CFOs in Tune with the Times.Who are the chief financial officers having the most impact on the profession? That's a matter of opinion, not fact, but the editors of Financial Executive recently canvassed their sources to identify a cadre (company) CADRE - The US software engineering vendor which merged with Bachman Information Systems to form Cayenne Software in July 1996. of CFOs whose careers have made a particularly strong impression on rivals and colleagues, as well as the broader financial management community. The names that came up may be relatively unknown outside of the tight circle of their peers, and their contribution to their companies' success has often gone largely unnoticed by the general business press, entranced with star chief executives. But investment analysts who follow their companies' stocks are an appreciative audience.
The results are in, and we chose to highlight seven CFOS in diverse industries and different parts of the country. We asked these "CFO's CEOs" for their perspective on the changes they have seen in the role of the financial executive during the course of their careers, and for their outlook on the future.
In general, they agree that the CFO See Chief Financial Officer. job has become less about number-crunching and much more about strategic partnering in the overall management of their businesses. So while a solid technical foundation is the price of admission to the finance game, real career progress depends more than ever before on communications skills, good mentors and an ability to identify the right business models.
Technological savvy and breadth of vision aren't often coupled in a single skull, but truly outstanding CFOs must have both. A case in point: one of the most impressive names in the following roster, Tom Meredith, CFO of Dell, took on new responsibilities as this article was being reported. He will be helping to lead Dell's venture capital arm, investing in Internet companies to help Dell, in his words, "avoid the road to irrelevance ir·rel·e·vance
1. The quality or state of being unrelated to a matter being considered.
2. Something unrelated to a matter being considered.
Noun 1. ."
These top CFOs work in very different industries, but they all have shareholders, and some say it can be a challenge to communicate the truth to shareholders who are getting rumors For other uses, see Rumor (disambiguation).
Rumors is a farcical play by Neil Simon.
At its start, several affluent couples gather in the posh suburban residence of a couple for a dinner party celebrating their tenth anniversary. first from Internet chat rooms and other uncontrolled sources. Yet commitment to old-fashioned values nonetheless emerges in some decidedly new-fashioned places -- like Yahoo!, for example. A new business model doesn't mean that everything has to change.
Executive Vice President and CFO
In 1969, when Bob Wayman joined Hewlett-Packard, the company was ruled by engineers inside and out. Every manager to whom Wayman reported had an engineering degree, and HP's first product, introduced in 1967, had been a specialized calculator for engineering applications.
Having earned an undergraduate degree “First degree” redirects here. For the BBC television series, see First Degree.
An undergraduate degree (sometimes called a first degree or simply a degree in science engineering at Northwestern, Wayman spoke the language of engineers and was more than comfortable manipulating quantitative data. But his MBA MBA
Master of Business Administration
Noun 1. MBA - a master's degree in business
Master in Business, Master in Business Administration training (also at Northwestern) had taught him to think as a businessman. Although hired as a cost accountant cost accountant
An accountant who keeps records of the costs of production and distribution.
cost accounting n.
Noun 1. , he soon realized that bridging distinct ways of thinking was his real job, and people skills were a core competence Core competence
Primary area of expertise. Narrowly defined fields or tasks at which a company or business excels. Primary areas of specialty. that he needed to develop.
Thirty years later, Wayman still stresses the importance of communications skills in a CFO's repertoire. He describes himself as an "integrator" who can systematically view the complex set of forces at work in a company, and a "financial advisor" to the business management team. In that role, communications skills are scarcely less important than technical financial expertise.
"When I joined HP, big-school MBAs weren't that common," he reflects. "I came in with a quantitative understanding of theory and so forth, but I had to learn to work with and respect all kinds of people who didn't have the academic preparation I'd been fortunate to have."
He started out as a cost accountant with a division in Colorado, but just four years later took a big step up when the division controller who had hired him moved to Germany and left Wayman to fill his shoes. In 1976, Wayman moved up again, to the post of group controller for HP's measurement businesses, and in 1984 he became CFO. "I wasn't well-prepared for the CFO job," he says frankly. "I had no treasury, tax or direct international experience, so it was a big gamble on the company's part." Then-CEO John Young encouraged him to spend time with other big-company CFOs, and Wayman found "a network of knowledge, understanding and teamwork" in such organizations as the Financial Executives Institute and the Conference Board Council of Financial Executives.
