Hawaii businessman still learning at 71
|•||Full interview with Henry Montgomery|
Q. How did you decide on outsourcing when you decided to launch a new business?
A. Hawai'i is 90-plus percent small business. We have virtually no unemployment and it's an ideal environment to have a firm that provides these services on an outsource basis. Our services are superior in virtually every case to the in-house alternative. That sounds like hyperbole, but it isn't. I'm a big-company CFO by training and experience and we deal with our clients as though they were part of a large company. They get that kind of capability and service and responsiveness for a small-business cost. It's just kind of a confluence of things. Plus, I have terrific co-founders and employees here. It's just a wonderful, exciting and fun place to be.
Q. Is outsourcing a competitive field?
A. It is competitive and, of course, to be successful you must provide true value, not only in terms of the cost of the service, but also the quality and exceeding client expectations. All good businesses are competitive and I welcome that. I started another company in California 20 years ago that does this and it's doing very, very well. So it is competitive and that adds to the challenge. If it wasn't, there would be a monopoly.
Q. You have a long and extensive business background. Can you briefly go over it?
A. It's so long because I'm old. ... After graduating from Miami University, I went to New York and worked in public accounting with Arthur Andersen and my large client ITT. Then I went to consulting with McKinsey & Co. in both Europe and the United States. I worked with an investment banking firm for a while, but got the chance to go to California in the electronics industry, Silicon Valley, and spent many years there. I was fortunate enough to come to Hawai'i and start to live here a few years ago. I sold my home in California three years ago and became a resident of Hawai'i in '06. I've just had a terrific time here, gotten very busy with private companies and with some charitable opportunities, in particular the magnificent Honolulu Symphony. I'm on the board there and I'm acting treasurer. Now I'm on five private boards here and also three public accounting boards that I've been on for many years.
Q. When you came to Hawai'i, were you planning to retire?
A. Yes. I did a terrible job of retiring. If I did that badly in other things, I'd be on the street.
Q. Why didn't you retire?
A. There are just so many interesting things happening today. There's the Internet. It has opened up things in a manner that you couldn't have imagined. And you've got here, in Hawai'i, this opportunity to build startups. If you are a high-technology company, your investors can obtain tax credits. I'm a member of the Hawai'i Angels and an active member of their management committee and an Angel investor and very excited about it and what that means for Hawai'i. It's just a time of tremendous innovation opportunity. This is a wonderful state in which to be a business person, contrary to popular opinion.
Q. You're 71. Over the years you've had to change as technology changed. Has that been difficult?
A. As a director of public companies, I have to maintain a skill set in both corporate government, but also in accounting and financial management because I'm chairman of all three audit committees and I'm chairman of two of the boards as well. So it's a constant learning exercise, which I enjoy. But in terms of my own firm, we have adopted all of the benefits of the Internet and the availability of quality software that enables us to very cost-effectively provide a superior and professional bookkeeping and accounting and financial reporting, and financial management, and that's a whole new model. We also have a subsidiary in Manila, which is part of globalization. We have such a great professional team of CPAs and other financial professionals there. How can you not work when there are so many good things going on that are so exciting?
Q. Do you have a timeline or set of goals for MontPac?
A. I'd like for us to have a vast clientele that does nothing but applaud the work of these wonderful people. We don't do CPA-type work; we do only in-house accounting and I would hope to roll all those up into a larger company and perhaps we could become a public entity. That would be the ultimate expression of success for us in terms of financial market acceptance. We just want to be known as one of the great companies to work for and to do good things and to contribute to Hawai'i.
Q. Do you have a business philosophy that has guided you all these years?
A. Absolute integrity, caring, hard work, professionalism, contribution. That last one is what drives us all. I want to make a contribution and I want my firm to make a contribution to all of the places in which we provide services and to our clients. I really hope to do much, much more with the charitable organizations here, which need so much support. I'm focused right now on the symphony. The city deserves a great symphony, it has a great symphony and it needs to support it.
Q. How do you balance all of your activities?
A. I get up early and I tend to work pretty long hours. But it's all interesting. It's not work. If it were work, I couldn't do it, but it's just plain fun. It's very satisfying. After all these years of trying to figure out how to do things in life, how to be an accountant, how to be a bookkeeper, how to be a financial executive, it gets a little easier. But the fact that it's easier means that you really ought to be doing more of it so that others will benefit.
Q. Do you ever see yourself really retiring?
A. No I don't. I can't see retirement. I can see focusing more on doing the volunteer work. I think that as long as your health is with you, there's really no reason to quit. I'm very good at sitting at my desk, so that shouldn't wear me out, hitting the computer keys. I'll be 72 in February so I've only got two more years on the board of Swift Energy Co., which is a big New York Stock Exchange oil and gas company in Texas. They have an age limit. So bit by bit, many of the activities will not be available to me simply because I'll get older. The travel can be a little tough. I just got back from the Bay Area where I was at board meetings, and I head for Manila Tuesday, and those are not without their demands. But it's OK. It sure breaks up a month.