“Don’t overextend yourself and then under deliver” With Michelle McComb, Chief Financial Officer at VTS

Don’t overextend yourself and then under deliver. One of my core “superpowers” is that I’m an “uber” problem solver. However, earlier in my career, I was happy to take on more and more challenges that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. But, what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to say no. You want to deliver quality work and, in order to do that, your “wheelhouse” needs to be in order.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle McComb, Chief Financial Officer at VTS. Michelle is an expert in her field, with proven experience scaling the financial and operational divisions of high-growth companies. Prior to joining VTS, Michelle’s experience includes roles as the CFO of Datto, the CFO of Bloomberg’s Financial Products division, a Managing Director at UBS Investment Bank, International CFO at Lucent Technologies and CFO of VitalSigns Software.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I credit my father with steering me in the direction of accounting. When I started in the professional world, I was exploring a couple different fields. My father was quick to point out that professionals in the particular field I was gravitating towards are often rewarded based on tenure, not merit. I have been hugely independent my whole life, so I decided to make a change to accounting, as I always want to be rewarded and evaluated based on the quality of my work, not simply by tenure.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

On my very first day at VTS, I was greeted by our CEO Nick Romito. I went in for a handshake, but he stopped and told me, “We don’t do handshakes here. You’re family!” and gave me a big hug. As someone who previously worked at very traditional firms in a very formal field, this was an unexpected and welcome greeting that really made me feel as if I was joining not just a new company, but a family.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m an accountant, we aren’t supposed to make mistakes! Although I can share a funny story about something I’d avoid in the future. I was taking part in a major integration group, and we were all asked to share something interesting about ourselves. My fun fact was that I know how to ride a unicycle. The leader of the group then had his assistant go out and buy a unicycle, which I attempted to ride in high heels on a cobblestone street — not something I’d do again! I ended up flat on my face in front of a large group of my new colleagues.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The commercial real estate industry has historically been lagged when it comes to integrating new technology that can help make their places and spaces more efficient. Every other major industry — from finance to insurance and everything in between — relies on one or more tech platforms in their day-to-day operations, and we are helping this particular industry get up to speed by offering an innovative solution that enables them to bring more revenue in the door. Our founders come from commercial real estate backgrounds, so they’ve lived and breathed these roles and know firsthand the challenges that our customers face. I that puts us in a unique position to create a solution that truly addresses these major pain points.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

For decades, commercial real estate professionals have had to make decisions with limited visibility into the markets they’re competing in. Traditionally, market benchmarking data for commercial leasing has been neither transparent, timely, nor accurate, and our clients have relied on anecdotal data or general market reports based on self-reported data that’s three to six months stale by the time it’s released.

To fix this, VTS recently announced our plans to launch MarketView™, commercial real estate’s first real time benchmarking and marketing analytics platform. Our customers will be able to compare, in real-time, their performance versus market benchmarks for critical operational, financial, and supply and demand metrics. This information will enable commercial real estate landlords to optimize their leasing performance and drive not just better leasing decisions, but better investment decisions.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Always be open to feedback, in fact, seek it out as often as possible, not just when you’re up for a review. Regularly check in with your direct managers, your team, colleagues, peers, and others. This feedback will help you grow into a better leader, manager, mentor, colleague, and person.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Hire really good people, even ones smarter than yourself! Trust the people you’ve hired with the responsibilities of their job. Don’t micromanage them, but be there for them when asked. Let them take credit for successes and wins and provide a level of protection for inevitable disappointments. Give them the ability to learn from their mistakes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have too many mentors to lean on throughout my career — however, I did learn a variety of lessons from many of the professionals I’ve worked with over the years by closely observing what sparked their major successes as well as their failures.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Though a lot of hard work and little luck, I have been fortunate enough to have a successful and fulfilling career. Due to this, I feel passionate about spending time with some people who are at an earlier stage of their career and helping them avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles I encountered, while also imparting some wisdom I’ve learned over the years onto them. It’s always important to pay it forward, especially as a woman in a difficult industry.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Your personal brand matters.

Your actions, how you treat those around you and how you present yourself has an impact on others and determines whether they respect and take you seriously. It’s important to pay attention to how you come across and create a personal brand you’re proud of and one that others admire.

Build a network and use it.

Early on in my career, it would have been helpful to know how to build a network. As I was coming up through the ranks as an emerging CFO, I had to learn how to do a lot of things on my own which lead to mistakes along the way. But through the years I started to build a solid network of peers who had a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge who allowed me to grow and learn alongside them. So, find a network that fits, nurture those relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Pay it forward.

When people help you, use that experience and knowledge to help others so they don’t make the same mistakes. There are several emerging finance folks that I have met through various speaking opportunities and networking groups who I now meet with regularly to help them navigate the very same things I had to as an emerging leader.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Don’t overextend yourself and then under deliver. One of my core “superpowers” is that I’m an “uber” problem solver. However, earlier in my career, I was happy to take on more and more challenges that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. But, what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to say no. You want to deliver quality work and, in order to do that, your “wheelhouse” needs to be in order.

Hire people smarter than you.

Don’t be intimidated by people who are just as smart or smarter than you. Nurture these team members and help these people excel — it’s a compliment when people you manage earn a promotion and one of the best management qualities is having an earnest desire to lift others up and see them succeed. Recently, a colleague who reported to me at a previous job was promoted to a position in the C-Suite. It’s such a proud and humbling feeling knowing that you were an integral member of the village that got her to where she is.

Integrate your work and home life.

I think “work life balance” is an overused term. I value my work time and I enjoy what I do and the people I work with. I also love my family time. I make an effort to bring my daughter and husband into my office often. I want my daughter to know where I am when I go to work, who I work with, etc. Conversely, when I’m home, I make sure to create downtime. While integrating these two worlds, it is still important to create the right boundaries, so each piece knows how important they are. I want my daughter to know work is important but so is your personal and family life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I think that inequality between men and women is something that pops up in many unexpected and often unseen ways, and if I were able I would eliminate all of these disparities. I was recently speaking with a friend who was dealing with a health issue that only affects women, and the treatment she needed was not covered under insurance, while comparable treatments for men are fully covered. These types of “quality of life” issues disproportionately affect women, and I think it’s important to put an end to them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Anyone who has ever received an email from me knows that my signature closes with my favorite quote: “Running with scissors down the hallway of life.” When I was young, I was always told to not run with scissors. I decided to flip this on its head to remind myself to take risks and not be careful all the time. If you live your life without taking risks or pushing the envelope, you’re not really living!

How can our readers follow you on social media? https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-mccomb-bab942b/