In 1969, Hewlett-Packard was one of the Nifty Fifty Nifty Fifty
Institutional investor's 50 most popular stocks.
Fifty large growth stocks that tend to be favorite holdings of institutional investors. stocks, thanks to its pioneering work in the development of hand-held calculators. Computers accounted for a scant scant
adj. scant·er, scant·est
1. Barely sufficient: paid scant attention to the lecture.
2. Falling short of a specific measure: a scant cup of sugar. 2% of the company's business -- but during Wayman's watch, computers and peripherals became the whole business, as the company grew at a compounded 18% per year. Managing in an environment of rapid change required a high degree of curiosity, in addition to communications skills. Says Wayman, "It helps to be a curious person because there s 50 much change that when you see something that intrigues you, you have to follow it up."
Wayman joined HP's board in 1993, a move that led him to "think with a bigger mind about how the shareholders want the company to be run" -- but issues of accounting and reporting are still close to his heart. "New accounting standards out of the FASB FASB
See: Financial Accounting Standards Board
See Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). are demanding more complex and greater exposure," he warns. "I'm very much in favor of open books and clear visibility, but I feel that some of the accounting standards and regulations the SEC is putting in place push it to the point of confusing investors. I think there's too much exposure, too much detail, and we end up with shareholders seeing the trees and not the forest."
"It's kick-butt fun!" enthuses Tom Meredith, appointed managing director of Dell Ventures in March after over seven years as CFO of Dell Computer. Formed in April 1999, Dell Ventures has already put $700 million into such Internet businesses as Red Hat, StorageNetworks and Sina.com. For Dell, an internal venture capital operation is "about avoiding the road to irrelevance," Meredith explains with a touch of paranoia paranoia (pr'ənoi`ə), in psychology, a term denoting persistent, unalterable, systematized, logically reasoned delusions, or false beliefs, usually of persecution or grandeur. that's surprising from the man whose hand was on the financial tiller as Dell rocketed from just another mail-order computer company to number 78 on the Fortune 500 list, with more than $25 billion in annual sales.
Meredith allows that Dell has delivered 80%-100% of the profits in its industry for the past five years, and dominates every market worth dominating. But he clearly thinks that's no excuse for relaxing. Perhaps people whose prosperity depends on making competitors irrelevant tend to be more aware than most of the risk of being made irrelevant themselves.
"We're operating in a rapidly evolving environment. We've gone vertical in terms of the accelerating pace of change," Meredith says, warming to the theme. "A venture operation in the corporation provides unique opportunities to Dell. And to companies we invest in, Dell brings a balance sheet larger than any venture capital firm you could think of, a deep set of internal resources that cross a lot of technology disciplines. And, most importantly Adv. 1. most importantly - above and beyond all other consideration; "above all, you must be independent"
above all, most especially , we have the customers! If we endorse your technology, that's equivalent to the Good Housekeeping Good Housekeeping is a women's magazine owned by the Hearst Corporation, featuring articles about women's interests, product testing by The Good Housekeeping Institute, recipes, diet, health as well as literary articles. seal of approval. Your ability to scale is the only gap between capability and success."
Meredith never planned to be a CFO. He went to school at Duquesne and Georgetown universities Georgetown University, in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.; Jesuit; coeducational; founded 1789 by John Carroll, chartered 1815, inc. 1844. Its law and medical schools are noteworthy, and its archives are especially rich in letters and manuscripts by and , earning a law degree and moving into corporate financial operations only after lawyerly stints in criminal, tax, securities and M&A practices. "What made me switch was the fact that I could have more fun seeing the whole of a problem instead of just a piece of the problem," he now says. While he was having fun that way, he helped turn conventional wisdom about finance inside out.
