Best in Finance Profile
Dee Dee Webb McLeod, COO / CFO, Alliance Cost Containment
Years in current position: Three
Years in financial industry: 35
What ideas have you brought to your organization? I feel fortunate Alliance Cost Containment encourages all team members to have a voice and to embrace change. My team has spearheaded an initiative to review every prospective client engagement to gauge profitability, obstacles, deal parameters and measurement metrics that are essential in our ability to strategically steer our business at a granular level for profitability and increased value for our clients. I am involved in our relationships with private-equity clients and have developed initiatives that broaden our scope of services. We now have stages of engagement that start during their acquisition pursuit, enhance their portfolios’ [value] and conclude in analytics that guide them during the exit phase. One initiative brought to the table for our CEO and human resources department was the concept of flexible time off, which is essentially unlimited time off within a reasonable set of parameters. It is now one of our most revered benefits.
What hurdles or obstacles have you overcome in your career? When I began my career, I was very young when given an opportunity to step into a senior role with high-profile executives. My youth and inexperience was an anomaly in the private business finance arena and something I had to work at every day to overcome. It made me work harder, taught me that there was no such thing as being over-prepared and to accept challenges. I have now been in the workforce for 35 years and am anticipating the hurdle of age bias in the opposite direction, but I am thankful I have the opportunity to tackle that challenge. Certainly not unique to me, being a female in a field that is dominated by males is a continual hurdle. Even though inequities and bias are still prevalent — due to the increasing numbers of females in the workplace and the depth of our talent and strength — I am optimistic that we will continue to progress and our contributions will be duly recognized.
What motivates you? Being part of a team that succeeds at all levels — whether personal or professional. Nothing energizes me more than being surrounded by colleagues that are engaged, passionate, competitive and willing.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a financial executive? The biggest challenge I face is being able to balance risk aversion with opportunity. I feel my No. 1 responsibility is to be the best steward of stakeholders’ dollars — both internal and external stakeholders. With the dynamic environment technology affords us, the threat of becoming irrelevant in a fast-paced and increasingly competitive world is the reality. In today’s business environment, companies have to be nimble and ready to capitalize on advantages and this requires levels of risk and investment. I have to challenge myself to support initiatives that are not easy to measure with tangible or quantitative returns on investment. Focusing on the big picture is paramount to overcoming this challenge and I am fortunate in my role at ACC to be surrounded by talented people that reassure and encourage me to trust strategic initiatives that continue to move our company forward and keep us relevant, focused and innovative.
What’s a misconception people have about your job? The biggest misconception is that I sit at a desk and “crunch numbers” all day, with no human interaction! This could not be further from the truth for me or my team and I encourage anyone contemplating a career in finance and accounting to talk to finance executives and get a snap shot into their roles. I do not think there is another department in an organization that literally touches every aspect of the business. For instance, at ACC, in addition to standard financial performance monitoring and reporting, our finance team works with the CEO on strategies, gives input for business development, interacts directly with clients, provides insight for the marketing team and even analyzes data for sales metrics. The finance field has such a unique variety of opportunities and paths and has provided me a career that has never been mundane but instead dynamic and challenging.
Why did you choose a career in finance? My father was a finance executive and I would often accompany him to the office on the weekends. I quickly became intrigued with the corporate environment and took every opportunity in high school to take business and accounting classes. My very first job in high school— working at a fast-food restaurant — involved accounting for sales, bank deposits, documenting wasted inventory, and my career path seemed to be set!
Who do you turn to for career advice? My husband — I know that while he is my No 1 fan he is also a sage business entrepreneur. Knowing me as well as he does, he is able to tell me what I need to hear, taking into account my strengths and weaknesses. He knows what questions to ask, is a terrific listener and has become an expert in how to give me advice without lecturing or offending. I trust and value his opinion and am often amazed he never tires of my pursuits!
Tell us something about you that would surprise our readers. I love to mountain bike and I never cook!