Michael Flaherty is a finance executive with 25 years of diverse experience in power generation and consumer products. Mike is a CPA with a B.S. degree in Accounting and an MBA from Duquesne University. He started his career with Westinghouse Electric holding positions in accounting, finance and information technology during his 7 years with the company. Mike spent the next 15 years of his career with Reynolds American and affiliates (maker of Camel cigarettes and Grizzly chewing tobacco) holding executive level positions in business development, operations and finance in Louisville, London, Amsterdam, Winston-Salem, and Memphis. After leaving Reynolds American, Mike returned home to Pittsburgh assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer for American Beverage Corporation (maker of Little Hug fruits drinks and Daily’s cocktail mixers). Within this role, Mike was charged with returning the operation to profitability and preparing the company for sale, which was successfully accomplished in March of 2015. Mike remained with American Beverage’s former owner (Royal Wessanen) until the end of 2015 leading the post-closing activities related to the sale of American Beverage and is now an independent consultant working with clients on business acquisitions and disposals.
Mike is a native of Pittsburgh’s east end and attended Central Catholic High School. He and his wife Lori have been married 24 years and have two children, Collin and Hailey. In 2014, Mike was named Pittsburgh Business Times CFO of the year.
Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
While working in London for British American Tobacco, I was a member of the mergers and acquisitions team. As part of this role, I had the opportunity to visit a number of areas most people never go. One such place was Sarajevo. Having at one point hosted the 1984 winter Olympics, the area was almost completely destroyed in the Bosnian War during the early 1990s. While the scars and hardship of the conflict were still very apparent both on the infrastructure and people when I visited in 2001, the hope of a better future was just as apparent. The people of Sarajevo were kind, friendly and engaging. They made me feel at ease and I never felt any concern for my safety or security while I was there.
What made you want to give back to the School of Business?
I think giving back to those who have helped you is one of the most important things a person can do. Duquesne University certainly made a huge difference in my education and career, and I would not be where I am today without the help of the staff and faculty of the University. As I progressed in my life and career, I was fortunate enough to find myself in the position to give back to the School of Business. In retrospect, I waited far too long to engage with the School. Every graduate no matter how recent can certainly afford to give back a few hours or a few dollars a year. While this does not seem like much, it makes a huge difference. When tens of thousands of graduates make small gifts of their time and money, it adds up to an overwhelming amount of resources for the University and makes a material difference in total. I would recommend every alumni participate at some level in the effort to help Duquesne achieve its strategic vision.
What is the best way to start the day?
Easy, with a positive attitude. If you start your day in a bad mood, harboring stress or anxiety, you day is only going to get worse. Each person controls their own attitude, positive or negative. If you surround yourself with positivity, things generally go your way.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a graduate business student looking to advance professionally?
Funny enough, every semester I give a lecture on this very topic in my Executive Insights class. The four key areas I emphasize to students are:
- Be a value added contributor — work hard, be dedicate, go the extra mile. It will be noticed and rewarded.
- Build relationships and networks both inside and outside of your company. You never know who or when someone can help you in your career and if you have pre-existing relationships that is critical.
- Be a team player, build up others and effectively work within different cultures.
- Be a leader — there are so few good leaders at all levels of business. Anyone with good leadership skills will raise to the top.
What is one of your favorite things to do in Pittsburgh?
There are so many great things to do in Pittsburgh. Being a native of the area and then living in other states and countries for 15 years before moving back home, I think I have a much deeper appreciation of the many fantastic things to do here. While enjoying great sports, special events, and the arts are easy answers, my favorite thing is eating. Pittsburgh is such a great food town and there are so many excellent restaurants. Tied for first place along with eating is having an ice cold beer at my favorite bar, Froggy’s in Bloomfield (full disclosure of a shameless plug, I own the bar along with my business partners).