Laresa McIntyre: Bringing a change in the financial sector at Skybridge Americas Inc.

The Most Successful Businesswomen to watch, 2021 Vol III

Some leaders like to help others and grow with them to make a better place around them. With the free spirit to help others and transform the financial sector, Laresa McIntyre joined forces with Skybridge Americas Inc. With a can-do attitude, she takes on all challenges with a positive mindset. She adds, “I enjoy setting pretty big goals and then doing my best to empower everyone on the team to achieve them.”

She believes in motivating her team to explore new heights and grow sustainably. She states, “I think it is important to measure success against questions like, are you building a stronger team? Are you creating a positive and empowering environment? If you’re making the best contributions you can make towards the success of your team, you’re successful.”

Climbing the stairs of success

Laresa has always been drawn to the entrepreneurial approach to business so, when she was starting out, she chose to become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from The University of Western Ontario and then went on to gain an MBA in Business Administration from Capital University – School of Management.

Her education and accounting designation have helped her open the doors she wanted to enter, leading to her current position as CFO. She adds, “I have always loved business and, although I have financial expertise, I have never perceived my role as limited to finance. I am a person who likes to grow things and see them flourish, and that is how I have always approached each stage of my career. I find tremendous enjoyment in fully immersing myself in the goals of the brand and the business and getting involved in every aspect and not just in the financials.”

In her career, she has been involved in several different sectors, including event management, insurance, and manufacturing. She states, “Regardless of the industry or sector, there are basic business tenets that guide my management approach. Those tenets are even more important guiding principles in a people business like a contact center. If you do not understand what is going on at all levels, it is going to be very difficult for you to make solid strategic recommendations.”

Shedding the thorns along the way

Laresa feels that hardships and setbacks are not roadblocks but opportunities to grow and learn. She says, “I am very aware of how lucky I have been throughout my career to have been on teams where I am supported, encouraged, and respected. I have always gravitated toward organizations and leaders who want someone who is autonomous. That is where I thrive. For me, it is important to be fully tuned into the brand mission and be trusted to set goals, create the roadmap, and navigate the way there.”

She further adds, “Along the way, of course, there are bound to be surprises, new challenges, and even disappointments. Not every effort is successful. You may stumble and fall. But at those times, if you dive deeper into your own abilities, you learn so much. Those experiences make you more ready to take on the next challenges.”

Redefining the financial sector with Skybridge Americas Inc.

Skybridge Americas Inc. is a business process outsourcing company that provides exceptional customer care in several different areas, including sales, emergency roadside dispatching, technical support, omnichannel medical appointment scheduling, back-office support, inbound and outbound voice, email, chat, SMS text, USPS mail, and social media.

Laresa adds, “We invest in leading-edge technology, including virtual platforms and artificial intelligence, that allows us to deliver superior experiences to all customers across all channels and all agents throughout our organization. We pioneered our SkyAgents at-home agent program long before 2020. As a result, we have been able to recruit highly skilled work-from-home agents from top talent pools throughout North America and the Dominican Republic, enabling us to find the perfect fit to support your program and represent your brand.”

She believes that in today’s capricious world, organizations must be smart and adaptable to the changing aspects of the market. Companies must evolve their working structure and should be agile and flexible to new changes. Having a solid foundation and the ability to incorporate further changes is the golden mantra of success.

She came to Skybridge Americas to lead some significant restructuring of the financial and accounting functions, from investing in new technology and systems to building infrastructure to designing new processes.

Laresa adds, “With every step I’ve taken, the driving mission has been to redefine what the accounting function means in order to support greater flexibility and speed of decision making at our most senior levels.”

She believes that sound ethics and integrity need to be at the very heart of every initiative. She adds, “At the end of the day, you need to know you have built something that ensures the information you present, both internally and externally, is as accurate and clear as it can be. When you do that, the payoffs are huge. Yes, you see quicker closes. But you also strengthen your reputation as a beloved brand, a trustworthy partner to clients, and a great employer.”

She states that the company cares for all the employees as they are the driving force to pave the way to the top. She adds, “Always care about your employees, not just as a team but also at the individual, human level.”

