Barbara Nurenberg is the new president and CEO of Seagull Services, formerly Seagull Industries for the Disabled. The non-profit organization was founded in 1979 and provides a wide range of services to disabled people in Palm Beach County.
Seagull just relaunched as Seagull Services, a name Nurenberg says more appropriately encompasses the organization’s role in the community.
Nurenberg, who is new to South Florida, brings a lifetime of experience in service to her role. Previously, she served as CEO of the Detroit-based nonprofit, JVS - Realizing Life’s Potential, which was established in 1941 as Jewish Vocational Service.
She earned her bachelor of arts in business administration and master of arts in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Wayne State University in Detroit.
Name: Barbara Nurenberg
Title: President and CEO of Seagull Services
Home: West Palm Beach
About your organization: Seagull Services primarily provides advocacy and an array of services for people with disabilities and their families. We also provide employment services to people who have various other barriers to employment. Seagull Services was founded 35 years ago as Seagull Industries for the Disabled Inc. by local families who were looking for education and improved quality of life for their disabled children.
Today, we work with people with disabilities from throughout Palm Beach County. Our clients are provided vocational and life skills training, employment assistance, residential services and formal education through our charter school, Seagull Academy for Independent Living, or SAIL.
How your field has changed: From a business perspective, at one time, not-for-profit organizations were looked upon as “charities.” Today, not-for-profit organizations are expected to run as well-oiled businesses.
From the perspective of serving people with disabilities, organizations like Seagull Services that provide assistance and educational opportunities to people with disabilities used to focus on how to best shelter the people they served. Now, the focus is how to integrate people with disabilities into the community so they can live the kinds of lives they want to live, and the community can benefit from the talents that they bring.
First paying job: As a college senior, I worked for the Archdiocese of Detroit on a demonstration project to develop best practices to reduce recidivism of former inmates of a high security prison. It taught me the power of changing people’s lives. That changed my career and educational direction.
I went on to graduate school and received an interdisciplinary master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling to prepare me to work with people with disabilities and special populations.
First break in business: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a dual major: marketing and psychology. When I received my master’s degree, I was uniquely positioned to move quickly from direct service to supervisory jobs to management positions. Shortly after starting my first job, the organization that I worked for opened a suburban branch office and needed someone to lead it. That was my break.
Best business book: I do not truly have a favorite book as I believe important kernels of wisdom are gleaned from almost every business book I have ever read. However, the one that stands out is The Leadership Engine (updated) by Noel M. Tichy and Eli B. Cohen. It emphasizes the principal of building leadership at all levels within the organization. This is the foundation of truly successful companies.
Best business advice you have received: Manage by walking around. You will learn a tremendous amount about your company or organization’s operations.
What you tell young people about your field: How you feel when you come home at night is key, and my job makes me feel great! You need to earn a reasonable living, but it is not all about money.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? Palm Beach County is such a vibrant and beautiful place to live and work that I see continuous steady growth. This growth should include even more employment opportunities including increased opportunities for young graduates and people with disabilities.
Power lunch spot: I’ve had some great meetings at Seasons 52.
Favorite smartphone app: Because I am new to South Florida, as well as Seagull Services, VZ Navigator is my best friend! It gets me where I need to go.
What trait do you look for when hiring? I look for a combination of strategic thinking and creativity when hiring management staff.