High Income Earner

[Guest Post] What I Learned Working With Someone Making $1.5M a Year

In Career by Gen Y Finance Guy14 Comments

Today we have a guest post from Finance Solver, the blogger over at SolvingFinance.com. He is a recent college graduate with a degree in finance and is sharing his unique path to wealth building, just like the rest of us in the personal finance blogosphere. In the guest post to follow, Finance Solver is going to share what he learned working with a CFO earning $1.5M per year.

Take it away Finance Solver…

The majority of people want to be a millionaire, including Mr. GYFG and myself. There’s no doubt about it. However, instead of being worth $1M, what if you could make over $1M by just working one year? That sounds like the dream.

To get to that status, though, there’s a lot of moving wheels that you need to take care of. Things like knowing how to manage people, putting in the hours, talking to vendors and lowering costs, etc. I will be going over what I observed while working with someone who makes a 7-figure income in all-in compensation. Employing a couple of these characteristics I don’t think is a bad idea to get ahead.

PeerStreet

It was during my junior year of college. I was going through a couple dozen interviews for the upcoming summer’s internship cycle and getting nowhere. My confidence was shattered when going through the grueling process of interviewing.

Somewhere along the way, my friend posted on Facebook that there was an internship opening at a company that’s a short 20-minute bus ride away for the fall and spring semester. I forwarded him my resume and went through 3 hours worth of interviews, including the company’s CFO.

I was so happy to hear a call back that I got the offer and was asked to start in 3 days. I had a lot going on as a student but there was no negotiation, it was exactly when I wanted to start, and I took the offer earning $15 an hour. I’m so grateful I did.

The company is a multi-billion dollar company. During my internship, I had the opportunity to work with different finance departments that were out there including treasury, internal audit, investor relations, and a couple of projects with the CFO.

The company was public and I was poking around our annual filings and saw that the CFO that I’ve done a couple of projects for had an all-in compensation of $1.5M (this includes stock comps, options, etc.). He was only 44 years old.

I didn’t care about the wage inequality between him and me. He was adding so much more value to the company than I was and I was sure that he deserved to be where he is, and I was right.

While working alongside him and asking a lot of questions to learn more about the company’s business, I picked up a few things that I saw in him that I was sure helped in getting to being a multi-million dollar earner. These are the things that I found.

1 – He Had a Hook that Drew Me to Him

From the instant that I talked to him, I felt at ease. He was the CFO and I was barely a student in college, I should have been nervous out of my mind. However, I wasn’t. There was something about him that drew me in to him and I was an instant advocate of him.

Maybe it was the environment, because his corner office had a lot of windows with bright sunshine that made him look better than in a dark environment. Maybe it was the fact that he was so open to talk to me when he clearly has more important things to do than talk to an intern. No. It was none of those things that put me at ease. I’m sure those factors helped, but it wasn’t the reason that tipped my emotions to be in the middle and not go haywire.

It was his voice.

His natural voice.

I don’t believe that he went through surgery to make sure his vocal sounds were pleasant to the human ear. I don’t even believe that he was consciously trying hard to make sure his voice pitch was a pleasant one.

It was his natural voice, something that made him who he is that I was drawn to. Then I realized that that must be what people who bring in a million dollars in income have. Something natural about them that is a hook to draw people in. It’s a powerful tool.

2 – He Knows How to Say “I Don’t Know”

It sounds cliche. I didn’t even realize the true value of this until I actually saw it with my own eyes and heard it.

During my internship, I had to track our competitor’s financials by going through their financial statements so that their financials could be compared with ours to see points of improvement. I wasn’t and am not a CPA by any means so I had to carefully look over them and catch details. I also looked at what the CFO did in the past so that it would guide me for tracking competitor’s earnings today.

After glossing over what he did, something didn’t look right. As a hypothetical example, he would input a number like “$534” for taxes, let’s say. Then I pinpointed that number in the financial statements that said “$534” but then saw another line item that said taxes for something else but with the number “$540”. It was a minute detail that I wanted to ask about. It probably didn’t even matter that it was off by $6, but I wanted to ask why it was off anyway in case it did matter.

He replied “I don’t know.”

That shocked me.

