Establishing that person-to-person relationship

Early in his career, American Eric Kaufman begged his company to provide him with more work so that he could save the jobs of people who were working with him.

The jolly Kaufman, who has an imposing physical presence, said it was a time in his life that he will always remember.  It was an experience that would impact how he would approach work and the people around him.

“I will never forget that moment.  What you do affect people’s lives.  I will never forget where I came from,” Kaufman said.

With a 36-year career that has taken him across continents, Kaufman now finds himself as the Philippine country general manager of IBEX Global, a United States-based business-process outsourcing (BPO) company.

In an industry where the stress level and the attrition rate are high, Kaufman leans on his past work experience to ensure that their employees remain engaged, performing well above the standards, and all the while having fun at work.

A healthy workplace

In the Philippines Kaufman said IBEX Global is growing a reputation as everyone’s employer of choice.

They now have more than 7,000 employees, or close to half of IBEX Global total work force that are spread in the United States (US), Nicaragua, Jamaica, Senegal, Pakistan and the Philippines.

And they are expanding their business in the country by becoming a company that embraces a person-to-person relationship with its employees.

Kaufman ensures he gets to talk personally to his employees on a daily basis, even as they hold regular town hall-style meetings in the office.

“There is people interaction in the office. There is genuine focus on people. It is a way to ensure healthy employee management,” Kaufman said.

He added: “It is your job to ensure that your people succeed.  It makes a lot of difference if they know that you have their backs covered.”

At the same time, with 75 percent of the company’s employees under the age of 28, Kaufman said they are looking at different ways to harness their potentials.

“Millennials carry with them a lot of energy and passion.  It is our job to recognize and embrace it, to allow them to grow and do the right things,” he said.

Moreover, Kaufman said they look at other matters that might mean little to their operations but are important to their employees.

He cited as examples that they give birthday cupcakes, roses on Valentine’s Day and gifts during Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

“It is about meeting them face-to-face and the handshake. Respect your people, and they will give back a handful,” Kaufman said.

In their Philippine operations, they also provide their employees meal allowance and a savings plan.

There is also the IBEX Idols, where they hold VIP events for their top performers at work.  It is where they take the top 5 percent of their work force to a selected resort for three days of fun.

Kaufman also said they are also very much gender-sensitive in the office, and hold activities for their LGBT community.

With emphasis on its employees, IBEX Global is enjoying a very low attrition rate and absenteeism.

Kaufman explained there is loyalty among their employees, because of the better work environment they provide.

The result

Even at its relatively young age compared to others in the industry, IBEX Global is one of the fastest-growing BPOs in the country.

“We have been growing by 20 percent over the last four years,” Kaufman said.

The BPO company currently has three offices in Metro Manila and one in Davao.  But IBEX Global is now looking at aggressively expanding over the next 12 months in several places in the country, including Cagayan de Oro, Naga, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu and Clark, and putting up another office in Davao.

“All indications is that the Philippine operations is doing well and exceeding expectations.  We are looking at a 15-percent to 20-percent increase in revenues.  We are in a strong position. We have good customers,” Kaufman said, while explaining that their fiscal year ends in June.

And all of this is happening, even when there are now a lot of projections that the voice component of the BPO industry will slowly decrease.

“Voice is down from an industry perspective but not from an IBEX perspective.  We are getting shares from those that are not performing.  We are a disruptive force,” he said.

According to Kaufman, IBEX Global operations in the Philippines is 90-percent voice and 10-percent office e-mail, chat and social-media support.

Kaufman said they will continue to make themselves relevant and continue to take a large chunk of the market share in the BPO industry.

His success story

Kaufman is a self-made man.  He worked on days to financially support his college education.  He started out as an assistant in a printing press and persistently applied eight times with the same company over a six-year period so that he can be transferred to its sales department.

From his humble beginnings, he became a top executive with leading technology, supply chain management and printing companies, handling staffs of at least 700 people.

“Do what you love,” Kaufman said, in explaining his success.

Over the course of his career, Kaufman has been to 43 countries but is now looking to stay in the Philippines long term.

“I was home [US] for a few days, but it did not felt like home anymore,” he said.

Kaufman has already sold all of his possessions back in the US, except for a few clothes, family heirloom and a rock given by his aunt 40 years ago.

The rock, found at the side of their house and where Kaufman wrote his name as a young kid, symbolizes the unconditional love that he was blessed with as a child growing up in Boston.

“It reminds me of what is important,” Kaufman said.