Transcript of Ed Imparato’s Interview
Interview with Ed Imparato
Interviewer: Andrew Zezas, SIOR
Following is the transcript of a CFO Studio interview between Andrew Zezas, CEO of New Jersey based Real Estate Strategies Corporation and finance executive, Ed Imparato, SVP & CFO.
Visit www.CFOstudio.com to read about this interview and to watch the entire on-camera interview.
An Executive’s Role in Creating a Lasting Impression
Zezas: Hi, this is Andrew Zezas, your host at CFO studio. I have the pleasure of being joined today by Mr. Ed Imparato, SVP & CFO of United Water. Mr. Imparato holds an MBA from Iona College and has been with United Water for more than 25 years having held various positions including Corporate Controller and Treasurer, and having run an operating division for the company. In 2010, Ed was named the NJBiz CFO of the year for private companies with revenues in excess of 100 million dollars. Ed’s here today to talk to us about “An Executive’s Role in Creating a Lasting Impression.” Ed, it’s so nice to have you here on CFO Studio. Thanks for joining me.
Imparato: Andrew, it is a pleasure to be here.
Zezas: Ed, United Water is a very is a very well-known company with a tremendous reputation, it’s been around for a very long time. Tell me the background of the company.
Imparato: United Water is a very interesting company. We provide water and waste water services across the US. We’ve been in business for 140 years, actually our company’s heritage dates back to 1869 as the Hackensack Water company. Today, we have a national presence, we operate across the US and many states, but we still call New Jersey our home headquartered here in Harrington Park, NJ. Throughout United Water’s history, it has really distinguished itself as a leader. We’ve been on the forefront of many technologies and solutions. There are a couple of things that really distinguish it in the industry. First, it has has the ability to bring sustainable solutions to problems that exist in our cities and communities across the country. It also brings technology know-how. I would say the most important things that United Water has positioned itself as is really a company that focuses on having a positive impact in the communities we serve. About 12 years ago, we joined forces with a global group, Suez Environment. Suez Environment is a company that provides water and waste water services to almost 91 million people across the globe.
Imparato: But that world knowledge and the experience of United Water and our long heritage helped bring solutions that are needed today in the environment. We like to think of ourselves as a local company with global resources.
Zezas: Well, the company does have the reputation for having a positive effect. Before we talk about that though, tell me more about the core business end and the core capabilities.
Imparato: Well, United Water serves about 7 million people across the US, we own 20 regulated companies, and we operate over 100 public private partnerships. The company has decades of experience, and we try to deliver value each and every day to our customers. But, our business environment is changing and it is changing rapidly. You know water as we know it, here in the US in particular, we kind of of take it for granted, we turn on the faucet and out comes clean water, and it is relatively inexpensive. But, the reality is that many of the systems here in the US date back to around the World War II time, and our systems here in the US are really beginning to reach a breaking point, they were really built for a different era. Today, when you look at the changes and demands, new contaminants coming into the water systems, flooding, droughts, a whole host of challenges that cities and communities begin to face. At United Water, we stem to bring people knowledge, technology, and a commitment to help resolve those challenges.
Zezas: And, you talk about an aging infrastructure. I’ve read recently about some cities in the US, that the water infrastructure still has wood pipes carrying water through the streets circa 1800’s. So given all that you share, what are some of the greatest challenges that faces the water industry these days?
Imparato: Well Andrew, you hit a good point. One of the biggest challenges that face America as a whole is the chronic underinvestment in infrastructure. The EPA estimates it will take 1 trillion dollars over the next 20 years to repair and rebuild this aging infrastructure.
Zezas: Trillion, with a T.
Imparato: 1 trillion dollars.
Zezas: That’s a lot of money.
Imparato: A lot of money. You know cities and towns just don’t have the ability to deal with this. And the recent economic crisis has just compounded those challenges. You know, on a daily basis people can see the deterioration on infrastructure that’s above ground. You drive your car over a road, and you can see a pothole or you could drive over it, and you’ll feel it. Problems with our infrastructure kind of go unseen because it’s underground.
Zezas: You don’t see the potholes?
Imparato: You don’t see them, but the potholes riddle our infrastructure, and it is a real problem. It is a problem that has to be dealt with, and it’s a problem that will impact the generations to come.
Zezas: Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff. Now you’re involved in a lot of thought leadership in the company, and you’ve been very involved in various aspects of the company, how has your career developed since you’ve been at United Water?
Imparato: It’s been an interesting career. I’ve joined United Water back in 1987. I joined as a financial analyst, and I’ve had the privilege of working in many different parts of the company. As CFO, I oversee all the financial functions. That includes our accounting, and treasury, and corporate finance, and procurement. I also oversee our information technology function. But, over those 25 years the company has grown dramatically. You know, back in 1987 we were in 2 states, and we generated about 110 million dollars in revenue. Today, the company as a nationwide company with a global parent, United Water and its affiliates generate about a billion dollars in revenue a year, and we’ve invested over 3.5 billion dollars in water and wasted related assets.
Zezas: That’s tremendous growth from 25 years.
Imparato: Tremendous growth and I’ve had the opportunity to grow as a professional as well. But interestingly enough, I would say part of my development goes beyond just learning your industry or gaining the skills you need as a professional. Part of my development is really around leadership. And that leadership really has taken me from a focus solely on being successful, defining ways being significant. What I mean by being significant, being significant means making a lasting difference. It’s a value that I as a professional and United Water as a company embrace
Zezas: In 2010, the folks at NJBiz thought very highly of you and your accomplishments, and they named you not just a nominee, not just a finalist, but a winner in what is a very coveted CFO of the year award for private companies in excess of 100 million dollars. What was that like? How did that feel?
