The Home Trust International (HTI): What first compelled you to enter private service?
Roger Cushwa (RC): I read a newspaper article about a lady who had attended Starkey International Institute and moved from California to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. I was so intrigued by what she did that I ‘Googled’ Starkey International, and watched the video on the home page. I remember getting goose bumps, yelling for my wife to come here that I had found out what I wanted to do! From that moment forward I have been working towards and planning for a career in private service.
HTI: Who or what has been the strongest influence on your career and why?
RC: That is difficult to say because so many have helped in different ways. I have always tried to learn something new every day, and I have been blessed to work with some amazing and intelligent leaders. Some of the names that spring to mind, are Ms. Jodi Hansen, F&B Manager at the Ocean Club when I started as a Dining Service Captain. She was always pushing me to be better, and her favorite saying was “Know your people, grow your people.” Also Mr. Joseph Vespee, one of my General Managers at the Ocean Club. Mr. Vespee taught me so much about how to relate to members and staff while maintaining that boundary of professionalism. Mr. Jim Apple, current CEO of Burroughs & Chapin, he showed me that you can have the big picture, but always remember the people that work under you, and treat them with respect even while you may have to let them go, it can be done with respect and courtesy.
HTI: If you could have told your 20-year old self one thing, what would it have been?
RC: Time passes so quickly, please take the time to breathe and enjoy your family! Work is never done, and there will always be “emergencies,” but your children and family will only be in this time and place once!
HTI: Please tell us about your family and your personal life.
RC: I am the oldest of three, my father was a ‘Wildlife Biologist’ for the federal government, and we moved every 18 – 24 months for my entire childhood. It was a wonderful upbringing, and one that I would not change for anything! I look at the places I have lived, and the things I have experienced, and they have made me who I am today. I have lived in 11 different states, several multiple times, and this has given me a broad perspective and experience.
HTI: What is the best advice you have received and who was it from?
RC: There are two people that have been a part of this as well as an institution. The first was mentioned earlier, Ms. Jodi Hansen when she constantly reminded me to “know your people, and grow your people,” and then my former Principle, Mr. B. (name withheld). Mr. B always encouraged me to better understand those I work with, and to really feel what they are going through and their perspective. Finally, the USMC, the Marine Corps taught me more about team work regardless of perceived or imagined differences, and to always consider those who look to you for leadership and guidance.
HTI: Is there a common thread that runs through all great organizations?
RC: I had never heard the term, or even thought about the concept until my time at Starkey International. Mrs. Starkey is the first person that I ever heard refer to a person as having a “Service Heart.” In reflecting on my career, what motivates and drives me, it is that desire to serve others. I firmly believe this prompted my choice for the USMC, law-enforcement, and every job that I have ever held.
HTI: Do you prefer the country or the city?
RC: I chuckle at this question, because four years ago, it would have hands-down been the country. But after living in Stamford CT, and going into New York City, I have grown to love the city life too. It is wonderful to walk to the grocery store, doctor’s office, library, mall, restaurants and shopping centers. I still love the country, and close-feeling that a person can get from that country or small-town experience, but I have come to appreciate the city life as well.
HTI: What energizes you?
RC: Several years ago, I recommended a course of action for a former principle to save them money, reduce staff, and simplify their property and life. I found out a couple of weeks ago, that this Principle implemented that program. It is always gratifying to have an idea come to life, and truly feel that it is the right course and will have a positive impact on someone’s quality of life.
HTI: In what ways has estate management changed over the years?
RC: The biggest change that I have seen is that Principles require their staff to do more and be responsible for more. At the same time, managing employees has become more challenging. The skill-set required to adapt to both changes is enormous. Change energizes me and reminds me that I must be a constant learner.
HTI: The one thing I’ve had forever is:
RC: A strong sense of justice and fairness, and the desire to serve and make a difference.
HTI: What do you miss the most?
RC: I miss my mom. My mom passed away in March 2016 and miss her so much. It did not matter how bad the day, a phone call with my mom always made it better. I spoke to her at least 3 or 4 times a week, and she just made everything better!
HTI: What is your favorite object and why?
RC: Anything made with craftmanship and skill. I love any type of building, because you start with nothing but a pile of materials or an idea, and when you are finished there is something that is beautiful and provides a benefit and pleasure to those that use it.
HTI: What makes a room sing?
RC: I love custom wood work, cabinetry, and craftsmanship in any material.
HTI: What place most inspires you?
RC: I love Washington DC; all the monuments and history. To look at what our founding forefathers envisioned and built, and the thoughts they pondered and considered are inspiring to say the least. I am also amazed by the D-Day Memorial in Bedford VA, the Vietnam Memorial, Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, and any memorial that honors our military and law-enforcement.
HTI: Please tell us about your taste in music or books. Do you have a favorite author or artist?
RC: I love all music except for rap. I had a choir director in high school that would not allow us to sing anything written in English! I love jazz, R&B, soul, country and instrumentals. My son has turned me on to movie scores, and of course I love musicals.
As for authors, I have been reading Engage with Honor by Lee Ellis. I have read this book several times and I just love it. If I want light reading then my favorite author is Louis L’Amour. His books have carried me to other parts of our country, and showed me what honor, respect and keeping your word meant and should mean. I have often thought I was born 150 years too late.
HTI: Do you have a favorite museum?
RC: The Smithsonian in Washington DC. I don’t really have a favorite section, but I just love going through all of them and seeing what we have accomplished and where we have come from. We truly live in the greatest country in the world where anyone can be anything they want or become anything they want.
HTI: What is your favorite brand and why?
RC: I love the tag line for Lexus, “The relentless pursuit of perfection” and of course the USMC “The Few, The Proud”.
HTI: When you’re not working where are you most likely to be found?
RC: With family, in church, or playing golf.
HTI: What makes a great organization?
RC: A clear mission and goal, along with leadership that cares and leads.
HTI: Why The Home Trust International?
RC: The Home Trust embodies the traits and commitment that reflect what is important to me. Commitment to excellence, integrity, and a willingness to share only the best.
HTI: If you could be granted one wish. What would it be?
RC: To work where I have a positive impact and can truly be a blessing to that person and their family while being appreciated and treated with respect.
HTI: If you weren’t in your current field, what would you be doing?
RC: I will always be in service of some type; it is in my DNA.
HTI: Who is on your personal ‘Board of Directors?’
RC: Other Private Service Professionals, and several business owners. I love having that network of trusted friends to help me when I have questions or need to check to make sure that I am on the right course and making the best decisions for the right reasons.
HTI: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
RC: I am proud of what I have chosen to do, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I was elected by my peers to be president of the New York City chapter of Domestic Estate Management Association where I continued to learn, improve my skills and knowledge, as well as lead others who are in private service.
My greatest pleasure in business comes from serving families who require and respect estate managers who will protect their family, reputation and property.
Roger Cushwa is a professional estate manager with over eight years of experience managing multiple locations, including housekeeping, culinary, maintenance, landscape and administrative staff. He has a very structured and organized approach toward leadership and teambuilding. Cushwa has many years of experience in vendor negotiating, project construction and renovation cost management with experience managing multi-million-dollar budgets.
Roger Cushwa provides a unique blend of service skills and experiences, including military service, former law enforcement officer, hospitality business degree, and general manager of a member-focused private club. He is committed to having a positive impact on his principal’s life allowing them the time to enjoy their interests and lifestyle. He is equally committed to the protection of their family, reputation and property in that order.