Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked. Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations focuses on a successful woman in business and their achievements. The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In May 2021 we spend time with Alicia Cronbach. Working in the wine industry for over 15 years, Alicia has held general counsel positions at Treasury Wine Estates and Duckhorn Wine Company, guiding the regulatory integration of Treasury’s acquisition of the Diageo wine portfolio and Duckhorn’s integrations of Calera and Kosta Browne. While supporting those transactions, Alicia and Sarah Spiller, the firm’s Director of Compliance and Integration, saw an opportunity for a law firm focused on project-based compliance work, M&A due diligence, and integration planning. Alicia founded Cronbach Law Group PC in May 2019 to focus on steering wineries, law firms, and brokers through the complex maze of winery transactions.
A native Northern Californian who settled down in Napa, Alicia can often be found hiking in Tahoe, camping on the Albion River, or cooking meals with her husband Eli and son Will. As a former military and public safety spouse (Eli is a USCG veteran and retired Fire Captain), Alicia is passionate about causes that support military and first responder families. She also thinks that every lawyer has a secret superpower that helps them relax and stay grounded – hers is gardening and teaching the canning project for her son’s 4-H club.
How did you get into the food industry and specifically your current role at Alcohol Beverage Law, Napa, CA, Cronbach Law Group, Wine Deal Law?
Several years ago I was on a transaction team that doubled the size of the business in a single transaction. When I went to the external transactional firms on the deal with what I needed from an alcohol regulatory due diligence and integration planning perspective, I learned that it wasn’t an area of focus for them. During the debrief after the deal, I learned that there was this ‘gray space’ between compliance firms and alcohol beverage law firms that wasn’t occupied – my team and I nicknamed that gray space the ‘Industry Solution’.
The solution was a firm that would play in that space and help bridge the gap between the due diligence needs and the post-close integration planning. 50 states and 51 sets of rules (you can’t forget the TTB) makes for some complex playbooks and the need to constantly check the impact of deal decisions against business priorities and integration planning. While these conversations were going on, I moved from a publicly traded global company to a privately held luxury wine company and supported two more acquisitions as their first in-house attorney. The more I defined what this gray space looked like, the more I realized that the part of the deal I liked the most was making deals go more smoothly while keeping everyone’s priorities in mind.
A little over two years ago I called one of my former teammates and said ‘I think it’s time to build what we always talked about. I’m ready to jump – want to jump with me?’ Cronbach Law Group PC opened for business in May 2019 with just the two of us. As the firm turns two years old this month, we celebrated the firm’s growth by hiring three more employees in the first half of this year.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Personally, making the time to recharge my batteries and remember why I love what I do. Professionally, trusting my instincts while we were vetting the niche that we’d identified.
What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?
Short term to me means one to two years. In that time, I would like to re establish a workplace that is a mix of in-person and virtual work, respecting that while the original face time isn’t a requirement to good work, it is where a lot of our magic happens. I miss my team.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
‘What are you waiting for?’
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses – both contribute to who you are and can help or hurt you on your journey. And don’t be afraid to invest in yourself by hiring a coach.
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Show up as who YOU are, not as who you think others want you to be. Learn from good bosses as well as bad ones – keep the traits that resonate with you. Learn to listen with the intent of hearing what the other person has to say, not just for the sake of responding with your opinion.
One of the best compliments I have ever received was that I taught someone the value of choosing their fight wisely. They expected their lawyer to be aggressive in all things, all the time and were surprised and ultimately happy that I showed them how to pause and take a breath before choosing a path forward.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.