Oral Histories

Bill Margaritis

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

Bill Margaritis Biography

Bill Margaritis is the executive VP of corporpate affairs at Hilton Worldwide. Previously, he was corporate vice president for global communications and investor relations for FedEx Corporation.


INTERVIEWER: Something else I want to ask you about, talking about your career development. What person has had the most significant influence on your career and why?

MARGARITIS: Well, without question the person who’s had the most significant influence in my career is Fred Smith, the founder and current chairman and CEO of FedEx. First of all, Fred is just an unbelievable leader and cares so much about people and his family. He has taught me to really be true to yourself; that you have to be at the core principle and understand what you’re trying to achieve, how you deal with people. And to pay attention to things in life other than just money or title, your family, your friends. To have fun. He is a man of extraordinary intellectual capacity, and he believes in balance. And by that I mean a combination of being really good at strategic thinking and being great at organizational and executional capabilities. Building a culture that has discretionary efforts and strong values and teamwork and collaboration. I think he got that from his military experience where there is such a co-dependency for survival by people on the frontlines. So Fred’s view, I think, is that to be a successful executive you have to be as great as you can be in your particular subject. You need to use kaleidoscope thinking and solving problems and dealing with situations outside of your comfort zone.   And that’s how you innovate. You have to be honest with a lot of integrity. You have to be respectful to people, empower people. And then I think you have to be—as I said earlier, true to yourself.

INTERVIEWER: When you go to hire someone for your team, what are the qualities that are highest on your list?

MARGARITIS: Hiring decisions really are the most important decisions that an executive can make, because they can make or break a culture. We look at our team as being a subculture of the FedEx culture. At the heart of success here is the ability to adapt to that particular culture. Number one is to be a team player, is to be able to collaborate, to be able to listen and be empathetic. To be passionate about what you do. To really understand all of the basic requirements of the job, because reliability is central to the value proposition of FedEx. Each employee needs to mirror, at a minimum, what this company stands for; and that’s reliability, a very strong customer orientation. And customer does not necessarily have to be an external customer. It’s in our case a lot of internal customers. I think discretionary effort and going above and beyond and having that kind of trait or attribute—and I know it’s hard to spot on the front end—is a big deal here. And the other is to care about each other. On this team I think you will see that people trust each other. They care about each other. When you build that kind of trust, you can do anything. You can accomplish anything because people will go through walls, they’ll go into a bunker together and know they’ve got each other’s back. And the other is to make sure that you’re rewarding and celebrating the people who know that if they work hard there’s going to be opportunities. So training and development and celebrating and rewarding them is really important too.