"What I look for most is empathy and heart, because those are things you can't teach. My whole passion in life is to to employ people in good jobs."
— John Schweiter
As a youth, John Schweiter rode his bicycle around what was then a much smaller Bend. As a young adult, he ran a successful coffee shop at one of Bend's busiest intersections. Later, he fathered six kids, all born at home, the last one delivered himself. And recently he found a new passion, what he calls his "ultimate job."
Schweiter is the lead recruiter for the Bend call center IBEX Global. "I love to employ people. That is my greatest joy in life," Schweiter says. "That's why I work for IBEX. The reason I love IBEX is I get to give 25 people a week careers. I just love what I do."
IBEX Global handles customer calls for four major brands, including two tech brands, one medical company, and a motor sports brand. "They are all related to Central Oregon and are cool, hip brands that Central Oregonians would dig." It's company policy to keep the brands confidential, Schweiter says, "to promote the well-being of the brands and not to promote IBEX." The call center produces some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of all call centers in the world, according to Schweiter. "That's because we have such cool people. IBEX has Central Oregon to thank for that."
The company has been in existence for about 15 years—the past four years as IBEX Global—with 24 sites worldwide and more than 15,000 employees. It has centers in Pakistan, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the UK and Senegal, and in the U.S., sites in Texas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee.
After stints in a number of Washington cities, Schweiter moved back to Bend last August. Growing up, he spent many summers here. He says one of his favorite birthday memories was going to see "Jaws III" at a now-closed Bend movie theater on the east side.
In 1996, after attending a pastor school in Seattle, Schweiter attempted to start a church in Bend, renting out the Tower Theatre on Sunday mornings. It didn't last, so he jumped on one of the first waves of specialty coffee and opened a coffee shop—Migliuris—at the corner of Eighth Street and Greenwood. "Back in those days," Schweiter says, that was rated the busiest corner in the state.
When Schweiter joined IBEX earlier this year, the Bend office had about 400 employees. Since then, he's hired nearly 200 more. Schweiter says he interviews about 75 people a week and hires around 25.
"What I look for most is empathy and heart, because those are things you can't teach. My whole passion in life is to employ people in good jobs." Those selected undergo three weeks of paid training. Of those, one or two might drop out, and when that happens, "It breaks my heart," Schweiter says.
The training pays $10.50 an hour and increases to $12 an hour thereafter. Benefits include health care covering medical, dental and vision, as well as a 401K plan. The company even hires the homeless, with shower facilities on site, Schweiter says.
He admits that not everyone is cut out to sit at a desk for eight hours a day, adding, "There's plenty of opportunity there because of expansion and growth. We hire in-house and we have amazing trainers."
He gives the example of one hire, who in a three-month period, went from phones to becoming a supervisor and then a trainer. The person who now runs the entire branch started out on the phones, he adds. "It's a really cool company to work for. I like the way they treat people and the opportunities that they give, and they do it on a massive scale."
The Bend site runs 24/7, though most work is done between 5am and 8:30pm, according to Schweiter. Everyone works eight-hour shifts and a 40-hour week. There are no part-time jobs.
Schweiter says the people he hires range in age from 18 to 65. "People tell me this is the most diverse place in Central Oregon. We have a lot of creatives that work here," including codewriters, songwriters and musicians. He says he recently hired a retired medical doctor.
Schweiter and his wife, Marie, a chef at Market of Choice, have a blended family that includes 10 grown children, all out on their own.
And as if hiring dozens of new employees every week wasn't enough excitement, Schweiter says he's also acquired a patent for his startup project, Serfpad—a "TV tray" that helps make a mouse and keyboard portable.