Associate Spotlight: Carol Bise Retires After an Award-Winning Career with Miller Valentine
On the desk of Carol Bise sits a small picture of Mount Everest. Written over the spectacular view are the words, “The sweetest satisfaction lies not in climbing your own Everest, but in helping others climb theirs.”
The picture has sat on every desk of every job Carol has ever held. It has long summed up her approach to helping others on their life journey. This was especially true in her role in human resources at Miller Valentine.
“I used to tell new hires that there is an invisible sign above my door that says, ‘How can I help you be successful?’” Carol said.
Now the picture will serve as a guide in retirement. On April 1, Carol stepped down after nearly 14 years with the company. She started as a staffing manager and retired as the director of human resources. In between, she helped the company navigate an organizational and cultural shift.
It was a challenge she was perhaps uniquely qualified for, given her nontraditional career path.
A Talent for Working with People
Carol had nearly finished college when she decided to focus on being a mom. While she fully enjoyed this role, she began to look for opportunities outside of the house when her oldest child turned 14. She and several friends found jobs at what was then a brand-new call center for Limited Brands in Kettering, Ohio. It didn’t take long for Carol to discover she had a propensity for working with people.
“I became fascinated with how the business worked,” Carol said. “I applied for every internal job I could. After working in several departments, including human resources, I fell in love with recruiting. I loved talking to people about the brand and what’s great about the company.”
She took advantage of the tuition reimbursement program and went back to college at 48 years old.
“There were four of us in college at the time – my three children and myself,” said Carol.
With her degree in hand, she went to work for a global call center company as a traveling recruiter. The travel away from home proved to be more than she wanted in her career. When a recruiter contacted her about an opening at Miller Valentine, Carol jumped at the chance to apply.
“When I started sharing with friends that I had an interview with Miller Valentine, everyone responded that it is a great place to work,” Carol recalled.
Finding the Win-Win in Every Situation
At the time, Miller Valentine had a more diverse business portfolio and a fairly siloed culture. In many respects, the commercial and residential sides of the business existed as separate entities, with their own business development, construction, human resources, and accounting teams. As the company reorganized into one company with one culture, Carol recognized an opportunity to bring more of a customer-service focus to the human resources function. Under her guidance, human resources shifted from an administrative arm into a strategic partner and now has a seat on the Executive Team.
“In 13 years, we went from a company with numerous separate cultures to one strong company culture,” said Carol. “Under the leadership of our CEO, we have a culture that is collaborative and affirming. And as a company, we have come to embrace a strong employment experience from hire to retirement.”
Carol’s not one to take credit, noting that it has been a team effort. However, she does acknowledge that her customer service background may have opened the door to a new way of doing things.
“I really do see our Associates as my customers,” said Carol. “I enjoyed helping them with their challenges, whatever they might be. I loved that they trusted to come to me and my team to work through obstacles and find a win-win solution.”
An Award-Winning Career
Carol has many accomplishments to look back on with pride. Chief among them is receiving the Bill Krul Award, the highest internal award bestowed by Miller Valentine. She was the first woman and the first shared-services Associate to receive the honor. Carol was nominated for the award in part for shaping the company’s response to COVID-19 – which also happens to be another point of personal pride.
“There was no playbook for it,” said Carol. “I read every article I could find, I reached out to networking partners and attorneys, I researched as much as possible to make sure our Associates were taken care of, that we met all the changing mandates and regulations, that our business could stay on track, and that we could safely move forward.”
Asked what she will miss most about the company, Carol is quick to say the people and their life stories. She describes Miller Valentine as having exceptional people and leaders.
“People interact across departments, they see that they are valued for who they are, for their skills, and for the work they do,” said Carol. “We have a collaborative, cohesive culture of working toward defined individual, team, and company goals. People are respected. As a quiet, soft-spoken introvert, I was able to move far outside my comfort zone and be who am I without having to change who I am.”
Elizabeth Mangan, Miller Valentine CEO, noted that Carol’s enthusiasm for the company and her genuine commitment to the success of her fellow Associates are unrivaled.
“It is difficult to describe the impact Carol has had on Miller Valentine and our Associates over the past 14 years,” said Elizabeth. “She is the embodiment of our core values and beliefs and will be sorely missed. We wish her well on her next adventure!”
Ready for Her Next Everest
Carol noted that she couldn’t achieve what she did in her career without the help of her husband; her three children; her twin sister; her favorite professor and mentor, Dr. Stephen Julian; her talented team; and a strong partnership with the CEO. She’s looking forward to spending more time with family and friends in retirement. In the coming months, she and her husband plan to drive out to Seattle to visit their son in their new RV trailer.
But true to the words on her Everest picture, Carol is also thinking about how she can influence the world around her for the better.
“I want to explore new ways to serve my family, community and church. Explore our state and national parks. Explore more adventures with family and friends. Explore more of gardening, woodworking, and other hobbies,” Carol said. “I haven’t had enough of a chance to do that, and now I do.”
Thank you, Carol, for devoting your time and talent to making Miller Valentine a world-class organization for our Associates!