Interview with Tim Notaro

Interview with Tim Notaro

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Mr. Tim Notaro is the Senior Partner for Aviano Consulting, a risk-focused, professional services consulting firm based in Las Vegas.

Just to give you a little background…My company is what my professionals are. People go to large firms, not just because of the name, but because of the folks who are actually working there. My first and primary goals was team building. I needed to be able to build a team of good professionals, because if I didn’t have good professionals, no one’s hiring us, I can’t sell. Selling is point number 2. If I do the job of point 1, it makes point 2 easier for me to do. You need to have quality talent to work on my team.

My firm is a little bit different than most companies out there. Consulting is kind of a rough gig. if you’re someone who needs a paycheck every two weeks, this isn’t your life. We make good money when we make it, and when we don’t, like in times like this, my team isn’t making anything. We can’t go to our clients. I actually just got approved for my payroll protection plan and I’m going to get that implemented. Even in these times, it goes up and down.

The next thing is selling. It’s based upon my relationships within my community and the business community. I’ve got a certain connection that would allow me to ask how things are going and offer my help, in any way they need. I know a lot of Chief Accounting Officers, CFOs, CEOs, in the valley and sometimes it leads to work and sometimes it doesn’t. Overall, I’m doing pretty good, I can’t complain. I’m definitely making more money than I was making at Deloitte. I don’t make as much money as I did when I was working at Sands, but when I worked at Sands, every month I would be flying to Asia, and I don’t miss that at all. I miss Asia, don’t get me wrong. I miss my team, when I was managing my internal audit folks, most of them were in China, most of the people who worked for me were Chinese nationals. It’s interesting to me that, that part of my life is in the past. Now, I’m building my own personal practice and my practice with those team members that I am trying to cultivate… hopefully, they are hopefully future entrepreneurs, in which they are building their own practice underneath my practice.

One of my team members came to me one day, and told me, “I really want to be good at something.” They wanted to build a market, they wanted to become a natural resource that companies would feel comfortable going to when they have a problem. That’s the exciting thing. If you don’t want a job that’s scary or exciting, go get a job at Southwest Gas, where you sit in a cube and work there for thirty years and then you retire. That’s perfectly fine for a lot of people. This is a lot more exciting, you got to hunt what you eat. This is sales.  As an accountant, this is kind of interesting because I am more of that ‘sit in a cubicle for thirty years kind of guy.’ I’m not a sales kind of person, but it’s finding team members who kind of align with that, and that makes the second part better. The final thing, as a Senior Partner, in addition to all this other stuff that I do, is administration. A lot of people don’t see that. In the movies, they only show the entrepreneur making the money, making the deals. Payroll, computers, making sure everything works, dealing with legal, I just emailed one of my insurance companies to make sure the unemployment insurance is correct. My position is dynamic, it’s constantly changing. Even though I’m an accountant, I received my accounting degree, but I haven’t been an accountant since I graduated. I’ve been an auditor, and I often say, ‘you don’t know what you’re going to be handed.’ When I was head of audit, I spent most of my time dealing with HR Managers, trying to hire people, train people. Anytime you have a bunch of people get together, they’ll have problems. There are different personalities. You have probably seen this in your group projects, right? You have your capstone project and you have 5 or 6 people, who are supposed to work together to create a product. Sometimes, it’s not easy getting everyone going in the same direction. The administration piece takes up a big chunk of my time. These are the three primary things I deal with as a Senior Partner.

What I like most about my job is that I help people with their problems, whatever that may be. Primarily, what Aviano does is it helps companies with risk and compliance issues. If you are a public company, it is a requirement for all public companies to have an internal controls process that gets evaluated by management and evaluated by external auditors. What me and my team do most is around Sarbanes-Oxley, which is making sure that the controls are working the way they’re supposed to. The thing about internal controls is that it’s more like preventing fraud, you don’t want someone who deals with procurement to also have the ability to write checks. This creates the opportunity to write their own checks or fabricate invoices. Part of what my team does is vet out and identify fraud. The best part of my career right now, is helping companies. When CEOs and CFOs call me up and say, “Hey Tim, can you come down here real quick, we have an audit committee meeting tomorrow, and we need your help.” They call us when they need help. I’m glad to say that we have mostly been able to help. I’ve had a call on Friday asking me to come into Atlanta on Monday due to a data breach and they needed to know how to respond. These situations where we are needed in an urgent matter is always very gratifying to me.

How did I get in here? An 18-year-old graduated high school and decided to join the military. All I asked for was a desk job. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just didn’t want to work outside, so that’s how I started on this path. Once I got onto this path, I stayed on this path. I was an accountant in the Air Force back in 1985, and you’re probably thinking, “Wow, my dad was born in 1985.” So, in 1985, I joined the Air Force and basically stayed in accounting my whole career. However, like I said, I stopped being an accountant when I graduated from UNLV and became an auditor. Over the course of my career, I’ve been tied to accounting.

