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News : Formerly Homeless Businessman Aims to Redefine Call Center Industry
San Jose, CA, USA, Aug 25, 2015 -- A new business opening in San Jose is bringing 150 new jobs to Silicon Valley with the aim of redefining the customer service call center industry, all while being led by a CEO who once was homeless.
For Gabriel Bristol, CEO of Intelicare Direct, every phone call is about building a relationship with the stranger on the other end. That's the lesson he tries to teach his employees.
In a time, when many companies are outsourcing customer service calls to other countries, Bristol is bucking the trend of saving a few bucks overseas. On September 2nd, he'll hold a grand opening for a new call center in San Jose, while also adding to offices in Las Vegas and San Diego.
The call center already has about 25 new hires and some employees who agreed to move from the San Diego office. It has bright, open work spaces and there are plans for plenty of extras such as a gym, a game and television break room, and even a quiet place to rest.
"We have a lot of people who are single mothers or are juggling another job and they need some time between jobs and this is just a way for them to be refreshed before they get on the phones," said Bristol, showing KTVU a room with six lounge chairs.
It's a philosophy about work and business borne from his humble roots and a painful past.
"I was born to a mother who was a heroin addict and a prostitute," Bristol said.
He says one of his earliest memories is standing outside a police station alone at age of three while his mother was booked for prostitution.
From there, he says he was moved to a series of foster homes until he was adopted by a couple in Michigan. He says he lived through years of physical, mental, and other abuse, until he ran away and was living on the streets of Lansing at age 19. A friend offered a suggestion that would change his life.
"I was homeless, giving blood for money and he told me about this job, a call center job. And I was like, 'How dare you! Is that how little you think about me? That I would do that?' Because it had such a bad stigma, you know?" Bristol remembered.
But he gave it a try and in that first day at the call center, Gabriel Bristol found his calling.
"Listening to the tone of their voice, the cadence of their voice, making that connection," he said. "I realized I was providing a valuable service. I fell in love with the work."
That work he tries to integrate with his workers' real lives,
He allows employees to bring their children and pets to work.A children's room in the middle of the call center has a play pen and desks. Bristol plans to provide computers and after-school tutors.
Employees' desks are adjustable to allow workers to stand or sit with their Apple laptops. Bristol says he wants to give each person a sense of dignity, respect, and make them comfortable.
"You can tell how much empathy and compassion is going into how they're structuring this business, especially for people like myself who've always just worked working class," said Libier Figueroa, of Scotts Valley.
"I view employees as partners. That's the key to my success. They're not a resource, they're not a tool they're not a means to the end. They are truly my partners," Bristold said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Intelicare Direct:
Intelicare Direct is a call center service provider with two facilities located in San Diego and Las Vegas.
Published: Thursday, August 27, 2015