Alice Ferris and Jim Anderson
DescriptionFriends and business partners Alice Ferris (49) and Jim Anderson (55) discuss how they both came into the jobs they have now working together and explore some of the things they have learned from each other, both in their friendship and their professional relationship.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Alice Ferris
- Jim Anderson
Recording LocationYuma Art Center
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00:05 Am I starting? Okay, I'm Alice Ferris. I'm 49 years old. I know I'm almost 50 and it is Saturday November 23rd 2019. Where in Yuma, Arizona, I'm here with Jim Anderson my business partner and best friend. I am the Double Nickel 55 years old soon to be 56. It is Saturday, November 23rd 2019 here in Yuma, Arizona. I am here with Alice Ferris my business partner and best friend.
00:43 So did you want to start with questions or me?
00:46 Well, let's see here. It's been it's been nearly 15 years that we've been together and we've told a few people what that what that first few days were like when we met each other butts on that first part of the story is usually yours.
01:06 I guess I'm going to go backwards a little bit farther. And so I well Matthew my son Matthew turned 19 this week. And so I always know how old the company has because I found it when he was three months old because in my mind I had this grandiose plan when I became pregnant that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. And I quit my I was going to quit my job and I was going to stay home until he went to school and I was just going to be this great person at home taking care of my kid, and I remember telling my parents this and my dad said, oh, that's a fantastic idea Alice great job, very proud of you. And my mom said this is a really bad idea to come on Mom. You should be proud of me. I'm going to be a stay-at-home mom and the kids
01:53 Alice has a really bad idea. You are not cut out to not be at work. And so I think he I think you should just take maternity leave like normal people and go back to work and I think this is all be great. And I remember three months into all of it actually started about six weeks when Matthew was was 6 weeks old and I realized for the first time I was alone at home with him and I just had this feeling of panic of the all my god what have I done? What have I sign up for and it's not that I didn't love him and it's not that I felt like I was and I'm not cut out to be a mother. It was just
02:34 I didn't want to be home alone with this with this being that I had to treat as a human being and so 3 months into it. I think all of us knew that I needed to do something else. And so I started the Consulting practice and it was Alice Ferris Consulting and I decided you know, why not let's let's start with a little project but I immediately said to myself I'll come my goal for this company for my Consulting practice is that I don't want to work in public media cuz I've been working public media my entire career. I started at the age of 16 as a volunteer Wisconsin public television.
03:12 Doing one blowing bubbles on to the set during The Lawrence Welk Show breaks cuz you were the smallest person on the team and in so they put you behind the set-piece. And as I remember you were asthmatic so they were Tiny Bubbles and
03:33 And I said, okay I'm not going to do that and I want to stretch a little bit and I don't want to work for public radio. And so my first client was the highlands Center for Natural History who is strangely enough still a client of ours. My second client has knau Arizona public radio and after several years the development director left for another position and they were still a client and the general manager recruited me to be the next development director.
04:08 And I was really excited about I said, okay great. I finally have an opportunity to go back into public radio as a fundraiser. I get to be a development director. I get to run the program. I'm going to have so much fun doing this. This is going to bring me back home to public radio world public media where I belong and I remember the first day. I walked in the public radio station.
04:29 And immediately started rearranging my office because I wanted to be less authoritative authoritarian and I wanted to be much more welcoming and so I was like pulling all the furniture out and rearranging things and I remember I think it was Jeff Norcross walked into the office and said welcome home and I immediately start to cry and you're right. I'm back home.
04:55 And then about six weeks into the job. I realized I'd made a huge mistake because as your mark came to know I did not get along with our boss and I was just devastated that coming home to Public Radio.
05:13 Was not where I needed to be because that situation was not the right situation for me. It wasn't teamwork. It didn't have that sense of family. It was really the my where the highway kind of leadership so I started thinking about how am I going to get out of this? How am I going to quit? How am I going to transition out and I was just crushed and then one person ended up getting laid off who were still friends with another person quit a person that I was frankly about to fire then quit and I went from a team of six people to all of a sudden it was myself Elsa and one person who was right.
