Even early on I distinguished myself by always seeking to understand my customer. I always put myself in the customer’s shoes to figure out what they were thinking—and why— before delivering a thoughtful and respectful solution. I also had analytic and people skills that have treated me well throughout my career.
I eventually transitioned to the Securities and Exchange Commission, starting out as a professional accounting fellow in the early ’90s and then as the deputy chief accountant, where I saw broad view of how the organization worked, particularly from the accounting and finance side.
I remember we identified that there was a need to put more transparency around market risks. So I co-authored a rule to address that need, and the SEC published it. It wasn’t easy. It took hard work, focus and dedication, but it was very meaningful.
After the rule was issued, I felt good about my tenure there and it was time to do something different.
I was eventually recruited to go to Time Warner, where I met a number of outstanding leaders that I had heard and read about.
By this time I developed strong communication skills to go with my business acumen. I also had the ability to bring the right people on board.
When I left Time Warner for AOL, I was brought in at a time when they were having some challenges with regulators. I was helping out with that early in my tenure. That became part of my background.
Next, when Fannie Mae and Comverse Technology were both having difficulty getting their financial statements filed with the SEC, I helped both of them get back in compliant.
It wasn’t easy. But my brain doesn’t register challenges. I was even like that as a youth. I never thought about the challenges. Never. As a paperboy, you could start your day by saying, “Man, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. It’s so early.” But I think that’s the wrong focus. I focus on where are we, where we’re going, and what are the steps to get there. And I just march.
I was attracted to Rosetta Stone because I saw the product helped transform customers in a way that was meaningful. I also thought that the market in which the company operates is large and fragmented where Rosetta Stone had a significant opportunity to grow and flourish.
As chief executive, I want to focus on customers outside the United States and institutional markets like education, corporations and governments. My passion, which has been my passion all along, is to focus on strategy, growth, delivering and becoming surrounded with the right people.
—Interview with Vanessa Small