Inside Aperian Global: David Reilly
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked David Reilly, one of our Aperian Global alumni and former Chief Financial Officer, in Oakland, California, a few questions.
David, looking back to when you first joined Aperian Global, what led you to the position of Chief Financial Officer in this particular industry of cross-cultural consulting?
Before I joined Aperian Global (or what was then known as Meridian Resources Associates), I was working in a financial services company that had acquired a startup I co-founded. It was time to begin looking for another interesting opportunity. I was introduced to Ted (Dale) and Ernie (Gundling), the founders of Aperian Global, at a time when their company was about a dozen people with one office located in San Francisco’s Japantown [Hear more about Aperian Global’s origins here]. I was intrigued by the opportunity to help this small entrepreneurial company that I saw had incredible growth potential and whose mission I truly believed in. I joined them in a role focused on building the foundation for our global growth and freeing the founders up from operational concerns so they could do what they do best – delighting our clients with the best tools and services in the cross-cultural industry.
You were the financial head of a global company that started off in Silicon Valley 25 years ago. How did you forge your path to become a global leader of a team dispersed across the world?
While I would like to say it was planned all along, in reality the path forged itself by the collective experiences along the way. We knew we needed to grow our global footprint in order to meet the service needs of our global clients. A merger with Eaton Consulting Group allowed us to accomplish part of that by adding established locations and great personnel in Boston and Europe. Meanwhile, to grow in Asia, we needed to roll up our sleeves and build it ourselves. There have been incredible challenges along the way, but we are very proud to now have a footprint that allows us to serve our clients on the ground in so many locations around the world. I have also been extremely lucky to work with a finance team in our key locations who are extremely smart and hardworking. We could not have achieved any of our global success without my great team here in Oakland and in our regional locations.
As you mentioned, in 2005, Meridian Resources merged with Eaton Consulting, creating the foundation of what is now Aperian Global’s global footprint in the cross-cultural consulting industry. A merger always means an integration of systems, processes, and people. What were the challenges from a financial standpoint?
Even though both companies were small when we merged, there were still many challenges in integrating the two into what is now a unified organization. Fortunately, we had complementary service offerings and very little client overlap, which was a major driver for the merger. This created tremendous growth potential for us to expand within each other’s client bases. However, as is the case with most mergers, the integration of systems and processes was difficult. We were a merger of equals so we had the opportunity (and challenge) to evaluate and select those systems/processes that made the most sense for our growth trajectory – rather than one organization forcing it on the other. One of our big challenges was that there were very few cost savings as a result of the merger, which are often a source for improving profitability or funding growth. We had to bootstrap everything, accomplish all of our growth organically – I consider Aperian Global to be a 25-year-old startup.
Mergers and acquisition have become a main avenue for organizations to grow and gain access to new markets, new technology or top talent. What is your advice to those involved in the financial process of those changes?
Even though I was focused on the financial and operational elements of our merger, I believe the success in any merger (and especially in a professional services business) depends on putting people first. Without retaining good people, none of the systems or processes matter. We were fortunate to retain a very high percentage of the staff from both organizations and we worked very hard to make sure one side of the organization did not feel more or less valued than the other. One thing we did that I would recommend was to create an implementation team comprised of equal members of both organizations. This implementation team ultimately evolved into the leadership team of the combined company, but by showing from a very early stage that each side of the merger would have an equal voice at the leadership table, we sent a strong message to the entire organization.
Tell us something we don’t know about you yet.
When I was in elementary school, my family lived in London for a year while my Dad was working on an international negotiation. While there, we travelled to Spain, Morocco and within the UK. I believe travel at a young age helps expose kids to the idea that there are other cultures where things are done differently. To me, the idea that the way things are done at home isn’t the right or wrong way – only a different way – is the key to being empathetic and engaged global citizens. I have been fortunate here at Aperian to have had the opportunity to take my children to live briefly in Asia and Europe, and I hope these experiences will give them a similar curiosity and openness about the world as I was lucky to get.
If you are interested in learning more about Aperian Global’s own work with successful post-merger integrations, visit our Mergers & Acquisitions page.