An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Seek to Understand — Knowledge is power. Try to get to the root cause of setbacks. You may not have been able to prevent each one but you can always come up with a way of dealing with it.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lorraine Veber. Lorraine is Group Chief Customer Officer, IWG, where she is responsible for font and back office operations, customer service and business change management. At the start of her over 20-year tenure, she spent time growing the company — opening offices in new markets, helping build the sales force, establishing the shared service center and running global sales operations. Over the past ten years, she’s run global operations with a focus on customers service and transformation. Lorraine earned a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Southern California.

Thank you so much for joining us, Lorraine! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I was born and raised in California. After graduating from university, I moved to Brazil and helped start the first “quick print” company in Latin America. After staying there for roughly seven years and one year in Europe, I returned to the US where I started with IWG, formerly Regus. At the time, the company was a start-up with a handful of locations globally. I’ve remained there for over 20 years. At the start of my tenure, I spent my time growing the company — opening offices in new markets, helping build the sales force, establishing the shared service center and running global sales operations. Over the past ten years, I’ve run global operations — both front and back office — with a focus on customers service and transformation.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Early in my career, I worked in Brazil. Not only did I have to learn a new language but also had to navigate a culture that was foreign to me. Specifically, I remember noticing that most employees arrived late to work every day. When I questioned them, they said that they took public transportation (which was common there) and that if they took an earlier bus they would arrive 20 minutes or so too early for work. I naively thought, “what’s wrong with that?” but in their minds they were not being paid for those 20 minutes and therefore would never arrive early. To make up for the twenty minutes they weren’t getting paid, I started bringing coffee and breakfast to the office. Immediately, I saw a change in behavior and better attendance. Throughout my career I’ve continued to navigate different countries and cultures, keeping in mind that you can’t assume that what works in one place will work everywhere. It’s key to engage with the culture and their way of working. Adapting accordingly will allow for the best outcome.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As one of the pioneers in flexible workspace I think IWG stands out in helping customers work how they want, where they want and when they want. When the company was still in its infancy, people would ask, “What does Regus do?”. I would always answer, “Tell me what YOUR company does and I can tell you how my company can help you.” It is such a pleasure to always have a solution for every type of business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, I used to report a gentleman who ran sales globally for IWG. Not only did he take the time to better my skills, but he was selfless in putting me forward for projects and new positions that allowed me to grow in my career. He knew in doing this he would have less of my time to help support him but knew it was the right thing for the company and for me in my personal career growth. I attribute the climb in my career to him and his amazing support and mentorship.

How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

For me, the definition of resilience is the ability to quickly bounce back from an unfortunate event or set back. I find that when the setback is of our own doing, (e.g. made a poor decision, made a mistake, etc.) resilient people seek to understand what happened, analyze how to get a different outcome if it happens again, mend where needed and then move on. Too many people get caught up in the set back and spend enormous amounts of time replaying it, reducing their self-esteem in the process. When the setback is not self-inflicted, a resilient person knows how to find a new path to move forward. They do not become defeatists but instead inspired by the opportunity to think differently and achieve the same goals.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

The person who comes to mind is my mother. At 54, she found a lump on her breast through self-examination. Though she was told she didn’t need to do multiple treatments, she opted to have a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. While it was the more difficult path, it was the one that would give her the most comfort in her decision. She was sick after treatments, lost her hair and became weaker, but she never stopped doing her daily routine — meeting each day with hope and laughter. Today she is still cancer free in her 80’s. I think about her circumstance and how she dealt with it with resilience when I have setbacks in my life as a source of inspiration.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

There was a time in my career that the company hit a bump in the road during the dot-com, then dot-bomb era. We declared bankruptcy in the US and were watching carefully in the other countries we operated in to see if there would be a wave of financial whiplash from the dot-com downturn. We were being frugal with our spending but knew we still wanted to grow and needed to continue to hire and train our sales force. We stopped sending our new hires to a School of Excellence as it was quite costly. Trying to figure out a solution, I suggested hitting the road, traveling to the neediest countries and training the teams locally. It would both save a lot of money and still accomplish what we needed. I traveled to 45 countries in a three-month period, so a rigorous schedule of planes, trains and automobiles combined with little sleep and a repetitious delivery day after day. Those around me said it would be impossible to do this non-stop for 3 months, but I did it. Seeing the world motivated me, albeit on a very limited budget. Instead of hotels I stayed at colleagues’ homes. I ate dinner with the families instead of eating out and was energized by the new team members enjoying the transfer of information and knowledge. While there were days that I just wanted to go home and stay in one place for a week, the impossible became the possible and it will forever be a great milestone in my career.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I remember after I spent many years working in Brazil, the investors in the company decided to cease operations — leaving me to rethink my career. I was not yet 30, in a foreign country and no longer had a job. I met with some friends and we brainstormed ideas to start our own business. We created a company that taught business English to executives in a leisure environment. It was fun founding the company and watching it grow. Thinking back, I could have just given up and moved back home, but I’m fortunate to have developed the network and drive to put a plan in place quickly.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I grew up with brothers and was always around “the boys”. From an early age, I learned how they thought and how to assert myself. Because of that, I’ve never felt slighted being female. They helped me build resiliency in a subtle and probably subliminal way to always feel on an equal regardless of who is in the room.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Think of roadblocks ahead of time — When planning, imagine what could go wrong and how would you maneuver around those obstacles.
  • Be flexible — Nothing is set in stone. Try to have an elastic mindset.
  • Seek to Understand — Knowledge is power. Try to get to the root cause of setbacks. You may not have been able to prevent each one but you can always come up with a way of dealing with it.
  • Don’t overthink it –Belaboring over a set back can bring on low self-esteem and stop you in your tracks.
  • Move on — Imagine yourself in a better place. How do you get from where you are now to there? Plan it then do it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to ignite a movement on social media to PAY IT FORWARD. If everyone once a week went out of their way to do something good for another unprovoked, the world would be a better place.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I am fascinated with a number of leaders, but of late Elon Musk has really caught my eye. It’s honorable that he released all of Tesla’s patents and is more inspired by allowing new, bright minds to get a head start at developing the next great idea or use his ideas in a more brilliant way. He also has an amazing life story and I am sure his mind is still full of great ideas that would be fun to tap into.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

IWG’s Lorraine Veber: “To develop resilience, try to get to the root cause of setbacks” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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