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Brian Marsh, President & CEO Goodwill Industries of Arkansas

Brian Marsh

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  • How Goodwill Industries began
  • How Goodwill grew in Arkansas
  • The array of services offered by Goodwill
  • Employment opportunities within the Goodwill organization

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Goodwill® Industries of Arkansas has more than 40 locations serving the state of Arkansas, and in fiscal year 2018 provided services to 19,247 individuals and placed 6,375 people in employment. Goodwill also opened the Excel Center® at Goodwill, the first adult high school in the state of Arkansas in October of 2017.

Brian was named President & CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas in November, 2107 after serving as the interim President & CEO beginning in May, 2017. Brian joined Goodwill Industries of Arkansas as Chief Operating Officer in October, 2013.

Prior to joining Goodwill, Brian served as General Manager/Vice President at Envirotest in Denver, Colorado. His duties included full management and profit and loss responsibility for the Colorado Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program. He managed 20 facilities and more than 350 people with annual revenues of over $31 million and the performance of more than 1.5 million annual tests. He also served as Director of Deployment and Support at Essilor Laboratories in Dallas, Texas. Essilor is a manufacturer and processor of opthalmalic lenses producing more than 60,000 pairs of glasses a day in the US. Brian was responsible for the deployment, support and training of all technologies and operations in over 140 locations across the United States and Mexico.

Brian and his wife Dani met while attending Mississippi State University and have 3 adult children. Brian and his family enjoy golf, camping and outdoor sports.

Podcast Links

 Kerry McCoy and Brian Marsh

Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com



[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people.

Now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.


[00:00:28] KM: Thank you, Gray. My guest today is Mr. Brian Marsh, president and CEO of a fascinating and huge business, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. You may be thinking, “Isn’t that the place I take my used belongings after spring cleaning?” Yes, it is, but it is so much more.

Last year, I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Marsh speak about the efficiencies of Goodwill and knew I had to have him on the radio to tell us more. Their mission since its inception in 1902 has changing lives through education, training and employment. I had no idea.

In 2017, Goodwill opened Arkansas’ first adult high school called Excel Center. In 2018, they provided services to almost 20,000 Arkansans and placed over 6,000 people in employment in 2019, they held their first class on mental health training. Something we need today that people don’t like to talk about. I love it.

Brian brought his talents to Arkansas from Denver, Colorado in 2013. Since then, he has moved up the success ladder eventually becoming the president and CEO of Goodwill industries with over 40 locations across Arkansas. I really liked listening to Brian, because first and foremost, he’s a businessman who speaks in equitable terms about his goals and accomplishments on some of the toughest social issues we face; lack of education, generational poverty, reintegrating veterans, starting over after incarceration.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome to the table the smart, hardworking and superb leader, Mr. Brian Marsh.

[00:02:11] BM: Thank you very much, Kerry.

[00:02:12] KM: So, I went and Googled Goodwill, and is it a charity? Is it a nonprofit? Is it a business?

[00:02:21] BM: Yes.

[00:02:22] KM: All of those?

[00:02:22] BM: All of those. We are a non for profit organization. We’re run like a business. We have to be. In order to provide the mission, we have to be very effective in our business operations. We operate, as you mentioned, over 40 locations across the state. We take gently used goods that are donated to us.

[00:02:43] KM: Gently used.

[00:02:44] BM: And we turn those into opportunities for individuals to get training, education and jobs.

[00:02:51] KM: That is exactly what the founder did in Boston in 1902.

[00:02:55] BM: Yes. Dr. Helms saw the need and the opportunity to provide opportunities for individuals. So what he did was it was the power of work. It wasn’t a hand out. It was a hand up. So we work at not giving people anything other than the opportunity to make the most of their life and to do what they need to do. So when you donate, you’re really helping change lives.

[00:03:20] KM: Yes. You’re not just giving somebody a shirt.

[00:03:23] BM: No.

[00:03:23] KM: You’ve giving somebody education.

[00:03:26] BM: Yes, a chance.

[00:03:27] KM: A chance. So I read where Reverent Helm originally started in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a Methodist preacher and he took used clothes and he had unemployed women, maybe men too. I don’t know, come and saw and repair these clothes.

[00:03:46] BM: Yes, and furniture.

[00:03:48] KM: Oh, and furniture.

[00:03:49] BM: And then sold that to pay them for the work they were doing.

[00:03:52] KM: That’s exactly what you’re doing today.

[00:03:54] BM: It is. It’s very close to what we’re doing. What people don’t understand is, first of all, 96% of our revenue comes from the sale of donated goods, and the good that are donated in Arkansas are sold and the money stays in Arkansas. So they go to help people in Arkansas change their life.

[00:04:13] KM: Though they’re not mending clothes, they’re cleaning them up. They’re prepping them. They’re putting them out for sale. They’re pricing them. They’re hanging them on racks. They’re retailing them, which is a different way of doing it a little bit, but it’s basically the same thing.

[00:04:25] BM: We have a thousand employees almost in the State of Arkansas.

[00:04:28] KM: That’s just wonderful. All right, before we get off into all that I have to talk about Goodwill, we want to learn a little bit about you. Where were you born?

