Bryan Skelton worked in Deloitte’s Nashville offices and two health care companies before joining Educational Services of America Inc., where he became executive vice president and CFO in 2006. Since he joined ESA, which provides programs to K-12 students at risk of dropping out or with special needs, the company has seen student enrollment grow by 12 percent and EBITDA grow by 52 percent.
What is your biggest challenge as a CFO? The biggest challenge for me as a CFO has been learning to be a better listener and improving my communication skills. Listen first, then speak. It’s easier said than done.
Describe your leadership style. My leadership style is very direct. Most of my colleagues know my positions and opinions; however, I’ve tried to model servant leadership more so in the last few years, which I believe comes with experience. Hopefully, I’m quick to praise a job well done and discretely provide direction when improvement is needed.
What is your favorite personal luxury or biggest splurge? It used to be golf, but then Keri and I kept adding children to the family! These days, it’s all about family and the children’s school and sports activities. I also enjoy coaching little league baseball.
What does your CEO do that makes you nervous? CFOs like control and predictability by nature. Mark Claypool embraces collaboration, innovation and new ideas as well as anyone, so I have to be on my “A” game in order to keep pace with his creativity. He is passionate about reaching more students and growing the company, which I greatly admire. I often joke that his job is to hit the gas pedal and mine is to occasionally tap the brakes.
How has your focus on preservation vs. growth changed in recent years? I’ve hopefully learned to live more in the moment. I used to be so concerned about five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road. Faith and family have helped me understand that living in the present is the most important thing and that I can’t control the future. That doesn’t change the CFO’s responsibility to assist the CEO in strategic planning and forecasting, but it does create a lot less stress to live more in the moment.
What is next for your company? Our company will continue its organic growth strategy focusing on building new partnerships with public school districts, but with careful consideration to strategic tuck-in acquisitions that complement our mission to educate nontraditional learners.
ESA CEO Mark Claypool congratulates Bryan on his win: