As a child playing in the schoolyard, I remember being the last one picked by the team captains. I was not the best or fastest but I was certainly very capable. One day I focused, tried my best, and made an outstanding play that everyone remembered and talked about. I learned a powerful lesson: always give it my all if I want to exceed others’ expectations and be recognized for my abilities.
Over the years, involvement in community initiatives and programs that range from tax preparation for the elderly to renovating a battered-women’s shelter to coaching a Little League youth program have helped define Jose A. Torres.
As Director/Corporate Accounting Controller for SimplexGrinnell, a Tyco International Company, Torres is more than a numbers cruncher for a company that is a leader in fire and life safety, with one million customers.
Torres’ commitment to others and his community run deep, due in part to his challenging life events. “When my family moved to New York from Puerto Rico, I was 13 years old and did not speak English,” he recounts. “I was determined not to let that affect my academic success—taking extra assignments and working with my teachers after school.” It was all a part of the commitment that he’d made to himself on the playground: to give it his all.
Torres has been faced with numerous obstacles during his career life—and lessons learned early have served him well. This was especially accurate when he took an unpopular stand regarding a new travel and entertainment reimbursement policy. “The company needed stricter expense controls, but I understood that it would be difficult to implement,” Torres explained. “I knew the change in policy was necessary and effective in reducing costs, yet I stood firm.”
The result was decreased costs by more than 35% over a two-quarter period and was thereby successful in achieving the objective. “The experience strengthened my confidence and taught me the criticality of managerial courage,” he said.
The leader of the team of 20 accounting and finance professionals said, “The most critical behavior a leader must exemplify is a positive attitude and commitment.” Torres believes that one of the most important aspects of team building is “energizing people around you to do their very best all the time.” He attributes his team’s success to the culture he has tried to foster through leadership. His leadership has made his deserving team a top-performing finance organization with the oversight of the $2 billion company enterprise.
According to Michele Kirse, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of SimplexGrinnelll, “Jose has been a key driver in identifying and implementing best practices and improvements in financial processes and controls throughout our entire organization.”
Lessons learned from his father and other life experiences have made an undeniable difference in his success. Torres explained that his father was very influential in his career choice. With a high aptitude in math, he was encouraged to pursue accounting. His choice was further solidified by a summer job performing various functions in a Controller’s office. “I have learned that the art of influencing others is about your ability to build professional and personal relationships based on genuine trust and respect,” Torres expounds. “One of the proudest moments I’ve ever had was when I received my CPA license a few years later.”
“Although my professional and family responsibilities often limit my availability, I remain dedicated to my community and often seek opportunities to contribute my time and energy,” Torres continues. Yet, he remains active in numerous organizations that directly impact others and his work, including serving on the Boston College School of Business Alumni Association, Tyco Accounting Policy Advisory Council, Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, and Tyco International College Recruiting Program.
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2009 Eagle Award winner Jose A. Torres.