06:01 When I can do with this, how am I going to raise all the money that we need to raise to be able to do what we need to do for this organization and I kind of hit that last straw moment of Miles walked into my office and quit. I'm sitting there thinking. Okay, how do I get out of this and our our soon-to-be boss my boss at the time walks into my office and says I got his phone number for this guy who's looking for a job in sales, but we don't have any openings. So I promised I'd tell you about it, and I'm just going to check this off and get rid of this number.
06:36 And as he turns around to leave my office, I say Niles just resigned.
06:44 Without even turning back around you says I'll go get the number.
06:50 So I called the number this for this complete stranger who has a really generic name and and you answer the phone and I asked you to tell me a little bit about yourself and you start talking about your experience. And I said that's great. Why don't you come in for an interview? Can you come in on Friday? And then what did you do on the other end of the phone? Are you scared randomly around in space? Just some kind of whistling silently making sure that I didn't sound too eager when I said that and I asked you what you said Friday, right?
07:22 On Friday, I could do Friday. Yes because of what were you doing at the time? Well at the time I was unemployed. I had been working with national research company said television and radio research companies and I had went through a couple of corporate Acquisitions and mergers and there was a sale of the company I was working for and they they had insisted that I move which they had done every time we went through one of these these mergers and what I reminded them what I reminded them was that I would not move because I have given up my VP track position and heavy six-figure salary in Chicago looking out over the river and I could see the lake as well from where I was at and I gave that up because my ex was supposed to join me and we were going to raise our two kids there and she made it clear. She was going to be my ex and I made it clear. I was going to raise my kids. So I moved back to Flagstaff, Arizona to take
08:22 Sole custody of my then 8 and 11 year old children and continue to work as an account executive no longer Regional director, but continue to work as an account executive traveling the country and when I was out of town on business, they would stay with their mom and when I was home, I was mr. Mom. And when this last this last sale on occurred, they told me I didn't have a choice and I said you don't know me very well. You haven't been listening. I always have choices and so I had been unemployed for about six months before I realized my bank account is shrinking and I should probably do something about that. So what were you doing during that 6-month. My CD collection and stuff like that and entertainment selling stuff to do stuff on eBay. And and yeah, I made a few bucks here and there doing that kind of thing. So, how did I get your number?
09:20 You got my number because I'm one of the things that I did was I regularly was going to the Athletic Club and I would see one of my old professors or other people that I knew and at one point. I saw one of the professors and I said, you know, you've asked me before if I would be willing to teach it to Northern Arizona University. I'm a Lumberjack asked me to teach before you do. I actually have time I'm not working with the travel right now I could do this and that I had an offer within just a couple of weeks and I opened the envelope and saw what the offer was for up adjunct professor. I think you call it and laughed like you got to be kidding me. That's all they pay a professor to do an entire semester and knew immediately that with two young kids. I needed benefits. And so I reached out to another one of my professors Paul helford and said Paul. Is there any chance that I you know, anyway, I can get a full-time job over at the end of
10:20 I don't want to leave Flagstaff. I have a custody Arrangement that I need to live with in X number of miles of their mother and and that he gave that phone number to our former boss.
10:34 So once we set up the interview.
10:37 I remember when you walked in in my newly rearranged office that had only been rearranged her about at that point. I guess two months maybe a little bit over that I asked you to sit down and I said tell me a little bit about yourself and you started talking and at one point maybe about 5 minutes into the conversation. I realized with your background in market research with your background and sales all of those things. You were the perfect person for this job and that I had to hire you.
11:11 But I couldn't and it's not because I didn't have authority. It's not because I didn't have the budget. It's because I couldn't get you to stop talking. I have not interviewed in a very long time and I had only interviewed for a job like twice in my life. I was always recruited. I never had to apply and I'm in here. I had to I had to go through an interview with this with this Chinese woman with this huge infectious. Grin sitting on a bouncy ball chair imagine you on the bounce culture.
11:49 Yes, I had the ball chair which act 2 in my defense. I've only fallen off twice one of them. I was in my office at home and I was on a conference call and I fell off my my ball chair. That was a little embarrassing at least it wasn't Zoom the early days back when we have fax machines and blind. Yeah. Sorry, I couldn't offer you the job cuz you kept talking and you are doing this endless monologue. I had a lot to say. Yes, you did. And so I think you took a breath 15 minutes in and when you took that breath I interrupted you and I said so Jim are you going to stop talking long enough for me to offer you this job?
