Geoff Earle of CharityVillage on people not just profit

Six years ago, Geoff Earle was your typical successful corporate executive, climbing the typical corporate ladder. But Geoff is anything but typical. And when he got near the top, rather than keep going he switched ladders. Geoff is now the chief operating executive of CharityVillage, Canada’s most popular nonprofit job board. We talk about why he escaped the corporate world and lessons for others looking to do the same. He reflects on his 35 years of experience sharing lessons on leadership, listening, and managing people.

Can you briefly describe your job and what a typical day is like?  

I’m the Chief Operating Officer, which means all departments report into me and I personally manage the sales department. My day consists of normal day to day duties in running the company by motivating all Villagers to meet previously agreed goals and deliver excellent customer service to all of our users.

Why did you shift from the corporate world to run operations at CharityVillage?

I spent 35 years in Corporate always climbing the ladder trying to reach the top of my profession. Corporate is always driven by profit so there are sacrifices made to reach the top. It is all about the Corporation if you want to succeed. And I was very successful, in fact probably too successful, as along the way I forgot that it is people that make the difference… not just profit.

And I was very successful, in fact probably too successful, as along the way I forgot that it is people that make the difference… not just profit.

I remember starting my “escape” from Corporate when an owner of a successful company that I managed as COO proudly stated to me: “I believe as a senior manager you need to be a benevolent dictator”. That started the thought process to get out of corporate and find something where I was part of a mission of people that felt there was a better way to do business. I’ve said over many years now that CharityVillage saved my soul… as corny as it sounds.

How did your previous life or work experiences prepare you for this career change?

I was well versed in managing through goals, structure and process in order to deliver profitable results. I was fortunate along the way to have top notch mentors who considered giving back was to assist in the training of others. All I needed to do was use the corporate experience I had and adapt that to a people environment. Sounds simple enough… but harder than it sounds.

What advice would you give others with a corporate background who want to switch into nonprofit world?

Leave your ego outside the door and listen. Really listen to people.

Allow people to be vocal and show restraint in casting judgement too early.

Be prepared to let some things evolve instead of demanding immediate results.

Establish yourself as the final decision maker but not the only decision maker.

Trust people and open yourself to other ways of reaching goals other than your own.

Patience with everything.

Career advice: 

I wish I knew in my 20’s….. That I didn’t know everything

I wish I knew in my 30’s…. Acceptance is as important as patience

I wish I knew in my 40’s…. Karma is a ……

Do you have a philosophy that you live/work by?

Always be fair and honest no matter what the circumstances. Listen with an open heart not just your brain.


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