An Interview with Beth Reed
Below is a series of questions asked of Beth Reed who managed the Dazzle Toastmaster Conference store on 11/3-11/4/17:
First thanks for giving me the promotion, I’m actually Finance Manager. Since many of the new titles end in Director, I understand where you were coming from. I had several reasons for accepting this role, after thinking very carefully about the position. I do not have a background in accounting, far from it. I have learned a great deal about accounting and finance in my professional life, enough to realize that it is more interesting than a word person like me gives credit and there is a clean logic that can be appealing. I wanted to learn more than my high level understanding and I thought this might be a good way to gain that knowledge. I also understood that the role would count as a requirement for the Advanced Leader Silver, which is the current level that I am working toward. Additionally, I have had ideas for businesses to develop, but wanted to have a better understanding of business budgeting and I thought this role would provide practical knowledge.
I communicated with the most recent person to hold this role, and the one prior to get a perspective on the amount of time, and then I padded my expectation. And I still spend more time than I had anticipated. Perhaps this is because I have a steeper learning curve, without the accounting background. I don’t want to just go through the motions, I truly want to understand why I am taking the actions that I take. There is also a software element that I am slowly gaining knowledge on – an expense platform called Concur, and accounting software that TI uses called Intacct.
My day job is Project Manager and Training Developer for a family owned distribution company. I have experience with the order to cash process in a couple different ERP systems and I have facilitated various software implementations and integrations. I like to deconstruct a process and then work to help people understand it, especially the intersection between business process and technology to support that process.
‘ve been in Toastmasters for just over 4 years so I have gotten to know a core group of people outside of our club, and of course I have the whole District Executive Committee (DEC) to help to get the word out. I like to look for the people that might be interesting, but a little hesitant to come forward for opportunities on their own. I asked our club members (of course), I had a list of prior store volunteers that I emailed to check their interest, I talked to DEC members – both to volunteer and also to look for people in their clubs that might want to get involved but don’t know how, I talked to attendees at various contests throughout the fall, and there were also requests on the district website and through District Constant Contact emails. It takes a village to put together a conference and all its various components and make it successful.
Well, I have to start by giving credit to the prior Finance Manager – Deb Johnston, and also the prior Resource Center (the actual name of the store) manager Cathy Stroh. Both of these ladies volunteered again at the store during the conference and also generously gave me information about how the store has been run in the past. I have to admit that prior to this past weekend, I had not ever stopped by the store at a conference or TLI. I took the information that they provided, and I created a short one page How To for all volunteers to have handy as a just in case. I gave each volunteer a quick rundown of the store highlights at the beginning of their shift and then trusted them to do a great job and everyone really did. Noel Ganay truly got a kick out of processing the credit cards using the swiper. (My inner geek did too, honestly.) We really do attract the most capable and interesting people in Toastmasters. Everyone was polishing their skills; be they sales, customer service, technical, administrative, idea generation or what-have-you.
As everyone in our club knows because I warn you, I am an introvert with minor extroverted tendencies – so I steeled myself for sustained interaction with so many people over the course of a day and a half. I was hoping for the chance to meet interesting people, and I was rewarded. I love seeing people take on something new and really making it their own and I think that all of the volunteers were open to and actively engaged in helping the store to excel. We had mostly positive interactions with people, even when the lines got a little long and the Wi-Fi made credit card processing a bit of a challenge. This is my long answer to say that I learned once again that being open to interactions can lead to great experiences.
So many times we talk ourselves out of a new opportunity out of fear. Fear that we will not be good enough, fear that we will look foolish, fear that we might feel stupid. But if we can tap into a touch of the curiosity that most of us had as children and say to ourselves we can just try it a little bit then it leads to all sorts of interesting things. My first reaction was ‘Me?? Finance?? I’m a word person’ and then I thought ‘why not’. Instead of saying no, I gave it some thought. Moving past the fear of embarrassment is very freeing. I admit that I never lost my curiosity, which really helps. Several people told me at the conference, after my business meeting presentation that I had done a great job and it was clear that I really knew my stuff. I have a slew of things to learn to be able to truly represent those compliments, but I was very pleased that what I have learned came across.
The role, or rather Iqbal found me. I fully intended to be a bit selfish and focus on my own progress after spending 3 years as our club’s VP of Education. I’m not sure what made Iqbal think of me, but as he was preparing for his year as the District Director he asked me if I would be interested in the Finance Manager role. I certainly think that it helped that I did my Target speaker rounds early on, one of those being for Amy Atcha, his wife. Also, our club is vocal and actively engaged within the district. I would suggest to anyone who is interested in researching district opportunities to talk to several of our club members who engage with district folks – John Labbe, Dennis Timko and Kevin Chapman all know quite a few people who have had district leadership roles. Or, our current Area Director Arlene Clausell or Division Director Sean Siegel would be wonderful resources for anyone interested in exploring the potential to take on a leadership role within the district. A short term try-out if you will, type role might be as a committee chair for one of the district activities coming up like the December TLI, spring conference or June TLI.