Sheila Smith named TSL Difference Maker
Date June 2019
Featured in The Secured Lender
Gordon Brothers' Sheila Smith is profiled in The Secured Lender's Difference Makers issue. The article profiles celebrates those who are having an impact on their communities and organizations by looking beyond the typical business relationship to see what is important and why we do what we do.
Tell us something about yourself that may surprise people.
I began my professional career as a special education teacher working at a residential treatment facility for adolescent males. I went on to have numerous roles in the public sector running human service agencies, such as Head Start, prior to getting an MBA in public management. Many of the crisis management, motivational, and communication skills I possess today are derived from these experiences. Ultimately, I became the Treasurer of a company that filed bankruptcy, thus beginning my career in insolvency.
Please tell us about your efforts in helping women advance in business and helping to empower women in the restructuring industry.
My path to a career in insolvency was very circuitous, and I often joke that I never contemplated a career in "death and dying." In 1991 during the bankruptcy of my employer, the bank suggested we retain a workout firm and that began my first exposure to a profession in which I have spent over 20 years of my life. I can ’t tell you how many times I was asked in various ways, "What’s a nice girl like you doing in a business like this?" I answered with a bit of humor, a key technique in my tool kit. Humor can break the ice, diffuse divisive situations, and reset the tone throughout the often difficult negotiations in which we are frequently engaged. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.
I recognized early on that our business is not an annuity. You have to reinvent yourself constantly, stay top of mind and find your secret sauce. Simply ask yourself, "Why should they hire me over scores of other professionals?" As part of my contribution to the advancement of women, I developed a training that I call "Cocktail School" which was originally developed for young female associates who found themselves at marketing events, receptions, and in the often-feared public speaking situation. I have since taken Cocktail School on the road and found that the techniques and advice can apply to all genders and ages. For some a refresher and for others a reminder of best practices.
I am committed to being an active participant in professional organizations that I have joined, and I recom-mend that others do the same. Pick an organization, go deep, be a leader versus merely a member and get the microphone. Visibility will elevate the status of women and our insolvency industry.
Walk me through a typical day in your life?
Like so many other insolvency professionals, I rarely have a typical day. My advisory role at Gordon Brothers is very diverse and is primarily focused on corporate and business development activities. I have found that there is so much more to Gordon Brothers’ multi-asset capital-led offerings than what I and the market understood. As such, a lot of my time is spent helping to create approaches to get that message out. I have known and worked with Gordon Brothers, the Frieze family, and many of the senior professionals at Gordon Brothers for decades, and I find this new endeavor a perfect match for me.