Thomas Ruderman, Active International

Thomas Ruderman

Editors' Note

As Chief Human Resources Officer, Thomas Ruderman handles all elements of talent at the company. He has more than 20 years of experience at companies such as GE, CitiGroup, and CIGNA.

Company Brief

Pearl River, New York-based Active International (www.activeinternational.com) is recognized as the global leader in corporate trade, providing financial benefits to Fortune 500 companies in virtually every industry. Founded 27 years ago, the company acquires excess assets – including surplus inventory, real estate, and capital equipment – at up to full wholesale value in exchange for cash and/or a trade credit, which is used to offset future operating expenses. Active has led the industry in the development of new standards of excellence for the acquisition of assets, the effective remarketing of those assets, and the provision of an efficient means for its clients to use their trade credits. With offices in 16 countries, Active has created more than $1.5 billion in cash savings for its extensive client base since 1984.

Is there an effective understanding of the opportunities that exist within Active and what the industry is about?

There is. A fair number of people we recruit are those going into their first jobs and we try to develop and grow them internally. There are some we hire at mid-level and if they’re deep in the media or advertising space, they probably know of Active.

What do you do to ensure your employees are engaged?

We have a comprehensive management training program that helps managers with management, leadership, communication skills, and conflict resolution. Engagement is determined by the relationship with the immediate manager, so those skills are critical.

We just launched a flexible work program, which is a way of further engaging our employees because it’s a need they have expressed to us.

We have an active employee wellness program that lets people know we care about them and their health.

And Active Cares, our charitable, community-based initiative, helps employees feel good about working for a company that contributes to the community and the greater good.

As to overseas activities, how important is it to find local workers who understand Active’s culture and is it challenging to find the needed talent in some of those markets?

While we provide support from our U.S. office as needed, our strategy is to hire locally and we have been very successful in countries such as the U.K., Germany, and France. As we go into new places, we will continue to focus on local leadership because they understand the local markets and will be able to attract the best talent.

Has the HR function changed over the years?

Yes, it has changed a lot; it has become much more closely linked to the business and business strategy. We are embedded into the business and are involved in influencing business decisions and shaping strategy. Being a member of the executive leadership team gives me access to information and the opportunity to effect things way beyond the scope of HR.

How important is it to maintain Active’s entrepreneurial culture as you grow in size and scale?

When you get to a certain size and level of complexity, you have to add a measure of professional management and discipline, but not so much of it that you lose the essence of your culture and what helped get you to this point. It’s definitely a balancing act but we’ve been successful so far.

When this opportunity presented itself, did you know it was the right fit and has it been what you expected?

I was brought here because there was recognition that we were at a stage in the company’s life cycle where we needed to evolve the culture and upgrade talent. We needed to find new skills that we didn’t have within the company while complementing the skills that were already in place. It excited me because it was about helping to take a successful organization to the next level. It’s been rewarding and a lot of fun.•