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TMA Talks: Building Your Professional Brand

TMA Talks

Welcome to TMA Talks, a regular series of podcasts hosted by TMA Global CEO Scott Y. Stuart, Esq. Each segment features prominent TMA members, industry experts, and other special guests. These exchanges, edited transcripts of which are printed in the JCR, offer insights into key markets, forward-thinking economic outlooks, insider thoughts on industry trends, and much more. TMA Talks podcasts are available on the TMA podcast channel. Subscribe to our channel wherever you find your podcasts.

SCOTT STUART: This is TMA talks, where we talk everything TMA. Today we’re at DIC 2019, and we have the pleasure of talking with a TMA and industry luminary and a NexGen-er about the value proposition of TMA. I’d like to welcome Sheila Smith, who is an advisor at Gordon Brothers, and Anne O’Donnell, who is at r2 advisors. Welcome to TMA talks.

SHEILA SMITH, CTP: Thank you, Scott.

SCOTT: Sheila, you have been involved in TMA for how many years now?

SHEILA: Twenty-five, or maybe more.

SCOTT: Twenty-five years. What has it meant for your career, and why you so invested in TMA?

SHEILA: Well, those are two questions, so I have two answers. One is that TMA is unique in one aspect. I call it Noah’s Ark because you have a cross section of professionals. You have FAs (financial advisors), accountants, appraisers, lenders, lawyers, liquidators, landlords, so it’s a very high ROI if you want to go out and meet with diverse professionals. TMA is unlike some of the other professional associations, which are a little bit monolithic in terms of who their membership is. So that’s the first point.

The second is, TMA has four distinct differentiators. You’ve got brand. Everyone knows the TMA brand. You’ve got a worldwide reach. You’ve got the depth of the bench. Say I need a liquidator and appraiser in Perth. Where do I go? If I’m going to Australia, I can go to the TMA Australia Chapter and find a resource. And the last thing is that you have industry sector expertise peppered through your membership. So, you’ve got brands, you’ve got worldwide reach, you’ve got the depth of the bench, and you’ve got industry expertise.

SCOTT: What drew you into TMA, the very open, holistic, diverse, and collective group of professionals, industrywide and worldwide?

SHEILA: What drew me to TMA was the diversity of the membership, but really the opportunity to hone my personal brand as a chapter president. I became the president of the Northeast Chapter early on in my career. It gave me the opportunity to hone my public speaking. You had to get up in front of a group of people all the time. Public speaking does not come naturally to a lot of us. But we’re not in an annuity business. We’re not doing tax returns. We have to go out and kiss babies and shake hands and talk about value every day.

SCOTT: Absolutely. So, Anne, you’re a NexGen-er. You’re an up-and-comer. You’re involved in your chapter. You chair the TMA NOW committee, the women’s group. What drew you to TMA, and what value are you as a NextGen-er finding as one of our most engaged younger members?

ANNE O'DONNELL: I joined TMA about three years ago, when I joined r2 advisors. Tom Kim had been the TMA Global chair. He said, “This is our family, so go.” And it really was. I started getting involved on the local level, and they were so welcoming. Our president at the time, Reed Gillis, was so good about making sure you got introduced to everyone. So, I had a great first year, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I just kept going to everything. I think I’ve been to almost all of the events, which is moderately scary.

SCOTT: That’s terrific. Do you find from both a business and a networking point of view that engagement has been helpful to your career?

ANNE: Absolutely. I’ve made so many great connections, both locally in Denver and nationwide. I can call any of my friends that I’ve met from TMA or even anyone that I haven’t met and just say, “Hey, I’m a fellow TMA member,” and people usually really are very responsive to that.

SCOTT: Connectivity between TMA members. Sheila, you’ve connected with lots of TMA members all over the country and, I suspect, the world. How have you found a connectivity by and between members through TMA?

SHEILA: It’s been very fortuitous and important to growing the profile of my respective firms. I was previously at Deloitte and am now at Gordon Brothers. It gives you the ability to call someone who is a TMA member and they’ll pick up the phone, and they will help you.

ANNE: Absolutely.