She encourages the team to stay focused on the bottom line and keep a keen eye on how they are using their resources to get to that bottom line.

To compete in the market and mark their presence, she states, “Keep a wide lens on the market, your competition, and how your organization is doing within that market. Takedown the silos and build strong, collaborative bridges across all functions, at all levels within the organization – and with our clients’ CX teams.”

Life as CFO and a leader

Laresa takes the onus for every financial aspect of the company. She adds, “I guess you could say that anything with a dollar sign attached to it is my responsibility. That said, I’ve never had a “regular day at work.” This is a very dynamic work environment, and there are so many things going on.” She even calls herself tenacious at work as she feels the only thing that helps her get all tasks done is her ability to dig in and stay super-determined.

Being a passionate and driven woman, she also sometimes succumbs to the usual trappings of work.  She states, “Are there temptations to procrastinate on things that are less exciting or pleasant? Of course, there are. I have been tempted to procrastinate from time to time. But then I face it, I do it, and I move on.” Working swiftly to resolutions and settling everything with finesse is essential in a fast-moving environment. She adds, “You really cannot be a successful leader without committing to being completely mentally present and engaged with the whole company.”

She gets a lot of satisfaction in aiding others and helping them to grow professionally and personally. She adds, “I cannot even express the enormous satisfaction I feel when our employees tell me what they love about working here or that I’ve had a positive impact on their life in some way. The other day, a team member who was moving on took the time to write me a note, expressing gratitude for her experience here. She told me that I’m a role model to her and that I’ve taught her so much. Could there possibly be any higher recognition than that? I don’t think so.”

Being a successful leader, Laresa believes that nobody can define anybody’s boundaries. People should believe in their character and traits, especially young aspiring women. She adds, “My message to women, in general, is to never let anyone define your capabilities or potential by your gender. You are a businessperson. You have a lot to offer, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about Skybridge Americas.”

She further adds, “A lot of contact centers have reputations as burn and churn factories. They recruit to fill seats rapidly, treat their agents like commodities, and those seats function like revolving doors. In stark contrast to that, at Skybridge Americas, our entire staffing model is about hiring enthusiastic, people-oriented, high potential individuals who want to build a career here. That’s how we recruit. That’s how we onboard and train. And that’s how we fill our supervisor and management positions.  We prefer to promote from within.”

There is a plethora of women today who want to re-enter the workforce after an absence or start a new career path. She says, “Skybridge Americas is a place with virtually unlimited growth opportunities. We have women throughout the leadership of the company, and that is the message we are trying to get out more forcefully.  This is a place where you can be part of a vibrant team and where you can grow.”

Achieving work-life balance

Laresa believes that achieving a work-life balance in her life played a crucial role throughout her career and helped her stay committed to the business.

She adds, “Without balance, a person will eventually burn out, and that does not help the individual or the company.  Family time is how I recharge my batteries. My family life is very important to me. I love spending time with my husband and son. We cannot travel now, of course, but we have always loved exploring new places together, and until we can travel again, we just enjoy each other’s company.”

With constant support from her family, she tries to grab new opportunities and excel at her work. Moreover, she motivates her team to grow together and exploit new heights on the professional and personal front.

Future plans as CFO

Laresa believes that the key to paving the way to the top is to evolve with time. Doing the same things will never result in new outcomes. She says, “You need to look at what is happening in the marketplace and constantly be asking, what do our clients need? What do their customers want? What trends are emerging in new technology? How can we deliver the best services and experiences?”

She further states, “I see Skybridge Americas continuing to grow, defining ourselves by superior product and service offerings, but also by remaining committed to our firm partnership orientation and our commitment to being a stellar employer. We really are a boutique call center, serving a truly unique type of client. In other words, we’re just not about bums in seats. Our clients trust us because we strongly embrace their brand mission and values – and we deliver a brand-centric experience to their customers.”

There are unlimited possibilities for expanding the range of services that they offer. She adds, “Case in point, with SkyAI, our conversational artificial intelligence system, we deliver unparalleled customer experiences and bottom-line efficiencies for our clients. But we haven’t even touched the surface of what we’ll be doing with AI in the future.”