Tom Ferguson is an author, speaker, and lifetime student of corporate leadership practices. He has taken his artistic talent and his experience as both an engineer and an executive to create a company that creates one-of-a-kind tributes. Tom works with corporate leaders to find out what makes their company unique and incorporates those themes into visually artistic ways of recognizing employee achievements, corporate milestones, and legacies.

Read on to learn more about Tom, his mission to elevate the art of appreciation, and how leaders can bring corporate recognition to the forefront of business practices. 

How did you go from a career in chemical engineering to creating corporate tributes?
I spent many years as a rank and file engineer, then many more as a business development executive. In business development, I made personalized frames and mats for clients to showcase photos or renderings of certain projects. I was always pleased when they expressed genuine appreciation for the custom pieces I created for them. As a company, we were giving these tokens of gratitude to our clients, but not to the workers that made everything happen. The culture of praise and recognition from leadership did not exist. I saw a disconnect there, an open void that desperately needed to be filled. I knew that there had to be something more significant than a pat on the back or logo-branded caps and t-shirts. My Eureka moment came in 1996 at an event where sponsors for a charity were recognized for their contributions and efforts with a token of appreciation. The energy and enthusiasm when they accepted their “award” were contagious. I wondered what the result would be if company employees were recognized and awarded in much the same way.

Why do you think recognition and appreciation are so important in a corporate environment?
When a corporate leader shows appreciation – real, heartfelt, genuine appreciation – to an employee, something incredible is set into motion. That employee changes for the better, he or she becomes a more loyal and dedicated employee, a more fulfilled human. It spills over into their personal and family life as well. Someone who is more satisfied with their life will ultimately bring more to the workplace. People crave attention from the top, but not merely for improving the bottom line. Instead, they get-up-early-and-stay-late to support a cause and contribute to something bigger than themselves. Today, it is my privilege to help leaders put people and their work on display and applaud them by making their work visible.

You’ve worked with many company leaders and executives. What are some of the key qualities of effective and inspirational leaders?
When I embarked on this mission, I knew that I had to learn as much as I could about how corporate leaders think and act regarding their employees. I spoke with executives across Houston and San Antonio. They are profiled in my book, Peerless: Defy Convention, Lead from the Heart, Watch What Happens.

How do you convince corporate leaders that they should implement a recognition plan and create custom art pieces?
Most of the executives I speak with don’t need to be convinced; they already know that appreciation and gratitude reap great rewards from a bottom line standpoint. My job is to identify the core message and turn that into a tangible, unique art piece that encompasses the company’s core values and the recognition that is being awarded.