An Aggie ring can open a lot of doors, but a firm handshake and good eye contact can make sure they stay open, explains Michael Tedder ’91, CFO and founding partner of Red Gap Communications. Once inside a company, an employee should be prepared to invest time in getting to know as much as possible about the company and its culture. “The ability to develop things and build relations count,” he told a group of Business Honors students recently. “On my first job, I was promoted in two years – and I haven’t really slowed down since. The key, I think, is that I am always open to learning new things.”
Tedder’s nontraditional career path has taken him from small companies to large, from privately held to public, and from improving existing processes to developing new products. He warns that accounting in the real world is not as simple as the classroom assignments given in college might indicate. “There is a big difference from doing a project in school and facing a deadline for a big transaction at work,” he says. In school, I wish I had learned more about the legal side of things, the contracts. I took a couple of legal classes, but I didn’t learn to cross-reference that with accounting. I learned that by doing it.”
Tedder says his confidence has sometimes shocked his employers. He interviewed for a position, then found out the company had hired someone from Princeton. “I told them when their Ivy League guy couldn’t do the job, they could call me. A couple of months later, they called me because that “Ivy League guy’ couldn’t do the basics, the fundamentals to bring the company from Square Zero to success. I let my work speak for itself.”
In his spare time, he is mayor of Dalworthington Gardens and plays adult-league baseball in the Arlington, Texas, area. He was elected as an alderman in 2003, then in 2006 he unseated a 20-year incumbent for the mayor’s spot after figuring out a solution to high water bills. “I figured we could raise taxes and lower water bills, and not have any impact on the residents. Then I pulled my old governmental account book off the shelf, and I kept it handy for a while.” He negotiated oil and gas contracts so the residents could get the same contacts as the city got.
Alison Savage ’17 said she learned from Tedder that interactions are key in the business world.Â “Though grades matter a lot on scoring a job, it is ultimately your personality and how you connect to that person that will score you a job,” she recalled. “I also learned that you have to ask questions. The more questions you ask about the job you are doing or even just about the company in general, the better businessperson you will become.”
Tedder advised the students to be assertive when they are seeking a job — to go visit companies they are interested in and to seek internships. “If companies have opportunities to check them out, or if you can make those opportunities, do it. Site visits are great. Talk to the people. Interact with them to get a real feel for the environment.”
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.