Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Morag Lucey (ML:) I grew up outside of London to Scottish parents. In my early-20s, I was set on a career in fashion. I absolutely love clothes, style and the art of designing. What I didn’t know was how difficult it was to turn this passion into a lucrative career. While I was coming to terms with this reality, I was offered a great opportunity with a technology company. The job was simple: represent the company as a demonstrator at trade show events.
The job came with plenty of perks, such as a company car, fashionable clothing and dry cleaning — all paid for. Best of all, I’d get to travel the world. There was one catch: I had to be able to talk intelligibly about this company’s technology. If I could do that authentically, the job was mine.
I began taking courses to understand technology: how it worked, its benefits and differentiators. In a short time, I learned I had quite a knack for it. While I was still enticed by the benefits, I couldn’t deny the technology interested me, especially in the ways it drove business.
Most satisfying was that everything I encountered in tech taught or challenged me in some way. I couldn’t get enough of it. I quickly moved up from showcasing technology to consulting on software systems and applications for various organisations. I gained invaluable insights and experience with financial systems, key business strategies and organisational structures. In just two years, I had grown from a hopeful fashionista into a successful product manager (whilst looking good the entire time).
I was transferred to San Francisco in 1986 to lead the development of a new product offering. I had planned to move back to London but instead moved to Seattle to work with Microsoft. Seattle has been my home for over 30 years and besides the rain it is a wonderful place to live and a great place to raise a family.
MB: What drove you to take on the CEO role at Televerde?
ML: I first learned of Televerde as a customer. My company then had been looking for a partner that would help us deliver a best-in-class experience to our customers and prospects across all channels. Televerde came recommended to us. While they impressed me with their remarkable business results and customer list, I was also deeply inspired by their business model—so much so that I wrote a blog to help amplify their work.
Televerde’s U.S. engagement centres are staffed almost entirely by women incarcerated at three U.S. prison facilities in Indiana and Arizona. We will expand into the Florida and UK prison systems during the first quarter of 2021. It’s a business model that pulls you in because there’s a societal benefit and altruistic element. We feel good about ourselves by giving these women opportunities to grow and transform. But speaking as a businesswoman, the model on its own is not enough to win clients. The model is successful because it gets results. In one year, my former company experienced a 92% increase in win rates, which is directly attributed to the uniqueness and strength of the business model and the robust and intensive training it delivers to its sales and marketing employees.
Jim Hooker had been CEO of Televerde since 1995. When he and I first met, we clicked immediately. As a marketer, I understood the value of a purpose-driven marketing strategy so I was keen to pick Jim’s brain on how he built such a strong socially responsible company that also delivered extraordinary results for customers. He was eager to share his learnings. When he called in 2018 and asked me to help him strategise Televerde’s business plan for the next decade, I couldn’t resist. He retired later that year and I was asked to succeed him, which I was thrilled to do.
MB: What are the main problems you are trying to solve?
ML: As a for-profit company, we are trying first to solve a business problem. This is the modernisation of sales and marketing by bringing together best-of-breed technology and the human touch to deliver better outcomes for our clients. Through this, we provide opportunities for incarcerated women to gain marketable business skills so they can reclaim their independence, enter or reenter the workforce, and lead stronger lives after release. These two areas work together and in support of one another. As our business grows, so too do the number of opportunities we provide to disempowered communities.
Finally, we want to leverage our thought leadership position as a pioneer in second-chance hiring to inspire and motivate other companies to look beyond race and gender when creating diversity and inclusion programmes. In this way we can ensure that no one is left behind and that opportunities are being created for all, regardless of an individual’s background or circumstance.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
ML: Navigating the COVID pandemic with a mostly incarcerated workforce.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
ML: For the future of Televerde, it’s to become the preeminent sales and marketing solutions provider with a business model that provides even more opportunities to disempowered people so they can grow their marketability and achieve economic prosperity.
For the future of business as a whole, it is for every company to realise that true success means benefitting all stakeholders—employees, partners, clients, shareholders and communities. It’s this perfect balance of profit and purpose that will enable all of us to reach our highest potential, which in turn will benefit our business, society and global economy.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
ML: I would say that purpose is contagious. As a company, when you lead with it, it catches on like fire and inspires your entire organisation. This produces extraordinary results for customers but in a way that has profound societal impact. It’s especially meaningful and it creates an environment in which people want to come to work every day. This creates a domino effect where customer experience goes through the roof, loyalty increases, and profit soars. Everyone wins and the world is better for it.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
ML – Only you can get in the way of your own success.
MB – Who inspires you?
ML – My mum.
MB – How do you define success?
ML – Waking up every day knowing that you make a difference to people around you.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
ML – Golf.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
MB – What do you do to relax?
ML – My husband and I do a lot of hiking and we love to play golf. Both activities allow us to eliminate the daily clutter in our minds.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.