The Power of Pitching In

When it comes to trying new things to get the job done, Martha Grizzel knows no fear.

Grizzel – executive assistant to David J. Mahmood, founder and chairman of Allegiance Capital Corporation of Dallas – has even driven a forklift at a past employer. She says she comes by this trait  honestly.

“My mother worked for Campbell’s Soup years ago. When they asked her if she could use a Dictaphone, she said yes, even though she had never done it before. And then she quickly learned how to do it.”

Grizzel’s fearless attitude and many other skills have endeared her to Mahmood for nearly 20 years. “Martha possesses administrative skills that don’t exist anymore,” he says. “She has computer skills, and she has the type of common sense that is hard to find these days.”

Mahmood is no stranger to technology. He studies the latest tech trends because at Allegiance Capital, a mid-market investment bank that specializes in selling small to mid-sized privately held companies, he needs to know what is shaping the future of business and industry. As a result, the 78-year-old serial entrepreneur is a prolific reader on topics such as artificial intelligence.

But when it comes to desktop computers, he reverts to the old-school ways that have served him well. And that’s where Grizzel comes in.

“Martha has been able to bridge the generation gap for me,” he says. “I compose memos in my head and then dictate them to her. She captures them in shorthand and does an impeccable job of producing the document and then distributing it in any number of ways.”

Grizzel will tell you she truly enjoys these types of tasks that have helped her earn the absolute trust of Mahmood and senior management at Allegiance. She’s been doing them for more than 30 years, since she became an assistant to the principal at her high school in Beaumont, Texas, even before she graduated. From there it was off to Lamar University in Beaumont to earn a two-year secretarial science degree and then to a progression of small companies, large companies like E-Systems and Texas Instruments, and some in between. It was at a small manufacturing company in Carrollton, Texas, that she learned to drive a forklift so she could help move pallets of the cleaning chemicals that the company manufactured.

Grizzel says her career at Allegiance Capital actually began before she was an official employee. She responded to a help-wanted ad and interviewed with Mahmood who then invited her to the company Christmas Party. “He handed out bonus envelopes at the Christmas Party, and he had one for me,” she says. ”I hadn’t even started working here.”

That type of recognition and inclusion has not stopped. “David will say that this place operates because of the good support staff we have,” says Grizzel. “When it comes time to celebrate big deals that the firm has closed, he invites the administrative assistants to attend the closing dinners.”

And the appreciation and admiration work both ways, Grizzel says. Because of the trust they have for each other, no project is too secret or sensitive for Grizzel to be involved in it. Add that to her eye for grammar, spelling and punctuation, and it’s not hard to see why she proofs almost every important document the firm produces. “I like to make David feel that I am here to support him,” she says. “I want to be that person he can count on in every situation. David dictates and I type it up. He can count on me to do these things so he can focus on more important things.”

Grizzel’s advice to other administrative assistants is to be confident in their abilities but always open to listening, learning and trying new ways to contribute to the success of the organization. “A lot of people need to learn that you earn respect from those you work with and for, particularly your boss,” she explains. The other side of that coin, she adds, is that when you work with someone you like, trust and respect, it makes all the difference.

“We complement each other very well,” Mahmood says of Grizzel. “She has been invaluable to me and to our business.”