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: I’m Scott Stuart, CEO of the Turnaround Management Association, live at the M&A Advisors Distressed Investors Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, and this is TMA Talks, where we talk everything TMA. Today, I’m with my good friend and colleague, Carrianne Basler, managing director at AlixPartners and chair of IWIRC, the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation.
Carrianne, you are quite the accomplished woman and an example for so many in the corporate restructuring, renewal, and corporate health profession. Tell us how you got started and how you evolved with such success in both your career and on the volunteer side of so many organizations.
CARRIANNE BASLER: I lucked into, or stumbled into, restructuring 25 years ago. I was a CPA originally, but I wanted to do something a little different than auditing. I got into some consulting, doing a little bit of restructuring work and a little bit of litigation, and then I moved to Detroit and found myself at AlixPartners.
When I got to AlixPartners, one of the things I was taught early on was making sure that you develop your brand and develop your network of people who are on your level. That has helped me throughout the years. Getting involved in IWIRC helped me meet those people, develop and increase my brand, and increase my network. Organizations like TMA have been helpful in that regard as well. That’s where you meet your people.
SCOTT: Personal brand and professional network are things we are having a lot more conversations around these days, particularly at TMA. We’re trying to tell our newer and younger members, “Be patient about building your brand, because when you build your brand and your network properly, it will last you a lifetime.” You are very much an example of that, from what you said.
CARRIANNE: Absolutely. It also involves figuring out a creative way to build your brand. Ten to 12 years ago, I thought, “How can I increase my brand? How can I become more well-known?” I started writing articles, developed a column for the ABI Journal, and increased my visibility that way. That, again, is a personal brand that I can create, one that people know me for.
SCOTT: Talk about being a woman in the consulting industry, which has been largely dominated by men for many years, and how you’ve been able to achieve so much in that industry over the last 20 years.
CARRIANNE: When I joined AlixPartners, while there had been other women who had worked at the firm before I got there, I was the only woman who traveled full-time. It was a bit of a challenge, because normally I would be the only woman in the room at any kind of a meeting, either internally at AlixPartners or externally with other financial advisors.
One of the things I like about the restructuring industry and AlixPartners in general is that we have hired a number of women. I have a number of women who I’ve looked to as mentors and friends over the years and who have helped me, but when there weren’t a lot of women to be mentors, there have also been a number of men that have been my mentors to help me along the way. I just think that it’s important to know that there’s somebody you can talk to, somebody you can bounce ideas off of.
One of the things we’re trying to do at IWIRC is to bring along those younger women, because you do want to have some of those mentors who maybe turn into friends and who you can bounce ideas off of, who you feel comfortable with. While I think the industry has gotten better, as I like to say, just because it’s better, doesn’t mean it’s good. We have more women in the industry, but we’re not at 50/50. We’re not even close. I think knowing and having people, whether within your firm or outside your firm, you can go to and talk to about your experiences helps you. It helps you feel more centered. Frankly, it helps people stay in the industry.
SCOTT: It sounds like AlixPartners has embraced diversity, and I know several women who are my friends and colleagues who have ascended to very important roles within the organization. You’re certainly one of them, but it sounds like the organization as a whole has strived to be open and diverse over the years.
CARRIANNE: Absolutely and as we’ve grown, it’s become even more important to me. We recognize that diversity is a good goal in its own right, but it’s also good for the business. You want to have a more diverse workforce. Our clients want more diverse teams, because more diverse teams have better outcomes. There’s proof. There’s research, and we’ve embraced that, not only because it’s good for the business but also because it’s good for our people. Our people want more diversity. It’s been an evolving thing, but over the past three to five years, especially, we’ve really had a focus on that. It’s been very encouraging to me to see the results that we’ve had.
SCOTT: Talk a little bit about your role as chair of IWIRC and what that means to you. As you know, TMA has a TMA NOW (Network of Women) affinity group – and a lot of women of IWIRC are also a part of TMA leadership and membership. Talk about the things that you would like to do as chair of IWIRC this coming year.
CARRIANNE: My role as chair of IWIRC has been very gratifying. While we are not as large as TMA, we do have more than 1,500 members worldwide. What I’ve found gratifying—and this goes to my earlier point—is that I’ve been able to find people that have been mentors within that organization. I’ve been a mentor to younger women who have similar experience as me but who don’t have any other women in their organization. Our goal is to connect women worldwide.
One of my goals this year is to focus on those younger professionals who are coming into the organization, because I think the best way to have more diversity, especially from a female perspective when people get more senior, is to keep them. Let’s bring them along. Let’s support them. Let’s give them a reason to stay in this industry, because this is a very exciting industry with a lot of opportunity. We’re just trying to support an aspect of the industry, or a group within the industry, that we want to continue to see grow and that everybody benefits from.
SCOTT: To your earlier point, mentoring is a great way to help younger members, younger women, to build their personal brands and their professional networks, and IWIRC, I think, does that exceptionally well. I was one of the first male members of IWIRC many years ago, out of the Ohio Chapter. I joined because I felt so encouraged and empowered by these women who had taken an organization and made it such an important part of our industry, and it remains that. How old is IWIRC now?
CARRIANNE: IWIRC is 25 years old this year.
SCOTT: It’s a silver jubilee?
CARRIANNE: You’re right.
SCOTT: I love that. What kind of programming are you doing this year with IWIRC?
CARRIANNE: We have an annual Spring Conference in Washington, D.C., that is usually right around the same time as the ABI Spring Meeting. We have a Leadership Summit with all of our network chairs and our board, worldwide, that will be held in New Orleans this year. And then we have our Fall Meeting.
SCOTT: I’ll be pleased to attend that conference in New Orleans.
CARRIANNE: It’ll be great. We also do a number of regional conferences. We have IWIRC at the Shore, which is in Atlantic City. We had a fantastic program in Asia last November that we’ll be repeating. We’re also planning a regional conference in London this fall as well. We often partner with other organizations so that our members can benefit from both, similar to some of the activities that TMA NOW does.
SCOTT: I hope that we can do more partnerships between TMA NOW and IWIRC, because I think the synergies and overlap are tremendous. There’s a huge opportunity and I’d like to see how we can partner and help, because it’s such a great organization that has sustainability and power. I think it’s a great thing.
CARRIANNE: I think the goals are aligned. What we’re trying to do is help the women in our industry by giving them something that they might not have otherwise.
SCOTT: Excellent. I’ll ask you the million-dollar question that everybody wants to know: Where is the work coming from in the next year?
CARRIANNE: There’s a number of different places where I think the work is coming from. Energy is still in distress, and I think we’ll see more work in energy. I think we’ll see more work in automotive. Then, there’s what I’ve said for the past 25 years—even if the economy does well, there’s always somebody in retail who’s making a bad bet. I think that’s another area that’s going to be busy.
SCOTT: It sounds like it already is. Carrianne, thanks so much for taking the time to join me today at TMA Talks. We look forward to all the great successes that IWIRC will have this year, and we hope to see you at the TMA NOW Summit in Chicago in May. Enjoy the sun in Florida before you head back to wherever Delta Airlines is taking you next.
CARRIANNE: Thanks for having me.
Tell us what you want to hear on upcoming TMA Talks. Send your thoughts, ideas, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.