[00:04:36] BM: I was born in Buchanan, Michigan. My wife and I met in calculus class at Mississippi state. I am a son of a Arkansas native. My mother was born in Batesville. My mother was a migrant worker until she was 13, and they used to go from Arkansas to Michigan following crops.

[00:04:58] KM: A share cropper?

[00:04:59] BM: No. They were migrant workers. They would pick cotton and beans and move all the way to Michigan picking fruit at the end of the season. So they would follow the harvest.

[00:05:08] KM: Oh, they would migrate.

[00:05:10] BM: And they would migrate up and then come back to Arkansas, and they stayed. My grandfather went to work in a factory in Michigan and my dad and mom met. They were from two farm towns close to each other. Graduated high school. My mother made sure that I went to college. My sister and I both had that opportunity. The dad’s family is a hardworking farming family. They had an agricultural trucking company, and the opportunity was to drive a truck. So he said he would cosign on a truck and my mother put her foot down very soundly and said, “No. I was going to go to college,” and I’m glad she did, because she put me on the track that I’m on today.

[00:05:53] KM: I bet you drove a truck in the summer.

[00:05:55] BM: I learned how to drive a truck at 13. I could drive a tractor much younger than that.

[00:06:01] KM: So did you grow up in Batesville?

[00:06:04] BM: No. I grew up in Michigan.

[00:06:06] KM: Yeah, I kind of got lost there. So your grandfather is from Michigan.

[00:06:09] BM: My mother is from Batesville, and then she moved to Michigan at 13.

[00:06:13] KM: There you go. Okay. I get it.

[00:06:14] BM: Yes.

[00:06:15] KM: So you never lived in Arkansas.

[00:06:17] BM: Never lived in Arkansas. Always came to Arkansas. Again, when we had the opportunity, my wife and I got married after college at Mississippi State, and we’ve moved around the country and the opportunity to leave – We’re working in Denver when the opportunity came to come to Goodwill of Arkansas.

[00:06:35] KM: Yeah. Let’s talk about you living in Denver. What did you do in Denver, Colorado?

[00:06:39] BM: I ran the emission testing for the State of Colorado.

[00:06:41] KM: How many employees did you have?

[00:06:43] BM: In Colorado, we tested about 1.2 million cars a year. We had 18 stations, and we were about a $30 million operation.

[00:06:54] KM: What’s your degree? MBA?

[00:06:56] BM: Mechanical engineering. I started in engineering out of college, and I had worked at a number of different companies and I was working for a gentleman at Black & Decker in Hampstead, Maryland, and the opportunity came to move that operation to Charlotte. I moved it to Charlotte as the project manager, and when we started the operation in Charlotte –

[00:07:18] KM: How old were you then?

[00:07:20] BM: Oh, goodness! Jonathan was a year old when we moved from Michigan the first time. He’s my youngest. It would have been four. So I would have been –

[00:07:30] KM: 26? 27?

[00:07:31] BM: 32.

[00:07:32] KM: 32. So, okay, that’s a good age to move. You moved to Charlotte at 32. I can see how you would get that much responsibility. You’re past 30. Once you get past 30, people start looking at you a little different. All right. So you’ve moved to Charlotte.

[00:07:45] BM: And I was the business team manager for Black & Decker. We did all of the accessories packaging for all of Black & Decker power tools and we did in the Charlotte location, and we would cycle twice a year with a number of people that we had as employees.

[00:08:03] KM: How long did you stay at that job?

[00:08:05] BM: I was there for two years.

[00:08:07] KM: And then a job came up in Denver, Colorado?

[00:08:09] BM: No. Then a job came up Dallas, Texas.

[00:08:12] KM: So you’re not afraid to move where the money is.

[00:08:15] BM: Well, actually, I moved where the opportunity is.

[00:08:17] KM: Whatever you want to say.

[00:08:19] BM: I would get phone calls from people who either knew me or knew of me and they would ask me to come and work and they would have an issue. I went to Texas to work for a company that was in telecom right as the telecom crash was happening. It was because they were in dire need of improving their operations.

[00:08:41] KM: So they were breaking up mobile?

[00:08:43] BM: No. We were actually a contract manufacturer making base stations for cellphone towers. So we were a contractor to Motorolla, Ericsson and other companies that did the phone systems.

[00:08:57] KM: So your work I think is becoming known across the south. Now, how did you – So you’re in Texas. Now, how long did you stay there?

[00:09:03] BM: We were in Texas for two years.

[00:09:05] KM: So your kids hate you. Let’s just go ahead and say that. You keep moving them around.

[00:09:08] BM: At Black & Decker, we were on the 50 state in 50-year plan, and they hated family meetings. When we would call a family meeting, they’re like, “The moving trucks are coming.”

[00:09:18] KM: Oh!

[00:09:20] BM: So they’ve moved around. My son is – My oldest is an engineer. He works in the Dallas area. My daughter is a medical physicist going through her residency right now in Houston, and my youngest is starting at Euler as data analyst.

[00:09:39] KM: They’ve got your work ethic.

[00:09:40] BM: Yes they do.

[00:09:41] KM: So, now you’re in Texas, and you get an offer to Denver?

[00:09:46] BM: No. Then I got an offer to run a lost phone foundry for Bombardier.

[00:09:50] KM: Where is that?

