With years of experience owning and operating businesses in the United States and South America, Betty Uribe is a C-level banking executive, business consultant and author.
A nationally recognized expert on corporate turnarounds and the financial services industry, Uribe provides corporate leaders with an international perspective on various industries.
As executive vice president of California Bank & Trust, Uribe has profit and loss responsibility for a $6 billion line of business. She’s also author of the best-selling book “#Values: The Secret to Top-Level Performance in Business & Life.”
In advance of her May 21 keynote address at Business Report’s annual Influential Women in Business luncheon, Uribe spoke with Business Report about the challenges—and opportunities—facing female entrepreneurs and business professionals.
What is the biggest obstacle female entrepreneurs face today, and how can they overcome it?
The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome has been myself. A lot of times, women don’t believe in themselves. Had I ever said to myself, “Oh my gosh, I’m a woman in a man’s business,” it would’ve held me back.
Just be straightforward, bullet point conversations and do your homework, like you would in any circumstance.
Tell me about a time when you failed and the lessons you learned.
After taking on a strategy position overseeing 300 southern California branches of a major bank, I thought up this fantastic strategy that I thought would’ve been great … but it failed miserably.
What went wrong was me—I didn’t take the field into consideration. That’s one of the pieces that seems to differentiate leaders that truly get it from leaders that don’t: Understanding it’s the people in field who have the answers. We only have ideas.
Striking a healthy work-life balance seems virtually impossible if you’ve got a demanding career and family. Can it be done without some career sacrifice?
Absolutely. Family values are important to me, and I’ve aligned myself with people and companies that align themselves with similar values. Creating boundaries is also important. When I’m with my husband or my daughters, I don’t take phone calls.
What’s a good strategy for efficient networking without wasting too much time?
I choose very carefully which events I go to, making sure all the right people who are in my niche market will be there and target certain ones I want to meet.
I get there an hour early, because that’s when the keynote speaker rehearses their speech and I can talk to them. I make friends with the photographer, who’s usually been instructed to take pictures of key people.
I always try to think of ways I can add value to those people professionally. I’ve also gotten employees and speaking engagements through LinkedIn.
Who are the female entrepreneurs you most admire, or have learned the most from?
Those who are palpable, who can be touched and reached. Women like Mother Theresa—talk about an entrepreneur, an influencer, a connector and a force of nature, even if you take away the religious influence she had; Martha Montoya, who came from Colombia and builds her business through great connections while keeping a very low profile; my client Marianne Moy, a real estate tycoon in Los Angeles who connects deeply with people; and another client, Margaret, an advisor to the president on oil and gas exports.
Your book “#Values” argues that strong company values are what distinguish good leaders from great leaders. What values work especially well in corporate settings, and what do they look like in practice?
People in general need to be valued, listened to and respected. This comes forth through collaboration and teamwork, where people truly make collaborative decisions with diverse views represented.
The value of trust is another, but corporations have to earn that trust. This can happen through communication. Don’t just communicate when it’s urgent; communicate always.
Who will get the most out of reading your book, and what do you hope they’ll learn?
Students, up-and-coming leaders, CEOs and C-level executives, and government officials. Students are getting a sense of direction, a sense of, “oh wow, these are my strengths/values and I should align my job with what my values are.”
Businesspeople are going to get a lot of stories, tangible examples of how to assemble a team, assess an organization, create sustainable results and build trust with your team by leading with your values.
What does it take for a corporate turnaround to be successful, and how can a business leader tell if their turnaround is successful?
It takes a genuine care for the people first—we always need to be out in the trenches. If we aren’t, we’ll never really know what’s going on in the company.
You know a turnaround is successful when you see employee morale—and, later, profitability—stay at the top sustainably, quarter after quarter.
As a consultant, what are some of the most common problems you find with companies that want to turn around?
Low employee morale. Sometimes it’s because the metrics that are being used to measure success are the wrong metrics. The biggest problem I see is when the vision is not clear across the entire company, and there’s no buy-in on a bigger purpose.
Interview edited for space and clarity.