A Memo To My Younger Self…

Dennis Cirucci, CPA

When I was asked to be a contributor to this new column in our publication, I thought, what a terrific idea! I was happy to accept the assignment and began outlining my thoughts, first recalling all the support I received from my family especially in the early years. Next came the new friendships I made through the years, many of whom were my colleagues. But most of all I remember how lucky I was to have so many wonderful individuals in my life at times when I needed them the most, and how much they taught me along the way for which I will be forever in their debt. I credit my success to my faith and the friendship and love of those who surrounded me.

Having a career spanning a half century as a CPA and banker I have much to be thankful for and I offer to my younger self and for your consideration some of the keystones to my success in the form of the following ten-point plan.

  1. When you first begin your career think of yourself as a sponge and soak up knowledge and experiences in every area possible, because you never know where you will want to end up…in short, think about that old adage, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” This was my plan and I did it well. In fact, I am still learning everything I can each and every day.
  2. Whether you realize it or not, you will likely encounter many potential mentors along the way. Be open to their methods and ideas even though you may disagree because they will help shape and grow your own vault of knowledge. Be grateful and acknowledge them, especially as you climb the ladder of success. In retrospect, I was good at recognizing and thanking my mentors but not as could as I could have been at embracing some of their ideas and methods. But all of them contributed much to my success for which I am truly grateful.
  3. Pace yourself. Try to view your career as a journey as opposed to a sprint. Being a dedicated and hardworking individual, it’s easier than you may think to burn yourself out. I came close to burning out twice but my family and mentors helped me recognize it and I was able to reset my priorities and get back on track. It’s different for each of us, but so important to your physical and mental wellbeing and your relationships.
  4. As you immerse yourself in your career path, don’t forget to find a balance between your work life and family life. One regret I will always have is allowing my career assignments to take priority over my family. For example, during tax season and also the dozens of IT conversions which I managed, I didn’t delegate enough and would regularly work late into the evening, even pulling all-nighters on IT conversions to make sure the bank could open live the next day. I should have leaned on my team more, especially the ones who were not married or didn’t have young children. I regret missing so much time with my children especially their special events at school, or just being there for dinner and bedtime.
  5. Embrace change every day. Don’t fear it. It keeps things interesting and teaches us a valuable skill – that of being able to adapt.
  6. Learn to be a good listener. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so try to listen twice as much as you speak. Aside from learning things you will show others you value what they have to say.
  7. As you engage with others, it’s easy to be critical of people who may have different views, methods and priorities. Be mindful of trying to understand their point of view and search for common ground. You may learn something new.
  8. When you reach management and especially the C-suite level, remember to hire the right people and get out of their way. Don’t be a micromanager, but instead build relationships and reporting mechanisms that keep you informed but allow others the opportunity to grow and succeed. I would always tell my new hires that when they succeed, they make me look good. There were no stupid questions, only ones that remained unasked and unanswered. Challenge your subordinates and find ways to reward them.
  9. My favorite saying and personal motto is, “Life is what you make it.” I remember as a little boy, my grandfather Dominic would say this to me virtually every Saturday night as I sat on his footstool by his favorite chair watching him enjoying his evening cocktail and talking to me about life. I never understood the true meaning until I was much older. As a professional I decided it was my personal goal to begin every day as a 10 and work down the scale from there, no matter how I felt or what was on my mind. I would not drain the happiness from my colleagues and customers. I once had an administrator that was set to retire after 15+ years with the company. The day she retired she greeted me as I arrived at the bank with her lovely smile and always asking how I was. I replied with a big smile and one of my many sayings, which on this particular day was simply, I’m fantastic, how are you? She said, well now that I am retiring I just have to ask you a question. She continued, all these years I have greeted you every day. You have never once told me you weren’t great, fantastic or some version of wonderful. I often wondered if in all those years, have you never had a bad day? I looked at her and smiled again and replied, of course I’ve had bad days…but does anyone really want to hear from the boss that he’s having a bad day? Rather, I take it as my personal challenge to spread happiness and good cheer to everyone at our company every day because it’s important to me that they are happy every day and, in turn, maybe through my example they will smile and spread happiness to coworkers and customers. She replied, “Well, it worked,” and thanked me for all the years of always being so friendly and thoughtful.
  10. As a co-worker, friend, spouse or parent, you will find that not every action, decision or remark is perfect. Even with the best intentions, problems can arise and feelings can be hurt. At some point in my late 40s, I recall having a particularly challenging day, which resulted in stress for me and others around me. It was then I decided that before I went to bed each night, I would reflect on the days events and do a self-evaluation to identify anyone I may have offended and if so, my first efforts the next day would be to apologize and make it right. This is one of the most satisfying things you can do to clear your mind, reduce stress and make others know you truly care. And the higher up you are in an organization the more meaningful it becomes.

The common thread through all of this advice is the road to success begins with a commitment to excellence by giving 100% in everything thing you do. The building blocks of excellence include learning to be a good communicator and listener, be sure to engage, adapt and be willing to try new things. Self-evaluate regularly, be honest with yourself and others, demonstrate integrity and be willing to show your gratitude to others. Finally, share your successes by finding ways to give back.

Remember, “Life is what you make it.”

Dennis Cirucci served as President/CEO of Alliance Bank in Broomall, PA prior to his retirement. Additionally, Dennis was a long-time volunteer on the PACB Board of Directors, served as PACB Chairman from 2013-2014, and was inducted into the PACB Hall of Fame in 2016.



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