Craig Sutton, Chief Financial Officer, Rasa Floors; and member of Pearson Partners’ Board of DirectorsAs featured in our Q3 2014 Searchlight newsletter
What was your first job and what was it like?
After getting my M.B.A., I joined the credit training program at First National Bank in Dallas. I had the opportunity to be a banker to some of the larger-than-life Dallas business legends in the 1960s and 1970s, including H.L. Hunt and his family, Jimmy Ling and his LTV companies, Bill Clements and SEDCO, Harding Lawrence and Braniff, Jack Vaughn Sr. and Gordon McLendon.
What is your business background?
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with many companies and leaders in many industries over the years. I’ve worked in many roles and areas, from being a commercial banker and executive to working in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions; as an international project financing specialist; as a community and retail banking executive; and in private banking and wealth management. I’ve also been the CFO of an oil and gas exploration company and a litigation support consultant to law firms involving several major lawsuits issuing from the collapse in the 1980s of Texas banks and real estate.
What are some highlights of your career so far? Tell us about your best days or proudest moments.
Because I have an engineering background, my first banking assignment was in the Dallas defense contracting and high-tech industries in the heady days of the early 1970s. I then was assigned to bring corporate finance capability to the energy banking division, where I led the project financing efforts of FNB Dallas—initially in the North Sea, beginning in the early 1970s, and then elsewhere around the world. That led to heading the venture capital and corporate finance division for FNB Dallas and our London merchant bank subsidiary.
My career highlights include providing the first loan from a U.S. bank to a U.S. company’s Iranian subsidiary secured under Iranian law, which was used to finance drilling rigs. That resulted in a story I can tell my grandchildren about the time I was trapped in Iran during the turmoil of the beginning of the revolution.
After a stint in the 1980s as CFO of an oil and gas exploration company—a former banking client—I returned to banking to design and lead the transformation of the community bank network of First City Bank in North Texas. With a great team, we developed a high-performing retail banking business.
After a period of providing independent consulting services to businesses and law firms during the 1990s, I returned to banking. By the time I retired in 2011, I had developed the largest private banking and wealth management practice in Texas for Northern Trust.
I now serve as CFO of Rasa Floors, a former consulting client. I have provided strategic financial and business counsel to Rasa since shortly after its founding in 1994, and have had the pleasure of seeing it grow into a company with sales exceeding $75 million delivered from nine branch service centers throughout the Southwest.
What drew you to Pearson Partners?
I have known and respected Bob Pearson since his days with Lamalie and LAI International. I have always been impressed with Bob and the Pearson Partners team’s professionalism and dedication to quality client service.
Describe your leadership style.
I’m committed to excellence and delivering results. Building on my engineering background, I can be hands-on, but I understand the importance of balancing trust with grace. I practice Eisenhower’s tenet that plans are worthless but planning is invaluable to being prepared for whatever may come.
What is your philosophy or approach when it comes to client relationships?
I believe in creative problem-solving. I take a client-centered approach and try to approach challenges from the client side of the table. We have the obligation to become masters of our craft, and our clients deserve no less.
How have you seen Pearson Partners International grow and change over your tenure?
I have observed the practice broaden and gain depth, and have seen the professional growth and development of newer team members. I’ve also witnessed a consistent, first-class approach to client service.
How has the company adapted to challenges in executive search over time?
Pearson Partners has a disciplined emphasis on quality over quantity. The company has worked hard to develop and focus on its areas of specialized expertise and foster enduring client relationships.
What do you think is the key to Pearson Partners’ repeat business with top companies? What do we do better than anyone else?
Pearson Partners is dedicated to understanding client needs and exceeding client expectations. Each search is handled by highly qualified and experienced professionals, and the Pearson Partners team delivers proven and consistent results.
What do you like to do outside of the office? Hobbies or passions?
I serve on the boards of and as a volunteer for arts and community-based organizations. I also provide pro bono investment management of endowment and investment funds for not-for-profit organizations. And I enjoy theater and wine country tours.
What motto do you live by?
Trust, integrity and professionalism can never be compromised. Clients deserve to work with a master of the craft, so be the best at what you do. Provide your best thinking and advice, even if it is not what they want to hear. If two professionals always agree, one is superfluous. Always think positively and keep an attitude of gratitude, not of entitlement.
If you had to make a career change tomorrow, what job would you choose, and why?
One thing is certain: Change will come. I am fortunate to have thrived on the challenges I have faced and have always loved what I have done, so when change does come, I will embrace it.
Learn more about Craig’s background and bio.