12:33 And I remember you were taking a little of back. I was surprised at your frankness is a little sassy and you lean back in your chair. And you raised an eyebrow at me. And you said we're going to get along just fine.
12:53 Yeah, that was fun fun. So at that point, I think you became a little less guarded and I just want to remind you that almost 15 years ago that I hired you as a temp. Just want to make sure you remember that. I'm still on probation.
13:11 So after that I said well we're doing this staff Retreat development staff Retreat on Monday. Can you come and at that point you're like well to be honest. I'm not really doing anything. So so you came down on
13:26 What two days later to start working for the station and we were doing our staff retreat in Prescott, and I was already down there cuz we have done a fundraising event the night before and we were waiting for you and Elsa and Tina and Niles to come down.
13:45 And I remember getting a message from you cuz you guys are running late and I got a message saying Alice is Jim. We lost Niles. I'll call you back. You got me in this rickety old 1970s Jeep with with two people. I had never met before one of them who Alta Foster are on one of our friends there from Flagstaff that we still do some work with. She she's in the backseat barely saying that word and you've got Tina upfront driving who never stop talking and and we got Niles that apparently wanted to score a little cash for a while for the expenses of driving down on his motorcycle. So he wasn't riding with us under the pretense of needing to go somewhere else. But but I'm I'm I'm assessing the situation and trying to figure out who this new team is because what my job was before when I was working with those research companies. Imma say, I'm the salesman salesman. I'm the guy who's going in and working with the sales managers in the station.
14:45 Managers and I'm selling them research and data programs and things and so that they can make more money and I need to help them teach their salespeople to sell more. So one of one of my strength has always been that I can read a room that when I will go in and I will evaluate not just the words that people are saying that I evaluate your body language. I evaluate the interpersonal interactions that I see and I'm and I'm doing that that's one of the reasons that you are going to put me off guard a little bit because I was talking so much. I really couldn't get a lot of a bead on you and then when you pop out the question if I'm going to shut up so you can hire me then then that was a surprise to me. And so I'm assessing the situation with these folks and and you got a brief message because I have them either a tendency to give way way too long of a message or extremely brief ones cuz I don't have as much information as I should and that was the ladder he was gone you've been driving behind as I have been looking up in the mirror checking out where he was this whole trip.
15:45 Young 90 you 90 minutes or so down from Flagstaff to Prescott. And and I'm he's there he's there. He's there he's gone.
15:54 And I mentioned that to the to Tina driving and she says, oh he'll catch up to us. And when he hadn't in a few minutes I said, let's pull over and wait for it. We pull over and wait for him and he doesn't show up. So I said, let's go back and look he's riding a motorcycle something could happen. And so we turned around to go back and look for him and I found him kneeling what looks like praying to his motorcycle at the side of the road and when we park and I get out and walk up to Niles what I realize is that he's trying to repair his motorcycle cuz he had hit a piece of cinder block that I had seen in the road. It has fallen office on construction truck bounced up underneath his motorcycle and severed the safety cable. It prevents the bike from starting when the kickstand is down. So the bike thought the kickstand was down and I realized what his problem was he could bring those two pieces together because the zip ties holding them to the frame of the bike or too tight. So I went back to the the the Jeep and I asked Tina and ALT I said, dude, is there a tool?
16:54 Get in here and let you know not to look at I said this. Are there are there scissors in here and our is there an eye for utility knife or something? And Elsa says while I have I have manicure scissors I said I'll take him I said is there like a first aid kit? Maybe there's some maybe there's some tape in there for first aid they pull out this little first aid kit to the crap at an old and and they said there's no tape and here I said, how about Band-Aids? Yeah, there's a couple of Band-Aids. So so give me a couple of Band-Aids. So I take the manicure scissors and I take the Band-Aids I go back to the bike. I snip off the zip ties pull the cable together enough trim back to installation a bit take one Band-Aid wrap it around the reconnected cable take another Band-Aid. Slap it back to the frame grab his accelerator and and rev up the engine. I look at him and said we'll see you in Prescott. Go back to the Jeep and we drive on down and you pretty much told me that story when you arrived and then our other two team members who were already in Prescott, and I remember
17:54 Listen to the story and the other two Associates that we had down there have their jaws just like the floor the same as story and I said so Jim what you're telling me is that you repaired a motorcycle with a pair of manicure scissors and a Band-Aid Bandit. That's it. You're MacGyver. Let's now let's move on and an end to this day that day, which is world. You are assessing us all.
