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More than money

Greedy executives may make the headlines, but for many Tampa Bay area workers, the rewards of their jobs can't all be measured in dollars.

By HELEN HUNTLEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002


This year, some of the nation's best-paid workers have shown the rest of us how to take money grubbing to new heights. Millions -- sometimes hundreds of millions -- in compensation weren't enough to satisfy them. When they held the reins of power, they used their positions to grab millions more to finance their lavish lifestyles.

Dennis Kozlowski got Tyco International to buy him a $6,000 shower curtain and throw a $1-million birthday party for his wife. Even in retirement, Jack Welch was collecting $2.5-million a year in secret perks from General Electric until his wife embarrassed him by disclosing the deals in divorce court filings.

In other cases, the excesses have come to light after shareholders and employees found out they had gotten the shaft. Workers at Global Crossing lost their jobs, and the company filed for bankruptcy, but not before chairman Gary Winnick unloaded $735-million in stock.

Is work today just about grabbing as much money as fast as you can?

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams suggests that the difference between the chieftains of greed and the rest of us is that the CEOs are more effective at raiding the corporate till.

But for Tampa Bay area workers such as accountant Herb Long, artist Mary Klein and fundraiser Bill Roth, work is about far more than money. You can read about the rewards they find in their jobs in the accompanying articles. And they are far from alone.

"Money is not the reason most people take or stay in a job," said Barbara Kranendonk, who directs the Career and Personal Counseling Center at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. "Most of the mid career people who come to us come because they are fatigued by doing something that doesn't satisfy them. A lot of times they are people who make very good money."

Although half of all U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their jobs, job satisfaction has declined sharply among all income groups, according to Conference Board surveys. Workers are less satisfied with everything from their relationships with their co-workers to their commutes.

What's wrong?

"Not only do people need to work economically, they need that satisfaction," Kranendonk said. "When people find their work rewarding, often it doesn't feel like work. It doesn't feel arduous, fatiguing and tiresome. For some it's the tasks that they do that provide great satisfaction. For others, it's participation with other people toward a common goal."

The nonmonetary rewards of work often stem from one or more of these elements:

* Significance. Whether you clean tables or make widgets, if you think your work is important, you'll find it more rewarding.

* Appreciation. Compensation is just one part of that. Everyone likes to feel valued.

* Social interaction. Congenial co-workers and an understanding boss count for a lot. Good relationships with customers and vendors make a difference too.

* A good fit. The ideal job is one that fits your interests, abilities and personality.

* A sense of accomplishment. A job well done really is a reward all its own.

While the relationship isn't always clear cut, many of the conditions that create satisfied employees also boost productivity and profits.

Human relations consultant Watson Wyatt says that companies whose employees understand the corporate mission and goals are more profitable. And good relationships with customers and suppliers often lead to more sales and referrals.

St. Petersburg real estate agent Marilyn Wambold describes her job as rewarding from just about every angle.

"I'm helping people realize their dreams," she said. While some people take her services for granted, other happy customers show their appreciation with flowers, wine, dinner invitations -- and referrals for years to come.

"Sometimes I'll get a call from someone who says, 'So-and-so referred me. You sold them something six years ago.' That makes you feel like you've done a really good job."

-- Helen Huntley can be reached at huntley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8230.

WILLIAM ROTH

The associate director of planned giving for the University of South Florida Foundation finds making one-on-one connections with donors pays off personally, too.

* * *

William Roth describes himself as a "recovering attorney" who knew even before he finished law school that the legal profession wasn't for him.

"My dad was an attorney, and I had a couple of other attorneys in the family, so it seemed like a good choice at the time, but I didn't like the detail of it," he said. After brief stints in law and a consulting business that failed, Roth decided to try his hand at fundraising seven years ago.

"I was the guy in college who loved to stay up all hours of the night and chitchat," he said. "I love sitting down and having a two-hour, interesting, deep conversation with someone. There aren't a whole lot of jobs that allow you to do that."