[00:09:50] BM: That is in the mountains in North Carolina. So we’re between Ashville and Boone, and we lived there for two years. They were in a situation where they needed to repair some relationships, but also the operation needed a lot of help. It was not efficient and it wasn’t effective and they’re having major issues in competing with Yamaha and with Suzuki and with MerCruiser. So it was Bombardier.

[00:10:23] KM: So, you’re practically doing business MBA work now even though you’re a mechanical engineer.

[00:10:29] BM: Yes.

[00:10:30] KM: So how long did you stay there?

[00:10:31] BM: We were there about two years, the trend.

[00:10:33] KM: That seems to be the trend.

[00:10:35] BM: And then we moved to Dallas. Then Dallas –

[00:10:37] KM: Back to Texas.

[00:10:39] BM: I worked for an eyeglass company, and we made – It was SLR. They’re the largest manufacturer of lenses in the world.

[00:10:47] KM: I read this online. How many pair of glasses do they make a day?

[00:10:51] BM: 60,000 pairs of glasses a day in the U.S.

[00:10:53] KM: A day.

[00:10:54] BM: In the U.S.

[00:10:55] KM: That’s a lot of people buying glasses. I have no idea there was even a demand for that.

[00:11:01] BM: Great technology. I went in and I interviewed for a job and I was told by the manager that I wasn’t getting it, but he wanted to offer me another job. I asked, “Okay. Can I see the job description?” He says, “I’m writing it.” He sent me the job description, and it was basically very close to my resume just as requirements.

I did operations development. So, there were over 140 laboratories that would make the lenses, and they picked the worst 10, the worst 10 performers, and I led a cross-functional team in to evaluate why they were not performing any better. Worked with them on developing the plan to turn it around. So, you always go into the worst. You don’t want to be the best and you don’t want to be the worst. If you’re the best, people want to come study you. If you’re the worst, people want to help. So, I was that individual who is from corporate, and I’m here to help.

[00:12:01] KM: You’re a good listener. If you can go to a company – I don’t even know you that well. But if you can go into a company and turn it around, that means you’re a good listener. He’s nodding. It’s radio, Brian.

Are you still married with the same lady?

[00:12:15] BM: Yes, I am.

[00:12:16] KM: Is she a saint?

[00:12:18] BM: Very close to one, yes.

[00:12:20] KM: Is she lonely? You work all the time.

[00:12:23] BM: When I was in the job in Texas for SLR, and that was over 7 years. I traveled every week. So I would leave on Monday and come back on Friday. So, she was raising 3 children, and our kids were sophomore, senior, freshman in high school, and then again in college. So, yes. So, she was raising them and I would come home on the weekends and we would communicate through the week, but it was very difficult.

My daughter brought it up at the dining room table as a junior and high school that if I could be happy, she would move if I could be home. So, we went to Denver, and her comment was, “I didn’t think you’d take me up on it, moving.” As a senior, she changed high schools.

[00:13:11] KM: To be with her dad.

[00:13:13] BM: That, again, an opportunity. She ended up staying with friends of ours from a church in Dallas and stayed there and finished her high school. My youngest graduated from high school in Denver.

[00:13:25] KM: One thing bad about radio is you can’t see people faces. That made you very emotional. I love that story.

I’m speaking today with Mr. Brian Marsh, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, whose mission is changing lives through education, training and employment, and I don’t know how you got to Arkansas. How did that happen? Where are you working in Colorado?

[00:13:47] BM: Well, I was working for AirCare Colorado, which is the emissions testing. So they did all the automotive car emissions testing before you got your –

[00:13:56] KM: Is that a state agency?

[00:13:58] BM: It is a state contractors.

[00:14:00] KM: State contractor. Okay.

[00:14:00] BM: Actually, I had worked with Black & Decker. We had worked with Goodwill in Maryland. So knew what Goodwill was. I knew what Goodwill did. Goodwill is one of the best kept secrets. We are a well-known brand. Everybody knows who we are.

[00:14:15] KM: Everybody.

[00:14:16] BM: Nobody knows what we are.

[00:14:18] KM: Exactly. That’s why I wanted you on.

[00:14:20] BM: Yes. So I had the opportunity to come in as the chief operating officer. Join the organization in 2013 as a chief operating officer, and it was really – We’re a very well-run organization. We are one of the Goodwills that is doing it right, and we went through a great tremendous growth, and that was because when our previous CEO got here, we only had a couple of stores.

[00:14:48] KM: You’re talking about in Arkansas.

[00:14:49] BM: In Arkansas. Here in Arkansas. So, the ground was fertile. So we ended up opening a number of stores in the state. I took the helm officially in November of 2017 as the president and CEO, and we’re focused not as much on opening new stores, as improving our operations. So we’re doing Lean Sigma. We’re doing kaizen events.

[00:15:13] KM: You’re doing what?

[00:15:14] BM: Kaizen events.

[00:15:15] KM: What was the one you said right before that?

[00:15:17] BM: Lean Sigma.

[00:15:18] KM: I don’t know what either one of those are.

[00:15:20] BM: That is going in and continuous improvement.

[00:15:23] KM: Lean –.

[00:15:23] BM: Lean Sigma.

[00:15:24] KM: Sigma.

