Ben Ferguson was fresh out of college with a degree in accounting when he was convinced by friends to move out to Arizona. While waiting for that big chance to handle the books for some major company, he took a job as a room service waiter at a resort in Scottsdale to help pay the bills.
Within a couple of months on the job, the financial controller at the hotel found out there was an accounting major among the wait staff. Ferguson was offered a job as the payroll clerk. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he laughed, “you can imagine the stress you face having never worked in an accounting office, and now I’m responsible for the paychecks of 600 employees!”
In a way, it was Ferguson’s introduction to hospitality industry finance, and little did he know at the time that it would be the building block for a life-long career. Over the next three years he progressed quickly and became the accounting manager at a well-known luxury resort, the Phoenician.
And then one day he received “a call out of the blue” from a recruiter out of Durango, Colorado by the name of Wolfgang Koffler. “It’s a very easy name to remember,” Ferguson grinned. Wolfgang offered him an opportunity to interview for an assistant comptroller job on Guam. “Sure, why not?” Ferguson replied.
He had a vague idea of where Guam was, but when he arrived in March 1989 to work at the Pacific Islands Club, “I fell in love immediately,” he recalled.
Ferguson has been with PIC ever since, except for a short stint when he was hired away to be the director of finance for the Sandcastle. His more than 20-year tenure with PIC paid off when he was promoted first from regional finance director to executive director. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would end up doing anything here outside of the accounting field. In fact there was a running joke around here that ‘accounting is Ben’s world, he’d never want to do anything that had to do with operations,’” he recalled.
Imagine his surprise then when he was named general manager two years ago. “I’ve been blessed by working with some great general managers like Ralph Harrison, Bart Jackson, and Ken Yanagisawa, so I’ve been exposed to a few different management styles. I like to think I’ve learned quite a bit from all of those individuals who were successful hotel people,” Ferguson surmised.
He continued, “I’m very passionate about the brand and this product. I’ve spent basically almost my entire career with this organization. And so to finally be in a situation where I was responsible for the whole thing was really quite a good feeling.”
Ferguson said other hotels may also have water parks and slides, but the PIC’s “product differentiator” is its sports entertainment activities and the employees that work there. “We are the only hotel that has the Clubmate concept. And so Clubmates obviously have a lot of different responsibilities, first and foremost to keep our guests safe. But most importantly they interact with our customers,” he explained.
“I tell employees, ‘Your career will go by real fast. If you’re doing something that you don’t look forward to coming to work in the morning, then you’re doing the wrong thing.’ In that regard, I’ve been extremely blessed. I can honestly say that in my entire career there’s never been a time where I really haven’t looked forward to coming to work in the morning and doing what I do,” Ferguson said.
That attitude also applies to his life outside of work. “I’ve tried to stay true to some basic tenets of personal happiness. One of which is health. One of which is family. Those are the two things that really ground me. And in that regard, I’ve been blessed. I have five great children. I became a grandfather three weeks ago. The number one thing on my bucket list was to become a grandparent,” he said laughing, “so I can cross that one off of it.”
The 55-year-old has always been active in sports, and tries to stay very disciplined in his approach to fitness. “In my forties I went through my phase where I ran marathons and I did cycling. Now that I’ve entered my 50’s I’ve slowed down, in terms of competing and things like that, but I still try to make sure that I exercise, if not daily at least 5 or 6 times a week,” Ferguson said.
He is also a big supporter of local sporting events, and the PIC has a long history of hosting running events such as the Guam International Marathon. In fact, Ferguson is the managing director of the non-profit Guam Sports Events, Inc. that organizes and promotes the marathon.
When he’s not participating or organizing sporting activities, he’s watching it. “I am a sports fanatic, and its pretty much any sports. I spend a lot of time following my teams. I’m a big Laker, Dodger, and Rams fan. A big Los Angeles sports fan,” Ferguson said proudly.
Asked what life might be like for him 10 years from now when he hits retirement age, Ferguson said he hopes it all stays the same. “If I could be doing exactly what I’m doing right now, which is working full-time and being heavily involved in a non-profit and spending a lot of quality time with my wife, and my family and my grandchildren, and traveling when I can, that would just be a perfect-case scenario for me.”
“I’m very passionate about the brand and this product. I’ve spent basically almost my entire career with this organization. And so to finally be in a situation where I was responsible for the whole thing was really quite a good feeling.”