Roth's work includes visits to people's homes, fancy dinners and lots of schmoozing at cocktail parties, art exhibits, concerts and USF Bulls football games. His goal is to establish relationships with people who might be inclined to include USF in their estates to the tune of $100,000 or more.

"I view my job as less asking for money and more building commitment to the university," Roth said. "A lot of it is just persistence, being part of their lives, being nice to them, being there to answer questions."

His law degree gives him the authority of an expert when he explains the tax advantages of charitable trusts and other giving options. But he is more than pleased that the donors' own lawyers handle the nitty-gritty details of drafting wills and trusts.

Roth, 34, said he enjoys listening to the life stories of the older people on his potential donors' list.

"It's like self-selecting some of the best, friendliest people to work with because nongenerous tightwads don't want to give their money away," he said. "When you're talking about people's estates, you're talking about how they want to be remembered. That's deep stuff. A lot of the people we deal with never had kids or weren't married, and they want to do something good with their money. We give them that opportunity. Philanthropy makes you feel good."

JAN INGRAM

A nurse practitioner at Suncoast Center in St. Petersburg sees the fruits of her labor in her young patients' smiles.

* * *

The smiles of her patients are one of the biggest rewards of Jan Ingram's job at an outpatient mental health center.

"I gain a lot of satisfaction when a child succeeds in school after receiving treatment," she said. "We see children who are real sad and depressed and don't want to go to school. Then they come back and are often happier. We get children who can't sit still in class or concentrate. Often, with medication and therapy, they start to sit still and we see dramatic improvement in just a few weeks. Their grades go up one or two letter grades at least."

Ingram works with children who have a variety of mental health problems, from anxiety to posttraumatic stress disorder related to child abuse. She treated a 12-year-old in foster care who couldn't sleep because of recurring nightmares about his father trying to kill him.

"Medication and therapy have helped him a lot," she said. "Now he can sleep through the night. He's much happier. He's socializing."

Ingram, 44, recently turned down a job offer at higher pay because it would have meant working with adults.

"I've treated adults, too, but I feel more hopeful with kids," she said. "We can get so many people involved: teachers, parents, afterschool program staff. They often have a lot more support than adults, and we can get feedback from these people."

Ingram said not every child improves in treatment, but the majority make progress.

"I continue to see some that I've had as patients for seven years who are now adults," she said.

HERB LONG

An accountant with Wood & Long in Clearwater collects the rewards of working the other side: The former IRS employee helps clients with tax problems.

* * *

When Herb Long retired from a 30-year career with the IRS, he began representing taxpayers in trouble with his former employer. He says solving a client's problem gives him a rush.

"When you see somebody with tears in their eyes, you know they're satisfied," the enrolled agent said. "I could be at my house in North Carolina sitting on the front porch reading a book, but I don't think I'd get the satisfaction out of reading a book that I get out of this. As long as you're able to work, you should work, whether it's as a volunteer or paid."

Long, 64, had been an IRS appeals officer.

"I know the rules. If a person owes a substantial amount of money and they just can't pay it, I tell them how to maneuver through this maze. If somebody thinks they're going to owe this forever, I check the collection status and may be able to tell them they only owe this for one more year. If the tax is assessed, the government has 10 years generally to collect it. After 10 years, it goes away. I'm able to give them a peace of mind that they wouldn't have otherwise."

When he is able to straighten out a problem or reduce a tax liability, clients often are very grateful.

"I've had cakes baked. I've had gift certificates given me from different restaurants. I've had women who were crying give me a big hug. I've had men cry. You think about it afterwards and you think, 'That was really something good.' "

Long said the IRS' nasty image helps his business.

"A lot of accountants who don't like to deal with the IRS refer their cases to me," he said. "The IRS is not as bad as what people say. They have some very nice people working there. As long as you're responsive to their requests and work with them, they'll work with you."

NICK NICHOLSON

The owner of Nicholson Engineering Associates in Brooksville finds satisfaction in mentoring young engineers.

* * *

As the owner of an engineering firm, Nick Nicholson's favorite part of the job is helping to shape the future of his profession by hiring budding engineers.

"It makes me feel really good to help bring young people along so they can improve themselves," he said.

