Cover Story: Jane Mason, CEO of Clarifire
Being nimble, and ready, set Clarifire on a path to success during the biggest crisis, in recent world history
Jane Mason was raised to be an effective communicator and was intrinsically curious from an early age. People that know her can attest to that fact.
Mason, founder and CEO of eMason, doing business as Clarifire, says the recent COVID-19 pandemic sent a message to companies around the world, which was, ”If you don’t think you need to consider automation, you’re wrong.”
Clarifire, based in St. Petersburg, is a workflow automation company that works predominately in the financial services and health care industry, two of the hardest hit and crucial industries that can only survive with the processes that are automated during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re automating the intake of forbearance requests from borrowers. It is a major impact. If you can imagine taking 120,000 requests from customers in a month, and processing them, and getting them all approved using technology,” Mason says. “Using the entrepreneurial spirit is what we’ve built in our trusted relationships with our customers, we’re able to make a big difference for, I believe, the industry, and society, because these consumers are truly getting rapid relief.”
It is a period that let companies that invested in automation act more effectively and efficiently, and those without may have left those who needed swift action, in the proverbial dust.
“I’ve been preaching that you need to have your process automation in place in order to future-proof your organization. because you never know what disaster is coming,” Mason says. “And there are different types of disasters. This pandemic is a new form of natural disaster, right? And future-proofing, making sure that when things go bad, you have processes in place, will counteract it.”
Mason emphasized the need to be prepared. Her staff was able to pick up and move to a remote setting within a day.
“The worst possible scenario always has to be kept in the forefront. We do business continuity tests every year,” she says.
The message she gives is clear. “Be smart and be prepared.”
Being prepared is a part of Mason’s nature. She was a curious child and grew up to be a critical thinker and an innovative entrepreneur.
“I was brought up by overachievers,” Mason says. “And they were always interested in effective communication and kindness.”
Mason’s parents were notorious for opening their home to people from all over the world, which led to an appreciation, and acceptance, of people from many different cultures, Mason says.
“It was a really cool way to grow up. And I try and keep that near to my heart, as I work in business,” Mason says. “Because in business you meet all kinds of people, and I wish more of us were more kind and gave other people opportunities, to try and bring out the best in them.”
Mason graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in business, and after graduation, her family established a law firm, Mason Law.
The firm was designated by Freddie Mac as a government-sponsored enterprise-designated counsel as a result of the efficient processes in place.
“It was because of our drive and the quality of the work we did,” Mason says. “We set the standards for the country on how to deliver legal services in a timely, and quality, manner. If you can attract big entities like that and have them be proven partners, and still talk about you today, you have to feel good about that. It was all about process and the delivery.”
Process and delivery—two overarching themes in Mason’s story of success. With an eye for efficiency, and providing a good quality product, it wasn’t a surprising leap for Mason to go out on her own and create a brand unique to herself.
Mason had an idea to create software to assist with, you guessed it, process and delivery. She believed there was too much overhead and too many attorneys at the firm doing the same work, over and over again. She thought there had to be a way to streamline some of the processes.
“Too many people were not looking at it in the big view of the company. I said, ‘We’re going to push this to the web,’ ” Mason says. “This was 15 years ago. It was game-changing for the legal industry at the time.”
Fifteen years ago, when Mason started her technology space journey, women were overwhelmingly absent from the C-suite in that industry.
“They were extremely challenging days, but thrilling” she recalls.
In 2006, Mason got a call from Bob Caruso who was, at the time, the president at Bank of America.
He had gotten wind of the automation product Mason was creating and wanted to see it for himself.
“I said, Bob, it’s not done. He goes, ‘Well, we’ll finish it together.’ Now that’s a sign. A huge company is looking at an entrepreneurial woman saying, I want to be involved and I know whatever you’re doing is good,” she says.
While it was a significant win for Mason, she still had hurdles along the way.
“I would walk into some meetings and people would look me in the face and ask where my CEO was,” Mason says. “I would just say, she’s standing right in front of you. I had to navigate it. And I tried to navigate it brilliantly.”
Mason is married and enjoys cooking and spending time with her family on the water in their boat. She says she used to have people over, before the days of quarantine.
She also plays tennis and at least is attempting to learn to play golf. She’s not seeing a lot of success there, she admits with a laugh.
One thing she is more certain of is her love of her alma mater.
Mason is a passionate supporter of the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.
“I try and make a difference there because it’s a smaller campus and I feel like I can I communicate with the people that work there and the student base,” she says. “Also with USF Health, we’re donating Clarifire to bring technology to their curriculum.”
In addition to her own philanthropic interests, Clarifire team members also work together to give back.
One of the company’s favorite nonprofit organizations to volunteer for is the Ronald McDonald House, where they purchase groceries and cook for the families.
“You can see the results of your work, which I think is very important for our team. Anybody can write a check, but it’s another thing to get in your car, go to the store, cook a meal, deliver it to someone who’s looking at you, who is so thankful to have any sort of attention, let alone a good meal,” Mason says. “That’s what we try to do. Whether we go to clean up the beaches or we go to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and learn how to feed all of those cute animals.”
Clarifire, which has 70 employees and had revenue of more than $10 million in 2019, is expected to double its scope, as automation demands are expected to increase.
“Our developers are working around the clock. They’re jazzed because they’re making a difference. They feel really good about what we’re doing,” Mason says. “There’s just such an energy that has come out of this terrible, terrible situation.”
As her company grows and continues to adapt, Mason’s core beliefs will no doubt continue to guide her. Do business with kindness, communicate effectively and follow through on your promises.
“I always look people in the eye, for who they are, and I care about my communication and how it impacts them,” she says. “I feel that kindness has helped me because people still come back. They remember that I remembered their name, they remember that I paid attention to them across the room and they were saying something that everyone else was ignoring.”
Mason says it’s all about the lessons she learned from her parents: Handle yourself with grace and style.
“I’m streamlined ’cause my processes are running smoothly. It’s that inherent curiosity, and a desire to solve problems. You have to know yourself, know your organization and you have to use technology.” ♦