[00:15:25] BM: Six Sigma, which is data-based. So we’re trying to improve things by measuring and ensuring that we’re improving. So, we do kaizen, which is a Japanese word for change for good, and it is done in the Toyota production system. So, Toyota really made a lot of inroads in this with John Deming back in – I think it was the 70s, early 70s, and that’s when Toyota changed from being a very poorly made, very cheap, very high-maintenance.

[00:16:01] KM: But affordable.

[00:16:01] BM: But affordable.

[00:16:02] KM: Inexpensive.

[00:16:02] BM: To a high-quality. So has improvement. So, we’re actually doing that now in our backrooms, in our process centers, so that we can be more efficient.

[00:16:13] KM: So you’re not trying to grow. You’re trying to improve.

[00:16:15] BM: We’re growing, but we’re growing deliberately, and we’re very measured. We analyze demographics. We ensure that we can get the donations that will make a store profitable and make it successful so that we can then take those profits and turn them into mission. So all the money we make goes to pay for our employees and then for our mission. Delivery of the mission is so important. So people think nonprofits, they think that it’s charity. It’s not charity. It’s a business operated to deliver to a social need. So that’s what we do.

[00:16:51] KM: How did you find out about this job opening in Arkansas?

[00:16:54] BM: I actually knew the gentleman who is the CEO. From a prior – When we lived in Maryland. So, the opportunity came up to come here as the chief operating officer. Came in, worked with them for four and a half years. Had the opportunity after he left the organization to be the interim CEO. Then was appointed by the board as the president and CEO, and that was in November 17.

[00:17:22] KM: You had to take a cut in pay to come here.

[00:17:24] BM: Yes ma’am.

[00:17:25] KM: Why did you do that?

[00:17:27] BM: Because I know what Goodwill does.

[00:17:29] KM: You were just at that place in your life.

[00:17:30] BM: Yes, you – I made a lot of people a lot of money, shareholders for Black & Decker and SLR and other companies. This is a lot of intrinsic. It is very fulfilling. We had a graduation Saturday of our Excel Center, our adult high school. We had 18 adults across the stage as graduates with their high school diploma. Not a GDE, but a high school diploma issued by the state of Arkansas. These are people whose dream, they dared to dream that they could be a high school graduates.

[00:18:08] KM: From ages of what?

[00:18:09] BM: From ages of – Our students are ages 19 to 64. So, the opportunity – We changed the law, so the Excel Center. In 2015, we worked with legislators to change the law to allow adults in Arkansas to be educated, to gain their high school diploma.

[00:18:29] KM: You mean there was a law that would keep you from that?

[00:18:32] BM: Yes. At 19 you aged out of the public school system.

[00:18:35] KM: I had no idea.

[00:18:37] BM: Yes.

[00:18:37] KM: So you could only get a GDE.

[00:18:39] BM: You could only get – That was your only option, was a GDE before 2017 when we opened the school. So in 2015, we changed the law. Then we went about waiting for the rules and regulations to be built, and then we applied. I know it’s a terrible thing. We’re a charter school, but we’re only the public charter in the State of Arkansas that gets no public funding at this time. So we operate the school solely on the money earned from selling your donations.

[00:19:12] KM: And you do more with the donations then sell them in your gift shop. I remember hearing you talk about what you do with some of the stuff you can’t sell.

[00:19:22] BM: We try and ensure that we minimize our waste stream, and that means that we want everything to go to – We want to be a good steward of the donation. So when a donation comes to us, we want to squeeze everything we can out of it. So if we can’t sell it in the store, then we turnaround and work to sell it in our outlets. We have two outlets. One in Rogers and one here on Scott Hamilton in Little Rock.

[00:19:46] KM: I thought you had 40 shows.

[00:19:48] BM: We do, but we only have two outlets. We have 45 locations in the state.

[00:19:52] KM: Those are more like drop off locations and work locations.

[00:19:55] BM: Drop off, worker and retail stores.

[00:19:58] KM: Do they train there?

[00:19:59] BM: They do.

[00:20:00] KM: Okay. Train them.

[00:20:00] BM: Then we have career centers in our newer stores. Our newer footprint stores, our larger stores have a career center where we work with individuals to try and help them gain skills and employment. So we work with them on writing resumes and interview skills and how to fill out an application online.

[00:20:20] KM: What’s the first thing you do when somebody comes to you and says, “I need help.”

[00:20:27] BM: Find out where they are. We have to meet them where they are. So, first, what help do you need? Why do you need that help? What other underlying things are keeping you from being able to achieve your dream? Then we work with them to take those down.

[00:20:44] KM: If you go on your website, which happens to be one of the best websites I’ve ever been on. I was like, “This guy has crossed every T and dotted, every I.” Your website is so good. You can get deep in there. I ended up looking at the page called Giving Arkansans a Second Chance, and I met Jeremy Evans.

[00:21:09] BM: Jeremy is a wonderful young man.

[00:21:11] KM: Wonderful! At 8-years-old, he was incarcerated.

[00:21:14] BM: We have opportunities in every state. But here in Arkansas, we have a large number of individuals who are coming out of incarceration. They’re given – When you leave jail, you’re given $75 to $100 a bus ticket and an appointment with your parole officer.

[00:21:35] KM: Most of these people don’t have family, do they?

