June 1, 2012

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Article

CFO of the Year

Di Lewis, Heather Stewart, Sarah Ryther Francom

June 1, 2012

“The market volatility for a CFO translates into smaller margins for error across the board,” Black says. “Hitting projected numbers, managing cost, scrutinizing returns scenarios, building strong capital market relationships all become even more important than usual during uncertain economic times.”

Because he comes from a banking background, Black says he approaches finance a little differently than his colleagues might.

“I have always looked at myself as more of a business partner to the executive management teams and boards that I have worked with throughout my career,” he says. “A large percentage of my time has been spent on strategic planning and assuring that the company has the capital needed to meet or exceed it objectives.”

He also credits much of his success to his team. Black says working with good people is always key to success, and he remains close to people from previous finance teams. It’s so important to him to have a good group to work with that Black says his advice to new CFOs is to “surround yourself with smart people.”

He adds that new CFOs should under-promise and over-deliver, especially when it comes to people outside the company. They should also try to overhire for open positions when possible.

Taking his own advice seems to be working. Black has been a part of driving Vivint’s growth. The company rebranded from APX Alarm in 2011 and moved into three new lines of business. Within a year, Vivint became the market leader in home automation and solar businesses, as well as coming in second in residential security.

Private, Medium

Jeff Ipsen
CFO, Wheeler Machinery Co.

As a company that plays a vital supporting role in the construction industry, Wheeler Machinery was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession. The hard times forced the company to make tough decisions, including painful layoffs, but these decisions would set the groundwork for post-recession growth and expansion.

“We were growing so fast prior to the recession that we actually had a difficult time finding qualified technicians to work on our equipment. Then all of that changed almost overnight,” says Jeff Ipsen. “We are taking a much more conservative and measured approach to growing out of the recession. The cost reductions we put in place to manage the business through the trough have generated significant cash flow, allowing us to reduce our overall borrowing costs. Now we are in a position to invest in capital improvements and inventories for future growth.”

Ipsen says 2009 was the low point of the recession for Wheeler Machinery, and since then the company has experienced a 19 percent increase in total sales, a 20 percent increase in gross profit and a 1,614 percent increase in net income.

In 2007, his team worked with a private rating company to secure an investment-grade rating for Wheeler Machinery, helping to hold down its overall borrowing costs—essential for a capital-intensive company that relies heavily on working capital and long-term financing for heavy equipment sales, rentals and parts inventories.

Ipsen has been with Wheeler Machinery for nearly 17 years. He earned an accounting degree from the University of Utah and says, “I considered accounting to be the language of business and that appealed to me. I felt accounting would be a great foundation no matter where my career path took me in the future, and that has definitely turned out to be the case.” 

In fact, he says the role of the CFO has evolved tremendously. “Gone are the days when the CFO only provides financial reports on stale data. Keeping financial score is not enough. A CFO is an advisor, consultant, analyst, mentor and strategist.”

In this more strategic role, Ipsen worked with his safety group to implement new safety rules and facilitate safety training for every employee. “In 2011, we experienced our first year of zero lost time injuries. This means every employee went home to his or her family healthy at the end of every day,” he says. “That is more important to us than any financial performance.” 

Private, Medium

Brent Rowser
CFO, Pedersen Worldwide, LLC (Del Sol and Cariloha)

Brent Rowser has played a critical role in the growth of Pedersen Worldwide, the parent company of Del Sol and Cariloha. During his nearly 15-year tenure as CFO, the company has grown from a single store to more than 140 locations throughout 26 countries. His sound fiscal management and strategic risk taking has been vital to the company’s success, says Scott Brady, associate vice president of communications.

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