|If You Can’t Be With the (Industry) You Love, Love the (Industry) You’re With|
Interviewed by Olivia Wolak
Interview with Anna Prata, JD, interim CEO, COO
|Date Interview: 07/22/2009
Date of Credentialing:
Your turnaround background seems to have let you experience all aspects of management.
I have nineteen years of leadership experience, specifically working with distressed organizations. My experience involves everything from operations, sales, finance, compliance, to IT. I have taken roles working as COO, CIO, General Manager, global positions, and as a professional negotiator.
You’ve worked in software, real estate, oil and gas, manufacturing, social media and other industries. What have you learned?
Strategic vision and business acumen are two of the key, most critical things that a leader can have. I have learned that strategic vision and business acumen transcend any industry. These skills enable me to be able to see a company in both its current and future state and determine priorities rapidly. I often leverage a creative solution from one industry to another and greatness can happen, especially in the sales arena.
"Strategies depend on the environment and the needs of the company, but the focus is always on revenue growth and profits. Always."
Some might say you have to know an industry intimately in order to run a business.
I fundamentally disagree.
Of course, there are always exceptions but at the end of the day, I will always have plenty of team members who know the space better than I.
That degree of leadership demands high aptitude for learning.
I learn industries fast and I rely on my team for the nitty gritty industry specific details. Said another way and not so nicely, a leader who is a subject matter expert without strategic vision and business acumen will ultimately create hardship for a company.
What drives you?
I have a passion for capitalism! I have skills that allow me to make the world of business a better place and that get a company to the next stage of their business life cycle. It is more than a passion- it is who I am. It does not matter to me if a company manufactures laptops or chocolate, software or drills for oil and gas- I am absolutely industry agnostic!
What do you do better than anyone else in the world?
I have the ability to absorb a keen sense of the company culture from the start. Generally, the runway can be short due to financial constraints or otherwise so there is always a timing issue. I juggle the financials, operations, and sales with culture simultaneously. I know how to facilitate and make dynamic change in a timely manner and with a cooperative team.
How fast can you build a team?
When you work in distressed environments, you start team building immediately. Building a team that will be engaged, enrolled and motivated requires the right people on the bus in the right seats. It is instantaneous.
When you go into the company what are the first questions that you ask?
It really depends on the company’s status. If a company is distressed financially or operationally, the questions that I ask will be different than if there is a repositioning of the company. If a company is in crisis mode, I have to be careful how I frame questions. I am a mediator and I know how to get important information from people. It may take me eight hours to get the right information but if it takes eight, then give it eight because making decisions based on inaccurate information or jumping to conclusions to save time can be more costly.
"A leader who is a subject matter expert without strategic vision and business acumen will ultimately create hardship for a company."
When working in turnarounds or other interim work what types of strategies do you use to grow a company?
The three focus points are revenue, growth and profits. Strategy and methodology depend on the industry and the company’s stage of growth.
Describe a home run in your career.
This is the hardest question for me because there have been many wins.
I was recently helping a chocolate manufacturing company and we needed to cover a host of issues rapidly. I created tools to expedite success in each area – finances, strategic planning, corporate structure, operations, sales, marketing, human capital – and it worked! The owners told me “you transformed us, our thinking and perspective on business, and the way we look at what the company can do.”
What else distinguishes you?
First, companies choose me because of my strategic vision. I am kind of known for that. Second, I have a holistic view of looking at the organization. I will review the totality of the organization including finances, operations, IT and Sales. Someone might say you can’t change that fast, but I can do it with the existing employees of the company.