Originally published on Atlanta Business Journal by Melanie Lasoff Levs – January 27, 2022
To set an example of taking care of the planet, Nneoma Njoku scooters 6 ½ miles to her West Midtown office, the U.S. headquarters of Labrador, a France-based communications company specializing in corporate compliance. Njoku joined Labrador (U.S.) as general manager in June, and draws on the leadership lessons she learned growing up in Nigeria shadowing her entrepreneur father in business meetings.
What led you to your career?
My father has served as founder, general manager and managing director of several companies. I grew up attending board meetings with him in Nigeria, and I’ve always wanted to follow in his steps. This, coupled with my decades of experience in the financial services communications industry, where I saw firsthand how important transparency was for companies looking to build their reputations, made joining Labrador as the North American general manager the perfect opportunity. The vision and infectious passion of our founder, Laurent Rouyres, was also instrumental in my decision.
Who was the biggest influence in your career?
My father taught me leadership and compassion, fearlessness, business acumen, and courageous authenticity. He is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies and is a mentor to many. I had a front-row seat watching him navigate challenges in tough economies, develop solid relationships with his employees, vendors and clients, and ultimately become an admired leader. He is a natural teacher; the complexities and problem-solving that go on behind the scenes become a teachable moment at the dinner table, around the fireplace, or over a phone call.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I am a storyteller at heart, whether that story is financial, extra-financial or otherwise, and I get to do that for a living. I also joined an existing team at Labrador of dedicated, talented people who share my values and commitment to our clients. It’s satisfying to know that everyday our clients reap the benefits of their award-winning advice.
What is the biggest challenge in your career or job?
The biggest challenge is keeping pace with the speed of change in the corporate disclosure industry. We [at Labrador] are consistently challenged to simplify complex information, stay on top of trends and find ways to help each client’s story stand out.
What’s the hardest business lesson you’ve learned?
Don’t wait too long to make a decision you know you’ll have to make because it’s painful or difficult. Just make the decision and move forward. Not all decisions are easy, but when you know it’s time, you owe it to yourself and others involved to be decisive.
What goals do you have for Labrador U.S. this year, your first full one in this position?
My goal this year is to push companies to raise their transparency score. Everyone benefits when more companies are transparent: investors, employees, the companies themselves. It’s not to suggest that businesses are attempting to hide information. Instead, it’s a question of how they disclose it. It’s a balance between compliance and accuracy, readability and simplicity. A company’s disclosure presents a unique opportunity to create value and build a strong relationship with stakeholders.
You mentioned in a statement that corporate stakeholders require more transparency today. Why is that?
Today, we are seeing a surge in demand from stakeholders for transparent reporting to help them understand the risks and opportunities when evaluating a company. Companies that transparently report information have a clear competitive advantage over those that do not. Clear, concise reporting helps create long-term corporate value, provides another way for investors to measure a company’s value, demonstrates solid risk management, and creates goodwill with investors, customers and employees. Disclosures today need to be precise, accessible, comparable and easily available. Stakeholders, including investors, are looking for straightforward explanations of business issues.
What should companies be disclosing that they perhaps have not before?
What are the best, most efficient ways for companies to put forth information? One of the biggest trends in the U.S. is the increased scrutiny of public companies and their records related to environmental and social issues. In fact, the [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, also known as] SEC is working to propose compliance regulations and disclosure rules for ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance. It is not enough to say that you are a sustainable company or to have a company statement regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Stakeholders are looking for proof, metrics that pinpoint the success of ESG and human capital management initiatives. While currently not mandated by the SEC, ESG reporting is becoming critical to a company’s reputation. Like all corporate disclosure documents, these reports need to be written in plain language and use visuals to help investors easily find and retain information.
While your company is based in France, what makes Atlanta a good place for its U.S. headquarters?
Atlanta has a strong commitment to the business community and there are many public companies that have significant presence and/or headquartered here. And it continues to be an attractive place for Fortune 1,000 companies for reasons such as: ease of travel around the world; favorable corporate tax structure; and the great quality of life. What employer wouldn’t want that for their employees? There’s such a booming economy here in Atlanta, a highly educated and skilled workforce, and Atlanta is so diverse
Aside from pursuing an MBA, what other activities and organizations are you involved with?
I love the outdoors and spend most of my leisure time in nature. I will be celebrating a milestone birthday this year and plan on celebrating it with a triathlon, Tough Mudder [endurance obstacle race] or both. I also mentor some inner-city youth with Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School.
Born in: Austin, Tex.
Raised in: Eastern Nigeria
Lives in: Atlanta
Current job: General manager, Labrador (U.S.)
Previous job: Vice president, marketing and communications, Citizens M&A Advisory
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications, The City College of New York; expecting to complete a Master of Business Administration and Management from Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business in early 2023
Family: Husband, 13-year-old twins (son and daughter)
Hobbies: Cooking, being outdoors