Consider working capital, for example: Dell has negative working capital. Customers buy Dell computers online and pay with credit cards, putting cash in the company's pocket now instead of it having to draw down on a credit line and build inventory. But suppliers of parts don't bill until later. "Conventional wisdom has been wrong about large-scale companies not being able to grow without burning cash," Meredith observes. "We are self-funding our growth. Given that we're a Fortune 500 company, the fact that we've been able to grow at the levels we've been growing while simultaneously growing cash flows from operations -- that's pretty good."
He defines his role as CFO not in terms of control but growth. "There's always more opportunity than time or money, so you have to prioritize pri·or·i·tize
v. pri·or·i·tized, pri·or·i·tiz·ing, pri·or·i·tiz·es Usage Problem
To arrange or deal with in order of importance.
v.intr. . As industry boundaries blur blur (blur) indistinctness, clouding, or fogging.
spectacle blur the indistinct vision with spectacles occurring after removal of contact lenses, especially non–gas-permeable lenses; it is and power shifts from suppliers to consumers, the role of CFO takes on more importance. Economics matter, so you have to get to the facts, and finance is the group that has access to facts -- or should."
Thus, while a core knowledge of financial reporting and control will continue to be critical, Meredith says the CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. job will increasingly demand the kind of skill set associated in the past more with marketing than finance. "The CEOs of the future will be adept at communicating the corporate vision and mission and articulating issues in competitive terms. They will have a strategic bent."
In July, Yahoo! CFO Gary Valenzuela will make his exit after a 22-year career in finance. He spent the last 10 years as CFO of various high-tech startups, with the most recent stint being four-and-a-half years as CFO of Yahoo. "It's one of most difficult decisions I've ever made," he says. " How do you leaave something that is the best thing you've experienced in your career?" But like Seinfeld and Michael Jordan This article is about the former basketball player. For other uses, see Michael Jordan (disambiguation).
Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17 1963) is a retired American professional basketball player. , he's clearly leaving while he's still at the top.
Valenzuela credits his success largely to "luck and damn good timing." He spent his entire career in Silicon Valley, and took three companies public -- including Yahoo!, which he joined in 1995 when the Internet portal was little more than a funny name and an interesting concept. "It had gained some traction, but there was clearly no guarantee," he recalls. Valenzuela was employee number 30 in a firm that now employs two thousand -- most of whom could probably retire on their stock options if they chose, even after the recent tech-stock shakeout Shakeout
A situation in which many investors exit their positions, often at a loss, because of uncertainty or recent bad news circulating around a particular security or industry.
During the dotcom boom and bust, numerous shakeouts occurred. , which hit Yahoo! hard.
But for a New Economy guy, Valenzuela has some decidedly old-fashioned notions of what matters in a CFO. "What hasn't changed for the CFO and what won't change going forward are concepts so fundamental maybe some people don't value them -- for example, extremely high integrity and credibility," he says. His commitment to his convictions was tested in ways that could only happen in California. Yahoo! went public in early 1996, and achieved profitability by the fourth quarter that year. In the through-the-looking-glass culture of Silicon Valley, profitability was a black mark.
"I had peers, CFOs at other Internet companies, who clearly viewed us as being old-school. They were proud of the fact they were not profitable," Valenzuela says. "But we take a lot of pride in being conservative at Yahoo!. We've always erred on side conservatism."
Valenzuela may be the only guy in the Valley willing to cheer for the hammering tech stocks took this past spring. "If it comes too easy, and you don't earn it, then obviously that's not good," he says. Despite the downturn, Valenzuela believes that companies focused on building a business for the long term will survive and prosper, while those formed merely to cash in on the Internet frenzy Frenzy
term referring to the Beatles’ (rock musicians) immense popularity; manifested by screaming fans in the 1960s. [Pop. Culture: Miller, 172–181]
Big Bull Market will perish TO PERISH. To come to an end; to cease to be; to die.
2. What has never existed cannot be said to have perished.
3. When two or more persons die by the same accident, as a shipwreck, no presumption arises that one perished before the , and deservedly so. "The consolidation and tightening of valuations is probably helpful for industry. Finally, Wall Street is demanding profitability -- and personally, I'm delighted to see that. It's good for the industry to have business models that make sense."