Some have worked for Nicholson while taking engineering classes at the University of South Florida, with the company picking up their tuition. Others have been recent engineering graduates who worked for him to get the required experience to sit for their professional exams.

"I get an opportunity to improve someone's life and also help produce someone I think will be an excellent engineer," said Nicholson, 55. "I get a hand in molding them into being what I would like everyone in the profession to be."

Andrew Johnson, 26, got his opportunity about six years ago when the building design company where he worked went out of business. Nicholson offered Johnson a job and an opportunity to get started in civil engineering.

"He gave me some direction to help find where I wanted to go," Johnson said. "He's an excellent engineer and has a big heart, too." After working for Nicholson for about four years, Johnson moved to Tampa to finish his engineering studies at USF.

Christopher Banbury, 31, joined Nicholson's firm after getting his degree from the University of Kentucky. When he passed his structural engineering exam earlier this year, the company threw a party to celebrate.

ALEX DEZES

A food broker for Icelandic USA in Tarpon Springs has cooked up a career that lets him learn and teach.

* * *

Every restaurant stop on his schedule is a creative challenge for Alex Dezes, whose job is to sell chefs on the merits of the seafood sold by Icelandic.

"I take a quick look at their menu and the ambience they have in their establishment and decide what to show them," he said. "I might have 12 samples with me, but I might think there's only one thing I can show them that would work."

At a white-tablecloth restaurant, Dezes might pull out a haddock filet, broil it with a little butter, season it with lemon, thyme and basil and garnish it with mustard greens and shredded carrots. But at a not-so-fancy neighborhood place, he might opt for the ready-to-fry cod coated with a nonalcoholic beer-flavored batter.

"I am given free rein to be creative with my presentations," he said. "I can use my knowledge and previous experience."

Dezes, 52, is excited about the job he has had for a year, calling it the pinnacle of more than 30 years working in food service. A bad back forced him to quit work as a chef because he could no longer stand for long hours. He turned to Abilities Inc. of Florida, a nonprofit organization that provides job training and placement for people with disabilities. The computer skills he picked up there helped him qualify for a new line of work.

"I perceived myself as a dinosaur up until that point," he said of his training. "I needed it to get out of the kitchen, to step up to a position where the labor wouldn't be so physical."

The state, minus southeast Florida, is his territory for Icelandic, a leading seafood wholesaler that has its U.S. headquarters in Connecticut. Dezes said traveling around Florida is one of the things he enjoys most about his job.

"I can see what's going on in the real world," he said. "As a chef or a restaurant owner, you're married to your establishment 14 hours a day. You don't even know what the people down the street are doing. In this job I learn as much as I teach."

Dezes said he shares the best tips he picks up along the way, giving restaurant managers and chefs another reason to welcome him into their kitchens.

MARY KLEIN

A self-employed enamel artist in St. Petersburg finds joy in creating work that touches others.

* * *

Christmas ornaments put the bread and butter on Mary Klein's table. Every year, she makes about 3,000 of the enamel-on-copper decorations. They are mechanically stamped from her original designs, then turned into hand-painted angels, teddy bears, Santas and other figures. She wholesales the ornaments to gift shops and art galleries around the country, where they typically sell for $16 apiece.

"It really is a job," said Klein, who sometimes employs helpers, including her 85-year-old aunt, who ties the ribbons that top each ornament.

Klein also creates larger copper and enamel wall pieces in her downtown St. Petersburg studio. Most are portraits that sell for $250 to $2,000. She produces about 10 a year for an annual show and gets occasional commissions.

Klein said her work is intense and time consuming, but both physically and emotionally rewarding.

"When I'm successful in taking this raw material and making something that actually looks like a person and captures the person's personality, that's very satisfying for me,' she said. "One of the best rewards is when one of these things touches somebody else in a completely different way than it touched me and it means something special to them."

Working for herself involves more than creating art. Klein said she has learned how to do everything from desktop publishing and digital photography to rewiring a kiln.

"I'm very multifaceted, and I love it," she said. "After doing this for 30 years, the idea of working for somebody else is completely out of the question."

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