Noreen Beaman | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Noreen Beaman


Brinker Capital is an investment management firm based in Berwyn, Pa., that serves individual investors, advisors and institutions.

The Mistake: 

When I was in my early to mid-30s, I was CFO for Brinker Capital and [then] went into a sales position. I had made a large sale with a client, and instead of putting all our deal terms in a contract, I did a handshake. I was overconfident, and I wanted to make the sale.

Because I was a CFO prior to going into the field, I was given a lot of latitude. I felt that I didn’t need to follow the rules; I thought that it would all work out. I was naïve. Everyone knows you should never make deals on handshakes, especially a long-term commitment in the investment business.

So I closed the deal, and as luck would have it, it blew up. After that, I had to go back and clean that up. I had to face the client and tell them that we couldn’t do what I had promised all along, and they weren’t doing their side of the street either, so we had to part ways. More importantly, it put me in the penalty box.

I should have been fired. No one would have thought that I would have made a decision on a handshake.

I had to face the client and tell them that we couldn’t do what I had promised ... I should have been fired.

The Lesson:

There aren’t any shortcuts. I had expected sales to be easier from an outsider’s view looking in. Thinking that the role was easier, I created a shortcut. I had to actually work hard at sales.

The skillset you have in one role doesn’t always translate into the same skillset that you need in a new role. You have to constantly be a student, and you should have humility as you approach different roles.

If I give someone a new role or responsibility, I ensure that we put the right resources around them. I don’t make a judgement that, because they were successful in their prior role, they don’t need the same rules and structure that any new professional would need in their new role.

As I approach new opportunities, I ensure that just because I’ve been successful at something else doesn’t mean that I don’t need to do some more homework. I’ll approach it as a learning opportunity. You have to approach your interactions with others from a position of being open to new ideas and, more importantly, input.

Follow Brinker Capital on Twitter at @BrinkerCapital.