In the aftermath of his mother’s untimely death, nineteen-year-old Richard Fernandez had to grow up quick. He went to school and worked full time while taking care of his elderly grandmother, who helped raise him when his father died over a decade earlier.
He was charged with a sense of responsibility that not too many of his peers had.
“I lost my father at four and my mother when I was nineteen, so I was basically an orphan as a teenager,” he says. “Going to school, working, and taking care of my grandmother built the foundation of being responsible and working hard. Everyone was doing different things in their lives, but my older brother and I were just trying to get by.”
As he navigated those tough times, he also journeyed through the early stages on his finance career. His mother, who worked at a tractor company in the accounts payable department, helped Fernandez secure an entry-level accounting position before she passed. There, he learned about audits, dealership financing, differential, and other foundational concepts that prepared him for the workforce following his graduation from Florida International University.
Despite the challenges he faced, he went on to have a successful career as a financial professional, helping to open a new international sales division for a multinational media company in the US, and to develop programs and systems that improved organizations’ financial health. In 2013, he decided to bring his expertise to Great HealthWorks, one of the largest vertically integrated direct-to-consumer powerhouses in the country that prides itself on its cornerstone product, Omega XL.
“I was attracted to Great HealthWorks so much because they provided a product that actually makes a difference in people’s lives, which gives me a certain gratification, that I do something that changes their lives,” says Fernandez, who currently serves as CFO. “It also requires a heavy responsibility because these are products people take that reduce their pain and inflammation. If you have any problems in the supply chain, it’s really disruptive, but I enjoy taking that on and making sure our customers get what they need.”
He also was drawn to the company’s team-oriented culture, which aligns with his collaborative and lead-by-example leadership style.
“We believe in building strong teams, giving them autonomy to make decisions to the best of their abilities,” he says. “I never ask anyone to do something that I won’t do myself. I’ve always tried to lead by example and when you have a team who sees that in you, it’s easy for them to support you and your vision.”
Fernandez says his vision for Great HealthWorks’s financial future is to position it to continue developing impactful in-house products while expanding to international markets and forging relationships with celebrity endorsers. This year, it has already made strides in those areas, working on products geared toward customers with sleep troubles and those with pets. The company has developed plans to outsource its production studio and is expanding its reach toward Mexico and Puerto Rico. Also, it has gotten buy-in from the likes of Ana María Polo and John Walsh.
In addition to those efforts, Fernandez and his colleagues are focused on preparing the company for the future from an innovation and technology perspective. They recently added upgrades to their Oracle ERP system and Domo, a reporting tool that leverages machine learning to develop business decisions through analytics. For the CFO, these are the kinds of initiatives that are vital for growth.
“In today’s environment, implementing more technology into our company helps drive the decision process quicker without increasing human capital,” he says. “We can take on more with less.”
Fernandez has no shortage of advice he’d like to share with the next generation of leaders, but one is “to do what you say.”
“Constantly hold yourself accountable,” he advises. “It’ll always keep you sharp and it’ll keep you self-motivated. Also, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Focus on the process. As long as you take care of the process, the goal will organically be achieved, and you need to be able to communicate that vision too.”