In "Pass It On," AP beat reporters ask executives to share experiences and insights that will resonate with anyone managing a business.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz is Senior Vice President of Charles Schwab & Co. and daughter of its founder. The bank and brokerage firm is one of the largest in the U.S. Schwab-Pomerantz is a seasoned financial planner and financial literacy leader, having advised two presidential administrations on financial capability and written several books on personal finance. She also oversees Schwab's corporate philanthropy and employee volunteer programs.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self about managing people or running a business? What did you learn from your early mistakes?
A: Never underestimate the power of a strong network. Early on in my career, I was timid about networking. But as I slowly built my confidence, I started to develop a strong group of peers to lean on and get advice from. Also, don't be afraid to seek out a mentor. Not only will you grow, but people are flattered to be asked about their experiences, so it's a win-win situation overall.
Q: What have you learned about problem-solving over the years? What are the keys to tackling your most difficult challenges?
A: Never make a decision in a vacuum, and leverage your strong network of partners and colleagues. When I'm facing a challenge, I seek out people who might have a unique insight or different point of view from mine. If you start by listening, the path forward usually becomes pretty clear.
Q: How much do you pay attention to your competition, and what do you try to learn from them?
A: If you follow the competition too closely, you can get bogged down in the weeds. I try to stay focused on my mission, along with the right intentions, and don't pay too much attention to outside news. For me, that's a winning formula.
Q: What key things can a manager do in terms of workplace culture that separate a mediocre business from a high-performing one?
A: Something I'm proud of at Schwab is our workplace culture, which is centered around service — serving our clients and serving our communities. It's a purpose we all believe in and can be a part of, and that sense of purpose really does drive performance. I'm also a big believer in being inclusive. I want everyone — regardless of their background, role or level of seniority — to have a voice and feel heard. I hold a weekly informal staff meeting where everyone shares challenges or issues they're dealing with, and we all chime in with ideas and solutions. It's really empowering to know your opinion matters, and it makes people feel valued.
Q: What advice do you have for small business owners right now?
A: Entrepreneurs have to be so focused on building their businesses that they often forget about their personal finances. So try to strike a balance between making your business and personal financial planning equally important. I say it a lot, but it's important to remember you don't get a second chance at saving for retirement.
Q: How do you manage work-life balance?
A: I haven't yet figured out how to add more hours to the day, but I do believe that focusing on what's important to you, rather than just looking for an escape, can add dimension to your work that renews you. That's why I focus less on work-life balance and more on work-life blend.