Cheryl Nash, CEO of Tegra118, began her career as an intern at the same firm which — several iterations later — she now runs.
A graduate in communications at Eastern Illinois University, Nash got an internship at Security APL, an accounting system vendor, largely because her father knew the founder. She then was hired as the fourth person at the tiny firm, which then was bought by CheckFree Corp.
That company eventually was bought by financial-services tech giant Fiserv, which recently sold a 60% stake to Motive Partners. The firm was rebranded under the name Tegra118 — and, all along this multi-decade journey, Nash has been there.
“I have actually done every single job at the company except for development and QA,” she told ThinkAdvisor.
“I’ve been in client services, on product strategy, run client services, run the product strategy. It helps me understand what people are focused on and what and how our people need to deal with clients because I’ve played that role,” Nash explained.
Today as CEO, she acknowledges “it took awhile to get here,” but then it “isn’t the same company because we’ve been through so many acquisitions.”
Motive’s purchase was the first time the company she leads has been out on its own.
“In every other acquisition, we’ve been part of a bigger organization, so we weren’t able to stand alone except at the very beginning,” Nash said. “When we got the opportunity with Motive to choose a name, a visual story and messaging, then we truly were on our own, not just as a business unit.”
The name Tegra118 starts with Tegra — meaning integrity, for their people and platform, and 118 — the number of elements that make up the universe, “which we believe stands for our platform,” she said.
The purchase means a pivot in her job. In the past, the company grew organically, and now, it will expand through acquisitions, “which is really exciting to me,” Nash explained. She’ll also focus on finding new partnerships to grow more of an “ecosystem for the business”; stay tuned for announcements.
THINKADVISOR: What top lessons have you learned in your career?
CHERYL NASH: Surround yourself with the best people. I learned early in my career that you can’t know it all and you can’t be everywhere. You need a great team to surround you that is very supportive and has different types of knowledge than you have.
Surrounding yourself with the best people with different backgrounds and knowledge is one of the key things that’s helped me. Also, I have a personal advisory board, which is made up of people outside of my company, even outside of the industry.
For example, right now, we’re working from home and trying to be really creative in how we reach out and connect with our teammates. My hopefully soon-to-be daughter-in-law, who is a kindergarten teacher and very creative, is on my personal advisory board.
She suggested we ask people to send in pictures of their home environment— kids, pets, etc. — and then we’ll send that around to the teams each day, so people get more that you feel connected.
Also, building a strong network is key. I’ve [connected with] other women CEOs, because there’s not that many of us in our industry.
Last week, we had an hour and a half virtual happy hour, and we covered everything from how do we get gel off our nails to … how are we supporting our associates during this quarantine.
When did you send your New Jersey staff home?
On March 11, in the middle of the day, we got an announcement from our building — we’re in a very small building — that somebody in our building was tested positive for COVID-19.
I immediately told everybody to go home, because we share elevators, we share a cafeteria, we share bathrooms. That weekend is when everybody was asked to stay home by the mayors and the governor.
We all have the ability to work from home — we had tested it out in snowstorms and things like that — and it’s actually worked really well. It’s weird; I still think about what’s in my refrigerator at the office, because we just suddenly left.
Will a home office be permanent?
I don’t think so, not 100% virtual, but [maybe at some of] our smaller offices. Still, everyone’s looking at their real estate strategy right now.
What are your thoughts of women in the industry?
I sit on two boards that are focused on driving more women [into the business]. One is focused on college women, and the other is focused on women in our industry from zero to five years. It’s really to help women succeed, because it’s a great career.
There are great opportunities in this industry, and women don’t really know about them. Throughout this whole crisis and as a general statement, women tend to be innately nurturing and their empathetic leadership is standing out.
I’m more communicative than I’ve ever been, and it’s important to me to make sure our people and our clients are doing well.
There aren’t that many women CEOs in our industry. That needs to change, obviously, for the next generation coming up. That will continue to be a big focus of mine.
Do you follow anyone on social media?
Those I really follow are April Rudin, CEO of The Rudin Group, a wealth marketing firm, as well as Theodora Lau (a writer, podcast host and advisor) who is very focused on helping women. Also, Lori Hardwick, who is CEO, Wealth Tech, at RedRock Strategic Partners and is chairman of Riskalyze.