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7 Questions with Stephanie Alsbrooks Hanson
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Stephanie Alsbrooks Hanson
Name: Stephanie Alsbrooks Hanson
Current title: President
Current organization: Tricolor Financial
Prior to Tricolor, I founded and led an auto lending software company (defi SOLUTIONS) to 100 team members, 100 clients and over a $100M valuation. We merged with one of our competitors in 2019. Prior to that I was fortunate to have an amazing career in finance and technology (at places like AmeriCredit, Sixth Gear and Think Finance), meeting lifelong friends and learning so much along the way.
I live to organize chaos. Whether it’s the chaos of traveling with a family of seven or the chaos of
starting a new company, it’s just the excitement I need to feed my soul.
I also live to give (back). A collaborator, helper and problem solver by nature, I love to give back with time, money, talents or a listening ear. I am never short on opinions or creativity!
My top strengths are Communication, Command, Arranging, Achieving, and Responsibility, which is fitting since they each start with the letters in CAR and I have been in the Auto industry most of my career.
On a personal note, I have five kids ages 15-22 and one Bernese Mountain Dog. I LOVE playing all card and board games. I host a monthly poker game. I have my real estate license and have been doing that for 16 years, helping friends and family save money whenever I can. I visited all 50 states in three years with my two girls while I was a single mom and am now on a seven-continent adventure with our blended family of seven. Needless to say, I love travel and crazy challenges. And I volunteer weekly at a guinea pig rescue (you read it right!) and at our church in finance classes, counseling and blended family classes, among other things.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging thing as a CEO was constantly trying to keep balance - between doing and leading, between home and work, between travel and being in the office. It's quite a juggling act!
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I founded defi SOLUTIONS in 2012, after spending most of my career in auto lending. I certainly didn't do it alone. Two friends and colleagues believed in the idea and invested early. And multiple people were there to help with advice and brainstorming.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Things are much calmer now that I'm not a CEO anymore, the kids are older, and my husband is retired and home more. In early defi days, I would say there wasn't much structure. Each day was a combination of work and home. At noon, I may be on a plane, or a business lunch, or picking up the kids from school. Each day was unique to what was needed. In general, I like to workout 3x a week in the morning. I don't like to set work hours, I enjoy being able to work at 1 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
In reading Romans this month, it reminded me of the importance of being a servant leader. To lead, and teach, and be confident, and engaged. But also be willing to serve and help and be in the trenches with the team.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I hope the Bible has had the biggest impact! But when building defi, I loved the book Scaling Up because it made me feel like I wasn't alone and I wasn't crazy. In later years, the Hard Thing about Hard Things was a great encouragement to keep on. Oh and most importantly, before starting defi, I read the Masterplan by Steve Dulin, which was incredibly impactful.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I'm probably not the best to answer that. defi was at 100 people when we merged, adding 500. I didn't have the privilege to lead the larger group. And I am currently building a new business, so the team is small. Overall though, I believe it's important to focus on each person's strengths, offer training, provide great mentorship, and show and be flexible!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I think the biggest AHA I had was at a conference where there were only two women (both of us were from defi!). I won't go into the story but when I heard the speaker it became very obvious to me how important it is to have diversity on an exec team and board. Our worldviews are so different and having a variety of opinions leads to better decisions.