As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Amezquita.
As Chief Financial Officer, Alex Amezquita is responsible for corporate financial functions at the highest level, including the company’s financial reporting, accounting, tax, and treasury functions.
Prior to joining Herbalife Nutrition in 2017 as the senior vice president of finance, strategy and investor relations, Amezquita was senior vice president at Moelis and Company, a leading global investment bank, where he advised Fortune 500 companies on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, capital markets strategy and investor relations. Beginning in 2012, Amezquita worked extensively as a financial advisor to Herbalife Nutrition on key strategic and financial initiatives while at Moelis.
Amezquita brings over 20 years of experience to Herbalife Nutrition from his finance and engineering background. He commenced his investment banking career on Wall Street advising Fortune 100 companies while at Merrill Lynch and Centerview Partners. He began his professional career in the aerospace & defense and technology sectors. During this time, Amezquita worked as both a lead design engineer and consultant to a broad spectrum of industry leaders ranging from Northrop Grumman to Cisco Systems.
Amezquita holds an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master and Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Senior executives usually have an interesting road in their career journey and I’m no different. I spent the first ten years of my career as a computer engineer designing chips for satellites. That experience was all about problem solving. Getting something from point A to point B in a structured way. Taking unstructured information and making it structured. Similarly, during my time in investment banking, I needed to collect unstructured information around human capital, transactions to be able to arrive at solutions that make sense for everyone.
All those unstructured problem-solving opportunities have led to my current role as a CFO to bring structure to information for budgets, P&Ls or for the information we provide to investors. More importantly as a strategic partner at the nexus of finance and business, not only counting the dollars but providing strategic direction to the executive team.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
“Measure What Matters” by John Doerr. The examples in the book are specific and the way the book lays out those examples helps generate thinking on how it applies to your organization, including helping explore alternative thinking so that you aren’t trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Over the next 12 months one of my main focuses will be on looking at operation efficiencies. Herbalife Nutrition has been at a very aggressive growth rate. When an organization grows at this kind of rate, you are focused on doing what you need to do to support the top line. You aren’t necessarily focused on operation efficiencies. While we are still growing, we believe we are in a unique opportunity to look at how should the company be organized, find operational efficiencies to support the next level of growth.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. What is your company’s vision and purpose?
Our company’s mission and purpose is simple yet powerful. Since 1980, we have been on a mission to improve nutritional habits around the world with great-tasting, science-backed nutrition products that help people get the right balance of healthy nutrition, while creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to build small businesses in their communities.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Be patient. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to add value, but just because you have a position of control don’t feel compelled to make change for change sake. Be patient.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Our lead generation is grounded in personal relationships and authenticity. Wellness is a very personal subject matter and one well-suited for our business model of direct sales. Herbalife Nutrition independent distributors are excellent at customer acquisition from simply living an authentic healthy active lifestyle that many aspire to but do not necessarily know how.
If a fellow business leader would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
Bootstrapping or seeking equity funding is an incredibly situationally dependent decision. When solving for the optimal choice for the success of the business, the key will be which path will provide the most focus for the business leader to invest in the long-term success of the business. If bootstrapping creates disproportionate personal stress, that will take productive energy away from the business or encourage short-term choices at the expense of long-term success. Conversely, obtaining equity capital from an investor that is not aligned with the journey and vision for long-term success can also significantly compromise long-term success. So, choose a path that optimizes for maximizing focus and productive energy into the business.
What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?
Clearly articulating and demonstrating the need for the solution that a business provides is the foundation for any valuation. Value drivers such as a well-defined addressable market, highlighting the merits of a management team, a track record of successful execution are all relevant; however, those are all modifiers to the anchor of a business’ valuation — why is your business necessary?
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
First, I think you have to critically re-evaluate if the original value proposition of the business still makes sense. If the answer is yes, then taking a hard and thoughtful look at how the business has been performing against the strategic plan, and even re-evaluating the merits of the current strategic plan itself will likely uncover opportunities. If the answer is no, then there is a bigger picture question that needs to be answered around the viability of the current value proposition and whether the business’ value proposition needs to evolve.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
A common mistake is placing an overemphasis on short-term results at the expense of long-term business success. With so much emphasis on quarterly performance, it is important to stay focused on making business decisions for the long-term benefit of the company, even if it can mean a short-term impact on quarterly results.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
Any executive or business leader should have a fundamental grasp of the following finance concepts to enable risk-based decision making and prioritization:
- Understanding Financial Statements: the income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement is the primary scorecard in how a business is performing.
- Return on Investment: it takes money to make money; however, knowing where to spend that next dollar of investment is critical in decision making. Understanding return on investment principles helps to provide an analytical framework for decision making.
- Budgeting: Budgets create focus and discipline in managing the resources you have to move the business forward.
- Time Value of Money: A dollar today is not worth the same as a dollar tomorrow. Understanding the principles in the time value of money help in decision making across alternatives that have different time horizons
- Sources of Financing: Every business needs capital to perform. At a minimum, understanding the principles of debt and equity financing is critical to align the risk profile of the business with how the business is funded
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In my experience, “burn out” tends to be a result of spending sustained periods of time doing something that has a perceived lack of value or fulfillment. Checking in with yourself periodically in how you are spending your time can help get in front of ensuring you are spending your time in the areas that are meaningful to you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Candidly, when I joined Herbalife Nutrition in 2017, I felt like I was doing exactly that. Herbalife Nutrition provides high-quality nutrition in a world where our population has become disconnected from understanding what their bodies need to live a healthy, active lifestyle. I’m proud to bring everything my career has taught me to help Herbalife Nutrition continue to be successful in our mission.