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Rick Emberley

Q&A with the founder and CEO of BoomersPlus.com

Campus and Community |

By Lisa Pendergast

As a Baby Boomer, Rick Emberley, BA’71, identifies with the characteristics associated with his generation: hard-working, goal oriented, competitive and disciplined.

So when it became “time to retire,” he wasn’t ready. And he believed many of his peers felt the same way.

While a student at Memorial, Mr. Emberley focused on economics and political science. After graduation, he entered the workforce and quickly realized he was an entrepreneur at heart. He founded the Bristol Group in 1976, a marketing and communications company specializing in advertising, research, public relations, digital media and production.

Mr. Emberley served as executive chairman until 2010, when Bristol joined the M5 Group of Companies. As years passed and retirement age came closer, he starting to consider what leaving the workforce might look like. He wanted to remain active in the business world to some degree and wanted to assist other boomers who felt the same way. The idea for BoomersPlus was born.

Read on as Mr. Emberley discusses his career, his company BoomersPlus.com and the future.

LP: Tell me a little about yourself.

RE: I’m a St. John’s boy, born and raised – I grew up on the east end of Gower Street. I went to Memorial, then I went to work in Joey Smallwood’s office for two or three years. I decided to leave and start my own business, the Bristol Group, with a couple of associates and grew that over a period of 25 years or so.

I ended up moving to Halifax in the early ’80s, for the purpose of expanding the business in the Maritimes. The business chugged along for 25 years and then we amalgamated with the M5 Group about 10 years ago. I’ve been associated with the M5 Group in a consulting capacity since then, but I’ve also been involved in several other businesses, including BoomersPlus.com.

LP: How did your time at Memorial University influence your career?

RE: When I went to Memorial it was an eye-opener. The world is much bigger than the four or five neighbourhoods in the immediate area where I grew up. It was a time when Memorial itself was growing dramatically – I think there were no more than 3,000 students when I arrived on campus and they were pushing 8,000 by the time I left.

Students were coming from everywhere, including outside the province, and I got to interact with students from other countries. The majority of the professors I had were also from outside of Newfoundland and Labrador and they would share their experiences, as well.

“I think that was all influenced by the experience I had attending Memorial.”

It broadened my perspective in a significant way and that’s probably why, when we started the business in 1976, we weren’t into it very long before we developed a vision of it being bigger than St. John’s and bigger than the province.

I think that was all influenced by the experience I had attending Memorial during that period of growth.

LP: Can you tell me about BoomersPlus.com? How did you get the idea to start this company?

RE: I’ve had this business for several years, concentrated mostly in the Atlantic region, and recently we moved the business into Ontario. What we are doing there is pretty simple, there is this huge cohort of Boomers – people like myself, I guess – who, for any number of different reasons, think about retirement in a different way than previous generations.

A large number of them show increasing interest in stepping out of their longstanding careers and wanting to stay engaged in their professions and communities by doing things like mentoring and volunteering.

“The idea itself was very personal.”

We’ve been building a database of those individuals who are seeking term and part-time positions. They have all this expertise built up over several decades and it’s a resource that, frankly, the economy can use right now. Our database has about 7,000 individuals and is growing daily. We reach out to employers who are seeking to fill largely senior level positions but do not have the need or desire for a full-time role in that area. Or they might be looking for someone to coach or mentor some of the more junior staff.

The idea itself was very personal. I knew that when Bristol and M5 came together in 2010, I was already in the midst of exit planning. There were some discussions with some of the senior managers, but I had zero appetite to go into full-time retirement mode. I was looking for something to do and this idea came up, actually in conversation with someone who was in the conventional recruiting business. I found some partners and investors and started to build the business from there.

LP: Do you have plans for further expansion?

RE: We have staff in both Ontario and Halifax, and right now I’m on the hunt for someone to formally represent us in Newfoundland and Labrador. We would like the business to grow. It has been heavily concentrated in Nova Scotia, but we have been conducting business across Atlantic Canada for several years now.

We first started the business as BoomersWork.com, and our sole focus was this employment angle, but we changed the brand about two years ago to BoomersPlus.com. In addition to expanding the business geographically, we are now building a lifestyle hub for boomers.

“Our larger vision for the business is built around this lifestyle hub.”

We have piloted this work in areas such as travel and leisure, financial planning – which is of significant interest to the Boomer generation – we have had conversations about what we could offer in terms of health care, and something that may be of interest to Memorial University: lifelong learning.

So, our larger vision for the business is built around this lifestyle hub, but in the shorter term, we still have a lot of work to do to get the traction that we want in the employment area – that’s our principal focus.

LP: What advice would you give to retirees who may be interested in rejoining the work force?

RE: Well, everybody looks at these things from a slightly different perspective. One thing we are discovering is that if I say to you we have 7,000 people in a database, that is more than 7,000 skills.

As an example, if I was a CFO in an organization for the last 10 or 15 years of my career, I know a lot more about business than simply finance. We are finding that our retirees are not looking to go back into the workforce as a part-time CFO, for example, they are prepared to accept interesting and challenging work at other levels.

So, the simplest piece of advice I would give is to have a broad perspective on the kind of contribution that you can make to a business – whether it’s private or public sector or not-for-profit – and don’t presume that your contribution can only be in one specific area.

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