18:33 What how did you assess me? What were your perceptions of me at first?
18:43 I thought that you were one of the most open and friendly people that I've ever met.
18:47 You have this infectious smile and infectious laugh. And I mean people around the world have commented about that laugh, you know, the old village hear it before they see you and they and they will, do Alice is here before they ever see you but you were so open and you treated everybody with such kindness and I I had no I had no issue with working for a woman. I've never have it was a never even crossed my mind. I don't even see things in that way. I just saw you as a kind person who seemed genuinely interested in doing good work and I saw you help people that were struggling around you often frustrating me because I would have given up on some of them a long time before you did. Yeah. We have that situation on a regular basis. I can really do with the work that we do.
19:45 Alice operated professionally that was different from anyone you've ever worked with or for
19:52 Yeah, I mean I was one of the things that was so much different than what I have seen with other people that I had worked for was I was a part of their machines. I was a part of their machine that made things work. They saw me and most of the sales positions. I was in I was a cash cow to them what the work that I did in the success that I had immediately in generated a financial benefit to them, but and I realized that in when I left that company, I told one of my old supervisors I'm never going to shovel So Co arm. I told one of my old soups supervisors. I'm never going to shovel coal into somebody's machine again. What I'm going to do is going to matter it's going to make a difference is going to help people and what I saw with you was you were not self-interested you were more interested in the success of each individual which made the team stronger and there and you were genuine about it and you work a lot.
20:52 If I wasn't so used to collaboration, I was used to having things dictated and but you asked people's opinion and you tried to implement ideas and and yeah you to this day. I don't mind being a temp cuz you're a hell of a boss.
21:09 Well, and I know we from We've joked about this before and I I tease you that I'm your longest female relationship because true because one I don't have to live with you but I think I wasn't part of it was that when I first met you, I mean really I thought that you have a lot of expertise to bring to the equation then frankly at first. I didn't think anything beyond that. It was the this person's highly-skilled and I kind of like him, you know, he's a funny guy and he can fix things and I thought you know, this is I need this as part of the team and and then frankly you snuck up on me.
21:55 Because it was the
21:58 I think people don't realize how
22:02 How incredibly focused on Justice you are and they think that they look at you and they see. Oh, he's the stereotypical sales guy and he's going to hustle and he's going to get what's best for him. And that couldn't be farther from the truth. I mean you you always seem to find the underdog in in the relationship and really root for them. And in fact that got you in trouble with our boss more than once because he would say I want to help this organization. We have the inventory. I'm going to give them spots right and you would have to argue with him saying well you should be selling stuff gym and you like but we can help these people and where did I swear to that sense of justice come from?
22:52 Experiencing too much Injustice
22:58 Because life isn't fair life isn't fair.
23:07 My family were very poor and continue to be part of this day. Most of my family today struggle to meet their bills as many families do but none of my family was educated there was more than our share of alcoholism and violence domestic violence and other sorts plenty of plenty of run-ins with the law and things like that and when you're in that type of a lifestyle,
23:40 People come in and go out regularly and you know, my mom was a single mom and she dated and she's been married a few times and and along the way
23:53 There were lots of people who promised me things that they never delivered. There were a lot of people that promise people. I love things that they never delivered and outright lied and had no sense of justice and my grandmother and my mother and some of these core inspirational people in my life.
24:13 We always brought home the Strays whether they had four legs or two. We always brought home the Strays and and part of it was just being kind and compassionate and generous.
24:29 But it always seemed that.
24:31 When there was somebody that was being mistreated or when there was a lack of Justice.
24:36 Bullies can win
24:43 Bullies can win unless somebody is fearless and willing to stand up to him.
24:50 Well, I think that.
24:52 You don't like I said earlier. We've been together for almost 15 years and I frankly I only have
25:01 Well, I can count on one hand how many friendships I've had longer than with you and I can count definitely on one hand how many people have worked with as long as I've worked with you?
