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Atlanta C-suite views | Alison Rand

Alison Rand sits at a boardroom table

When Alison Rand (BSAc ’90) first came to the University of Florida in 1986, she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to study, but she knew she was ready to trade the snow in her home state of New Jersey for the Florida sunshine.

“I wish I could say [studying accounting] was my plan all along, but like most college students, even back in the 80s, I started off a bit clueless as to ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up,’” she said.

Rand had a general interest in business, but it wasn’t until she took her first accounting course that she felt like she found her niche.

“Back then, and perhaps now as well, financial accounting was considered a weed-out class, but it really clicked for me,” she said. “After taking a few more courses, I realized that with an accounting degree I’d leave UF prepared to start my career with a well-defined path to early success.”

As if looking into a crystal ball, Rand’s prediction proved right. After working four years in her first public accounting job at KPMG’s Atlanta office, Rand transitioned to a role in financial accounting in 1995 with her largest client – Primerica. After climbing the ladder to other accounting leadership positions at the largest independent financial services marketing organization in North America, Rand was named Chief Financial Officer in 1999 at age 32. In February, she celebrated her 25th anniversary with the company.

“My succession in Primerica was oddly fast,” she said. “In hindsight, [the succession] sounds almost crazy, but the newly named Co-CEO, who was a tremendous mentor throughout my career, saw in me the ability to successfully do the job. His support gave me the confidence I needed to start my CFO journey.”

While her title has been the same for 20 years, her role has changed dramatically, Rand said. After leading Primerica’s initial public offering in 2010, she’s added a lot on to her usual duties in financial reporting, accounting, treasury and tax.

“The nearly two-year process was perhaps the hardest, yet most rewarding experience of my career,” she said. “Since the IPO, I’ve focused on being a liaison to the investing community and educating the investing public on Primerica’s strong investment thesis. I am actively involved with product development and ensuring that we utilize our capital and other resources effectively to maximize shareholder value.”

With two decades of C-suite-level experience under her belt, Rand has learned a lot about how to be a stronger leader. Her biggest piece of advice to young women about leadership is straightforward – learn how to say no.

“Don’t fall victim to the notion that you have to be everything to everyone all of the time,” she said. “Women have a tendency to put way too much pressure on themselves to do so. Having a successful career, while also raising a family and being an active member of your community takes knowing what is and is not worthy of your time. Saying ‘no’ sometimes is absolutely ok.”

Learning how to trust your team goes hand in hand with being an effective leader, Rand added.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to be a good delegator and to trust your team,” she said. “There are definitely things that I’m the best at and need to do myself, but many responsibilities can be handled as well, if not better, by others.”

Rand believes women must accept that sometimes they’ll feel like they are giving more to their job than their family, and at times it will feel the other way around.

“The key is to keep your eye on the horizon,” she said. “Over the long run, it all balances out and in hindsight, you’ll likely find you did an amazing job at both.”

Rand shared a few other important pieces of advice for young women about leadership:

  • “Create a personal brand you feel good about.”
  • “Find champions both in and out of the workplace to keep you up when you are down.”
  • “Figure out how to divide and conquer.”
  • “Stand super tall – literally and figuratively – at 5 foot, 3 inches, you won’t ever find me without my 4-inch heels!”