A lot of people define their career by what they do. 90% of your career is the people, right? It’s the people you work for, the people you work with, and the people who work for you. Mostly, your job is people. It is not what spreadsheet you’re working on, what application you’re messing with. Once you move into your career, you end up managing people and that’s universal, whether you’re managing a factory, a marketing department, an accounting department, it all deals with people. This is business. So, look at the people that you see as leaders and try to emulate that because there is no book that teaches people how to be good people. There’s management books out there about theory y and theory x, but its all about creating a genuine connection. See how people manage you, both negative or positive. I’ve had horrible bosses, people who have screamed at me, but it has all been useful because how someone handles something in the bad times, shows their true colors. When I was separated from Deloitte, I was laid off with thousands of people. Our practice was 20,000 people globally, and I was just part of 12,000 people who were laid off during this time. It wasn’t hurtful, but how leadership, my direct supervisor handled that situation, colored my impression of her because it wasn’t positive. How do I want to be remembered by my team as they work for me? Was I fair? Was I truthful? Was I transparent? Those are the types of things that I look at as my career, kind of more the people than what I actually do. You’re going to do what you think you’re supposed to be doing only for a short period of time, most of your career is all the other stuff.

College gave me the basic tools to make me useful to walk through the door. Everything I learned about cybersecurity; nothing was from college. We had an IT accounting class that was horrendous, not useful at all, it was more about how to use a spreadsheet. You’re going to find things in the industry that you care about, whether its being an entrepreneur or monetary policy, whatever it is, that’s already driving your desires and inclinations to learn things.

One example I have, and I have lots of stories because I’m an old man. A buddy of mine, I worked with him on a project in Colorado during the Dotcom boom. He was a biomed major and he was helping with the Deloitte consulting implementation. He was going to become the storage guy. In college, he learned how to be a biomed person, working with pharmaceuticals and pursuing a medical career. Instead, that all went out the door. What he did learn in college was how to write and how to speak. Even though he didn’t have the credentials, he wasn’t an IT major, but he learned how to be the storage person on the job. Now, he a senior executive at Computer Associates, a huge storage company. One of the messages I always tell people is to be flexible as to what your perceived career path may be. You never know where it could take you.

I would say being genuine is first. A lot of people say you have to be a fantastic communicator. I think a lot of people who are eloquent communicators, but not very sincere are dismissed out of hand. Always be truthful to yourself and to others.

You also do need to be a strong communicator: both written, oral, and when you’re presenting. If you don’t have that credibility, whatever you’re saying, no one is listening. I typically do Web Conferences, so I can see people’s faces, so I can read them versus just a phone call. Phone calls are hard because you’re sitting there on the phone and at the same time, an email is popping up. Before the shutdown, I would have weekly calls with the Directors of Information Technology at these different casino properties. Every week, we would go over a checklist. Did you have any breaches? What major changes happened In your environment? What else do we need to talk about? While we’re doing this, I’m looking at all the faces and seeing whether or not they are paying attention to the call or looking at something else on the other screen. This level of professionalism is something that you always want to be striving for and showing respect to the people who are giving you their time to listen to you.

My experience at UNLV was kind of interesting. I was a night student, I worked full time during the day. I worked in accounting and went to school at night. What I do miss from that time were the people who were in the same boat as me. We were all starting off our careers, trying to better ourselves. One guy worked at the front desk at the Mirage. He got his accounting degree and eventually became an internal auditor. He ended up opening up casinos in Mexico.

I miss those times, when things were exciting. There were infinite possibilities, whereas now I’m probably looking at 12 or 15 years left in my career until I’m done. It’s interesting because I still look at, owning my own consultancy, I’m being asked where we are going to go as a team. With the coronavirus shutting me down, my firm’s going to just dissolve. We’re hanging in right now. That brings me to an important lesson. When it comes to starting businesses, if it succeeds, awesome. If it doesn’t, don’t personalize it because it’s a learning situation. I’ve started at least three businesses now, two of which didn’t work out.

My experience at UNLV was kind of interesting. I was a night student, I worked full time during the day. I worked in accounting and went to school at night. What I do miss from that time were the people who were in the same boat as me. We were all starting off our careers, trying to better ourselves. One guy worked at the front desk at the Mirage. He got his accounting degree and eventually became an internal auditor. He ended up opening up casinos in Mexico.

I miss those times, when things were exciting. There were infinite possibilities, whereas now I’m probably looking at 12 or 15 years left in my career until I’m done. It’s interesting because I still look at, owning my own consultancy, I’m being asked where we are going to go as a team. With the coronavirus shutting me down, my firm’s going to just dissolve. We’re hanging in right now. That brings me to an important lesson. When it comes to starting businesses, if it succeeds, awesome. If it doesn’t, don’t personalize it because it’s a learning situation. I’ve started at least three businesses now, two of which didn’t work out.

Be a critical consumer of information, whether it’s for your career, your education, walking through life, picking a spouse, deciding to have children, be a critical consumer of information so that you have all the facts in front of you to make good decisions. You’re not always going to make a good decision, but learn from that.

Be open-minded, be flexible to things, but at the same time, be true to yourself as an individual. That is the one thing you can control, it’s who you are and how you treat other folks.

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