Dan Phillips is the developmental director of the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter for the South Georgia region. (Submitted photo)
TIFTON — Dan Phillips works as the development director for the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter’s South Georgia region. In this role, he has a hand in helping to raise funds for research to battle a disease that is the sixth-leading cause of death and the only cause of death in the country’s top 10 without a cure or a medication to slow it down.
THE DAN PHILLIPS FILE
NAME: Dan Phillips
POSITION: Director of Development for the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter, South Georgia region
FAMILY: Married to Christine Kenny Phillips on Dec. 29, 2012. No children. Four sisters and nine nieces and nephews
EDUCATION: Graduated from Darton College with a degree in business management
ACCOLADES: Received the first “Tall on Community” Award from Tenneson Nissan for outstanding work in making the communities we live in better
Taking into account this, and that statistics show there are more than five million Americans living with the disease which is expected to be costing the United States $1.2 trillion by 2050, it’s a big mission. The regional office, located in Tifton, carries out that mission for 35 counties in the area.
In this edition of “On the Job,” Phillips explains how his family experience with Alzheimer’s led him to his current position, his passion for family and outdoor activities and how generosity and new forms of giving have helped to shape organizations such as the one he is in.
Q. What was your very first job?
A. I worked for my granddaddy as a kid washing dishes in his restaurant. In high school I worked for Harvey’s bagging groceries; I consider that to be my first job.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?
A. I liked to save my money, but I remember buying a top-notched calculator pretty early.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping volunteers motivated?
A. I think it is important to let them do work they enjoy and where they feel needed. Time is our most valued resource and to keep them motivated, volunteers need to feel they are spending their time wisely and enjoying what they do.
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. My grandmother passed from Alzheimer’s disease. While I was working at Merck and Co., I went to visit her in Florida and it touched my heart to see her not recognize us and the challenges it put on the family trying to take care of her. My aunt gave up her job to stay home with Grammie and provide care. I came back and got my co-workers together and put on a golf tournament. We raised several thousand dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association. We participated in the “Walk To End Alzheimer’s” that year and the following year I chaired the event. When Merck closed in 2007, I got a call from the Georgia chapter asking me to be the development director for the South Georgia region.
I couldn’t believe I was being asked to work for a cause I was so passionate about and for an organization I volunteered for. I am one of the lucky ones who enjoy what they do.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. Yes, Carl Blier in Valdosta. When I took this job, the recession hit and you can imagine how difficult it was to raise money. I was struggling and a lot of changes happened very quickly. Carl was a volunteer in Valdosta and a retired executive from Coca-Cola. He helped me so much by providing sound advice and much needed encouragement as the changes were made. He had some medical issues lately but I still know he is just a phone call away.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the recent recession?
A. That they are still a lot of generous people in South Georgia. That’s what I love about this job. I get to meet so many people who give their money and time to help a cause I am so passionate about.
Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology — email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs — what would it be?
A. None of it, I believe in technology and it has made our lives easier. I do wish more people, my self-included, would turn it off more and enjoy the things around them.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. I love my iPhone. I don’t know how I survived without it.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. I don’t have any traditions … it might be a good time to start one.
Q. What was the last book you read?
A. “Decision Points” by George W. Bush.
Q. Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. I read news websites and check the stock market daily. I also enjoy reading the newspaper, especially on weekend mornings with a cup of coffee.
Q. What is your morning routine?
A. Each day starts with coffee about 6:45 a.m. I have no set routine after that, as each day is different. Right now I am working on the “Forget Me Not” golf tournament in Albany so I get to work from home some. We are also in the process of planning “Dancing Stars of South Georgia,” which is held in Tifton in May. This is a huge event for the Alzheimer’s Association and I will be traveling to Thomasville, Valdosta, Moultrie, Tifton and other South Georgia towns recruiting dancers to be a part of it.
I finish each day by answering emails and returning phone calls I missed. I try to finish each day by 6 p.m., but more often than not I am working into the evening hours.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?
A. I would love to meet pro golfer Phil Michelson. I enjoy watching his golf game and he is a great family man. I admire how he can keep such a balance in his work/home life and I would love to get advice. I would also get a few tips for my golf game.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?
A. I love to play golf and spend time on the river in a canoe.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. I regret I didn’t look outside Georgia for work. As I have gotten older I feel I missed a chance to experience other parts of the United States.
Q. Best and worst things about your job?
A. The best thing is I get to meet and work with so many generous people who help this community that so many others never hear about.
The worst thing is I feel my job is never done. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and the only one in the top 10 without a cure. There is not enough time in the day to raise the awareness and dollars we need to fund research and help those individuals and their families in South Georgia who deal with it every day.
Q. What was the most beneficial course you took in school?
A. A speech class at Darton College. I had a fear of speaking in front of people and that class really helped.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. I would play third base for the Boston Red Sox.
Q. Where do you see yourself on the first anniversary of your retirement?
A. I see myself in the North Georgia mountains canoeing and hiking during the day and sitting by a fire at night.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. A strong leader must be able to listen — not just hear someone but understand what they are saying.
Q. What kind of music do you most like listening to?
A. Country, although I am a big Phillip Phillips fan and love his music. My wife has also gotten me to listen to some bluegrass.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. I believe Albany is changing for the better. Aaron Blair is doing a great job with the downtown area and I expect big things from him. We need new business to put people to work. I believe this will happen and people will start to understand that hard work is what made this the Good Life City and hard work will get us back there.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
A. I have family spread out the United States and I always enjoy going to see them. My wife and I did take a cruise a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed that.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. More people are going to the web to donate. Life has become so busy and a lot of people don’t have the time to attend fundraising events and find it easier to just make donations online. I think it is very important we have a well-designed web page that is easy to navigate.