I started out at KPMG right out of college.
It was no nonsense. We knew we had to work for what we had to get. That’s what it took in public accounting. You had to be willing to absorb some hours and give up free time.
I found out you have to do quite a bit of investing to be a partner. At the same time, the markets were booming and opportunities increased in the public and private sectors.
One of my clients, CapStar Hotel, was growing significantly and preparing to merge with American General. I took a position with them as the vice president of finance to help them integrate the operations of the two companies.
It was very different from what I had been doing. But many folks who worked there also came out of public accounting, so it was a comfortable situation for me.
Although the merger ultimately didn’t happen, all the operations moved to Texas. I was interested in staying local.
During that time, Allied Capital was a large private equity firm and was growing their portfolio and wanted some finance talent.
I became a principal supporting the portfolio companies. I would work with five to seven companies at a time, in various industries. Sometimes the companies were troubled and needed to be turned around. I got an incredible amount of experience working with multiple companies.
I remember we took a telecommunications company out of bankruptcy and turned it around. We added on some acquisitions, substantially increased the value, and sold it to a company that made it bigger and better.
Another fun one was a green goods company. It grew flowering bedding plants for Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart.
It was a family-built business that became troubled, and we were able to work through it over several years to improve that business. Ultimately, it was bought by a larger company and continues today to provide those services through the Southwest.
After Allied was purchased by Ares Capital, I helped in the transition for a while and then took a break.
I thought I wanted to experience the world. I had the romantic view of taking the family on a world tour. But it didn’t seem like it would work out.
So I started a consulting business on my own. I helped small and mid-size companies grow and helped evaluate things that companies of that size sometimes don’t have the experience to do.
The key to consulting is you have to be fearless. There’s not a paycheck waiting there every two weeks. You have to be very sales-oriented and confident in what you do and how you present yourself.
You have to spend a boatload of time on the road and a boatload of time figuring out who you should be calling on, what services you should be providing and at what point you want to bring on employees.
I had some successes, but I have two children with disabilities, and health care was a concern. I began to look for more of a full-time position.
The great thing about Chesapeake Hospitality was it has a fantastic platform. It has great folks who have actually grown up in the hotel business. There’s incredible integrity here in the way we do business. It’s smaller than other businesses that I’ve worked for, but the opportunities are fantastic.
I’m excited lending some of my past experiences to the business.
-Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief financial officer, Chesapeake Hospitality Management, a hotel management company based in Greenbelt.
Career highlights: Senior director of insurance and financial services, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; president, LGS Consulting; principal, Allied Capital; senior vice president of finance, Meristar Hospitality; senior manager, KPMG.
Education: BBA, accounting, James Madison University.
Personal: Lives in Laurel with wife and three children.