By Todd Cohen
RALEIGH, N.C. — Two weeks after announcing the departure of its long-time president CEO, Triangle Family Services in Raleigh has named entrepreneur Miles C. Wright as its interim CEO.
Wright, who founded several companies and chaired the board of Triangle Family Services in 2004 and 2005, says he will “stay on as long as it takes to address some of the issues the board feels is facing the agency.”
Wright says the agency needs to “generally improve our fiscal health and we need to make sure we’re focused on our overall mission through our programs.”
The agency needs to address those issues “before we go out and start searching” for a new CEO, says Wright, who started work Sept. 17.
In a two-sentence email message it distributed on Sept. 11, Triangle Family Services announced George H. O’Neal III had resigned effective Sept. 7 after nearly 21 years heading the agency.
After that announcement, neither O’Neal nor George McCanless, who is senior vice president for finance for The News & Observer and board chairman for Triangle Family Services, would discuss details about the reason for O’Neal’s departure.
A source close to the agency said at the time that O’Neal quit because of differences with the board over its reluctance to step up its fundraising activity.
But Wright, who served on the agency’s board from 2000 to 2005, says the board is “perfectly willing, and they’re very aware of the fact that in a nonprofit human-services agency, the board has to play a fundraising role. I haven’t seen any resistance.”
When the agency began its fiscal year July 1, its board had approved a budget that projected a surplus on annual expenses of roughly $3 million.
Now, the agency projects it actually could end the year with a deficit and is working to bring expenses and revenue into better balance, says Wright, an executive in residence in the Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization program at N.C. State University who founded former Raleigh firms Eyebeam and MCW Properties.
For any organization that has “got a way you’ve been operating and programs you’ve been running for a long period of time,” he says, “it’s harder and harder to look at ways that you change and reinvent yourself.”
Like many human-services agencies, Triangle Family Services “lives close to the edge,” and has seen its revenue and staff rise and fall in the face of ups and downs in the economy and declines in funding for mental-health programs, he says.
A key challenge for Triangle Family Services, he says, is to “build a model of sustainability.”
Focusing on its finances and programs, Wright says, he will work to help build “a model for an agency that can grow and contract with a minimum of job disruption.”