Interview with David Irwin
Interviewer: Andrew Zezas, SIOR
Following is the transcript of a CFO Studio interview with financial executive, David Irwin, CFO and Business Partner.
Visit www.CFOstudio.com to read about this interview and to watch the entire on-camera interview.
Corporate Turn-Arounds: Team Building
Host: This is CFO Studio and I’m your host and I’m and joined today by Mr. David Irwin, finance executive. David graduated from Lehigh University with a BS in Accounting and he is a CPA in New Jersey. He spent several years in Price Waterhouse Coopers and he is a turn-around specialist for manufacturing and distribution companies in New Jersey. He is also the co-founder of Huntington Outreach program. Today we will be talking about team building and corporate turn-around. David, thanks for being here, I appreciate it.
Irwin: Welcome David, appreciate it.
Host: Welcome. Let’s dive into it here. For those viewers that don’t really know what a corporate turn-around is, maybe you can give us a few bullet points, some highlights actually to the definition of corporate turn-around.
Irwin: It really starts with the stress corporations. Anywhere from one far side being a cash strep company that potentially is going bankrupt to an organization that just sat stagnant for a time period.
Host: Right. So your basic task is to reverse that trend as quickly as possible and get the company on the right path?
Irwin: That is exactly right. Unfortunately, in this day in age, cash is king and you need to be able to plug the holes in the dyke and get the company back being again profitable so it can really invest in the organization and develop good teams.
Host: Right, right. So let me ask you, you have been involved in so many of these turn-around for privately held organizations, what are your thoughts on how these situations occur in the first place?
Irwin: A lot of times it is my OPIC leadership, not seeing the breath of the organization, the various functions that has to be handled properly. And what that really boils down to is not really developing management teams that are willing to put their guts on the table and really discuss the true causations for the issues that they are addressing.
Host: So it is not just one or two things that can take a company down, there are many, many ways that a company can find themselves in this situation.
Irwin: There are many of issues and ownership has got to develop teams that they feel have the trust and faith that they can address the areas of the company and put in responsibility for.
Host: So what would be your advice to ownership to a privately held organization to mitigate these crises that you help them out of?
Irwin: Well, the biggest one is just to be true to oneself, to really be honest with oneself is how the organization is really performing. The second one is to really develop a very good management team including themselves and one that is really open and vulnerable to discussing all reasons as to what is going right and what is going wrong in the organization.
Irwin: It basically boils down to building trust amongst that management team.
Host: So, I might have to assume that you might never really try to do this on your own. It is integral to the process to put this team together and have the right team members.
Irwin: Absolutely, from a company doing five million to a company doing more than half a million, five hundred million. It is essential to have the people who are being accountable and responsible to the various functions of the organization to be members of that organization team and to get the feedback to be able to sort through the issues that are at hand.
Host: So the back and forth is very important.
Host: Ok. So, you mentioned to be a while ago that you previously met and were involved in a lot of volunteer work and throughout your career and you co-founded, as you mentioned before, Huntington Outreach Program, otherwise known as HOPS. I know that serves special needs children but can you give me a little bit more info on that organization?
Irwin: Sure. Well, it serves anyone with a special need. There are no qualifiers for being involved. We provide sport and social activities to a person with special needs, almost 52 weeks throughout the year. We also need volunteers. We are a volunteer organization and allow individuals age eleven and up, grandparents can come out and volunteer as well, to come out and experience this part of life. I myself have a child with a documented issue in the world with his condition and I was 35 when that occurred. It is really a mind-opening experience to get involved where you actually feel like you get back more than you actually put out. But HOPS is really a bridging of the special needs world and “the normal world”.
Host: So it sounds like the kids almost get a lot out of it as much as the volunteers and vice versa.
Irwin: Absolutely, we have thirteen members on our board and directors and everyone would say that they feel the volunteers get more out of it because they begin to see and experience what life is really about. That really boils down to joy. But we have had several volunteers that have grown off to their college of choice and actually started the program at their colleges.
Host: Oh really.
Irwin: So we like to look at it as a way to change the world.
Host: That really is something that is spreading throughout New Jersey and hopefully, further.
Host: Let me ask you, what have you found is the major difference between running a for-profit versus a not-for-profit organization? I’m sure there are many, but touch on a few.
Host: The main issue especially when you are talking about the leadership of both is that in the non-for-profit world, you really do not have authority to hire and fire and get rid of people or bring on new people. Usually you are dealing with people that have the passion and the drive and the want to be involved. What I have learned from that experience is that you need listen and learn what motivates the person to express themselves in the way that they do and how they handle a situation in the way that they do. And that part lays out in that if you can listen, you are much better at critically solving issues at hand and also driving the organization in the direction that the group believes it should go in.
Host: So, it’s that old adage in hearing and listening are absolutely two different things. It is one thing just to hear but it is a true skill to listening and I can imagine that if you don’t listen as carefully as you said or critically that it can be detrimental to the process.
Irwin: Absolutely, in both departments, for not-for-profits and for-profit and you also have to be willing to what the real facts are.
Host: In addition to the skill of listening, what other skills crossed over or transcended into that profit and not-for-profit classroom and influences your management style.
Irwin: Well, my management style is one of what is called servant leadership. Which really means is that as you build your team, you must be willing to serve them and in serving them that means bringing the tools and the trades and or the additional learning or in just challenging them to address the issues that are directly at hand. And by leadership, it is leadership by example, being a mentor, being a person that is willing to listen, and willing to constructively criticize. One that is willing to lift each other up, I call it edifying. I like to use the acronym or paraphrase of strengthen, strengthen the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses. You have to be a skilled negotiator in order to do that, you have to help people realize what they are good at and what they might not be so good at and bring them into a position where they can bring in more productivity to either type of organizations.
Host: So you really are trying to create that balance, that warm and fuzzy feeling, teaching, but yet, have someone feel really good about what they are doing.
Irwin: Not only make them feel really good about what they are doing but feel successful and obtaining the goal. And in that light, you have to be willing to sign accountability, delegate accountability or responsibility and hold them accountable.
Host: So you really do get positive results by creating that feeling. That’s great I like your style.
Host: I think we have time for one last question, so what do you think drives you to have the ability to work so diligently to both a for-profit and a not-for-profit world? I mean having two different jobs is tough so I can imagine that you are very busy and takes a lot of diligence and strength to do that.
Irwin: Well, the Lord’s blessed me with only needing about 4 hours of sleep a night.
Host: Right, there you go.
Irwin: So let’s start with one, I call it P.P.J., passion, perseverance and joy, I call it. And we all need to have something that we are passionate about. I like to apply that to every aspect of my life, in my family, I have five kids, my weekend activities, HOPS, and other sporting activities and even my work environment. And I think people glean off of that and they catch that spirit. Perseverance, because we are generally not been blessed to get through every situation, but you do need to have the faith, the trust, and the perseverance, to believe that you can learn, to believe that you can experience and learn from it and successfully negotiate a situation. And then the joy is that tremendous feeling that you get from giving back. And you come out and volunteer at a HOPS event and you tell me what you get when a down-syndrome kid comes up through the hour and a half session and gives you an unconditional hug.
Host: Yeah, I would take that hug any day of the week.
Host: I got to tell you Dave, this has been an extremely inspiring as well as informative. I hope you come and see us again soon and I really appreciate you spending the time with us. Thanks so much.
Irwin: I appreciate it. Anytime!
Host: I’m your host at CFO Studio, thanks for watching. See you again soon.
Copyright Real Estate Strategies Corporation 2012/2013. All Rights Reserved.