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The year 2023 has been an amazing one for Attentive, the world’s leading conversational marketing platform. The team helped more than eight thousand brands globally send over twenty-nine billion text messages.
The company unveiled Attentive AI, enabling marketers to deliver more personalized experiences to their customers. It also expanded the platform access internationally to more than twenty countries. These accomplishments and more led to world-class recognitions, such as landing on Deloitte’s fastest-growing technology list for the third year and Forbes’ top private cloud software list.
That kind of growth can only trickle down from a strong and collaborative culture at the leadership level—one that Tony Aponte, chief accounting officer and treasurer, and Natacha Giai, senior vice president and global controller, have helped to shape in their respective roles. Culture is foundational to their team’s success within the back-office roll of accounting—which they refer to it as “silent success.”
“When everything works out well in our back-office functions, there is blissful silence, meaning there are no issues that impact our key stakeholders,” Giai explains. “That’s exactly what we want, and we strive to continue that. We can help by building a strong foundation, making necessary changes in step with the business, and doing whatever’s needed to enable and support the company.”
Before Aponte joined the company in 2022, Giai had been laying the building blocks for that vision for two years. In 2020, she brought her decades of accounting and finance expertise to the global controller role when Attentive was much smaller and building from scratch. She was not only drawn to the company for its innovative products, but also for the passionate people who stood behind them.
“It was the fact that the company was a community and that the team came first, which are values I learned throughout my life,” Giai says. “I’ve seen how important people are in every stage of my development, from the immigrant community that supported me when I came to this country twenty-five years ago, to the teammates I have today. You’re never alone. I’ve been focused on bringing that mentality to my work because it’s way more powerful. When a problem comes, we face it together.”
That’s how she and her team, which consisted of less than five members at the time, built the systems and processes the company would need to scale. Aponte, who had worked at Ernst & Young for almost two decades, saw what Giai and her Attentive colleagues were building and wanted to be a part of it. From the very beginning, the leaders have not only shared similar leadership responsibilities but values as well.
“I think being genuine and leading by example are big parts of the culture that Natacha and I bring to our team,” Aponte says. “If you are not genuine, your team will see through it right away. Additionally, leading by example is critical as the team looks to you to set the right example. We’re very fortunate to have great team members who drive our culture and enable the company’s success every day.”
Since they formed their partnership, there has been no shortage of initiatives that the two have tackled together. But both agree that supporting Attentive AI, which launched in March 2023, is the most exciting initiative for the company. Attentive AI allows its customers to generate copy and images for SMS, create images for email, automatically schedule SMS campaigns, deliver hyper-relevant conversations with SMS subscribers, and more. Both leaders are excited about the ways Attentive AI can drive more personalization and revenue for brands.
“At Attentive, our goal is to do the hard work for our clients when it comes to personalization, so we can deliver even better results for their business,” Giai says. “As a company we believe AI is going to be instrumental in who we will be in the next year or two.”
Aponte and Giai have advice for young people wanting to succeed in their careers. Aponte encourages others to be intentional about what they want to achieve.
“Success is defined differently for every person, but being intentional and realistic about your goals will help you create your own definition. It also helps to get great mentors and sponsors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; I have had so many people help me along my career journey and am thankful to all of them,” he says. “When I first joined Attentive, people like Natacha and others were incredible sponsors and helped me integrate into our business quickly.”
Giai advises not to be afraid of making mistakes.
“Learning about what you don’t want to do or how you don’t want to approach something is just as important as knowing where you want to be,” she says. “Those learnings often get people frustrated, but keep in mind that those efforts are not wasted.”
Ingredients to a Strong Culture
As cultural architects, Tony Aponte and Natacha Giai know some of the most effective ways to build a strong culture in a high-growth company. Aponte says it starts with instilling trust in your team as a leader, which is foundational to a healthy culture. That stems from assessing the current team culture, rather than coming in with a preconceived notion. As one builds genuine relationships with their team members and across the company, this will provide helpful insights into where they want to make enhancements and focus their time as an executive.
Giai adds that diversity is also very important and enables their team to tackle issues from different angles. Being a diverse leader is an innate advantage to appreciate different thoughts and ideas and always have respect for what others bring to the table.
CrossCountry Consulting is a leading provider of specialized finance, operations, and technology advisory services. As a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies, emerging growth market leaders, and private equity sponsors, the firm solves today’s most pressing challenges and creates present and future enterprise value through tailored integrated solutions for accounting and risk, technology-enabled transformation, and transaction solutions. CrossCountry is proud of the partnership we’ve forged with Attentive’s Tony Aponte and his finance team as we help them tackle complex accounting issues, and look forward to our continued collaboration as they grow. For more information, visit www.crosscountry-consulting.com