25:15 We are I realized very early on that. We had such a different upbringing. I mean, I in many respects there were those moments in the first couple of years as well not even just the first couple of years to this day where I feel really naive next to you.
25:33 Where I know you have a couple times called me out on it that I'm far too trusting sometimes and you are I wish I could be yeah and and there are times that I know that I
25:49 I've been taken advantage of because I am far too trusting when I think about something that you and I have talked about a lot over the years and that's my whole volunteer leadership experience and how
26:03 How I went into a situation kind of from the perspective of the stereotypical model minority Asian-American young woman from born in the 70s, you know, then that the Genex model minority of the I expect that you do good things you do what you're asked to do and you check off the things on the list and you'll be rewarded and what I completely underestimated that that you helped me get through some of the rougher moments which I think is why we're still friends is that I did everything I was supposed to do for many things. I did all the things that were expecting me. I checked off all the boxes and when it came to the end to get the gold medal so to speak I wasn't even on the podium.
26:59 And that really crushed me in a back to the the moments in my adult life that have truly crushed me one was discovering that I couldn't just take this job at a public radio station and be back home. Just wasn't realistic, but the other thing was
27:18 Truly investing 8 years of my life in a volunteer leadership position and not being rewarded at the end and frankly being taken in taken advantage of and taken for granted and
27:33 I I can honestly say that I could not have gotten through that without you.
27:39 And it's and it's not just because you got angry and it's not because you've tilted at windmills for me because frankly every now and then you killed it a windmill that I'm likely to stop tilting at that one meal, Just stop being angry that person would you stop saying you're going to do this bit of Revenge for that bit of Revenge because I don't need it anymore.
28:00 It's actually like okay, so we saw a beautiful day in the neighborhood this week and the scene where the one of the main characters the journalist has that Vision has the dream and he's sitting on his mother's his late mother's hospital bed. And she asks him. Why are you holding all this anger for me? And she says to him. I don't need it.
28:29 And I think about that sometimes with you is that you are very angry at some people who wrong to me and I respect that I appreciate it. I know I know your anger for them comes out of love for me.
28:44 But honestly, I don't need it anymore.
28:52 Jim guidance in what you were just talking about stands out to you that you'd be willing to share. Yeah.
29:03 Well, there's been so many times. When okay, when I first met you I was not I was not looking for someone to rescue me. I was not looking for a knight in shining armor understand that I just needed a paycheck but realistically
29:21 You have been there for me on many occasions where?
29:27 I mean for instance after one of the many times that
29:33 I applied for a leadership position and I didn't get it one of those times you volunteered.
29:42 To be on the committee that selected that position and
29:48 Someone that you continue to be angry at said you need to step down because you have conflict of interest and at the time I had not even applied for the position. So to imply that you were getting on this committee for the sole purpose of making sure I got the job was what she was accusing you of her because I thought they were lying to me when they explained how this process worked. I thought they were lying that they were trying to manipulate a situation and the same person that I still am very angry with him will never forgive me. I can't let go when somebody if somebody accidentally hurt you than that. It don't no harm. No foul. I apologize. We move on when someone takes purposeful direct action to harm me or someone. I love game over I will never ever
30:48 Forgive you and in this situation that person who told me to get off at the committee is the same person that two years earlier when I was complaining to her about the the cronyism within their selection process. She told me that it's not really the way it's not really the way I perceive things that I would know better if I became more involved so she was standing there when I was selected to be on this committee and then she came up to me two months later and said I needed to resign she was standing there when I was selected and I told her that you had not decided that you were going to run for this position again, and I explained that should you choose to run? I will consider abstaining from the vote and I would have I would have recuse myself from the boat because I didn't want even the perception of the conflict of interest, but I did want to see if my perceptions were true and they were there's a tremendous amount of protein in it coronavirus him in that group.
31:48 And it dump it is not as bad as it was but it still exists and now I know firsthand I saw it with my own eyes.
31:57 Well, I think that one of my challenges is that back to the point of being to trust too trusting sometimes is that
32:07 There have definitely been those times when you
32:10 You've given me a reality check and I get really irritated with you.
