'Absolute no-brainer': Why an Iowa businessman invested in a Sydney call centre
The new owner of the former ServiCom centre toured the operation Thursday and met with workers
Anthony Marlowe visited Sydney, N.S., on Thursday to tour his newest business acquisition.
The Iowa-based businessman and CEO of MCI bought the former ServiCom call centre this week during bankruptcy proceedings in a New Haven, Conn., courtroom.
More than 600 employees of the Sydney operation were thrown out of work on Dec. 6 when the call centre closed abruptly.
Reporters spoke with Marlowe as he visited the newly named Sydney Call Centre and prepared to meet with the 600 employees. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Why did you think this company is an asset?
Absolute no-brainer. Tremendous client base, tremendous team, tremendous people, win-win-win all around. We met with the management team last night for about four hours. We're committed to getting open. We're going to aggressively shoot for Jan. 2, but probably more pragmatically, Jan. 7 might be a little more realistic
Why did you think this was a business where you wanted to come in and help out?
Obviously, no one wants to see workers displaced, especially abruptly. We had been trying to buy the business on an ongoing basis. There were difficulties, substantial amounts of debt and creditors, particularly in the U.S., causing dramatic complications. As things unravelled, we noticed that Sydney and Servicom Canada had a very special team, very special results, very high performing. This place operates at a very high capacity. We saw that change in events as an opportunity to look at doing something here, and we were able to very quickly put a deal together which we wrapped up in the U.S. courts just about 48 hours ago.
How important are the four contracts and the people here going forward?
The way we generate revenue is via services. Without employees working hard, and making and taking phone calls and having high-quality interactions with our clients, customers and prospects, there is no revenue. So the fact that there was a highly dedicated, highly tenured, high-aptitude worker base, was probably the most attractive part. The Sydney call centre operates at a very high level of efficiency and capacity. The fact that all the clients and customers were extremely interested in keeping their work here was inherent due diligence in itself. And any time you have a place where people have been working for 19, 20 years, that just means a lot.
Did this story touch you? These workers have been through a lot the last week or so.
Yes, I cracked a tear in court when the solicitor or attorney for the province of Nova Scotia addressed Judge Nivens in U.S. bankruptcy court in New Haven. The people are the most important aspect of this. And having had a family tragedy in 2018, it's even been a positive thing for my family in lifting the Christmas spirit. They're all of a sudden looking at doing a Christmas vacation in Nova Scotia, which would be very exciting.
Is there a possibility of expanding here?
We'd love to expand. I think the first thing to do is get back up and running. With respect to long-term plans, we've signed a nine-year lease, and we're essentially — I'd call it quasi-permanently — committed to Sydney. This has been a staple for a couple of companies for two decades and we plan on it being a staple for our company for decades to come as well.
You're a grassroots guy. You came up through the system. Can you tell us about that and how important that is to your success today?
Mom shipped me off to live with my brother and go to university and she asked that I get a job. I got a job in telemarketing at a telecommunications phone company and the next thing I knew, I was a supervisor, and next thing I knew, I was a manager, and next thing I knew, I had aspirations to open up my own company. Having been on the phones and having done just about every role in this type of business, it goes a long way because in my interactions with employees, clients and just about any department, internally or externally, I'm able to speak from experience. And that goes a long way when you have an understanding of what it's like on the ground, in the trenches.
With files from Gary Mansfield