Boldness & Discipline – George Barrios, CFO at WWE

Nancy Flagg Finance, Issue 02 - Nov/Dec 2012 2 Comments

George Barrios, CFO, stewards WWE with three-part success formula.

By Nancy Flagg

While larger-than-life Superstars and Divas battle on TV, George Barrios tackles financial challenges behind the scenes to help move global entertainment giant WWE ever forward.

In his Chief Financial Officer role, Barrios serves as both a strategic advisor and a steward of WWE’s half-billion dollar business portfolio.

When Barrios was first approached about working for WWE, he researched the company and was impressed by the global brand, which encompasses primetime TV, DVDs, video content, pay-per-view, film, publishing and merchandise. Upon meeting CEO Vince McMahon, Barrios was sold on making a career move by the executive’s willingness to be entrepreneurial and take chances.

Throughout his career, Barrios has successfully taken on evolving responsibilities. His formula for success for businessmen and businesswomen who want to make a difference is: focus on the job at hand, find role models and push the envelope.

Focus on the Job at Hand

Most people want to get promoted, naturally. But, Barrios advises, they “need to concentrate first on doing their current job well.”

Rigorous time management is key to doing a job well. “It’s easy to get pulled in a million directions,” Barrios said. “A disciplined executive makes conscious choices of where to put his energies.”

“Whatever happens happens because of what you put into it.”

Barrios sets aside blocks of time every day to make headway on strategic initiatives. This allows him to “go deep” into a subject and make meaningful change. He is selective about what goes on his calendar; otherwise he would “end up like peanut butter spread too thin.”

Barrios also uses metrics to improve effectiveness. A monthly scorecard on his door displays color-coded goals and metrics that let him easily monitor progress at a glance.

Without setting measurable goals, Barrios said, “It’s all just talk.”

Find Role Models

Barrios understands and emphasizes the importance of having role models and studying how they became successful.

His parents were his first role models. When the couple immigrated from Cuba in the 1950s, they had to work hard to rebuild their lives, but they never complained. Barrios learned that an individual controls his or her own destiny. “Whatever happens,” he said, “happens because of what you put into it.”

Barrios also considers his boss, Vince McMahon, to be another great role model. McMahon makes it a point not to get invested in his own ideas, and, according to Barrios, behaves “as if every day is the first day on the job.” This attitude, Barrios said, allows McMahon—and Barrios himself, in his efforts to embody it—to be open to new ideas.

Push the Envelope

Pushing the envelope, Barrios says, is about taking bold risks to initiate change and to get noticed.

When Barrios worked with Praxair, he was asked to serve as General Manager of a division. Barrios worried the job might be a detour from his CFO career path, but his mentor, Bob Vipond, showed Barrios that the experience would help him become a better strategic advisor.

Barrios took the job and quickly found out that sitting across from customers and explaining the value of services being delivered gave him a “visceral understanding” of the challenge of making general management decisions: a wise addition to his resume indeed.

Barrios now embraces moving beyond the status quo. He admits that pushing himself and others out of the comfort zone is hard, but recognizes, as he put it, “If you want an omelette, you have to break some eggs.”

Nancy Flagg is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California.

Nancy Flagg

Nancy Flagg is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California.

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