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Laura Tanner, vice president of legal at Progrexion, saw the company go from having its best financial years in 2021 and 2022 to brushing up against financial headwinds in the first quarter of the following year. That was coupled with an adverse ruling in a matter with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that led Progrexion laying off nine hundred employees and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Those organizational shifts would be enough to make even the most seasoned leader hang their head. Not Tanner. As Progrexion, a technology-enabled credit repair business, heads into a new chapter and reexamines everything from its structure and processes to its compliance efforts, Tanner has approached the new terrain with a “start-up mentality,” she says. Though her team has gotten a lot smaller and has taken on a bigger workload, Tanner says it’s been an opportunity to break down siloes and to grow closer with colleagues from other departments.
“We’ve literally had to revamp, rethink, and overhaul everything the business does. In addition to figuring out the best way to comply with the order we agreed on with the CFPB, we’re trying to trying to work as collaboratively as possible between departments to make sure everyone is following our overall initiatives and working as closely as possible,” she reflects. “In times like these, we can’t afford to have adversarial relationships or any acrimony; you all have to be working together. It’s been really refreshing to see how people are willing to roll up their sleeves and try new things.”
Tanner tries to foster that kind of collaboration by reaching out to her colleagues a lot more and spending additional time talking to people inside and outside her department.
“It’s a lot more time having discussions with people who might be fearful of what’s happening, who might not have anywhere else to go and end up in my office, and it’s always a welcomed conversation,” the leader says. “My catchphrase to them these days is ‘We’ll get there.’ It’s been tough but we’ve got the right team, we’ve got the right initiatives, we know our service is good, we know the customers need us, so there’s no reason why we’ll fail.”
To make the most of some of those conversations, compassion has been a key.
“People think legal is scary and that anytime they have to talk to a lawyer, they might feel it’s a bad thing,” she says. “I try to approach conversations with people from a one-on-one personal level rather than an authoritarian one. It’s like, ‘Look, I get it. Nobody wants to come talk to the lawyers but here we are, so let’s resolve this problem together.’”
Tanner is looking forward to what’s in store for the first quarter of the new year, when the company aims to come out of bankruptcy. She’ll be focused on keeping legal connected with its business colleagues.
“I want to keep legal in a position of intense collaboration with other groups. To a degree, legal is one of those teams that sort of gets isolated. Not because of what we do but because some people don’t understand what we do,” she says. “It’s a lot better if we’re friendly and have the opportunity to access risk and counsel leaders on where we can help as they move forward.”
Before coming to Progrexion, Tanner had served as an environmental consultant for fifteen years and decided to come to the company for a new challenge. She started as a head of contracts and went on to help save the company around $200,000 in just a year in the role. That opened the door for her to become head of litigation and assistant general counsel, roles that prepared her to be the leader she is today.
“The best part of those roles is you get to understand the fundamental operations of a business at a level that most people don’t,” she says. “Typically in an organization there are siloes in each department. Marketing knows what marketing is doing but they probably don’t know what their effect is on finance, HR, legal, and IT, for example.
“From a litigation perspective, you kind of get that full exposure, which helped me think through the bankruptcy and compliance with the order we have as a result of the CFPB settlement,” she adds. “It also gave me a chance to get to know people from all the different areas of the business, so it makes collaboration a whole lot easier.”
There’s no formula for being able to navigate the kind of changes Progrexion has in the last year, but Tanner has tips for where one could start.
“Do your best to find the people who support you through the process because you have to have people around you when things go so hard, when you can’t really see the end of the road. Build your support team,” Tanner says.