Joe Segarra Q&A: REG Leadership Roundtable Series Exclusive Interview
By Samantha Latshaw
This past week, I sat down with our very own Joe Segarra, President of Rich Entertainment Group, and Senior Vice President of Finance and Family Office for Rich Holdings Inc., the holding company for all Rich family business enterprises.
With more than 20 years of experience at the organization, Joe started his career at Rich’s as a director of tax and has assumed a variety of leadership roles at Rich’s and its subsidiaries, including vice president of finance in the Shareholder Risk Management Group, chief financial officer for Rich Entertainment Group, treasurer of Rich Family Foundation, senior vice president, finance and chief operating officer of Rich Entertainment Group and board member of the Buffalo Bisons Charitable Foundation.
During the interview, we discussed questions surrounding leadership, vision and passion. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about your very first job and what you learned from it.
My first job out of college was with Ernst & Whinney in the Buffalo, New York office. I started out as an auditor and after two years moved over as a member of their Tax Department. This was a great experience and it enabled me to apply everything I was supposed to learn in college in the “real world”. One of the most critical learnings I had during my time at Ernst & Whinney, was the importance of developing relationships with your peers, supervisors, and clients. Professional competence is assumed when getting hired, but the secret of longevity in most, if not all organizations–is your ability to get along and becoming a trusted and valued member of the team.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I’ve been fortunate to work with several great people and leaders over my career both before and during my time at Rich’s. It would be extremely difficult to just name one. However, in addition to those folks, I credit a lot on my beliefs, habits and success from my family and upbringing: act with confidence, be humble, do what’s right and treat people the way you want others to treat you or your family….these are all etched in my mind. Aside from the people who have had an influence on my life, there is a poem titled “The Man in the Glass” which I remember reading and memorizing as a young man and still abide by this today.
Tell us about your career path at Rich’s and how that led to becoming REG’s president.
I began my career in 1993 as our worldwide Director of Tax. I joined at the time where we only had two subsidiaries operating outside the US. My role back then in leading the Tax organization was much simpler than it is today as we have grown exponentially in terms of revenue, subsidiaries, countries we operate in and the number of our associates around the world. Our growth led to the expansion of our Tax department and were fortunate to have several highly skilled tax associates join the department. We have a very seasoned and tenured group of associates, with some who have more than 25 years of experience.
Having this talented group of tax professional enabled me the opportunity to become involved in other facets of our business outside our Food Group. My first encounter within the Entertainment Group occurred when I was asked by our Founder, Bob Rich Sr. to provide some financial reporting assistance to our golf operations at Palm Beach National in Lake Worth, Florida. Having played baseball in college at Butler University, I was thrilled to become part of the Rich Baseball Organization a short time later. As a result of our Corporate tax structure, I was fortunate to work closely with our shareholders on their tax planning but also on a variety of family and related endeavors which at the time included businesses operating in the travel, logistics and hospitality industries.
What were the early days at REG like, what has changed and what remains the same?
When I first became involved with REG, I noticed that each of the underlying businesses operated exclusively in their own space; the overall organization was very much siloed. There was not a lot of intentional collaboration between the members. There were occasions when each of the member businesses tried to assist one another, but this was not a focused effort for the group. When I was promoted to REG’s Chief Operating Officer in 2013, one of my first priorities was to work with each of the leaders of the individual businesses and to stress the importance of collaboration with one another and seek out ways to create a unified identity for the group. I wanted to create a sense of belonging where associates in each respective business could feel part of the organization that was something larger than their own. We have made strides in this area and the growth of these businesses presents even greater opportunities. REG is a collection of sports, travel, theater, and hospitality offerings that benefit from the excellent international reputation of Rich Products Corporation. Although our collective mindset has changed a bit, what hasn’t changed is the level of dedication and drive that each of our associates bring to the table each and every day to create the right working atmosphere and meet the demands of our customers.
What does a typical day in the life look like for you?
I’m not sure I have a typical day…given the nature of my work and the groups I am involved with; it is oftentimes unpredictable. Aside from meetings which fill up my calendar, the rest of the day could be spent working with our leaders in the travel business, then working with our restaurant group in Florida or the management group at the Palm Beach National Golf Course,
then discussing various tax and related planning ideas, and then talking baseball with our Rich Baseball Operations leaders, then working on our safety and security programs, and then working with our outside tax, legal and financial advisors to address a variety of Family Office plans and activities. And then after lunch…
What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead REG?
I truly enjoy what I do and the people I interact with day in and day out. I look forward to coming into the office, or more recently due to the pandemic, turning on the screen in my office to have meetings with my fellow associates at Rich’s and REG. I am very fortunate to work with such great leaders at Rich’s as well with the leaders in each of the underlying businesses of REG. I enjoy working with each of them and the relationships that have been developed over the years with each of them is gratifying. They are the true leaders in each of their respective businesses and I am thrilled and blessed to be able to oversee and guide the collective group in pursuit of our overall goals and objectives.
With more than 25+ years with Rich’s, what are some lessons learned along the way?
Do the best you can always, develop your relationships, keep a positive attitude, do what’s right and opportunities will come your way. My career path was undefined and unestablished. Early on in my career, I was able to become involved in many of the REG businesses for a variety of reasons while still leading Rich’s Tax organization in support of both our domestic and international growth. Once I became involved, I jumped in with two feet and learned as much as I could about the workings of each specific business. Fast forward twenty-plus years, my approach, beliefs, and habits are still the same as they were when I joined Rich’s in 1993.
What interesting new projects are coming up at REG?
As we emerge from the pandemic, which really crippled many of our REG businesses, we are keeping a very watchful eye on the federal and state health guidelines which impact a substantial part of our business. Aside from the Toronto Blue Jays calling Sahlen Field their home for a portion of their 2021 MLB season, we are continuing to explore various offerings that can be brought to Canalside and the Outer Harbor so the Western New York community can once again enjoy this great public space. On the theater front, we are excited that “Escape to Margaritaville” will make its tour appearance throughout the country and at Shea’s in November. It is great to see that Broadway will once again be opening after closing its doors last spring.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Be yourself, treat others how you want to be treated, be a team player, be humble and most importantly… listen.
In one sentence, can you tell us what the most important thing about being a leader is?
Lead by example…what you do and what you say has consequences…it’s as simple as that.
Joe, I’d like to shoot some fun “First Reaction” questions at you that you will answer in just one to three words only! Here we go:
- In 2 words or less, what makes a successful company president? Honesty and consistency.
- Describe REG in one word? Enjoyable.
- Describe REG customers in one word? Wonderful.
- What’s one attribute do you look for when hiring an associate for REG? Energetic.
- What is the one word you want your customers to say about REG? Caring.
- In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful? Trustworthy, friendly, organized.
- What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English Language? Love.