Ed. Note-today I continue with my series of interviews with thought leaders in the compliance arena. Today, I post an interview of Jon Rydberg, CEO and Founder of Orchid Advisors.
Where did you grow up and what were your interests as a youngster?
I spent the majority of my life in Connecticut but lived in the Los Angeles area for approximately nine years. My wife and I moved back to the east coast in 2009 to be with family. Growing up the son of two teachers and a two-time valedictorian meant my childhood was destined to be focused on academics, leaving little time for other interests such as golf and soccer. My true childhood passion was entrepreneurship, only I didn’t know it at the time. My parents would say that I was good at generating ideas, starting a project and then losing focus only to do it all over again with another new idea. I guess you could classify my childhood to resemble that of a early-stage venture capitalist.
Where did you go to college and what experiences there led to your current profession?
My father was a teacher at the local high school. So, naturally that meant I had to attend the local preparatory school, Avon Old Farms. It was an incredible experience being surrounded by the best and brightest of student athletes and tenured professors. After high school, I received a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA in Corporate Finance from Bucknell and Rensselaer, respectively. And, I was only a few classes short of a Masters in Accounting before my career escalated and my free time for academic interests became hard to come by
How did my current career spawn from that? It likely began with my first job, designing packaging for explosive devices in accordance with DOT regulations. Shortly after I was managing R&D efforts for tactical weaponry that were destined for Aerospace & Defense giants such as Lockheed, Boeing and United Technologies. In the early 2000s I led the A&D industry segment a global audit and consulting firm Protiviti and had a similar client service role for Ernst & Young. Almost every product I’ve touched since day one has been subject to a federal or state regulation. Today, I am the CEO of a national consulting practice focused on Transforming the Compliance EcosystemTM.
You have worked both in Big 4 accounting firms and in corporations. What lessons did you learn from these different types of employment experiences?
#1 – The concepts of compliance, internal control and internal audit are too often misunderstood, including amongst top executives. Unfortunately, the concepts are thought of us impediments, not enablers, of high-end business performance or beneficial elements of the corporate governance structure – until it is too late. The Orchid team offers an open invitation to any person or firm that wishes to partner on our initiative to enhance the perceived value of these functional areas.
#2 – Achieving compliance, comfortably, means establishing it as an equal business metric to quality, safety and financial performance. Human nature will drive people to focus on incentivized areas, obviously. So, concepts like a ‘balanced scorecard’ add value to ensuring the long-term viability of the organization and protects owner interests.
#3 – Don’t be afraid of recognizing when help is needed, no one knows everything. Take the opportunity to learn from those who’ve seen both the good and the bad elsewhere.
You have worked with a variety of US governmental agencies. Are there any general guidelines that you can give the compliance practitioner to who might be presenting to or working with a government agency for the first time?
Yes, I think it can be summed up with my favorite phrase – there is a big difference between being compliance and having a compliance program. The point is, Federal and State agencies have a job to do in both establishing new legislation and then regulating it. The role of a regulator isn’t loved but there’s not much we can do about it. A best practice approach is to build trust, be honest and transparent and recognize that continuous improvement begins with a self assessment and ends with a written compliance plan.
What led you to found Orchid Advisors and how do you hope to change the Compliance EcosystemTM?
I had worked with a number of high-profile attorney’s on various compliance projects who knew the law inside and out but who had little practical implementation experience. It was clear to me that someone, or some firm, had to be created to bridge the gap between those who could recite the regulations chapter and verse and those who make and ship widgets on a daily basis. Orchid Advisors was launched to ‘operationalize’ compliance with a proprietary methodology called the Compliance EcosystemTM.
The Compliance EcosystemTM takes the concept of compliance (as a department or impediment to execution) to a whole new level. Much like the Japanese approach to manufacturing processes and total quality development, the Compliance Ecosystem embeds compliance control into: (1) Business strategy; (2) Corporate culture; (3) Process and technology; and (4) Continuous improvement. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of managing compliance not only within the four walls of your business, but also at your suppliers, distributors and other supply chain partners.
And, the beauty of our methodology is that it applies to every industry, any company size or structure and any regulation. That being said, our initial focus includes: Anti-bribery (FCPA, UK Bribery, etc.); ATF firearms compliance; ITAR compliance; Import / Export compliance and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
You recently released the book “Anti-Bribery Leadership”, authored with myself. Who do you think should read this book and why?
Our book is unique. As Matt Kelly, Editor of Compliance Week stated, “it isn’t Shakespeare and it’s not intended to be.” This guide is specifically designed to be short and laser focused for high-level corporate executives, board members and corporate attorneys. In 60 pages we’ve provided:
A list of questions that those executives should be asking their own organizations;
A compliance methodology accepted by the Federal Government;
Examples of high-risk areas drawn from our own Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations; and
Tools to govern the ongoing operations of the business.