Business conditions change over time and across regions, but finance professional Dan Freiman '94, MBA '04, says one thing remains constant. "Building relationships is key, as is going in with understanding and respect," he says. "That goes a long way and is a constant process."
Putting people first is especially important when managing global teams, part of Freiman's job at NII, a multinational telecommunications company operating in select Latin American markets. The work requires Freiman to collaborate closely with staff across Latin America, including through monthly trips to the region.
"You have to appreciate the differences between cultures and go in having a true understanding of how they are both different and similar," says Freiman, a 1994 accounting graduate and 2004 MBA graduate at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Over his 17 years with NII, Freiman has cultivated his ability to connect across borders. He says relationship building is a critical component of global mindset. "There's a human element to of all of this," he says. "It's important to get to know people and the challenges they are facing."
Today, Freiman is the vice president and chief financial officer of NII, which has recently shifted focus to Brazil. He is responsible for leading the overall financial management of the company, including financial planning and analysis, accounting and reporting, capital structure and liquidity, taxation, investor relations, corporate development and internal audit.
"As CFO I want people to feel open to having a conservation with me because when people aren't fully sharing and open with you, that's a problem," he says.
Having a team in Reston, Virginia, and a team in Brazil is a challenge. "We have people who are 5,000 miles away in a different time zone, country, culture, running the business day-to-day," Freiman says. "But we are one team."
Over time he has learned a lot about the best ways to work across borders to ensure that NII's employees are aligned. "The team in the U.S. and the team in Brazil value what each other contributes," he says, which is a something that was built over time by ensuring that everyone had clear roles and responsibilities and through constant communication. "It's important to build and foster this mindset," he says.
Another important ingredient for creating a strong team dynamic at NII has been building trust and credibility, which Freiman emphasizes must be demonstrated. "You don't earn it right off the bat," he says. "You have to earn it."
Freiman also credits relationship building for his success fostering trust and credibility with one of NII's lenders in China during a time when the company was renegotiating its loan. Freiman and his colleagues initially found operating in China challenging due to culture differences. "We spent a lot of time patiently working with our bank partners," he says. "It was important for us to understand how they operate because it's easy to be frustrated if you don't."
He realized that to achieve the best possible outcome for NII, it was necessary to understand where their Chinese partners were coming from and what they needed to feel comfortable with to renegotiate the loan. "We had to be respectful of their process," he says. "Pushing too much might have seemed like we weren't being respectful of this process."
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.