CEO and CFO Leadership Awards: Full Video and Shared Insights from the Event
As part of this year’s inaugural CEO & CFO Leadership Awards event, the L.A. Times B2B Publishing team staged a virtual event panel discussion exploring the hot button issues and trends affecting the C-Suite in 2021 and the employees, customers, shareholders and constituents they serve.
The panel was moderated by Anant Patel of Green Hasson & Janks LLP and featured expert commentary from Ed Bagdasarian of Intrepid Investment Bankers; Tracy Holland of HATCHBEAUTY Brands; and Sarah Mehler of Left Field Labs. Their bios and some of their shared insights are included below.
MODERATOR: Anant Patel
Green Hasson & Janks LLP
Anant Patel, CPA, has over 25 years of public accounting experience and leads both GHJ’s Advisory Services Practice and Transaction Advisory Services Practice and is a member of the executive committee for GHJ. He advises in the area of mergers and acquisitions and provides financial due diligence consulting such as quality of earnings, working capital analysis, EBITDA analysis and projections and deal structuring. Patel has assisted on deals ranging from $20 million to $750 million and is a Certified Merger & Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA).
Intrepid Investment Bankers
Ed Bagdasarian is the CEO and one of the Founding Principals of Intrepid Investment Bankers, a subsidiary of MUFG Union Bank. He is responsible for setting the firm’s vision and developing the strategy to execute it. His highest priorities include creating a unique culture and recruiting top talent to build a cohesive, winning team. In addition to firm management responsibilities, Bagdasarian’s duties include originating and managing merger and acquisition transactions. In a career spanning over three decades, he has built two leading middle-market investment banking firms and overseen their sale to two of the largest global financial institutions.
Co-Founder & CEO
Tracy Holland is a leading and award-winning innovator in the beauty and wellness industry. As the co-founder and CEO of HATCHBEAUTY Brands, she has built an international reputation as a curator of successful brands with a focus on new brand development for retailers worldwide. She is also the founder of Potential to Powerhouse and a profound supporter of female entrepreneurs. The platform’s goal is to serve women entrepreneurs on their path to becoming superstars with ease and through meaningful connection.
Founder and CEO
Left Field Labs
Sarah Mehler is the Founder and CEO of Left Field Labs, a creative technology company dedicated to elevating the human experience. She founded LFL in 2008 with a vision to help companies make a positive impact; her mission is to leverage creative technology to the benefit of humanity, while inventing solutions with purpose. Sarah has helped launch hundreds of globally recognized digital products and experiences for Google, Uber, Estée Lauder, Disney, Harvard University, among many others.
MEHLER: Like so many companies, we’ve moved to a remote-first work configuration. Although it comes with challenges, in many ways our culture has benefited and grown stronger because of it. In order to continue building deeper connections with one another - and form vital bonds with new staff - we seek to bridge the gap between physical distances while elevating collaborations and a sense of camaraderie. To nurture community, we encourage staff-led events and groups that engage around non-work topics; what people once enjoyed talking about at the “water cooler” easily shifts to online bonding. Specifics include a book club, a cooking channel, a meditation series for much-needed mental clarity, and a “coffee buddies” channel that randomly pairs people for weekly chats. We also have a monthly companywide online “party time” where we’ll watch a movie, play trivia, or just make some cocktails at home and catch up. I believe culture is a shared responsibility for everyone at the company to build upon. Ideally each of us contributes by implementing and showing up for cultural initiatives that help us understand one another more deeply and lead to a sense of belonging. When everyone engages, this fosters effective empathy, which in turn keeps morale high, our collaborations strong, and our team united – no matter how physically separated we may be.
PATEL: The strategies for talent retention and morale building are no different than they were pre-pandemic. Talent is attracted to organizations with clarity, focus, flexibility and direction. Employees are motivated by a culture they can relate to and understand. They want to know they are a part of the growth and success of a company while fulfilling their own aspirations.
HOLLAND: From completely overhauling their operations, output, and outcomes to account for challenges brought on by not only the global pandemic but the re-emerging movement for racial, social, and economic justice, companies have had to rethink and restructure the way they’ve done business. Business as usual just doesn’t cut it any longer in today’s society.
BAGDASARIAN: COVID forced many companies to innovate to survive and grow. Many companies capitalized on the disruption by taking on institutional capital and going on the offensive to acquire weakened competitors. Others built digital delivery capabilities to mitigate the risk of disintermediation and decrease reliance on distributors and retailers, many of whom shut down during the pandemic. Depending on the industry sector, companies actually saw a surge in demand for their products and services fueled by the shift to the home office environment and changing consumer lifestyles. Many of these companies capitalized on their record results by tapping the M&A and capital markets and locking in massive value gains and leading to a record year for M&A transactions in 2020. Deal activity has accelerated in 2021 as business owners try to lock in gains before the onset of higher expected capital gains tax rates in 2022.
MEHLER: We’re witnessing a pent-up demand for creative technology services which has been affecting our industry’s supply chain in terms of human capital. During the pandemic many companies have shifted focus to e-commerce and online experiences and have redirected budgets towards digital development. In order to meet rising needs for digital services, developers are increasingly in high demand. Despite the fact that many developers are relocating to less expensive towns and cities, salaries are more competitive than ever before, and finding people with advanced skills that are also a good cultural fit for our company is a growing challenge - which is saying a lot in an industry that has always essentially been about talent and recruiting. I can’t speak for other companies, but for us the solution is doubling down on our purpose and culture. Our strong intention to positively impact the greater good while supporting the personal development of our people is key. By focusing on quality - both in terms of our workplace, and our company’s mission - we believe we will continue to attract and retain the staff we need to thrive in a highly competitive market. And in the end, it’s the quality of our people that enables LFL to create a positive impact in the world.
PATEL: The pandemic required companies to adapt to changes in consumer patterns and behavior. For instance, some organizations pushed to utilize technology and change sales channels. Other companies evaluated their supply chains and vendor relationships to secure and expand the flow of supplies to meet demands. Companies who embraced these changes were able to evolve and succeed during this time of disruption. HOLLAND: The disparity between women and men in dual-working-parent households again was made starkly clear during the pandemic. Let this be a clarion call for all organizations to embrace a more adaptable and open working style so all employees - as well as the companies they contribute to - can be successful in all of the ways that matter.
BAGDASARIAN: The business environment is in a constant state of change. We see old models disrupted every day, replaced by models that have embraced the digital economy. The most successful businesses today display one or more of the following attributes: direct-to-consumer or business sales strategy; scalable infrastructure; recurring revenue stream (subscription or license) versus episodic or transactional sales; redundant supply chains with domestic or internal capabilities for critical processes; lightning-fast product development cycles and focus on efficient processes and automation. Most importantly, successful companies build winning cultures that attract and retain great talent, embrace change, and are nimble and pivot on a dime.
MEHLER: While building more equitable work environments is in everyone’s best interest, it’s clear we need to continue to pay attention to balancing gender opportunities in what remains a male-centric society. We can start to level the playing field by adopting progressive policies and practices that take into account the whole human, such as paid family leave, access to education platforms, pay equity, mental health resources and DEIA training, to name a few.