A person who comprehends the needs of the clients and makes efforts to bring the best for them, defines the true leader. Even though industries are filled with many impeccable leaders, only a few have successfully attained the stature of being self-made. One such passionate self-made leader is Amy C. Cross, Chief Executive Officer at StillPoint Capital, LLC.
Her unique approach to business and her ability to create opportunities has always been unconventional. She has tremendous perseverance and operates with strength, sincerity, and candor as she follows her gut instinct.
She runs her firm as CEO and has a phenomenal team that has taken years to assemble. She takes pride in the firm’s corporate culture as they operate with transparency, honesty and integrity in all of their business dealings. The company’s accolades speak for themselves as they have also facilitated over $8 Billion in transaction value in just the past 5 years.
A Glimpse into Amy’s Journey
Amy started her career on Wall Street in 1990, when she was just 19-years old. Even then she was acutely aware of the posturing and the lack of genuine sentiment around which some of the worlds’ strongest people and companies operate. It wasn’t until later in her career that she realized that their behavior was actually the intended consequence, if not protocol, for many of those people and companies. It simply baffled her that anyone could think that that posturing could be more powerful than sincerity. “It was then that I learned how little sincerity there is in the world, in business, and let alone on Wall Street. I decided that I would always come from my heart, listen to my gut, and I would be different. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.” stated Amy while describing her further endeavors.
She continued to let her hard work impress anyone who would notice, and by 1992, she became an Index Option Market Maker on the floor of the American Stock Exchange [AMEX]. By 1993, she was the fastest promoted woman to the ranks of Index Option and Equity Option Specialist on the AMEX.
She traded on the floor, and later became an ETF Specialist. She then traded for herself as a limited partner in a boutique-trading firm as an ETF Market Maker until October 2001, the month after 9-11. She was across the street from the World Trade Towers on 9-11, and the AMEX was closed for a month in the aftermath. It was a horrific day for her, and she lost eleven friends. The anniversary of that date still brings back difficult memories for her to revisit. During her 10-year trading career, she was among the first to do live broadcasts from the trading floor for major networks such as CNN, CNNfn, BBC, ABC, and live Wall Street- related streaming Internet broadcasts.
“When asked how I did it, I reply, “By not giving up”
“During those years in trading, I also opened businesses in NYC in my personal time. I believed in my ideas and their potential success so completely that I lived modestly and I invested every penny I made in the business models that I built. That said, I ultimately, ended up losing everything after the internet market crashed and my investors lost the majority of their net worth. It was tremendously impacting and shifted my outlook completely. You might say that I began to grow up! On the heels of that loss, followed by 9/11, my husband at that time and I decided to move to the Tampa Bay area in January 2003. I was excited to start over and was looking forward to a slower pace and starting a family,” Amy asserts.
Amy met her first business partner in StillPoint at a coffee shop the day after she moved to Tampa. Together they learned about Mergers and Acquisitions [M&A] of privately held companies and how to raise capital or conduct Private Placements. As they succeeded in business, they learned that there was a gaping hole in their industry for independent investment bankers, such as themselves, and decided that they would become the industry solution.
She states that her business partner was actually the “money” partner and invested the funds they needed to launch and run the company, and she was the “sweat equity” partner. As she put it, “I drew the short-straw in all decision making for the firm which is why I was forced to learn about securities compliance. Otherwise, I would have never considered it.”
“We launched StillPoint in 2004 and I began to work on a business model that our regulator [the NASD at the time, now FINRA] ultimately, and begrudgingly, approved in 2005. So, I literally built the business model that created the industry niche in which I work to this day,” says Amy.
Some Life-changing Incidents told by Amy
- My first big business failure in NYC rocked my world on every level and had me sincerely doubt my entire belief system for the first time
- Being “there” on 9/11 and the PTSD that ensued was life changing
- Marriage and divorce both had some of the biggest impacts on who I am today
- Becoming a mom, and single mom, both naturally and through adoption, has changed my entire outlook on life and family and the work-related balance
- Particular battles I have fought in business have continued to mold me as a person and a professional and reinforce who I am
What it Takes to be a Good Leader?
Amy was clear that she could not imagine a leader who could be easily rattled. She also said that she could not imagine believing in a leader that she could not trust. “I also could never follow a leader who did not challenge me or provide for exciting upside or stimulus of some sort,” says Amy. Nor could she believe in a leader that did not give back to her community or causes that are important to him/her. She believes in all of these things to her core and has become the leader that she can believe in and would follow.
“I know that there are many leaders who are far more successful than I am that do not possess these attributes, and I cannot speak to that. But I am clear that those are the attributes that I would need to see in a leader and those without which I could not lead.” Amy adds.
In our current times, technology is not a choice- it is imperative. “When I was first trading on the AMEX, I was hand-writing my BUY/SELL tickets for every trade, and then we were given our first hand-held computers. At that point, everything changed on a dime! Yes, I know, I continue to date myself! Did I mention I am only 48?” Is that old?” [Amy chuckles to herself]. “In order to operate as efficiently as possible, technology is an inevitable component of the business. Without it, not only would you fail your clients, due to increased human error, reduced efficiency, etc., but it would also put your firm at a tremendous disadvantage in the marketplace. I just don’t see it as optional anymore.”
She makes it a practice to hire very tech savvy people to do the research and recommends the technology that would best support the firm. Everyone at her firm has unbounded growth opportunities. This keeps her team excited and facilitates their collective spirit.
Dealing with Volatile Markets
Amy explains that before COVID-19, the world operated in a way in which we expected it would, specifically with respect to everyday activities such as travel, retail, education, medical attention and even communication. As of March 2020, COVID-19 changed the world. She feels that she, every entrepreneur, and business owner must be nimble, openminded and well informed. Otherwise, “The marketplace could become a tsunami that very well may wipe out those who are sitting stagnantly.”
In times of crises, teams, staff, support people all look to their leaders for guidance. While each leader is also learning the information at the same time as their team, they still look to them for answers or solutions, and their leaders need to have them. Therefore, continual re-evaluation of business models as dynamically as things change is absolutely critical. There will always be hard decisions that need to be made during every new worldaltering event … decisions that weren’t even conceived of just a few weeks before, and it is essential that leaders provide that evolving, dynamic and creative support to both employees and clients.
Advice to Rely On
Amy advises that before venturing out as an entrepreneur, one must make sure that they are so passionate about it and want it so badly that they don’t feel that they have another option. Because all businesses and business owners are tested, so you need to have that passion at the onset in order to get through the hard times. Amy adds, “It may take a while to get it right, and then it may take a while for the market to catch up with you.”