It’s not everyday that you go to buy a sleeping bag and find your company’s next director of marketing. For the last 6 years, Bernard has been applying his special brand of organizing and simplifying to each part of Phidgets. Its quite the story of how one old Frenchman went from retirement plans back into the tech industry without ever looking back.
If you’re a customer who’s put in large Phidgets orders, you’ve met Bernard Rousseau. He manages sales, along with taking care of human resources, documentation, and strategy.
Before Phidgets, Bernard had a career as a high-tech product manager, working for companies like Hewlett-Packard, GE, Compucentre, Comshare, Comterm, and Philips. He saw many companies run into the ground, everyone studiously ignoring the tsunamis that sweep across the tech landscape periodically. He was reaching retirement, was recovering from a heart attack, and figured he’d take a low-stress job that he could afford to lose while he waited for his wife to enter her retirement. So, he took a job at Coast, a store that sells outdoor sports gear. Chester (CEO of Phidgets) happened to stop at the store one day to buy a sleeping bag for a friend visiting from Switzerland (who planned on climbing the biggest mountain in North America, McKinley). This is where Bernard Rousseau met Chester Fitchett.
Conversation ensued over why a 60-year old man would want to work in a store where the typical sales-person is an uninformed 18-year old only working there to get employee discounts. Chester talked about Phidgets, at that time a small and disorganized tech company with six employees, to which Bernard took great pleasure in impressing the importance of good product documentation. After a few minutes of sharing their back-stories, Bernard sold the avid mountain climbers the sleeping bag, but when they inquired about a particular bivy sack, Bernard relished in telling them why not to buy it, and where they could go to get a better one. Chester was impressed.
A few months later, Chester remembered back to this exchange and decided that product management sounded interesting enough to explore. He knew Bernard, with his 35 years experience as middle management in the tech-industry and his honest character, would offer some great guidance to Phidgets. He went to Coast and asked Bernard if he could buy a few hours of his time.
The next Monday, Bernard drove out to Phidgets North, navigating residential streets to find a basement suite in a half-duplex. Him and Chester took a walk and chatted for a few hours. It wasn’t long before they made the Monday meetings a regular occurrence. Bernard would spend the mornings at Phidgets consulting with Chester then go back to Coast for an afternoon shift.
The first thing Bernard told Chester to do was make a list of all the directions that he wanted to go with Phidgets. After which, Chester had to go through the list and delete all the ideas that he wouldn’t do. Bernard went on to methodically organize the company. Even though Chester thought it was a waste of time, he left Bernard alone to have his fun. Coming from a driven but disorganized family, Chester had never seen anyone really good at organizing work like this. It came as a vital revelation for Phidgets.
Eventually, one morning a week turned into a few days a week. A few days a week as a contracted consultant turned into a full-time salaried position at the company. Bernard continues to apply his special brand of organizing and simplifying to each department. During the last 6 years he’s tried writing some documents for research and development (they got thrown away, but he tried), turned himself into a technical writer, been dragged into accounting after some book-keeping problems, and defended Phidgets in court after an accountant tried overcharging Phidgets and demanded the pay.
Bernard now focuses on marketing, sales, strategy and human resources. He still keeps the company organized, implementing systems that keep processes running smoothly without wasting company time and money. And retiring? Bernard explains, “the best thing I can do with my retirement years is do something I really enjoy, and the thing that gives me the most pleasure is to come to Phidgets five times a week.”
You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn.