Q+A: RICK NEAL:

Growth of nonprofit is top of mind for new Goodwill CEO

Rick Neal is president and CEO of Goodwill of Southern Nevada.

In June, Rick Neal became CEO and president of Goodwill of Southern Nevada. A retired Air Force colonel and Clark County School District chief operating officer, Neal says he brings to the job the ability to lead a large and diverse organization, as well as the values of “service, integrity and excellence” to the position.

What services does Goodwill offer beyond thrift stores and donation centers?

We offer career services to job seekers, at no cost. Our services are designed to help people overcome barriers to employment and include “soft skills” training, mock interviews, dress etiquette, résumé writing and job placement services, plus supportive services such as assistance with clothing or transportation. We can also help job seekers with costs of fingerprinting services and other state requirements, in certain circumstances.

How many are on your team and what is your management style?

We employ just under 800 people at GSN. My leadership style would probably best be described as participative. The best decisions are made when the right personnel are engaged in the decision-making process and are invested in the final decision. Not all situations allow for a totally participative approach, but focused collaboration to address those situations that are appropriate is the best way. People should also be empowered to make decisions that fall within their purview. If they are vested with the responsibility for results, the associated authority to attain those results must also be given.

What are your goals for the next three to five years?

I want to responsibly grow the organization. That’s a pretty vague concept right now, as I’m still new to the job, but the primary focus is on:

1) Ensuring the mission portion (i.e., connecting job seekers with employers/work) is properly postured for the ever-changing nature of what constitutes “work” (e.g., digital skills);

2) Growing our employees—we have a significant workforce and we should invest in them;

3) Growing the retail side of the mission. We offer the services to job seekers for free, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost incurred to provide them. We need to ensure the organization remains fiscally viable so we’ll be around to continue to serve Southern Nevadans—too heavy of a reliance on any single source or category of funding makes us extremely vulnerable, so it is in all of our interests that we have multiple sources for funding (e.g., retail revenue, philanthropy, grants).

What’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

This may be a bit of a “geography” question—i.e., “where you stand depends on where you sit”. Southern Nevada is doing well economically by most traditional measures. What the biggest concern might be is the number of people still struggling to partake in some of that success— the unemployed and underemployed, the homeless, etc., as well as the rapidly aging workforce. Issues surrounding these vulnerable groups expand well beyond the individuals and have impacts on everything from social issues to how Nevada is “graded” on issues such as education, etc. If we do not address these issues now, in times of relative prosperity, then we will no doubt face them at a less opportune time. It will take a team effort, as the issues are multifaceted. However, we need to ensure that we, the entire community, produce adults who are prepared to participate in our workforce and remove barriers for those who are already of age and just not able to overcome them. Having traveled overseas and seen what it can look like when a portion of your population is totally disenfranchised, it is in all our interests to work together where we can.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

It would be Hawaii. I have lived in as many countries as I have states, and I’ve found no place on earth that had the impact on me as Hawaii did in the four years I lived there.

Who do you admire?

I admire people who create. While I don’t really have a creative nature, I’m awed by those who can create something new and original.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Lookey-loos on the highway. When there’s an accident, just be glad it wasn’t you and keep it moving. The gawking just slows down traffic and causes another accident behind you.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Explore more, take nothing for granted. I’ve spent most of my life traveling and meeting people. I’ve taken advantage of a number of opportunities, but as I reflect upon it, there were so many more that I just let fly by because I was either “too busy” or thought “I’ll see or do that next time.” But there may not be a “next time.”

What is something that people might not know about you?

I’m an introvert. Note: that has nothing to do with being shy.

Anything else you want to tell us?

I implore folks to join us in serving this community. All of us, from the donors to the shoppers and even the job seekers, are part of the solution to our problems. Don’t leave our services on the table.

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