[00:21:38] BM: They don’t or they have family, but it’s a difficult situation, because that’s part of how they got where they were. So, they need help. They need help resetting themselves, but they also need help with that reengagement into society, reengagement back with their families. Our recidivism rate in the State of Arkansas is around 50%.

[00:22:04] KM: That means people that go back.

[00:22:05] BM: Yes ma’am.

[00:22:06] KM: Well, Jeremy, in his interview that I watched, his video that I watched. He said that he was a bank rob – No, not – Jeremy was the bank robber. I’m sorry. Lionel Porter was the one who is incarcerated. I got those two gentlemen backwards. Lionel Porter was the one who was incarcerated at 8-years-old and he’s the one that said when he got arrested again in his late teens, it was a relief to him to have a bed and a meal.

[00:22:34] BM: And not have to worry about living in the street.

[00:22:38] KM: Yes. Jeremy Evans was the bank robber who lost his job, lost him home, the bills were piling up. He was desperate and he thought, “Well, I’ll just go buy a hat and rob a bank,” and he robbed five successfully.

[00:22:49] BM: Yes.

[00:22:50] KM: Or four.

[00:22:51] BM: More than that.

[00:22:52] KM: Or six.

[00:22:53] BM: Yes. So, these individuals, when they get out of incarceration, they have to make a decision. Do they want to stay the person who went to jail, or do they want to be who they can be? So, we have a number of programs. One in our transitional employment opportunities, which both of these gentlemen went through. Our recidivism rate for that program –

[00:23:17] KM: What do you call that program again?

[00:23:19] BM: It’s our TEO, transitional employment opportunities.

[00:23:22] KM: Okay.

[00:23:23] BM: Our recidivism rate for that program is less than 6%. It’s a 16-week. It’s very intensive. But it helps them – One, it helps them build those relationships. It helps them build the skills they need to build so that they can reintegrate in society, reengage with their families. So, going through that program, they go through their ups and down, but they go through it with us and they’re paid while they’re going through this so that they have income so that they can pay for those things that they have to pay for. They have fines. They need to get their driver license back. We help them with that. They need to get a bank account. They need to locate housing. They need to reengage with their families.

So we help them during that period. At the graduation of that, we help them find a job. Not all of them work for Goodwill. The majority don’t stay with Goodwill and they go to work for other people.

[00:24:17] KM: I was wondering about that. They do? Let’s take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Mr. Brian Marsh, president and CEO of Goodwill industries or Arkansas. He would tell us how they are working hard and overcoming some of the – He’ll continue telling us how they’re working hard and overcoming some of the toughest social problems facing America today.

I want to remind everyone that after each shows airing, a podcast is made available on all popular listening sites and YouTube.


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[00:26:02] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with Mr. Brian Marsh, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, whose mission is changing lives through education, training and employment.

Before the break, we have been talking about all the good works that Goodwill does, and I said I wished that sometimes radio was live, because when Brian talks about those people graduating, I thought you were going to cry, Brian.

[00:26:29] BM: It’s emotional.

[00:26:31] KM: It’s emotional. We talked about how smart you are and how you could be doing anything in the world and how you have decided that this point in time in your life, it’s about paying it forward. I totally get it. I totally get it. It’s not your 30s when you’re raising a family.

[00:26:45] BM: No.

[00:26:47] KM: But it’s later. So, we’ve talked about what’s the first thing you do when someone comes to you at Goodwill, and you said you meet them where they are.

[00:26:57] BM: We meet them where they are. We try and determine what is their current state both physical, financial, emotional. What are they really looking for? Then we work to help them achieve.

[00:27:11] KM: How do people get in touch with Goodwill if they need help?

[00:27:14] BM: Most of the time it’s through friends, because nobody knows what Goodwill does. So it’s someone who had the opportunity of having the conversations that we have in the past, but also have been through a program or have been touched by Goodwill. So, if you go to Goodwill, if you call Goodwill. If you go to our website, you have the opportunity to make that connection and then reach out –

[00:27:40] KM: So you can go to your website.

[00:27:41] BM: Yes ma’am.

[00:27:42] KM: So they can go to your website, browse the website. See if there’s anything they want. Because you have programs for getting your high school education. You have programs for people that want to get back into society after being veterans, for veterans, for reintegration. So, how do you work with those people?

[00:28:07] BM: It depends. Right now we’re working with a group that is working to build a veteran’s village in the Pinebluff area, and in that, we’re working to provide those same sort of programs that we provide in the TEO program with soft skills.

As you mentioned at the beginning, the mental health aspects and to help to engage. What we try and do is remove the barriers. But in order to remove the barriers, we really have to build a relationship. Because you have to know. You have to communicate. So it’s building that communication that allows us to move forward.

[00:28:45] KM: What do you do every day – How many hours do you work on a week?

[00:28:48] BM: We just had this conversation, and I’m going to hold that close to the vest in case my wife is listening, but no. It’s more than 40. It’s a full week.

[00:29:00] KM: It’s probably 24/7. It probably never really leaves you.

[00:29:02] BM: It’s a lot, but we have great people and –

[00:29:06] KM: So what does your day look like? You get to work. Because I know you’re not teaching them. You’re not teaching the classes. You’re management. You’re managing it. You’re making it lean. What was the word you used, lean sigma?