He’s the CFO of the company talking to an intern. I would have thought that he would have felt the need to prove his intellect as CFO and at least made up an answer. No. It was a simple “I don’t know.” I haven’t heard anybody say that to me in the past times I’ve worked at different companies (which were 3 companies so far in that time).

Then it made me realize something, people who are successful KNOW what they are good at and what they are good at and they don’t let ego get in the way of answering questions. It also added to his credibility tremendously because I couldn’t believe that he would say that to an intern.

My respect was really high already and that just made it shoot through the roof. Pride is the enemy of success and million dollar earners understand that.

3 – He Wants to Match Opportunities With the Right People

I asked him for some career advice because I thought, “hey, he must know a thing or two about building a career right?” He didn’t miss a beat. He said, “know what you want and let your manager know.” He’s been through dealing with a lot of people as CFO and after giving an opportunity to someone, he would constantly be met with other people who were hurt that he didn’t give them the same opportunity.

The ones who got the opportunity? It’s not the ones who fought tooth and nail for it. It’s the ones who let him know that that’s what they wanted. As a result, he was able to match the right opportunities with the right people. His advice still sticks with me to this day and I’m constantly looking to increase my communication with my upper manager.

Conclusion

From working with a multi-millionaire, I was able to recognize a few of the characteristics that got him to where he is today. I didn’t ask him if these were the characteristics that got him to where he is. I didn’t have to. I could just experience all of them by watching him.

It’s his actions that got him to where he is, not his words, and I saw that his actions spoke a lot of volume about him. I certainly learned how to better myself just by paying attention to his mannerisms and I am forever grateful to be given the opportunity to do so. I believe that if you practice these characteristics, you can be a higher earner as well!



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Comments

    1. Author

      Finance Solver – I really appreciate your contribution to the GYFG community. Thank you for sharing!

  1. Great article. I had similar takeaways from my first job interacting with the CEO. I was the person on the ground working with the clients, in all the details. Whenever I talked with him he was so high level, it was like he didn’t even know what was actually going on. But in reality he was able to see beyond the daily client issues and think long term. It is all about the right mindset!

    1. It really is! They look at such a higher level overview of the business that the little details can possibly be overlooked. They sure are smart and qualified to be there.

  2. These CEO folks are like a different people. Probably not so far off from being a politician. They just have that charisma and know how to speak to people. A lot of making it big is just about knowing how to talk to people.

    1. I used to think that it was the one who generated the most value to the business. However, I learned that the ones who actually get to go to the top are the ones who are able to work the people and actually see through them. All of the higher ups have that in common. They sure know how to talk to a crowd of people or know how to judge people correctly!

  3. Super interesting about matching the right people to the right opportunities. It really does seem to go back to relationships and open communication. That makes sense.

    Thanks for the insight and the great article!

    1. Thanks for reading Nick! I’m glad you enjoyed it! It does go to open communication. Honestly, coming from the Asian background, it’s pretty hard for me to say what I want but something happened to my job recently and I employed his advice. I was able to get what I want and I’m very convinced it’s a skill that’s needed in the work life!

    1. Thank you Julie! I’m so happy that I got that opportunity. It’s given me connections that I didn’t even know that I would have. I’m so thankful to him!

  4. I haven’t met the CFO or CEO or our company (and might never will, it’s way too big), this is a great opportunity you had there.
    What’s funny is that the traits you describe are very close to the higher management folks that I work with and respect. They seem to be truly nice people, try to give opportunities to their people to make them grow and they tend to be humble.
    What I like to do is to see how these people handle specific situations. The day it applies to you, you can use them as references and think “how would he/she handle this?”. It’s a very good way to learn from them.

    1. It really was a great opportunity. I don’t really know what they saw in me but I made sure to run with the opportunities.

      I think it works half and half. They are really nice people when it comes to dealing with their own people or dealing with people on a personal level, but when it comes to the negotiation or the business table, they will play every card to their advantage and be a bulldog. It really is a good way to learn from them, I just wish I had more time to spend at the internship with the higher ups!

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  6. Great article. I’ve worked for a F500 company in various finance/accounting roles and I pretty much agree with everything you said. Especially from the career point of view – make sure you communicate with your leaders what you want! It’s important to build credibility and not just expect things will be handed to you, but if you don’t communicate your wants and needs they will never happen.
    -TFG

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