Today, the majority of my work is centered on shoulder-to-shoulder work with CEOs in a behind-the-scenes mentoring and development role. This takes a commitment on the part of the CEO and an appreciation for constructive objectivity, vulnerability and unwavering honesty.
A fresh pair of eyes unafraid to challenge and ask tough questions without preconceived ideas or opinions in a dialogue punctuated by candidness and authenticity typically leads to profitable insights.
In the early stages of my career, I wrestled with a long-standing culture that encouraged telling the CEO whatever you thought he/she wanted to hear. It was oppressive and suffocating as well as dangerous.
Later, I actively sought out straight shooting, informed colleagues soliciting their assessment of my challenges and it made all the difference. That epiphany included a promise to myself that I would never tell anyone what I thought they wanted to hear.
Every Experience was the Right Step
When I take on a new engagement, it usually results from a third-party introduction followed by patient time spent together that inevitably grows into genuine respect and appreciation for each other. This is a process that can’t be rushed—and it means that what I do is not for everyone as some have little or no appreciation for chemistry, trust and how rich and beneficial collaborative yet objective relationships can be.
My role may vary with different engagements, but my purpose is always the same: to support the CEO and/or board of directors in achieving their goals and building shareholder value. I have served as an interim or transitional CEO or CFO in some instances. In others, I am the behind-the-scenes advisor or coach to the CEO or Board Chair. I may also become an active member of the board, a Lead Director or simply a strategic advisor to the Board or to the CEO.
As a former CEO and CFO of two successful mid-market companies, I bring more than 35 years of diverse and substantive experience to my roles.
At a minimum, you and I knowing one another in the market will produce connections and awareness that we might otherwise miss.
During my six years as a CEO, I benefited greatly from an industry specific performance exchange that played heavily into the eventual successful sale of my family-owned group of retail grocery stores. My peer accountability experience led me to a Vistage Advisor role in 2004. I became a Vistage Chair in 2010 and hesitantly resigned in 2015 to take on an attractive outsourced corporate development role with an old client.
Today, I almost exclusively serve as both a Lead Director and Corporate Development Officer on an outsourced basis for mid-sized businesses.
Looking Back to Look Ahead
My career path began with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency where I examined nationally chartered banks in the western U.S. This evolved into 11 years as a corporate banker in Denver with what is now the Wells Fargo organization. The financing experience later led to an independent and entrepreneurial contract CFO role where I structured and placed bank and private investor loans for a fee on behalf of Denver area companies.
Later, Fresh Produce Sportswear, a fast-growing women and children’s sportswear design and distribution firm hired me as chief operating officer and chief financial officer. I helped guide the company’s 50%+ annual revenue growth and profitability over a three-year period. I continued to serve on the boards of various other former clients including my father’s rapidly expanding retail grocery store group, Van Winkle’s IGA in New Mexico. After the death of my father, I moved to New Mexico, structured the buyout of other family members and served as the chairman and CEO in preparation for the sale and exit in 2002.
Those experiences with family dynamics, reengineering of a culture, signing on for $5 million in debt, and navigating around a severely dysfunctional wholesale relationship—all in pursuit of an eventual transitional exit—left a brand on me that will always exist.
Upon my return to Colorado, I was recruited back into and served as a president and manager of corporate banking for two family-owned banking groups. Later, I was a managing director for SDR Ventures, a Denver-based investment banking firm specializing in debt placements and preparing companies for future sell transactions.
Based on my CEO experience, I steadfastly believe that proactively preparing and posturing your company to be an attractive acquisition drives current value and efficient operations irrespective of whether the company is for sale now or not.