The Journey Begins In Public Accounting
Long before I ever had a leadership training company (or studied any high performance leadership model), I started my career in public accounting following the footsteps of my father, thinking that I would be a career partner, learning along the way that, ultimately, public accounting wasn’t going to be an environment that I was passionate about.
I was able to shift into a smaller client, Anthony Industries, as the swimming pool group controller for Anthony Pools. It was a great opportunity for me, because for the first time I had the opportunity to see how all the pieces of a company fit together. We were a small company, small team. I was engaged in all different aspects of the company, from how to build a pool – better, cheaper, faster – product liability lawsuits, and all the different financial components of being in a private company.
Moving On To Disney
I was able to develop all those skills and be involved in marketing decisions and so forth. All those things equipped me in a way that I knew I could then work for a larger company and know how I could contribute in a greater way. When I left Anthony industries, knowing that the whole business was not what I was most passionate about, I shifted over to the Walt Disney Company. I had to participate in their internal audit department. That was my way in the door. What was supposed to be one to two years, I spent eight months in that department. I had been doing all sorts of consumer products, licensee audits, being told I had to get an MBA to get a job in the consumer products division. When my counterpart found out about an opportunity that existed on the studio side, he went to our boss and our boss suggested that I interview for the job. He thought I was a better fit.
Kicking Off An Entertainment Career
I suddenly went to the motion picture marketing group as their Director of Finance and launched a – I wouldn’t call it a Hollywood career – but a career in the entertainment industry that has lasted me about 27 years. I spent 11 years with the Walt Disney company, finishing up there as the CFO of the Walt Disney Studios. And then, a culture decision. It was a culture that I wasn’t thrilled about. While Disney might be the happiest place on earth in the parks, I’m not so sure that’s what it is inside the company. At least it wasn’t when I was there, and the higher up in the company I went, the more I realized that it probably wasn’t the right fit for me. Some may consider it an exemplary high performance leadership model… but 20th century Fox came looking for me and asked me to come over and be their CFO. And I took their offer.
Welcomed To 20th Century Fox
When I first came in to 20th century Fox, it was very entrepreneurial. I was excited to be there. The first day I came in, the CEO of the studio came up to me, gave me a big hug and said, you’re the CFO. You can do anything. Get involved in any project you want. You can go to any meeting you want. You don’t need to ask permission. You’re one of us, you’re part of the leadership team – which was really refreshing for me that a CFO or a Head of Finance was actually being embraced to that degree.