Coffee Chat with Greg Williams, CFO

As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the January issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Greg Williams.

Greg joined Capstone at the onset of the implementation of the Capstone Companies’ succession plan when CDP was formed in December 2011. Greg says that he has been a geek for a long time, having a career path that has included IT consulting and reaching Partner status at a regional accounting firm where he worked on mergers and acquisitions. He brings a calming presence to any discussion he may be placed in and is driven by the mantra of, “In a difficult situation always under-react because you can always do more but you can never do less”. When Greg is not on phone calls with our 3rd party insurance providers, brokers or owners, or reviewing the company’s financial reporting, you can find him on the beach somewhere along the Florida panhandle.

Greg Williams, Chief Financial Officer

Bachelor of Science, Accounting & Information Systems
University of Alabama Birmingham, 1984


Where are you from originally? I was born in Selma, AL and when I was about 6 or 8 weeks old, my parents moved our family to Birmingham, AL for a new job opportunity for my dad who was an engineer/technician for local TV stations.

Did you enter college immediately after high school? Yes, I started in engineering on a scholarship and loved the math and science courses, but hated the level 1 and 2 engineering courses that studied the history aspect of engineering, that were completely boring. After 1 year of college I left and joined the U.S. Air Force. I served for 1 year of active duty followed by 5 years in the Air National Guard.   While in the Guard I went back to college, where I ultimately earned my degree in accounting. As you can imagine, after a year of active duty, I was a little more mature when I enrolled in college again.

Did you live on-campus? No, at first, I lived with my parents and then I moved into an off-campus apartment community. At that time, UAB did not offer a significant amount of on-campus housing. They had some family housing but access was really limited and the inventory was mostly small, independently owned complexes. It was fine to live at home, rent free, which allowed me to cover expenses that the scholarship did not.

Did you work during college? Yes, I worked at Golbro Distributors, they were a catalog distributor before Wal-Mart moved to town. I sold cameras, electronics and sporting goods, and during the Christmas rush, I sold jewelry. However, my ability to sell the jewelry consisted of taking it out of the display case for the customer and putting it on their finger, but if they had any real questions they asked the certified associates. I was an accounting tutor my last 2 years of college.

Do you recall what your favorite class was in college? Absolutely. It was a 400 level Psychology class called Marine Animal Behavior. The class was funded by a Government grant and basically allowed me to go down to Perdido Bay and work on a shrimp boat counting the fish species and types in the bay – and I got a grade for it! Of course, after you caught the shrimp you had to boil it and have a beer. Oh, I’m sure you learned some lessons from it that you apply to your work today. Yes, don’t pick up live crabs!

Before working at Capstone, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had? Before joining Capstone, I was a partner at a regional accounting firm. I’m a fixer, it’s what I do. So, I got to interact with a lot of people who got into financial or tax trouble for various reasons, and I helped them figure out a way to get out of trouble or to resolve it. Some people asked for advice before they got into trouble, but most people came to me after they were already in trouble.  I had a large publisher client that was New York-based so I spent a lot of time in New York and traveling across the country with the various entities they were either buying or selling. I did a lot of merger and acquisitions with them. Through the publisher client, I even got to meet Paula Deen!

Right after college, I joined Ernst and Young’s Birmingham office and worked there for 10 years, where I traveled the country doing IT work. I got to travel to several places including Africa with DelMonte and I spent about 8 weeks in Kenya doing IT consulting.

I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with a lot of good groups.

Do you have a favorite quote? Yes, I have a few. “You can’t control what other people do, only how you react to them” and “In a difficult situation always under react because you can always do more but you can never do less”. As you can see by these I am generally a calm person.

In my work at the regional accounting firm, the clients that were the most difficult or demanding were often shifted to me because if you put a reactionary person with a reactionary person it’s just not going to work. I’ve found that you can get most people to come around and be a little more settled, but it takes time and patience.

In your role, you’re often not in the front-of-house working directly with our higher ed partners, you are in more of a role where you are meeting with our 3rd party partners. Is there anything that you encounter on a consistent basis with our insurance providers, debt underwriters, equity investors or non-profit owners that you think could be improved upon for the campuses that we serve? Yes, that’s correct, a lot of the time I’m not too involved directly with our University client or partner. I am, however, a participant on a lot of calls to provide guidance for accounting and compliance. Bruce often calls me the “promise keeper”. I ensure that we keep all the promises that we make and that our team makes sure others keep their promises. One thing that I see consistently across a lot of the 3rd parties that we work with is the need for education about our company and business model. Capstone is different. We are actually not totally in it for the money, although in certain cases money is obviously a measure of success. We have to work to show our 3rd parties that we’re trying to find the best solutions and best transaction structures for our university partners. As Mike Mouron is often quoted, “we cut the pattern to fit the cloth.” When our third-party providers get it, that these Universities / Colleges are actually our partners, it is then that we are able to fashion the most optimum solution for all.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? My favorite place to go is the beach. So, I’d go to the beach with my wife, sit on the sand and contemplate life. My favorite beach used to be Mexico Beach in Florida, but it was hit by a Category 5 hurricane a few years ago. I’m happy with going to the panhandle of Florida. The beach doesn’t necessarily get better the farther away you go.