* MAUREEN BELLANTONI *
Remodeling remodeling /re·mod·el·ing/ (re-mod´el-ing) reorganization or renovation of an old structure.
bone remodeling seems a long way from finance, but Burger King's Corp.'s Maureen Bellantoni has lately been focusing on implementing a new look for Burger King restaurants. This is anything but fluff in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR QSR Quick Service Restaurant
QSR QoS (Quality of Service) Satisfaction Rate
QSR Quality System Regulations
QSR Quality Status Report
QSR Quality System Review
QSR Quarterly Status Report
QSR Quality System Requirement ) industry, where appearance represents a major marketing and competitive battleground. Bellantoni, who joined Burger King in February, was attracted by the prospect of working with a national brand. "We're not just selling hamburgers or meal solutions for consumers -- we're selling the whole image that Burger King conveys to the consumer," she says.
Burger King's restaurants were looking a bit tired, and so the company decided to bring its style up to date. But new signs and redesigned interiors demand hefty capital investments by the franchisees who own the chain's restaurants. Bellantoni has been educating capital suppliers on what the program meant to the bottom line and why they should come on board. "We had a lenders' conference a month-and-a-half ago to help educate investors on the program and what franchisees might need, and I've worked with some franchisees, helping them strategize strat·e·gize
v. strat·e·gized, strat·e·giz·ing, strat·e·giz·es
To plan a strategy for (a business or financial venture, for example).
v.intr. their approach and communicate with investors," she says.
Making the link between finance and operations has been Bellantoni's priority ever since she was a high school student working in the accounts-payable department of a local Connecticut medical services firm. "I had good support from people willing to answer questions about what I was doing and what it meant for the business," she recalls. She continued to work part-time while earning her BS in accounting at the University of Bridgeport University of Bridgeport is a private, non-sectarian university in Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA. Its campus is located in South Bridgeport on Long Island Sound. The University offers undergraduate, graduate, and health sciences programs. , then took an MBA from the University of Connecticut The University of Connecticut is the State of Connecticut's land-grant university. It was founded in 1881 and serves more than 27,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 9,000 graduate students in multiple programs.
UConn's main campus is in Storrs, Connecticut. . She moved through various finance posts in industrial manufacturing, food manufacturing and food service before turning to the fast food industry. As a result of her broad focus, Bellantoni says, "I'm a make-it-happen person. I can quickly and effectively identify the pivotal leverage points for an organization."
In a career that has taken her through Emerson Electric, General Foods and Sara Lee
Sara Lee Corporation (NYSE: SLE) is a global consumer-goods company based in Downers Grove, Illinois, USA. Corp., Bellantoni has drawn on that competence under pressure. "I went to one division that had some serious financial control issues, that was within a month of the deadline for submitting an operating plan to the parent, and had business process issues that were causing it to fall Out of being competitive in one of its business lines. I delivered the business plan, we reorganized re·or·gan·ize
v. re·or·gan·ized, re·or·gan·iz·ing, re·or·gan·iz·es
To organize again or anew.
To undergo or effect changes in organization. the business around segments, successfully engaged the organization in new strategic growth opportunities and implemented an enterprise-wide system in 18 months," she recalls.
Burger King is now a division of Diageo, a company formed by the 1997 merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness. Its diverse portfolio of spirits and food brands includes, in addition to Burger King, Guinness stout stout, alcoholic beverage: see beer. , Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Pillsbury. Diageo runs its business according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the shareholder value-driven discipline of economic value added Economic value added (EVA)
A method of performance evaluation that adjusts accounting performance for investors' required return on investment. Suppose a division produces a 12% return on capital invested. (EVA Eva
to marry winner of singing contest. [Ger. Opera: Wagner, Meistersinger, Westerman, 225–228]
See : Prize
1. Eva - A toy ALGOL-like language used in "Formal Specification of Programming Languages: A Panoramic Primer", F.G. ), which emphasizes cash flow and economic profits over more conventional earnings measures. Says Bellantoni, "EVA relates to shareholder value. Sometimes in large conglomerates, it's hard for division management to put what they're doing in context of shareholder value. You have to train people to help them identify how their actions impact that measurement."