[00:29:16] BM: Kaizen.

[00:29:16] KM: And kaizen.

[00:29:17] BM: Yes.

[00:29:19] KM: So what do you do when you get to work every day?

[00:29:21] BM: I start my day by trying to, one, ensure that my list is there. So I try and build a list of what I had either from the day before the things I didn’t accomplish. The things that had come in on email. I try to clear up my email queue so that it is as minimal as possible, because I know I’ll be getting a number of emails during the day.

I sit down and usually spend some time with the other executive staff. Our CFO is in there early also. So she and I get a little bit of time before the majority of the people come in to talk about how our day is going. How is the business is running. Then it is spent engaging with both public/private partners in trying to determine what is needed. It’s opportunities.

We met with the governor two weeks ago to talk about funding for the Excel center and growth. We have over 300,000 Arkansans over the age of 25 without a high school diploma. In the State of Arkansas, over 300,000 adults without a high school diploma.

[00:30:30] KM: Wow!

[00:30:32] BM: We can’t help that many individuals without having more schools. So it is how do we expand. So we’re working with the governor and his staff on identifying funding that would allow us to expand the schools. Right now we have a school for 125 students. We would like to see five schools for 350 students spread across the state in the next 9 years.

[00:30:56] KM: Those people become – The 6,000 people that you place in employment last year, over 6,000. They become tax payers.

[00:31:03] BM: Yes.

[00:31:04] KM: One of the girls that I watched a video of said that Goodwill gave her confidence. She had no confidence.

[00:31:12] BM: It’s amazing in the lives we touched, and it happens daily. The miracles, the life-changing experiences happen on a daily basis.

[00:31:21] KM: Most of your money, I believe 90% of it, comes from your thrift shops, your resale shops, and it’s something like 90%.

[00:31:32] BM: 96%.

[00:31:33] KM: 96%. But there are certain things you cannot donate to Goodwill.

[00:31:37] BM: Yes. We don’t take, I’ll say, cribs and baby materials like that, and the reason is there are so many recalls in the safety aspect, and we don’t want – And car seats. We don’t want to put something out there than then someone gets hurt with.

[00:31:55] KM: And the liability.

[00:31:56] BM: And the liability. We don’t take beds.

[00:31:59] KM: That’s a health issue problem.

[00:32:00] BM: It’s a health issue. We don’t take large tube TVs, we have to pay to get rid of them, because the CRT, the large glass tubes, you have to pay to dispose of. So we don’t take those items. But we take a majority of items that you have in-house. We take those. As we were discussing before, we do everything we can to squeeze everything we can out of that. All the money we can.

[00:32:26] KM: Oh, yeah. We never did finish that. What do you do? How do you squeeze the money? I remember kind of hearing you talk about this. Take stuff apart, sell parts.

[00:32:34] BM: Yes. If things don’t sell in the store – So in our 30+ stores across the state, then we take them to our two outlet centers and we try and sell it by the pound. So then if it doesn’t sell by the pound, then we break it down into components, and that may be shoes, paired in single shoes. Yes, we have a vendor for single shoes.

They buy the – A Gaylord, which is a 4x4x4 box. They’ll buy those full of single shoes. They’re shipped to third-world countries, and people sort them to try and match up shoes that are similar. Because someone would rather have two shoes that are kind of alike than no shoes.

So we squeeze everything we can. We cut the cords off of electrical equipment and we have a vendor that buys the cords.

[00:33:27] KM: Strips it out for copper, I guess.

[00:33:28] BM: Yes, and we take apart computer systems and components with that. So, we do everything we can to try and minimize our waste stream. So what goes to landfill, so that we can maximize our opportunity and be good shepherds of the donations.

[00:33:45] KM: So you stated this year the mental health.

[00:33:48] BM: Yes. It’s a mental health first aid.

[00:33:51] KM: That’s right, first aid.

[00:33:52] BM: So it is how to respond when someone is having a – I don’t want to say a breakdown.

[00:33:58] KM: An episode.

[00:33:59] BM: An episode.

[00:34:01] KM: And you just had a workshop

[00:34:04] BM: Yes, our first workshop.

[00:34:05] KM: So at first I thought this was for the mentally ill that needed to come in there and needed some help. But is it for them or is it for employers like me that need to come in there that work with people?

[00:34:20] BM: With people.

[00:34:21] KM: Who just you never know.

[00:34:22] BM: Yes. It’s for employers. It’s for anyone who engages with people. Because the opportunity – One of the things that we have a great need here in Arkansas, but across the U.S., is mental health professionals. But how do you handle that moment when the event is happening, when they’re having an episode, and how do you deescalate, and that’s what this is really about.

So, we saw a need. There are a number of positions, occupations that are more susceptible to being engaging with people that this may affect.

[00:34:59] KM: Police? But they probably have their own.

[00:35:00] BM: Police have their own, but teachers. Hospitals have their own, but that’s not necessarily available to the general public.

[00:35:08] KM: Well, business owners.

[00:35:09] BM: Business owners.

[00:35:10] KM: I’ve been around long enough that I kind of know how to deescalate, but you do get sucked in. When I was young, I could get sucked right in with somebody going angry or whatever.

