“Do not get sucked into drama. It’s easy to let yourself get sucked into the drama that people (both male and female) bring. Sometimes being a woman makes it more difficult because people tend to pour their hearts out. In relaying the message to leadership, you may end up being perceived as weak or emotional. Be prepared to prove your point, taking all emotions out of the conversation. Every case you make is a business case, lead with facts. Women are not afforded the luxury of emotion as it is perceived to be a weakness. Say your peace and move on after a decision is made. If a decision interferes with your ethical beliefs, leave the company.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Hosana Fieber, CFO of Tervis Tumbler. She’s the perfect example of being at the C-level of a major company and finding balance for family while serving as a role model.
Becoming a professional accountant was never my intention. I began my college career at the University Of Miami as a biology major with my sights set on pre-med. My dream was of becoming a pediatrician. It turns out I cannot stomach the sight of blood. I have literally passed out while visiting hospitals. Also, as a first generation American with humble beginnings, my parents could not afford to put me through 8–10 years of schooling. Therefore, I needed to go with practical. You can’t get any more practical than accounting.
My first review in a professional setting is something I’ll never forget. The firm had a policy that every person meet with the managing partner for their review. During my review the partner pointed out a misspelled word. I was so embarrassed that I did not spell check. It was difficult for me to concentrate on anything else after that comment. I was certain that I had left a terrible impression. Thankfully I was able to overcome that by the work I did with my clients and he even recommended me to the firm I was later hired at in North Carolina. I learned two lessons there- one is that you should always spell check everything before submitting! The second is that mistakes will be made. It’s how you overcome them that matter.
I could use this entire article to talk about what I think makes Tervis stand out as an incredible brand. Tervis is a 72-year-old family owned socially and environmentally responsible company that makes an outstanding product. We take pride in every design launched and they are gorgeous. Each cup comes with a lifetime guarantee. The guarantee also encourages consumers to return any problematic cup to Tervis. Let us responsibly upcycle it and if there was a manufacturers issue with your cup you get a brand new one. We have a relatively new line of stainless cups that are designed by Tervis and again the quality of the designs is outstanding. I am ambassador for the Tervis brand because I live it every day and I see that we stand behind everything we put out to the market.
We are always working on new projects at Tervis. We are adding to our current line constantly. One of the coolest things we are working on right now (for me as I am leading it) is a sustainability initiative. We are partnering with several organizations to continue spreading the message for the cause.
In 2002 I graduated from the University of Miami and began my career in public accounting. I worked for a very progressive firm, yet the majority of partners were male (over 95%). In North Carolina, I joined another large regional firm that had even less female partners. Almost all clients I worked with had a male CFO/CEO. It was evident to me that the C-level in my field meant I would surely be in a male dominant room for the rest of my career. That has certainly proven to be true. It was not until 2009 that I began working for a drinkware company, Tervis Tumbler, in Sarasota, Florida where the CEO and the head of Finance at the time were both females. The odds! Since then I have made it to the C-level at Tervis. In this journey I have learned many lessons about how different female executives are perceived and respected. I have learned many lessons on how to build up confidence. Some lessons however, stand out more than others.
The top 5 lessons I have learned as a female in a C-suite position are the following:
1. Don’t apologize for your opinion. In a world primarily dominated by men, proudly represent the woman in the room. Be yourself. Have your own opinion and do not apologize or play it down. Do not try to emulate your male peers. Favoritism happens regularly in the corporate world. More men are in higher positions and they tend to promote other men that act like them. Don’t fall into that trap. Be promoted by your own convictions.
You cannot change people’s opinions about your sex but, you can make the right business decisions daily and that will get you noticed. I don’t come into work thinking I will prove myself because I am a woman. I come to work knowing I will prove myself regardless of anyone’s perception of women. I speak my mind in all meetings. I do not leave things unsaid simply to not disagree with the majority. I come to work with one mission- doing the best for the company I represent.
2. Hire people that are better than you. This is true for any C-suite executive but as a female it is important to not want to “control” perception. Let your leadership skills prove your worth. Do not be intimidated by smart junior people. I believe in hiring talent and letting them bloom. Do not get caught up in controlling your employees so you can shine, let them shine for you. It’s a reflection of your leadership. I support my team and do not feel a need to show dominance by controlling or micromanaging.
3. Do not get sucked into drama. It’s easy to let yourself get sucked into the drama that people (both male and female) bring. Sometimes being a woman makes it more difficult because people tend to pour their hearts out. In relaying the message to leadership, you may end up being perceived as weak or emotional. Be prepared to prove your point, taking all emotions out of the conversation. Every case you make is a business case, lead with facts. Women are not afforded the luxury of emotion as it is perceived to be a weakness. Say your peace and move on after a decision is made. If a decision interferes with your ethical beliefs, leave the company.
4. Family comes first. That has always been my motto and at the end of the day my family is my support system. I have a loving husband and four beautiful children. I will not sacrifice my “mom role” for any C-level role. Hours are put in the office and I am just as committed as any other executive but not at the expense of my family life. An unhappy executive makes a poor disgruntled leader. There is more damage than good that will come out of that situation. I attend all first days of schools, talent shows, school events, etc. I am my daughters’ example of what a professional woman is like. I want them to know that balance is key.
5. Demand equality. Demand may sound harsh and final but if you plan to stay at the C-suite you will need to learn to be demanding in areas that require it. Demand to get what you deserve. Demand to be treated as your male counterparts. However, demand cannot come without performance. Your work will support your demand.
I’ve been very fortunate to have bosses who listened and believed in me starting with the senior managers at Kaufman Rossin, Geoff Adams and Michael Riskin, then the managing partner at Dixon Hughes, Robbie Brower who told me I was “meant” to be in accounting followed by the former CEO at Tervis, Laura Spencer. She has been an inspiration. Laura promoted me into a management position which paved a broader career for me at Tervis. She must have known I would prove myself and take every opportunity to grow into bigger roles.
I hope so! I try to give back as much as possible. I do not consider monetary giving, although I do that too, the only way to give back. I think it is equally important to participate with organizations where you can play an active role. I have worked quite a bit with our local girl scout chapter. I have functioned as a troop leader and worked with the board. I have worked with Habitat for Humanity and Rotary club.
I would love to inspire a kindness movement. People need to care more about people. I am all about turning every action into a profitable dollar but that does not mean it must come from a greedy place. Being kind to the earth, people and animals could contribute to major business success. Buy products and gifts from companies that give back and that are ACTIVELY involved in some act of kindness. Tervis has had a lifetime warranty since its existence to promote reusability and sustainability. It has been trying to push the single use plastic out of the market for many years. We are now partnering even heavier with organizations that promote Ocean clean-ups and environmental responsibility to keep drilling that point home. Be kind to the Earth. Tervis is an excellent example of a company that puts money where their mouth is.
“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal” I am a true believer that every mistake is a lesson learned. I learn something almost daily. Every day is a new beginning and another chance to apply a lesson learned which means that I get to keep working on whatever my goals are but I may have to change the “how” not the “what”. When I set my mind on college I did not drop out when my plan A didn’t work, I still graduated with a career ahead of me. When I decided on Accounting I did not give up when I found myself the minority in the room (that encouraged me more). In every business decision I make I know that the route may change but the destination is what I strive for.
Reese Witherspoon ya’ll. She exemplifies all I look up to in women in the business world. She is not only a great actress but she has put her fame to great use especially as a child advocate. I do not know her personally, but she seems mature and well poised in the public eye. She doesn’t back down from her own convictions and proudly defends herself in the sweetest way possible. She seems like a great female role model- mother, actress and businesswoman.
Originally published at medium.com