SCOTT: We’re trying to be a more forward-facing organization. We want people to be engaged. From both of your perspectives, how would you recommend that people get more connected, more engaged, roll up their sleeves, and really take advantage of all the opportunities their volunteerism offers through TMA? Sheila?


TMA is a community that allows me to grow professionally and individually. It challenges me and also has facilitated wonderful relationships, both professional and personal.


SHEILA: I always say, “Don’t join TMA”—the color just drained out of your face—“Lead TMA.” If you want to get benefits out of this organization, get the microphone, be on panels, publish, be engaged. Then you get an ROI from TMA, because it will return in spades. I will tell you that my personal brand is very aligned with TMA, because of my experience as a chapter president and my continuing help and work for TMA Global.

SCOTT: And I think people associate you very much with TMA and have for a very long time. Anne?

ANNE: I agree. This is what really pushed me and pushed my boundaries. I’ve had some minimal public speaking, but I feel comfortable with my team members, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity to grow individually and professionally with a lot of support. I feel like I’ve got cheerleaders watching my back all the time.

SCOTT: It sounds like you’re not only very connected but you’re also looking forward to really working your way through both the chapter and maybe even global leadership chain.

ANNE: Absolutely.

SCOTT: Sheila, how did you get involved on the Global ladder? You started as a chapter president in the Northeast Chapter, and I think a lot of people are always curious, after getting some chapter experience, about how to get more involved in Global and what they can do. How did you do that?

SHEILA:  I did that in part because my role at Deloitte was in the Americas, so I was inevitably having to deal with countries outside of the U.S. One way that I found that to be helpful in Brazil, in particular, was the TMA Brazil Chapter. So, I went there, and I met colleagues, lawyers, liquidators, and other people in those foreign countries.

Now at Gordon Brothers, we have opened offices in Japan, Australia, and the EU, and again, there are TMA chapters everywhere. And I find that a good focal point. When I want to go visit Australia, I look at whether there is a TMA event that I can then use that as the center point of my visit.

SCOTT: That’s terrific. Anne, do you see yourself getting involved on the global level?

ANNE: Yes, absolutely. Currently, I’m on the NOW Committee for the Global Summit.

SCOTT: Awesome.

ANNE: I’m really excited about our TMA NOW Summit this year. We’re going to have a great keynote and some great panels, and we have just a fantastic group of women organizing it. So, I love my work on that committee, and I hope to stay involved in similar pursuits.

SCOTT: The women in our NexGen groups are really fabulous, very motivated, and very engaged individuals, and we’re sincerely proud of them. Before we end this segment of TMA Talks, I’m going to throw you a little curveball here. Give me a little 15-second elevator pitch of what TMA means to you. Anne?

ANNE: TMA is a community that allows me to grow professionally and individually. It challenges me and also has facilitated wonderful relationships, both professional and personal. It’s really helping me with my personal brand as well, and I can see things continuing down that path.

SCOTT: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sheila?

SHEILA: I would echo the same sentiments and add that the whole career trajectory of the financial advisors, workout, turnaround, restructuring, reorganization is not as established as it is for lawyers, who had bankruptcy classes, etc., in law school. So, I think it gave some fabric and context to a growing career trajectory.

Tell us what you want to hear on upcoming TMA Talks. Send your thoughts, ideas, and comments to sstuart@turnaround.org.

Sheila Smith

Sheila Smith

Gordon Brothers

Sheila Smith serves as an advisor to Gordon Brothers. She has over 25 years of experience in financial advisory and restructuring services. 



r2 advisors

Anne O'Donnell joined r² advisors in 2016. She is responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the firm, marketing and business development efforts, and providing support to the Firm’s professionals

Scott Stuart

Scott Y. Stuart, Esq.

TMA Global CEO

Scott Y. Stuart, Esq. is the Chief Executive Officer of Turnaround Management Association, a professional community of 9,000 members that seeks to strengthen the global economy by working save distressed businesses, assist management to navigate off-plan events, and help healthy companies avoid similar pitfalls. He brings nearly 30 years of experience in the restructuring, legal, and distressed investment sectors and has a proven track record of building, growing, and leading successful companies, from corporations to startups.

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