[00:35:21] BM: Yes. So, we do that. We have a license trade school. So we’re licensed in the State of Arkansas to offer different trades. So we have a forklift training. We are right now in the process of bringing online a large laser that’s used to cut materials and training CNC operators. So computer numerically controlled machines, and training the operators so that they can then go out and work for the businesses in the area that need machine operators, but can’t find them.

[00:35:55] KM: What do you think the number one reason is for people not being able to work? Is it been a rational poverty? Is it education?

[00:36:02] BM: Education.

[00:36:03] KM: It’s education.

[00:36:04] BM: It’s education. One of the things that –

[00:36:06] KM: It’s not substance abuse?

[00:36:08] BM: There is a huge substance abuse issue, but does education play into that? It may not be the education of K through 12. It may be the education of the impact of drugs. It may be the education on how to handle a situation where feeling depressed or you’re having a mental episode. You’re having a mental health issue. So there’re a lot of things that are coupled under that education umbrella.

[00:36:36] KM: Do you see more men or women at Goodwill, or is it pretty split down into middle?

[00:36:44] BM: It’s more women than men. The school has a very high female to male ratio, and a lot of that is because they have either – They have the opportunity in their situation today to come back and go to school. With the school, we have free childcare onsite. We help with transportation. So bus passes, because our job is to remove all barriers that kept them from, one, achieving their educational goals when they were in high school. But now that they’re older, it’s to take those barriers away. They get a life coach.

[00:37:25] KM: I was about to say, it’s almost like you need a parent.

[00:37:27] BM: Well, they get a life coach, which is kind of like that. It’s their partner. It helps them with the life issues that they run into.

[00:37:34] KM: Making good choices.

[00:37:35] BM: Making good choices.

[00:37:37] KM: Yeah.

[00:37:37] BM: Where to get childcare? What to do about budgeting, financial –

[00:37:43] KM: Budgeting is huge.

[00:37:44] BM: It is. So we teach finance courses, and it’s entry level financial planning. It’s financial health. We’ve seen enough impact by having this for the school that we’re now doing this and we’re in the process of the planning, but we’re going to have life coaches for our employees so that they have someone they can talk to. When it’s not an HR issue and it’s not – When do you want me to come in and my job performance manager issue? But it’s a life issue that they don’t have someone to turn to, and we’re going to provide that for our employees.

[00:38:23] KM: What do you see for the future for Goodwill?

[00:38:25] BM: Five schools in the state educating adults. If we had five schools in the State of Arkansas, we would see approximately 1,500 students every session with the opportunity to get their high school diploma to earn that.

[00:38:42] KM: I was surprised when you told me only 25 graduated this year.

[00:38:45] BM: We have had 25 graduates so far. So when someone comes to the school, first thing that happens is they go through an orientation, and it’s really to let them know how hard it’s going to be, but what they’re going to have to do. Then they’re tested. We’re testing them to find out where they are, because our school isn’t time in the seat. It’s mastery of the subject. So when we do that test, then we build an individualized study plan that will take them to their diploma.

[00:39:14] KM: Because of them have an education to the fifth grade.

[00:39:17] BM: Some have an education to the second grade.

[00:39:21] KM: And some go to the 10th grade. So you have to customize every one of these.

[00:39:24] BM: We had a student who just graduated who needed one credit in English to graduate, and that’s what kept them from getting their high school diploma, but they were over 19. So in the past, they had no option. So now they have an option.

[00:39:38] KM: If didn’t hear this before, Brian, in 2015, changed the laws.

[00:39:45] BM: We work with legislators to change the law to allow adults to be educated and earn their high school diploma.

[00:39:51] KM: Prior to that, you aged out at 19.

[00:39:55] BM: Yes.

[00:39:56] KM: I’m shocked at that.

[00:39:57] BM: There are a lot of states that have that.

[00:39:59] KM: I want to tell everybody that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with Mr. Brian Marsh, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas whose mission is changing lives through education, training and employment. I also want to tell our listeners that if they have a great entrepreneurial story that they would like to share with me that they could send a brief a bio and their contact info to me at kerry@flagandbanner.com and someone will be in touch.

Brian, any advice to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and work at Goodwill?

[00:40:35] BM: Come see us.

[00:40:37] KM: Really? Are there opportunities?

[00:40:38] BM: There are opportunities at Goodwill. We’re actually right now working on developing a – Well, we have developed a new plan for our employees that is a training and development program. So we’ll be hiring a training manager. So we’ll be hiring a training manager lead that for our thousand employees across the state.

[00:40:59] KM: You didn’t come to Arkansas as the president.

[00:41:02] BM: No.

[00:41:03] KM: You came as –

[00:41:04] BM: Chief operating officer.

[00:41:05] KM: Yes. So, you could start at any entry level at Goodwill and work your way up. Are there people that came to work for you that have never left?

[00:41:13] BM: Yes. We have a gentleman who’s been with us for 53 years. He is a driver right now. He’s a truck driver for us. We have Jeremy. You read about his story and watch his video. His aspirations are word to be the vice president of workforce development, but he’s changed that, and he wants my job. He may have –

[00:41:38] KM: I don’t think anybody could take your job.

[00:41:40] BM: He may have it.

[00:41:41] KM: Too special.

