November 12, 2014 by Steven Romero via email
Perry Elders and his wife Alane had lunch with students in the Business Complex on Thursday, November 6, 2014. Elders and his wife were here last week attending Homecoming events and visiting with students.
Perry Elders is a first-generation college student who graduated from NMSU in 1983. He went on to become a partner at Arthur Andersen as well as PricewaterhouseCoopers. From there he became the CFO of McDermott International, Inc., a multinational energy corporation. Elders talked about the difficulties of being the CFO of such a large corporation.
“Many people don’t realize the difficulties of the job – stress, long hours, lots of travel, it’s hard on the family.”
He focused on work and home-life balance. His wife Alane added that it takes the whole family to make it work. Both partners have to be on board. They both have to understand and be willing to deal with the difficulties of the job. Their faith and commitment to family was crucial in overcoming the long hours away from home and many difficulties that being in this type of position brings.
The time he spent as a partner at Arthur Andersen was one of the most rewarding positions he held. When the firm collapsed after the Enron scandal Elders had a difficult time coming to terms with the situation. Elders used this as an example of how important ethics are in the work place.
“Ethics are real and very important. If you have no moral compass you may be successful – for a while but it will come back and get you.” He explained that you need to know the ethical and moral boundaries when doing business.
Being able to see his employees develop professionally has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his position both as a CFO as well as throughout his entire career.
“It’s great to see people you have known from the beginning develop professionally.”
Another one of the many benefits he has experienced as a CFO is being able to see the world. He has been to every continent and has been able to learn about different cultures and work with many great people around the world.
These benefits are not without risks however: being a CFO comes with a lot of personal liabilities and real financial risks.
“One of the most difficult things is telling people that they are not performing to expectations and having to let them go.”
Elders encouraged students, “You can achieve what you want to achieve and what you set your mind to.” A successful outcome depends on how much work you are willing to put in.
Elders also spoke with two accounting classes later on in the afternoon.