Wyndham Jade CFO and COO Mike Bates shares the importance of a diverse knowledge base and understanding the theory of each task we perform
Mike Bates, CPA, currently serves as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Wyndham Jade, a full-service convention, incentives/meetings, and business travel provider. Bates has more than 20 years of finance and accounting experience, including 15 years in the convention and travel industries. He has held senior executive-level finance positions with The Expo Group, MC2 and several subsidiaries of Sammons Enterprises.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas, he landed a position with a tax group at a CPA firm. His role afforded him the unique opportunity to work in both tax and auditing positions, expanding his knowledge base and giving him a leg up. His diverse experience paid off.
“Coming out of that firm, I understood all areas: tax, financial reporting, accounting, auditing, business law,” Bates said. “All the way through my career, it has helped me. Because anything I do, I can understand it from a tax, an accounting or a business perspective.”
Where the Green Grass Grows
Bates thrives on his work as CFO and COO at Wyndham Jade and believes in the company as a whole, but it took a roundabout journey for him to realize his appreciation for it. He has a sandwiched tenure with the company: He served as Executive Vice President of Finance for Wyndham Jade from 1999 to 2002, departed to pursue other opportunities, and then returned to the company in 2010.
Bates explained that after 9/11, he felt the need to try something new, admitting that he likely “gave up a little too soon and didn’t stick with it long enough” before venturing out from the company in 2002. Bates had always been fortunate to have had positive professional experiences, so he “didn’t realize there was anything different out there.” He had a twinge of the grass-is-greener mindset. “Once I got out and did a few things for awhile, I realized very quickly that I had already been in the ideal situation.”
Fortunately—and providentially, per Bates’ wife—Wyndham Jade invited him to rejoin. All was not lost during his eight-year tangent. Over that time period, he developed consulting skills, realized that not all company cultures make for a mutual match, and came to understand his personal need to have a mentor in place in order to be excited and challenged.
“It humbled me,” Bates said. “It taught me to appreciate what I have and to understand that the grass is pretty green.”
Building & Sustaining Bridges
Like many top executives, Bates professes the importance of building relationships. In fact, it was through his longstanding Wyndham Jade contacts that doors opened for his return to the company. Bates explained that in order to reduce the degrees of separation and foster important career-boosting connections, it’s vital to maintain a relationship with one’s current team, as well as with past colleagues, mentors and members of professional organizations.
“I can’t think of one person I’ve ever burnt a bridge with,” Bates said. And the purpose of building relationships has nothing to do, he noted, with getting favors from others. “Anytime I meet someone, if I feel like that’s someone that I’m better off knowing them, I just have a natural tendency to start bonding with those people.”
Bates recommends making it a practice to follow up with key connections, checking in on them periodically and making oneself readily available as a professional resource in order to build a sense of trust.
Growing a Cohesive Team
When Bates returned to Wyndham Jade, he noticed a deficiency in intercommunication between departments and employees. The company culture needed to better encourage staff growth and development, as well. In addition to minor restructuring, cross-training and strategic role changes, Bates has identified three key ways to grow individuals and unify the team.
First, desire for growth. Comfortableness with status-quo halts progress. “You have to have people who want to grow,” Bates said. Second, structured group interaction. Collaboration increases understanding and builds a team mentality. Third, teaching theory. When everyone knows the purpose behind their tasks, it builds confidence, reduces mistakes and boosts morale.
Bates serves on the Board of Financial Executives Intl. (FEI), a leading association for senior-level financial executives. Among various objectives, he mentors young financial professionals, helping teach them the practical tools they need to succeed in the sector. He touts the importance of hard work, building face-to-face relationships and totally immersing oneself in the task at hand.
The overarching lesson he tries to impart on his FEI mentees is to always make an effort to understand the purpose behind all work-related functions and tasks. For instance, instead of simply writing a check and logging the interaction, an accounts payable clerk should ensure a solid understanding of who the contractor is and the purpose of the payment.
“I am really big on theory,” Bates said. “Understand the theory of everything you do. Don’t ever do anything that you don’t understand why you’re doing it. Whatever company you are working for, understand that business.”♦
Mantras By Numbers
One of Bates’ mentors, The Expo Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ray Pekowski, had Bates memorize and routinely practice the following three keys to success:
- Hard work. “Most people who are successful, despite what a lot of people think and say, have worked very hard to get where they are.”
- Attention to detail. “Look for the deeper meaning. Make sure the details get done.”
- “If there are things that need to be done, you need to do them all the time. You need to make sure you stay on it. Be disciplined in what you do. Be disciplined in how you manage the company.”
Bates’ current CEO Sue Trizila has instilled in him two complementary keys to success:
- Always do the right thing.
- Have fun!
Mike's Key Partners:BOK Financial (Debt Capital – Treasury Services – Wealth Management) | Montgomery, Coscia, Greilich, LLC (Audit, Tax & Consulting) | Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Health Insurance)
Professional profiles, photojournalism, and legal writing are Sunny's specialties; her personal, creative, edgy approach makes her stand apart in the industry. Her clientele has included over three dozen law firms around the country; international businesses such as LiveStrong and Howcast; American favorites like Family Fun and Natural News; and regional publications such as Rutherford Woman and Conch Color.
As a mom of six, fitness enthusiast, and self-employed business woman, she stays busy in her island home with her middle school sweetheart and husband Michael, and makes time to travel regularly. If she's not jogging on down the islands, shooting an event, or writing up a storm, you can find her at Sunfire Creatives or on Facebook.
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