[00:41:44] BM: We have a lot of opportunities. We always have opportunities in the organization. We have some positions we call evergreen in retail. As you know, retail is a very tough environment. So they’re evergreen. We’re always hiring. But we also have jobs that in our workforce development team. We have jobs in our finance department that we’re filling. We’re growing.

When I joined in 13, we had I think 32 locations. We’re now 45. We were employing 580 people. Now we’re employing nearly a thousand people in the state.

[00:42:23] KM: So you can come to Goodwill to get training to move on and move out if you want to. You can come to Goodwill and get training and stay there and have a fulfilling life. Now, as with every good deed, there’s always somebody going to cut you down. Look, he’s laughing.

So I go online, I’m Googling Goodwill –

[00:42:46] BM: You heard about Mark.

[00:42:47] KM: Who’s Mark?

[00:42:47] BM: Mark Curran.

[00:42:48] KM: Which ones who? The one in California?

[00:42:49] BM: Mark Curran is the one who’s the president of CBO that – And of Goodwill that flies on a helicopter – Yes. And makes millions of dollars a year.

[00:42:58] KM: He’s a one percenter.

[00:42:59] BM: No.

[00:43:00] KM: No?

[00:43:01] BM: It’s not real.

[00:43:02] KM: It’s not even true?

[00:43:03] BM: No. It’s on the internet. It’s supposed to be. No, it’s no true.

[00:43:05] KM: Well, I just thought he was probably – There’s always an exception to the rule. Not everybody can be perfect, and that he probably was a fallen angel. But that’s not even true.

[00:43:16] BM: It’s not even true.

[00:43:17] KM: Okay. Then I saw another one where a guy said they worked for Goodwill and he was disgruntled, which there’s always those employees, and he was ranting about how Goodwill sells everything instead of giving away. I thought, “Well, right.”

[00:43:30] BM: Yes.

[00:43:31] KM: Okay.

[00:43:33] BM: We have a lot of that. So, one of the things people will fault Goodwill is you got it for free. Our conversation then is, “But this is what we do with it, and this is why we do what we do, and it’s about the power of work.”

As you mentioned, we put in our last fiscal year, we put over 6,300 people into jobs in the state. That’s not working with Goodwill or for Goodwill. It’s working for companies that we partner with.

[00:44:01] KM: I wondered about that. I wondered if they were all working for you. So that doesn’t even count the ones that worked for you.

[00:44:06] BM: The ones that work for us are a small percentage of that number. They’re less than 5%, if it’s even 5%. 5% of that would be –

[00:44:16] KM: Only 5% stayed at Goodwill?

[00:44:19] BM: No. Those that we place in that number. So, our focus is on finding you the job you want. If the job you want is at Goodwill, then we’ll work to help you find that. But, really, it’s what do you want to do? With our students, some of students come to us for the high school. It’s I don’t want to be – I’m here at 35. I don’t want to be here at 45. So what is your plan?

Getting the diploma isn’t the end, and that is just the beginning. So we work with them on what is your dream? What is your purpose? Where are you going to go now and whose life are you going to change? Because it’s really about relationships.

[00:45:00] KM: Brian, can I just tell your wife that I love you?

[00:45:04] BM: I appreciate that.

[00:45:05] KM: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for coming on.

[00:45:08] BM: Well, thank you for having me. I greatly appreciate it.

[00:45:10] KM: I hope everybody can hear you. I have a gift for you. It is a desk set. I couldn’t figure out. It’s a U.S. flag and an Arkansas flag for your desk. I read about you and I thought, “Well, do I give him one from Colorado? Do I give him one from Carolina? Do I give him one from Texas?” So you’re just getting Arkansas.

[00:45:26] BM: I’m an Arkansan.

[00:45:27] KM: You really are.

[00:45:28] BM: Yes.

[00:45:29] KM: You love it here?

[00:45:29] BM: Yes, I do.

[00:45:31] KM: We have a lot of people transplants come on this radio show and they all say, “I have no idea Arkansas was so nice.”

[00:45:37] BM: Well, we left Colorado. When we left Colorado, we told people we’re coming to Arkansas. They said, “You’re going to leave this?” It’s beautiful. So my question was, “Have you ever been to Arkansas?” Most of them, “No, I haven’t,” and I said, “If you go, you’ll know why Arkansas is a natural state.”

[00:45:57] KM: Oh! I love it. Thank you. Gray, who’s our guest next week?

[00:46:01] GM: Next week’s guest is Mr. Gary Lay of GWL Advertising.

[00:46:08] KM: Before we leave, I got to tell you that he is a survivor of the nuclear missile silo fire of 1965 in Damascus, Arkansas. He’s the only survivor.

[00:46:16] GM: What?

[00:46:17] KM: Yeah!

[00:46:17] GM: Wow!

[00:46:18] KM: He’s going to tell us all about it. I want to say to everybody, thank you for spending time with us and that we hope you’ve heard or learned something today that’s been inspiring or enlightening. If you didn’t hear it today, then you’re never going to hear it, because today was a great show. We hope, whatever it is, that it will help you up your business, your independence or your life.

I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.

[00:46:41] GM: Subscribe to our podcasts wherever you like to listen by searching Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Also, you may simply like flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page to watch our live stream and receive timeline notifications of upcoming guests.


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