Work with a bank where you actually have access to a banker who can answer questions and provide advice. When I first started, I used a large bank simply because I had maintained my personal accounts there. However, you need someone to talk to about getting a line of credit established, the difference between the types of accounts available, how to maintain your credit worthiness, etc. With the big bank, I had a basic business account. By moving to Amegy Bank and getting to know my local banker, I was able to get a line of credit in place, different accounts to generate interest off cash reserves, positive pay to protect us if someone tried to deposit a fraudulent check, etc. Those are really important services to have in place.
As a part of our series about strong female leaders, I reached out to women CEO’s and had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth currently serves as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EAG Services, a leading oil and gas IT consulting firm, and EAG 1Source, a full-service IT and business process outsourcing firm. She is responsible not only for both companies’ strategic leadership and vision, but also for providing guidance, direction and expertise to clients and team members. URL: www.eagservices.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us Elizabeth! What is it about the position of CEO that most attracted you to it?
It was during my first jobs, right after college, working for Andersen Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I implemented accounting, financial, and cost-accounting systems for clients of those firms, that led me to my current career path. I’m grateful for that experience because it laid the foundation for what we’re doing today at EAG Services.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO does, but in just a few words can you explain what a CEO does that is different from the responsibilities of the other executives?
As the leader at the helm, it’s my job to develop and support successful teams. That means building the right team. From there, create an environment where your team feels safe but push their boundaries. My goal is not for everyone at EAG to stay forever, but when they leave, they should be significantly more knowledgeable and accomplished than when they arrived.
What were your biggest struggles throughout your professional life and how did you overcome them?
Learning to identify individuals within the organization who were not a cultural fit or healthy for morale proved difficult for me. I always tried to see the best in everyone and thought that it was part of my role to encourage employees to become their best selves, but many times, retaining those individuals was detrimental to the organization, as a whole. I had to learn that not everyone is a cultural fit or happy within EAG and that’s ok. As a result, we have spent significant time defining what is the EAG Culture and encouraged those who were not a fit to find new opportunities. This turned out to be best for everyone but mostly for the EAG team. Now, everyone knows that they can rely on everyone else and feel that they are working towards a consistent vision for the company. Since I changed my paradigm on what my role is, our culture has blossomed, and our team seems much happier and engaged.
What are the biggest challenges faced by women CEOs that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Especially being in an oil & gas industry where men are mostly holding the jobs and in our work environment, a big challenge is creating a warm, comfortable environment. It’s crucial to develop a peer-based organization or environment where your team can feel it’s safe to make those mistakes and learn. Mistakes are a great learning tool and more companies embrace employees — women — in order to develop them and help them grow. Men can face this too, but in our particular industry, it’s more often than not, a male-dominated environment.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being a CEO?
When our entire team is in the office together, typically on Friday’s, I get to hear them laugh and collaborate with one another. It’s amazing to watch, and then, to later hear from clients the ideas and problems that they have been able to solve makes me so very proud of their accomplishments. I consider myself a collector of brilliant and team-driven people, and when I see them come together, it takes my breath away.
What are the downsides of being a CEO?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
As any entrepreneur can relate, my entire path was a learning process, but I’d say the most interesting story relates back to my early days of finances in my business. When we went through our first venture, a few years after founding EAG Services, we reached a point where the funds weren’t adding up. It was at this point that we realized our controller wasn’t paying our bills, and we had to figure out how to not only correct the mistake but also learn how to manage with low cash flow. It took about a year to come out of this mistake.
All in all, I wouldn’t change our path because it was something we had to go through and experience. It’s essential to learn about cash flow and how critical it is to manage cash flow when building capital. The next time we had a downturn in cash flow, I was prepared, and we had learned from that first time what we had to do.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As an entrepreneur always on-the-go, with a very determined mindset, something amusing happened to me when I did everything in my power to attend a meeting in a different city.
I was already traveling from a meeting when I realized I had to re-route my travel itinerary if I wanted to make the upcoming meeting in a different city. The only way for me to get there in the appropriate time frame was to fly straight to that city, Denver. I re-routed my flights, changed my schedule, but my luggage, however, was a different story. My luggage somehow found its way to Mexico City instead of Denver.
