As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Roberts.
Angela Roberts is the CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, one of the largest private distributors of U.S. government-issued gold, silver, and platinum coins. Believing strongly that the people make the business, Angela feels a deep responsibility to positively influence the professional and personal lives of employees at every level. This lesson, learned many years ago from a mentor, has deeply inspired Angela, and today USMR is a trusted precious metal leader known for always putting their customers and employees first.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Life led me to this company and the people within its walls. I look more at the relationships and the love my time at U.S. Money Reserve has given me. I didn’t choose this path — it chose me. When I came to U.S. Money Reserve, I knew I wanted to make a difference somewhere, but what I didn’t realize was what a difference the company would make in my own life. Most people look at their place of employment as a job, and I see it as my home. My background is in strategic planning, and I have been able to utilize this skill set and more at U.S. Money Reserve. I knew I wanted to work with people and be a part of a ground-up operation, and I also found those at U.S. Money Reserve.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Managing through COVID-19 and starting a new division in the middle of a pandemic was certainly an experience I will never forget as a leader. My greatest joy has been working with my team to accomplish amazing feats while others have struggled to pivot or back-pedaled in fear. Our work family stayed together, locked arms, and approached every new challenge head-on, and we came out the other side stronger and better for it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Every victory comes from learning and taking opportunities from a prior misstep or mistake. So I must have a lot of fun.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My grandparents — as I’m continuing to find out on a daily basis — not only taught me a lot but also instilled every good quality I possess. They were far better people than I’ll ever be, but everything I do, every word I speak, every battle I enter into, and every challenge I face, I think of them. I think about what they would do and in what way they would do it. They were selfless people who chose to see the best in people and life. My grandmother worked for Bethphage Mission, which in her time was where most children who had developmental or mental disabilities of any kind were left. Their own parents didn’t see the potential in these children, and they grew up from infants to senior citizens housed in a facility just one mile outside of the small Nebraska town I grew up in. My grandmother ran the rug looms for the residents who were not bedridden. She knew it would be instinctive for many of us to initially feel that they were less fortunate or perhaps had “less to offer” than we did because of their circumstances, but she shut down that narrow mindset rather quickly. My grandmother showed us how special each of them was as an individual and how they could find joy in even the seemingly minor things while we searched for things to show us joy. Most importantly, we saw how God blessed them with open hearts and gave them the ability to love unconditionally — something the rest of us would never achieve without a lot of work.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
A person is made up of their mind, spirit, and heart. Period, end of story. Not one of these three things is determined by what we look like, how old we are, or how we identify.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
As is the case in life and business, we are a collaborative family, and we must love each other for better or worse.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
You are responsible for the planning, direction, and drive of the company while also caring about the employees. Their dreams are now your dreams. Their pain is now your pain. Success is having happy employees and a thriving business — there is not one without the other. What you want no longer matters. It is just like being a parent: The business and its employees always come first.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive?
The main “myth” is that you have to stop working “in the weeds” with your people and just be a strategist. I can only speak from the point of view of a CEO who has worked their way through the ranks. It is the people and the work that made you who you are, and you can’t give it up for a title. Be the leader the job expects of you, but don’t forget the work and joy of working with the team that got you to where you are now.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The job didn’t change me; I changed the job.
Presumably, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
This is hard to say because through history there have been all types of executives who have been considered successful despite their character or background. Unfortunately, those examples would illustrate how you don’t have to be a decent human being to do this job, or you don’t have to care about your employees more than yourself, or you don’t have to know the business as if it were your life. That is not the obvious answer. The obvious answer is this: It all comes down to the people and the product. You must have a great product and a great team, such as what we have at our company. You can take the greatest CEO you know and put them in charge of a team who doesn’t care or aspire to do more in life, and you will get nowhere. Alternatively, you can put a less qualified CEO with a very talented group of people with great character, and that individual will shine more than they should. It always boils down to the people of a company and their character and abilities. In my opinion, any executive worth their salt already knows this but, more importantly, embraces it and lets their work family shine.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
I think it’s critical to a company’s success to love your employees like family. Share in their joys and their accomplishments but also remember to be there through their trials and tribulations. Understand that they need your support but that they also need to be pushed to their limits to understand what they are capable of achieving for themselves. Give them what they need — not what they want.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
There is no way I, as just one person, can touch the world, but I can strive to have an impact on the lives of the people I spend time with every day. I’m hoping that investing in people, teaching them what I have learned, and loving them as they deserve will, in turn, encourage them to do the same for others in their own lives, which hopefully in life makes a difference.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
If we could foresee our future, would we change our paths, and if we changed our paths, then would we miss out on laughter, tears, guts, glory, and — most importantly — the people we would meet on the path of life? How can you learn if you don’t fail? How can you find opportunities if you don’t face challenges? How can you learn to forgive if you are never taken advantage of? How can you show empathy if you never feel hopeless in a situation? How can you feel victorious if you’ve never had to work for something and overcome all the obstacles and adversity along the way? I learned these things along the way, and that is the right way. If anything, I would tell someone to embrace everything they learn, see, and experience.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
It would be for people to see the world and treat others how they would wish for their children to see and act. I often watch how our government leaders speak to each other and carry on in ways that I can’t imagine they would tolerate from their own children or grandchildren. It certainly makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mother passed away when I was 12 years old in a horrific accident. My grandmother, who had been through the Great Depression and so much more, sat me down and told me, “Angela, people are like buildings. You have those who are the pillars, and they hold everything and everybody up. Then there are floors, and they are the people who will not be able to help others or themselves, but the world takes both. You will be a pillar for your family and in life going forward. That is your heart and your mind. I know you miss your mother, but you must start now.”
I have been through many events in my life where I needed to remind myself of that conversation. Through the years, it has helped me personally, as well as friends and employees that I greatly care about. I have no regrets taking on the role of the pillar.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Roy Williams — former men’s basketball head coach of North Carolina. I have always been a fan of the way he handled himself in life as he faced adversity and found success. His dedication to his mother and sister is more than admirable, and he has never forgotten where he came from. I believe his greatest joys in life have come from doing for others and watching them be successful. This is someone I have a great deal of respect for.
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