* LOU LOU Louisville (Kentucky)
LOU Hello You (email slang)
LOU Ley Orgánica de Universidades
LOU Letter of Understanding
LOU Loss of Use
LOU Limited Official Use
LOU Letter of Undertaking LAVIGNE *
Executive Vice Pesident and CFO
It was love, and not money, that brought Lou Lavigne to Genentech almost two decades ago. He'd visited San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden on his honeymoon, and he and his wife had long said if they ever left Philadelphia, it would to be to live either in Boston, where they had met as college students, or in their honeymoon town. So when a headhunter headhunter A popular term for a person–or employment agency who recruits physicians, upper echelon executives or other professionals, matching potential employees with employers phoned him with an offer from a fledgling biotechnology company in the Bay area, he listened. At the time, Lavigne was assistant controller of Pennwalt, a chemicals and health care company with a billion dollars in sales.
When he joined Genentech in 1982, the biotech bi·o·tech
short for biotechnology
Noun 1. pioneer was still seeking its first product approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Eighteen years later, biotechnology is part of the medical mainstream, and Genentech stock is a benchmark for the industry. "I've had to work to build an organization that paces with the company, and sometimes ahead of the company, to be ready for growth," he says. "You need to have helicopter vision to see the big picture of the company, as well as all of the details of how you make something happen within your organization."
A series of strong mentors early in his career taught him the importance of understanding of how an organization works, from the shop floor to the corner office. One mentor taught him a simple but unforgettable lesson in communications as Lavigne was rehearsing a presentation. "I got to page four, and he said, 'So what?' I got to page 10, and he said, 'So what?' I got to page 15, and he said, 'So what?' I was ready to deck him! Finally, when I got to page 18, he said, 'Why didn't you start the presentation here?' I learned an important lesson from that -- the need to get to the point quickly. You can always fill in the details later, if people ask."
Lavigne now carries on the mentoring tradition himself, working with a program called Mentium to help develop women executives in other companies. He'd like to see more such programs, adding that in rapidly changing technology-based industries, the single most important lesson a mentor can pass on is the importance of thinking and acting quickly. "One mentee men·tee
One who is mentored.
[ment(or) + -ee1.] said to me that the rule was to 'measure twice and cut once.' I say, that's wonderful, but in a fast-paced environment, you have to get to the point where you can intelligently approximate and cut -- you don't have time to measure twice."
Lavigne is an unabashed admirer of Cisco Systems “Cisco” redirects here. For other uses, see Cisco (disambiguation).
Cisco System,Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO, HKSE: 4333 ) is an American multinational corporation with 54,000 employees and annual revenue of US $28.48 billion as of 2006. . "I think that's the operating model Operating Model is a term that is used in many contexts. In essence an operating model describes how an organization operates across both business and technology domains. The Operating Model describes what is important for the organization. we should all aspire to aspire to
verb aim for, desire, pursue, hope for, long for, crave, seek out, wish for, dream about, yearn for, hunger for, hanker after, be eager for, set your heart on, set your sights on, be ambitious for ," he says. Among the Cisco strengths he thinks are especially worth emulating: its "virtual close" capabilities -- the ability to get an accurate picture of the company's financial performance at any given time -- and its flexible work arrangements, ability to manage an organization with just a few simple rules, rapid and thorough implementation of Web technology, and effective acquisition and partnering strategy.
No surprise, then, that when asked to name his future goals, he puts the virtual close at the top of his list. "We can tell every day, several times a day, how we're doing in terms of sales Terms of sale
Conditions under which a firm proposes to sell its goods or services for cash or credit. performance, but I'd like to be able to know how we're doing overall in all of our activities, not just the top line. This would give operating and financial management a handle on how the business is doing every day. We expect to have the virtual close operational next year, if not before."
