We did it when we hired Lee Stechmann, our original office manager (and, we did it when we hired his successor, Catherine Mok).
We did it again when we hired a wet-behind-the-ears Edward M. ‘Ted’ Birkhahn about a decade ago. Ted is now our president and was recently named to PR Week’s 40 under 40.
But, we really hit the trifecta with Raymond J. Carroll, our current receptionist.
Calling Ray a receptionist is like calling Muhammad Ali a boxer or Mozart a musician. Ray is so much more. Since joining us a year or so ago, Ray has rocked our world. He’s beloved by clients, prospective clients, employees, vendors, and just about everyone who comes into contact with Peppercom. He’s our brand ambassador, a can-do, go-to guy who never says no to any request.
Having spent years representing the likes of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, I know the faculty and students of each could learn a lesson or two from The Raymond J. Carroll School of Management. So, why not share Ray’s POV on his job, his firm and his role as brand ambassador?
1) You seem to have endeared yourself to everyone. What’s your advice for managing up, down and across an organization?
I reciprocate any attitudes projected toward me. Like a mirror, I reflect what Peppercom shows me. Life is hectic, especially professional life. Taking the time to treat people as people will establish a level of comfort. Obviously, people have varying responsibilities, but everyone should be treated equally. My advice for managing across an organization would be to praise good actions while analyzing and correcting counter-productive ones.
2) You’re our first point of contact with the outside world. What sort of experience do you want to create for each and every visitor?
I extend a cordial, accommodating presence to make people comfortable. A receptionist should be able to provide information and/or assistance, just like a hotel concierge. I’m attentive and I offer assistance to all guests. In doing so, I follow the advice a friend once gave me: a lady or gentleman is a person who takes the time to be sure everyone is comfortable, and he/she always puts others before themselves. I have this outlook outside the office as well. It’s a characteristic likely instilled by my mother and a testament to how she raised me.
3) Describe your job responsibilities:
To borrow a sports analogy, I’d liken myself to a utility man. I’m willing to fill any voids necessary, for the good of the team. From mailroom duties and moving filing cabinets to grocery shopping and changing light bulbs, I do it all. I also assist on monthly reports, and write guest blogs.
4) How do you handle rude guests, phone callers, or fellow employees such as Ed?
Aside from Ed, I’ve yet to have an ‘encounter of the rude kind’ here at the office. That could be because my definition of “rude” is exceptional. (please see response to question 5). In my personal life, I believe it’s important to take the high road but also being sure a rude person’s made aware of how he or she is acting. No one wants to be treated disrespectfully. If you gently point that out, you’ll usually see some bit of contrition (with the possible exception of Ed).
5) What path led you to our doors?
When I was younger, I didn’t have much patience for office life. In fact, my few attempts at it were short lived. I may have just needed more action in my day. That said, I’ve now accepted that ‘slow and steady’ wins the race.
Career wise, I’d tended a bar for nearly a decade, held some off-the-book construction jobs, a variety of temp work, and even a job at Yankee Stadium’s money room thumbing through George Steinbrenner’s dirty cash. Tending bar exposed me to many of life’s negative elements, which became fine examples of which routes not to follow. The variety of bar cliental exposed me to some decent, but mostly animalistic, conduct (rude was redefined here). In all jobs it was a necessity to establish a rapport with folks I wouldn’t necessarily have much in common with. that said, each of these positions opened my eyes a quite bit. I’ve worked with persons from all walks of life.
6.) What are your professional goals?
My goal is to build a professional relationship that will afford my family and me comfortable lives. Simply stated, I need to provide happiness for others. And, in this world isn’t, happiness doesn’t come for free. That said, it’s in my best interest to establish myself while proving myself worthy of long-lasting employment. I believe every new day in life leads to improvements. Learning and growing in both professional and personal realms is my life’s objective.
7.) What’s your number one piece of advice for any brand ambassador at any organization?
Live your brand, walk the walk and talk the talk. If you’re in a service industry, serve like no other.”
How’s that for a 30-second M.B.A.,?