20 Under 40 Class of 2017
Mergers and acquisitions manager, MFA Oil Company
Years lived in Columbia:
Tell us about your job:
I work closely with the Director of M&A on every acquisition. When we acquire a company and start integrating them, we have pieces that touch almost every department, and we have to communicate this information — I oversee that. Also, I get to meet with prospects and discuss opportunities to work with MFA.
My role as manager of M&A allows for creative thinking and problem solving, which I love. Every acquisition is a unique situation that requires “outside the box” thinking and being able to put a plan together. I enjoy coming up with the best solution and executing it. I also like working and developing a relationship with the business owners we’re acquiring. That’s a rewarding experience. We are acquiring their baby, and you have to build their trust to the point where they know we will make sure their customers continue to receive the service they’re accustomed to getting.
Who is a mentor in your life?
I have been blessed with mentors throughout my entire career. Gayle Bailey, who is the director of financial reporting for MFA, is one. Gayle thought me how to bridge the gap between accounting and operations. Ed Harper, who is VP of retail automotive for MFA, taught me the importance of accountability and open communication. Don Smith, the director of M&A, is teaching me how to build a relationship with a client and how to work through gray areas so you end up with a win for everyone. It’s because of them I consider myself very well rounded in accounting, operations, and sales.
What are some misconceptions about your job?
That day one we come in and fire everyone. Our approach is to try to hire everyone. We work closely with the owner and our HR team months before the closing to develop a win-win for all employees. The employees are the reason the business is successful, and keeping that team in place is the key to making our acquisition successful.
What is the single best thing about your job?
Change. We change our approach with every acquisition. It might be a slight change, but we analyze the situation and change our approach to allow for a smooth transition. I enjoy this because it’s challenging and exciting, and I’ve been on the other side and find I thrive with variety in my responsibilities.
What was the last professional goal you accomplished?
Taking the lead on an acquisition and working with the owners from the initial prospect meeting to following up with them from time to time after the closing. Normally my boss takes the lead on every acquisition, but now we’re starting to look at more and more companies, so I’ve had the opportunity to lead deals. I enjoy this, and I worked through my first full acquisition earlier this year.
What motivates you?
My son, Connor. I want to show hard work and dedication pays off in the end.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I always thought I would own my own business, but it never worked out. I have been blessed that through my career I have been presented with opportunities that allow me to express and implement my ideas as if I was an owner.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being a father. I just found out I can learn anything if I put my mind to it: my most recently accomplishment as a father is learning how to play the Pokémon card game.
What’s your favorite community project?
The Holiday Program for the Voluntary Action Center. I like this program because it’s a true example of what the holidays are all about: taking care of your neighbor.
What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Business isn’t black and white — there are lots of gray issues. How you choose to react to the gray issues set will either ruin or boost your career.
What is your favorite business book you’ve ever read and what impact did it have on you?
“Good to Great and Great by Choice” by Jim Collins. Once, I was invited last minute to a strategy meeting — it was a small group led by Mark, our CEO, and Tony Richards, of Clear Vision Development. I was invited on a Friday for the Monday meeting, and it was recommended that I read two books and answer 20 questions on them and how it was relevant to our current situation. I went into the weekend thinking how boring it was going to be; then I dove into the reading. The next thing I knew, it was Tuesday and I was wishing I read those books in college or right out of college.
If you had unlimited funds, what is the one specific thing you would do to improve Columbia?
I would invest in after-school activities for our youth, specifically sports. I think the opportunity to be involved in sports teaches leadership and team building. Keeping it as simple as it is on the court or on the field allows our youth to make the right choices and gain these skills that they may not otherwise have access to in their life.
What is one goal you have for 2017 and how do you plan to achieve it?
I want to continue to learn and adjust our process to make sure we are getting the best return on our acquisitions. This will be achieved through open communication with our team and putting forth the best plan.
What trait do you most want in a co-worker or employee?
Excellent communication. I want to talk about mistakes and successes. Great results come from a room full of people who can truly speak what’s on their mind.
If you could improve one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I have no self-control when it comes to sweets, or, really, food in general. I eat it all. If it’s in the house, it’s gone. Connor frequently calls me his garbage disposal at dinner time.
What do you do for fun?
When I have spare time, I love being outdoors, hunting, fishing, and working on home improvements! Connor is getting involved in sports, and I enjoy coaching him and his team. When time allows, I like getting away — this summer, we went on a family vacation to Branson. The trip was lots of fun, but we didn’t catch any trout on Lake Taneycomo . . . good thing Silver Dollar City was a hit!