Imparato: It was a great honor. You know here in New Jersey you have many large companies, many homegrown names. Many of those companies are filled with very talented, hardworking individuals. So, to be picked as the NJBiz CFO of the year was indeed an honor. But one of the things that intrigued me about the award was not solely the award itself, it was actually the process. What I found interesting about the process is that the process looked at the individual as a whole and not just your business achievements. I like the fact that part of the criteria was to look at how have you as a professional made a difference to society. To me, that is the essence of leadership.
Zezas: Wow, that’s very serious. Well let’s talk about leadership, and let’s talk about society and community. How do you see the role of a CFO or any company executive as it relates to community and leadership involvement?
Imparato: It’s a good question, and its one that I think as a company, you need to link the two. You cannot be successful as a business without taking your responsibility as a community organization. One of the things about United Water that we pride ourselves on is that we are part of the community. Whether you are in Idaho or New Jersey or Arkansas, you’ll see folks wearing a United Water hat working in the communities and providing a service. And it goes beyond providing your day to day service that you’re obligated to deliver through your company. It’s really making a difference in the community.
Zezas: And you are not just talking about performing their day to day jobs, you are actually talking about community involvement?
Imparato: Absolutely, it goes beyond performing our day to day jobs and really looking for opportunities to go into a community and make a lasting difference.
Zezas: And how are you involved in the community personally?
Imparato: Well for me, let’s start with my role as a water service executive. You know being in the water services business, I get to deliver a service that’s essential for life. What better job can you have than to deliver that? When I do my job well, and United Water does its job well, it in turn creates a vibrant community and contributes to the vibrancy of the community. And for me, I have taken a personal approach in trying to find opportunities and I’ve found many although my schedule has been busy, but to look at opportunities where I can bring my professional skills and my personal values together for the good of others.
Zezas: I love the fact that you view your role as providing a service that’s essential for life. I think that is magnificent. Ed, you and I have talked off camera about the concept of giving back, and my personal view that giving back is actually in reverse and is kind of selfish; that you wait until you’ve gotten enough and then you give back, and I learned early on that’s never really been your view that you’ve been giving all along. So, tell me why it’s important to you, and what you’ve done specifically, and what message you would give to other executives?
Imparato: Those are all very good questions. Let me start by saying that volunteering is essential, and I think that United Water is really embedded in ourDNA. For me as a professional, it’s embedded in who I am as well. I’ve tried to use the gifts and talents and skills I have, to better those in need. And some of the things I’ve been in involved with, it’s a broad range, but currently I am on the Academic Advisory Council for Bergen Community College helping with their accounting programs. I am also on the board of trustees of Dominican College which is in Rockland County, New York. I also spend a lot of time focusing on our youth, our young adults, and the next generation; trying to influence them, influence their values, and trying to give them some direction, some goals. I’ve also spent a lot of time going beyond New Jersey and across the US on one wave mission trips and find opportunities to deliver relief, in particular to those who have suffered through some type of disaster. When hurricane Katrina hit just shortly 8 months after, myself along with about 30 other adults and teens went down to the Gulf Coast. Actually we made two trips, one to Gulfport, Mississippi and one to New Orleans, and we spent the week or so just providing disaster relief to those in need. The following year, I spent a week with some young adults building a community center to provide food to residents in Tennessee. I also spent a week in West Virginia where we rebuilt homes for the elderly who quite frankly on their own couldn’t do it. A couple years ago I spent a week in Newark, New York, which I never quite knew there was a Newark, New York, but there is, pretty far north, but nevertheless we spent a week in a school working with children of migrant farm workers, what a wonderful experience. And last year, I spent a week in York, PA and there we worked with elderly and various elderly care facilities. To your point Andrew, it’s part of who we are, and as business leaders we set the example and we set the tone, and you’re serving those less fortunate or in need is something I am passionate about, you could probably sense that?
Zezas: I can, I can.
Imparato: It is a key ingredient to being a successful business leader. Companies must embrace this in their leadership teams and cultivate their leaders. I think at United Water we live it. It’s part of the core of who we are, and we do it each and every day. And my message to other business leaders is very simple: making our communities a better place to live and work, that is the ultimate goal for every executive.
Zezas: Both through their day to day work and their extracurricular work as well.
Imparato: Absolutely. And at the end of the day I think they begin to melt together, and there is really no major difference in terms of attaining significance, whether it’s through business or through other activities, but they begin to melt together
Zezas: They become one. If you do it right?
Imparato: If you do it right. And, I think we as business leaders in particular need to find ways to do it right, but it’s a proactive approach, and as companies. In particular, I want to look at New Jersey, a fairly affluent state, there are plenty of opportunities, and there is plenty of need, and you don’t have to leave the state.
Zezas: That’s true. Ed, this has been a very dynamic and actually a very powerful message and I am so grateful that you came to visit us on CFO studio and that you shared it with us. I hope you’ll come back and see us again sometime.
Imparato: Andrew, it was my pleasure and thanks so much.
Zezas: This has been great, thank you very, very much.
Imparato: This is Andrew Zezas at CFO studio with Ed Imparato of United Water, saying thank you very much for watching, we’ll see you again.
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