Janine S. Creager
January 19, 2012
Growing up, Kent Thomas could go to bed whenever he pleased. Some people might find these parenting skills appalling, but for Thomas’ father, it was simply a matter of consequences. No matter what time young Kent arrived home, he still needed to get up early to work the family farm.
“[My father] didn’t care when you went to bed,” says Thomas. “He had no sympathy or empathy. ‘You could have been in bed at 10:30 like I was,’ he would say. The curfew was self-imposed. We always considered the farm to be slave labor, and that didn’t hurt my dad’s feelings.”
Now as CEO of CFO Solutions, a company that provides financial and accounting needs on an outsourcing/part-time basis, Thomas is putting those early lessons of making “smart decisions and [learning] the element of self-reliance” to work. He is as demanding of himself as he is of others, hiring people who are “disciplined, [people] who I can trust,” he says. “I don’t have my thumb on them every day . . . As a result, we enjoy a great reputation and relationship with our clients.”
Since founding his company in 1996, Thomas and his team have served more than 400 companies ranging from startup firms to businesses with more than $100 million in annual revenues.
“What I like about outsourcing and being CFO with a number of companies [is that we get to] work with companies that need good sound financial advice,” says Thomas. “[It feels great to] make a difference, being able to fix their accounting problems, helping them solve problems.”
Thomas has a certain philosophy about business which boils down to this: the best way to develop and maintain loyalty within business relationships is to prove to others that any decisions made will be in their best interest.
“Whenever we make a mistake, we’ll fix it,” he says. “[If there is a] conflict of interest, we’ll come down on their side. To me that’s an important part of our success.”
For all his business acumen, Thomas is truly a compassionate individual. In fact, the genesis for CFO Solutions began in large measure from severe trials within his immediate family. Illness would eventually take the lives of his wife, who died from cancer in 2005, and his 18 year-old son who passed away the following year from adrenoleukodystrohy, or ALD, a genetic disorder.
“I try very hard to be compassionate when people come to me with similar issues,” he shares. “We’re given opportunities in life . . . and need to learn empathy and go out and help others. It’s an important part of what I did.”
In his off hours, Thomas plays as hard as he works. He loves the outdoors, a passion which began early in life when he would take his horse, his gun and his dog and go into the mountains for days at a time by himself. He enjoys a good meal and works out every day with his second wife, Kim Ericson. “I run to eat,” he says. The family has a ski boat, shares in a houseboat on Lake Powell, and spends as much time near the water each summer as possible.
In the end, whether at home with his family or at a client site, “Work is never more important than the individual. Never,” says Thomas. “Business, work, whatever you do, is not the most important thing you do. It’s what lets me take care of others, and love life.”