Episode 9

Going Beyond the GC Role: COO Genessa Stout on Organic Growth

Episode summary

Introduction: 00:00 

  • In this episode of The Abstract, Tyler Finn, SpotDraft's Head of Community & Growth, interviews Genessa Stout, COO and General Counsel of Tally, a fintech company aiding consumers in paying credit card debt.

From rural roots to plaintiff-side law at Hagens Berman to CFPB: 01:14

  • Growing up on a farm and starting a legal career.
  • Going from being the receptionist to an attorney at Hagens Berman.
  • The journey to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and getting involved in consumer financial issues.

Early days at CFPB: 05:41

  • Laying down the foundations at CFPB.
  • Navigating government processes without having the authority from Congress in the beginning.
  • Learning the importance of talking to consumers and understanding their issues to motivate yourself, better serve them, and improve your lawyering.

Transitioning from CFPB to in-house at PayPal: 08:30

  • The importance of understanding problems from different perspectives.
  • Shaping a better marketplace for consumers by making businesses ethical.
  • Shifting perspectives and evolving approaches to consumer advocacy and problem-solving.
  • PayPal's contribution to consumers’ lives and enabling online transactions.
  • Navigating Venmo's growth and enhancing consumer experiences.
  • Adapting to regulatory changes, legal challenges, and opportunities in a high-growth start-up and environment.

From PayPal to a multidimensional leadership at Tally: 13:42

  • The journey from initial hesitation to embracing the role of the first lawyer and COO at Tally. 
  • Encompassing a range of legal matters, including lending licenses, regulations, and trademarks.
  • Organically growing your role within a company and going from legal counsel to leading the people function as well as different functional areas.

Fostering trust and heading people and operations functions at Tally: 16:45

  • Building trust in a start-up environment through hands-on partnership, providing practical support, and offering thought leadership beyond purely legal matters.
  • Establishing credibility and rapport with your team and other executives through collaboration and involvement in various aspects of the business.
  • Organically taking on functions and responsibilities that follow the evolving needs of the business.
  • Building leadership and team dynamics at Tally.

Navigating non-legal leadership roles and learning curves in other functions: 19:14

  • Focusing on hiring skilled professionals to lead and support those functions.
  • The importance of having a working understanding of different functions to effectively support and collaborate with them.
  • Learning continuously and expanding the leadership horizons beyond legal.
  • Different podcasts Genessa listens to.

Building culture as a GC and a COO: 23:30

  • The dynamic nature of culture and adapting organizational values over time.
  • The top-down influence: Leadership's role in shaping the culture of the company, and leading by example.
  • Instilling the values of the company within the employees.
  • Modeling positive habits and behaviors to shape your team and your company's culture.

Transitioning from GC to different business leadership roles: 27:07

  • Understand the business from various perspectives to gain better insights into its workings.
  • The importance of not staying in your lane and going beyond the role of a lawyer to expand your scope.
  • Grasping different groups' priorities and the overall business structure.
  • Taking ownership of complex issues and being willing to tackle challenging tasks others may not want to.

Advice to young attorneys: 30:45

  • Take up tasks, regardless of personal preferences, and own them with enthusiasm and commitment.
  • Strive to excel in every assignment even if it may not initially seem glamorous.
  • Approach challenges with a positive and determined mindset, focusing on delivering the best possible results.

The evolving role of the GC: 33:04

  • Lawyers possess both systematic and creative problem-solving skills.
  • The GC role has the potential to bring significant value to businesses and can be a true business parter.
  • The need for the legal function to evolve beyond being seen as solely a resource for complex legal questions.
  • Being an integral part of the business, contributing to its growth and development.

A book recommendation and insight into what keeps Genessa motivated: 35:00

  • A must-read book is ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins.
  • Genessa's personal background and family's financial experiences drive her commitment to improving the consumer financial space.
  • Her motivation stems from a desire to deliver great work, build exceptional teams, and enjoy a collaborative environment.
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Tyler Finn
Head of Community & Growth, SpotDraft
Genessa Stout
COO & General Counsel, Tally

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