Moore Business Forms (now RR Donnelly) and Comcast, Ron's background includes an additional 10 years of key global BPO assignments with TeleTech, Convergys, Stream, STARTEK and now Connext. Ron's international experience includes stints in Jamaica, Canada and currently the Philippines.