* BOB BRUST Bob Brust is the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Eastman Kodak. He retired in November of 2006, and was replaced by Frank S. Sklarsky. *
Executive Vice President and CFO
A Philadelphia native, Kodak CFO Bob Brust graduated from Penn State -- "the good football school, not the Ivy League Ivy League
Group of eight universities in the northeastern U.S., high in academic and social prestige, that are members of an athletic conference for intercollegiate gridiron football dating to the 1870s. University of Pennsylvania (body, education) University of Pennsylvania - The home of ENIAC and Machiavelli.
Address: Philadelphia, PA, USA. ," he emphasizes -- and took his accounting degree to General Electric in 1965. He spent the next 31 years at GE, rose to vice president of the plastics division in 1983 and ran the finance operations The execution of the joint finance mission to provide financial advice and guidance, support of the procurement process, providing pay support, and providing disbursing support.See also financial management. as that division grew from $900 million to $8 billion in revenues. He left with no regrets. "If somebody came up to me and asked what to do to develop as a financial executive, I'd say go work for GE for 10 years!" he exclaims.
Brust retired from GE in 1996 and joined Unisys. The job not only brought him back to his home town, but also gave him a chance to learn the ropes in the high-tech industry. "Five years ago, people couldn't even spell 'Internet,'" he reflects. "Now, we live in an Internet world. As CFO, you're either quick or you're dead."
His tenure at Unisys also taught Brust how to deal with Wall Street. "Large investors, especially the value guys, are still value-talking to you, looking at you eye-to-eye when they ask you what you're doing and what your plans are." That experience is now proving indispensable at Kodak, where evangelizing Wall Street is a big part of his job. "This company has gone through a lot of restructuring, but the stock has only about a nine [price-to-earnings] multiple. We've got high market share, we're profitable and we Have strong cash flows. We think the stock is trading about half of where it should be. Unfortunately, we're the only people who think that," he laughs.
Convincing investors that Kodak has changed takes more than talk. The film pioneer has been criticized by the Street for inconsistent earnings. Brust maintains that not-to-be-repeated restructuring charges restructuring charge
The expense of reorganizing a company's operations. A restructuring charge is an infrequent expense that generally results from asset writedowns or facility closings. are the root of the problem -- but he's also working to make the company's earnings more predictable by staying on top of such data as daily revenues, and communicating regularly with investors and analysts who follow the stock.
Predictability is a hallmark of GE, of course -- some would say the firm carries that virtue to a fault -- and Brust is convinced that Kodak could benefit greatly from an infusion of GE-think in several areas. "Where it makes sense to bring GE ideas in, I'm doing that," he says. "We're trying to change a culture."
The hallmark of the old culture was a navel-gazing obsession with the company's own internal operations. "Kodak blinked and let Fuji become a respectable number two player," Brust says. "We used to dominate the U.S. [film market], but now only have a 65% share." A restructuring attempted to cope with ongoing financial problems by taking out "20% of the workforce -- but not 20% of the work," Brust says, resulting in an overwhelmed o·ver·whelm
tr.v. o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.
a. and under-motivated workforce.
By contrast, downsizing (1) Converting mainframe and mini-based systems to client/server LANs.
(2) To reduce equipment and associated costs by switching to a less-expensive system.
(jargon) downsizing at GE was accompanied by a process called "workout Workout
Informal repayment or loan forgiveness arrangement between a borrower and creditors.
1. The process of a debtor's meeting a loan commitment by satisfying altered repayment terms. " that taught re-engineering survivors how to eliminate work that wasn't worth doing. "We put the power of decisions way down in the organization," Brust explains. "We took the nonsense out of work. The employees felt empowered, and after our 'workout' they moved into Six Sigma Not to be confused with Sigma 6.
Six Sigma is a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects. A defect is defined as nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications. to make things better." Kodak managers are now learning how to do the same thing at GE's own corporate university.
"[GE Chairman and CEO] Jack Welch For the illustrator named Jack Welch, see Jack Welch (illustrator)
John Francis "Jack" Welch, Jr. (born on November 19 1935 was a master at getting that giant company to change fast, live in the real world and do what it had to do to win," Brust concludes. "As CFO, I think my role is to make sure we're changing fast enough and have the right technologies to win."
CHARLES NOSKI Charles Noski is a current member of the board of directors at Microsoft and Morgan Stanley. External links
You could say that Chuck Noski began his career in finance as a 10-year-old selling Christmas cards door-to-door. In college, he held down three part-time accounting jobs while working on his bachelor's degree in accounting. He joined the firm of Haskins & Sells upon graduation in 1973 -- "It was a relief to get down to just one job," he says -- and spent 17 years with the firm, the last seven as a partner, as the firm morphed into Deloitte & Touche.
Noski gravitated to technology companies early in his public accounting career because he liked "dealing with smart, dedicated people trying to do things nobody has done before." As Deloitte's national industry director for the aerospace and defense industry, many of his clients were defense electronics companies, and his single most important client proved to be Hughes. Noski authored the financial accounting and reporting chapter of the American Institute of CPAs' industry guide for aerospace and defense companies, caught the eye of Hughes CFO Mike Smith and joined Hughes as vice president and controller.
At the time, however, the handwriting was on the wall for the defense industry. "It was clear that the U.S. had won the Cold War, and the defense industry was at the beginning of an extraordinary change," Noski says. When Mike Armstrong Mike Armstrong (March 7, 1954 in Glen Cove, New York) played major league baseball from 1980 to 1987, mainly as a relief pitcher. Armstrong originally was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1974. came to Hughes as chairman in 1992, Noski's mentor, Smith, was promoted to vice chairman and Noski became CFO. "During the next five-and-a-half years, we acquired, divested and embarked on a program that redefined Hughes as a telecommunications company See telecom company. , a predominantly commercial instead of predominantly defense company," he says.
Noski led Hughes' efforts to spin off Delco -- the world's largest automotive electronics company -- and sold its defense businesses to Raytheon. At the same time, Noski built a first-class finance staff at Hughes through outside hires and promotions, and personally hired and developed his eventual successor, chief financial officer Roxanne Austin. Armstrong left Hughes in 1997 to become CEO of AT&T. Mike Smith then moved up to chair Hughes, and Noski became president.
Then, at the end of 1999, Armstrong invited Noski to AT&T to help meet a challenge that promised to be as complex and difficult as anything he'd faced at Hughes. "The appeal of coming to AT&T was the opportunity to team up with Mike again and to be part of a larger management team seeking to transform an American institution from a slow-growth, consumer long-distance business to an any-distance communications company Communications Company is a communications unit of the United States Marine Corps. They are part of Combat Logistics Regiment 37 , 3rd Marine Logistics Group (3MLG) and III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). The unit is based out of the Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. participating in all of the key communications growth areas -- video, voice, data, broadband and wireless. It's a transformation much larger in scale than Hughes because AT&T is probably 10 times the size of Hughes. The opportunity was too attractive to pass up.
Noski sees the CFO as a full partner with operating management in the job of creating shareholder value and driving growth. The CFO, he says, should ensure rational, fact-and-analysis-based decisions on investment and spending, but be "a problem-solver rather than a problem-identifier, an interpreter A high-level programming language translator that translates and runs the program at the same time. It translates one program statement into machine language, executes it, and then proceeds to the next statement. of information rather than just a provider."
This past spring, Noski put those skills to work steering the AT&T Wireless deal that raised $10.6 billion in proceeds. "Besides being the largest IPO (Initial Public Offering) The first time a company offers shares of stock to the public. While not a computer term per se, many founders, employees and insiders of computer companies have found this acronym more exciting than any tech term they ever heard. in the history of the U.S. capital markets, it was the first IPO in any industry in the U.S. jointly managed by three major investment banking firms," he says. Noski's particularly proud of the fact that AT&T allowed all employees equal opportunity to buy the so-called "friends and family" allocation of the IPO shares, without any special treatment to senior executives.
"If you were to ask me what motivates me the most, as I look back over the 27 years of my career, the thing that has gotten me up in the morning and kept me energized throughout the day is the desire to be part of a team that constantly strives for excellence. If you can get the people who work with you to share that ambition, you can accomplish almost anything," Noski concludes.
Gregory J. Millman is a freelance business writer based in central new Jersey and a frequent contributor to Financial Executive.