I learned that sometimes it’s ok to slow down and reschedule a meeting because it’s probably not best for you to push yourself. In the end, I had to push the meeting by a few hours because I had to purchase a whole new wardrobe.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be a CEO, what specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful CEO and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be a CEO?
Successful leaders develop and support successful teams. First of all, build the right team. Hiring a great resume may get you skills, but is that person going to fit into your team? Eliminate those individuals who erode rather than enhance team spirit. My daily goal is to help my team thrive. Create an environment where your team feels safe but push their boundaries. If you have a talented team, push them to do things that are new with the caveat that they will make mistakes. The right team members will HATE making mistakes, but the outcome should be a constructive learning experience. That’s not to say that you won’t get angry periodically, but that is what the gym is for… to work off your emotions which are usually irrelevant. Your team will never grow if they cannot make those mistakes and learn. Remind them that it’s ok to make mistakes, but to be successful, they have to get back up again the next day and strive to learn. And, of course to make new mistakes in the future. That’s part of growth. It’s essential for members of your team to feel as if they’re a part of an experience, not just an employee. My goal is not for everyone at EAG to stay forever, but when they leave, they should be significantly more knowledgeable and accomplished than when they arrived. Lastly, really listen to people when they’re bringing ideas to the table and let people do the job they were designed to do. Explore people’s ‘zones of genius’ and leverage that in the decisions you make. You can’t know everything or do everything better than everyone else, nor should you. You are their fearless leader (or pretend to be). Give them the strength and encouragement to become the best in their field.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My top advice for other female leaders to help their team thrive is first to create an environment where your team feels safe. In other words, we all make mistakes, but it’s crucial to develop a peer-based organization or environment where your team can feel it’s safe to make those mistakes and learn. Tell them it’s ok to make mistakes but you must get back up again the next day and strive to learn and do better.
Who inspired/inspires you and why?
My dad was is my biggest inspiration because he’s been through my journey — every step of the way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Throughout my journey of success, the person that was always there for me was my dad. He’s always been incredibly supportive, especially in teaching me never give up when things got down. He’d always tell me to buck up and get back on the saddle.
When push came to shove, he would pitch in money or help me with personal expenses or provide me a short-term loan to keep going. It was through this trial and error that I learned how to be better at predicting and how to handle the ups and downs of the energy cycle.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
As a Houstonian, it was important for me and only natural to come back and start my company there. It meant a lot for me to add more jobs to my hometown. My impact, as well as EAG Services, is evident by Houstonians, particularly startup oil & gas companies turning to us for advice in streamlining processes & providing support to their businesses. The work myself and the EAG Services team provide to our Houston clients is everything, and it shows at every level in the organization. People are empowered at EAG, not only to mold their career path and accelerate it as such but also in their ability to do right by the client.
It’s also important for us to give back to our community when we can. We have a community service committee that comes up with activities for the company to participate in throughout the year where most of our employees are coming out and giving back.
What are the “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As a leader of a growing company, it was vital for me to encourage involvement in charity organizations from the beginning. Enable the team to get out & help the community where they see that need exists. And as things pop up, for example, we were in the middle of dropping off gifts for Christmas to a family in need when we realized the family had lost much more than presents from Hurricane Harvey. They’d lost their entire furniture in their home, so as a team, we put together another drive to raise funds for this family.
It was through this additional fundraising that we were able to get the family mattresses, and furniture to furnish the entire new home, as well as rent for the next three months. I want to continue to inspire this movement in my company and hope we do our part in bringing good to this world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how that was relevant to you in your life? “I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down…”
The lyrics from this song really resonate with my life quote of keep rolling with the punches. Especially when I was first starting my company. I got hit with many challenges daily where I didn’t know how to make the right decision. So, I learned to get up again. No matter how many times I got “knocked down,” I always got up again.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Pink, the singer, is someone I’d love to have a meal with because she doesn’t fit the typical stereotype. She’s empowering women to go out there and get what they want in life — not holding anything back, and that inspires me.
About the author:
Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 350 works in print. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke