Ryan Patel is a world-renowned authority on global business, political economy and corporate governance. He’s also a frequent economic contributor on networks including CNN, BBC, CNBC and Fox Business.
As we hit the home stretch before Vena Nation week begins, we spoke with Ryan about his track record of helping CFOs become architects of agile planning, and what’s in store if youtune into his keynote on May 12.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey so far. How did you go from global development at Pinkberry to receiving a Congressional Recognition and becoming the go-to authority on corporate governance and scaling companies?
I wish somebody would have given me the roadmap to this journey before I embarked on it! All joking aside, I really tried to keep it simple with an intentional mindset of making a positive impact wherever I go.
My journey includes working across the spectrum of established public companies to a young startup like Pinkberry. I’ve had the opportunity to run different types of departments and build globally across various cultures, developing different skill sets and expertise along the way. This has allowed me to continue to provide unique insights and perspectives which many typically do not find in global strategy, governance and scaling advice.
My career journey has made me valuable in the boardroom, on the speaking circuit and in the media as well—especially when breaking down complex issues into understandable, actionable items for the audience.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional life and how has it guided you?
An important lesson is that there are no set playbooks for you; your professional journey is unique to you. Chasing that traditional professional path is not the only way to add value to yourself.
Once I came to that realization, it was amazing how different opportunities started to appear and more importantly, how it opened my eyes to them. Exploring these different opportunities allowed me to hone in on building well-rounded skill sets and relationships across different industries around the world.
When helping companies scale, how do you balance strategic growth planning with the day-to-day needs of the business?
You have to stay committed with your end-goal always in mind. This almost forces you to create a robust, successful and long-term strategic plan, but also accounts for your social impact in the community.
Sometimes you have to give up some profit in the short term to make sure your company is in order and that you are executing at a high level both locally and at large. You will start to see the growth long-term by either a product or service that people will keep coming back to and eventually reward you for your commitment and hard work.
How and why are practices like integrated business planning and cross-functional collaboration so important for planning for today and tomorrow and succeeding in the face of today’s uncertainties?
Cross-functional collaboration is very important. The ability to understand everyone’s opportunities and challenges in a team is an underrated attribute of a good leader. The faster the team is cohesively moving forward, the more its integrated business plan can move quickly and smoothly towards execution.
Especially with today’s uncertainties, being nimble is not a want but a necessity. It can be the difference between those businesses and teams that make it or not through these uncertain times.
What are some of the unique challenges that finance and operations professionals are facing today? What are the key lessons they’re learning?
Let’s be honest—forecasting during these times of uncertainty can be very difficult. How can we appropriate forecasts for the short and long term when so many unknown variables are at play globally? How do we make teams more efficient if we have a lack of resources or support?
By running all the different scenarios (and answering these types of questions), you will truly develop an understanding of how your business impacts on each scenario and each question, which leads to plenty of key takeaways ready to be applied.
I believe every challenge leads to an opportunity and sometimes one has to be forced to think that way to see something they haven’t already—to develop the essential learning needed to overcome those challenges.
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities business leaders must possess in order to guide their organizations forward effectively, especially in times like these?
Be humble, sharpen your listening skills, learn how to effectively assess situations, be transparent and communicate clearly. During times like these, being better at coping with change, stress and learning new skills is essential.
What advice would you give to the business leaders and finance teams who are weathering the storm today, but also planning for tomorrow?
Be proactive and take initiative. While you are dealing with the uncertainty that is in front of you, document and incorporate the lessons you are finding so that you can prepare for the future. You will be better off and ready to execute on things when tomorrow actually happens. Also, don’t forget to clearly communicate these learnings across your teams so everyone is on the same page too!
What are some of the most inspiring responses/strategic shifts you’ve seen from businesses to the current crisis?
It has been inspiring to see the global community coming together. Many businesses are changing their business models and even production cycles to produce personal protective equipment (PPEs) for the current crisis. More businesses are going beyond their corporate social responsibility (CSR) quota by helping communities in need and supporting the frontline and healthcare workers during these times.
Overall, how do you think current events will affect the way businesses operate moving forward? What does the future look like?
It will force businesses to be more efficient in the future. I think you will see more companies embrace the lessons learned on being remote and using digital technologies in ways to enhance their business to move forward. We are going to see a lot more innovation and disruption of archaic processes due to the current events. Don’t forget that the SME community will most likely be empowered to fill in the gaps where new opportunities arise and exist.
How do periods of uncertainty present opportunities to make businesses (and finance and operations teams) stronger?
Periods of uncertainty are a reminder to businesses that it’s time for all hands on deck, and that we all need to be rowing in the same direction. Those who have built strong corporate cultures are in a position to build stronger teams and togetherness to help weather the storm as one unit and to be able to grow together through it all. Those who haven’t now have an opportunity to come together to do just that—to build a stronger mission and values.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This pandemic crisis is a reminder to all that we are one global community. Together we are stronger and we can’t forget that. We need to help each other and learn from each other. No matter the distance, we can all make an impact.
Lastly, a sincere thank you to the first responders and those on the front lines keeping the essential functions working—we all are grateful for your work.