32:16 Alice I don't think that person is being forthright Alice. I don't think that person's really intending what they just said they were intending and
32:28 It's mostly been in the volunteer environment. It's very seldom been in our professional client-based working environment. It's almost always been in the volunteer environment where I'm not getting paid to do stuff and I'm giving of my own time and money and somebody comes at me from I mean, somebody blindsides me and
32:53 Most of the time you saw it coming and I will I will give you points for the fact that over the last, you know, almost 15 years. You've at least gotten more subtle about telling me that I'm wrong, but I think this kind of bleeds to another question about what have I learned from you over the years and I think
33:19 I think the way that you've made me better is that in spite of the fact that this is going to sound really weird. You've helped me be a little bit more aware of when I shouldn't be trusting people because my default position is always to assume the best of people and I still do I still do but when I start to get that gut feeling of something's going wrong here or this person is not being genuine. I think you've allowed me to home that instinct and trust it to be able to go with my gut every now and then of these something's not right here. And for example last year, I went through another difficult volunteer situation where I was eligible for another term on a board that I served on a board that I really enjoyed serving on and then I had hopes of starting to go down a leadership path on
34:18 And I got blindsided and this was one that you didn't call either. You didn't know this was coming but I didn't know any of these people and I was told that even though I had served on two boards for the last three years and at one point was chair of the other board and I was not deemed to have a conflict of interest the new makeup of the nominating committee decided that we had that I had a conflict of interest because frankly she didn't like my perceived agenda. She thought I had an agenda for my board service and she saw that my perspective on things are starting to get traction.
34:55 And she didn't like it. So she essentially tried to kick me off the board and did it successfully. I was not submitted for another term on that board. And in the past I probably would have taken it cried about it and said, oh, well, that's the way it is.
35:15 But the but Alice 2.0 or maybe even 3.0.
35:20 For myself and I put it on the record that this was wrong and that this was not appropriate and I didn't do it in a private meeting. I did at a board meeting when I was part of the minutes and I wouldn't have done that before I met you.
35:37 I feel like when you stood up for yourself, it felt really good to stand up for myself. I mean did I end up crying? I really tried hard not to cry. I don't want to do that. But I really tried hard and I still cried but afterwards it felt so empowering to say, you know, I
35:56 I did this I did it publicly. I didn't hide and I let them know why this was wrong and it was back to that sense of justice and did it solve anything now, but it's all good to me.
36:11 So what have you learned from me?
36:19 I've learned that is.
36:24 I've learned to trust.
36:29 And to trust first
36:32 And while you usually expect the best from people.
36:37 I have always experienced the worst it seemed and that's not fair to say always but that's when informed my pessimism and my cynicism I expect.
36:49 I still to this day expect them to have another agenda the difference in how I handle it now that I've been with you these almost 15 years is that I start out trusting as opposed to starting out doubting.
37:05 And put dots on the graph if I think that maybe this person shouldn't be trusted. So you taught me to trust more but I still watch people closely.
37:19 Yeah, that's true.
37:22 Well, I'm glad I could bring a little bit more trust into your life.
37:26 You definitely have and a whole heck of a lot of joy and adventure.
37:33 Yeah, I think that that's one of the things I appreciate about our our friendship because I know we confuse people and when I say this is my partner and say what does that mean? They're really you are my best friend. So, where are we off to next Alice? Cuz I know you pretty much everything you said was it's my first time in my 50s doing fill in the blank is doing storycorps in your 50s is actually a song that's been going through my head for the last week Wicked from the movie from the musical Wicked. I don't know if I've been changed for the better, but I know I've been changed for good.
38:25 Yeah, that's kind of how I feel about you.
38:29 Yeah, I can't.
38:31 I'm not I can't imagine being where I am.
38:36 Without having had you there to do all the work. I was giving you a hard time when you were gone on a family emergency recently and it's like I keep giving you a hard time about not doing any of the work and then I had to cover your work and I'm like dang it. Where is he this a lot of work? Okay. That's why I'm really bad at those things. But but yeah, thanks for introducing me to so many amazing people all around the world and
39:14 Helping me realize that gold of no longer shoveling coal of of doing something and helping people because the work we do now I get to fight for dozens of underdogs every day. And that's perfect for me. That's a lot of Strays. There's a lot of stress. Thank you for helping me break out of my model minority stereotype and every now and then sticking up for myself.
39:44 All right.
39:46 Bring on 20/20.