2022 Champion Award Winner

PROFILE OF A CHAMPION: SignatureFD

Relentless Curiosity on the Journey to Generosity

SignatureFD and its CEO Heather Fortner were nominated and selected by fellow Georgia business leaders as a goBeyondProfit Champion for their relentless curiosity to lead better. This curiosity has delivered more impact for their clients, employees, communities and the industry as a whole.

“The reality is that your job as a leader is to leave this community better than when you got here,” said Heather Fortner. “And if you aren’t doing that, if you’re just living by status quo, I would offer that’s not leadership.”

Excerpts taken from the interview with Heather Fortner, CEO, SignatureFD

Company Values As a Mirror for Leaders

I remember many years ago looking at the results of the annual employee surveys and wondering why my name didn’t come up as a leader in the generosity segment. That concerned me. And so it was really a pivotal moment for me as an individual. Why was I not seen that way? At the end of my life, I can be known as relentless. I can be known as ambitious. I can be known as someone who always gets it done, who laser focuses on a goal and gets there. I can be known as all of these things, but what do I want to be known for?

Relentless Curiosity

When you have people aligned to your perspectives and you have people aligned to your values, and you have people, quite honestly, that want to make the type of impact that you yourself want to make, all you have to do is create the space for those people to lean in and magic things happen. And that’s what we did. We just created the space. We started asking some questions. We focused on relentless curiosity of, what are other firms doing? What does it mean to be generous? What does corporate generosity mean? How are we focusing on generosity with our clients? What are we doing internally? And ultimately, what came out of that was a challenge.

Leading Through the Pain Points

I think there’s always short term pain points and for a new CEO, one of those very short term, scary pain points was going to your board and saying, “I want to plug the bottom line with a hundred thousand dollars donation, and I would actually like to ask for 5% of revenue above our budget.” Making those types of asks is not easy. It’s probably easier to make the ask than it is to be sure that you can actually sell the vision. There’s a weight there as a leader of being able to translate the idea that you have and that you believe in and that you think others will buy into and then actually bringing it to fruition. There’s some courage that’s required there and sometimes that’s a little scary. I don’t know that other CEOs would sit there and use the word scary, but that’s how it felt.

What Do You Want to Be Known For?

My personal motto is love and lead well and quite honestly, I don’t think you can do one without the other. And so you have to be bold. You have to actually take the time to get yourself educated on what the issues are that our community is facing, because the reality is that your job as a leader is to leave this community better than when you got here. And if you aren’t doing that, if you’re just living by status quo, I would offer that, that’s not leadership.

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