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The last word.

I am the chief financial bear at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I am surrounded by stuffed animals at Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters in St. Louis, where employees can bring their dogs and children to work. Our offices are decorated as playfully as our nearly 300 retail outlets: yellow walls and Bearism mottos all around such as "Bear in mind: always be kind" and "Be the bearer of good news." The environment is conducive to creativity and individualism. I consider myself among the more conservative people there--I leave my dog and children at home.

When I first interviewed in 1997, Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive bear, didn't anticipate needing a full-time accountant, let alone a chief financial bear. I was hired by a local CPA firm to work three days at Build-A-Bear Workshop and two days a week on other clients. Maxine wanted me to have an office at Bearquarters so I could become part of the culture. There were no stores to come visit, no products to see, no marketing materials to review. Maxine created a vision of the company by taking me through the blueprints of what the store and experience would be. By the time she was through, I was charged up. I officially started when the first store opened at the Saint Louis Galleria on Oct. 26, 1997. Once I arrived, I never left. I worked not just five days in the beginning, but six or seven, if needed. If there was an eighth day in the week, I would have worked it.

The diversity of the field and the ability to be involved in different aspects of the business are what I enjoy most about the accounting profession. In the early days, I was one of three people at Bearquarters responsible for the operational tasks of the retail store. I did warehouse inventory, ticketed merchandise, worked in the store, answered the phone, booked parties and transported deposits to the bank--whatever it took to get the job done. I even carried around Cub Condos (carrying cases for furry new friends) in my car, in case the store ran out and couldn't get a warehouse delivery.

My main responsibilities are overseeing the finance, investor relations and technology teams at Build-A-Bear Workshop. I partner with our teams to develop and maintain internal accounting policies, manage compliance of company accounting policies and procedures, develop annual operating budgets and coordinate external audits and reviews, including preparation of all financial statements and tax returns. I am also responsible for information technology management and external financial communications to the shareholders of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

I've only had four accounting jobs since I graduated from college. I began my career in 1982 with Ernst & Young. Later, I became controller for Love Real Estate Co. After working as controller for Clayton Corp., a manufacturing company, from 1990 to 1997, I joined Build-A-Bear Workshop. Each job along the way has prepared me for what I'm doing today.

Although I considered other career options, they didn't interest me like accounting. I always had a penchant for numbers. I always encourage people to go into accounting because it is a great profession. My husband is an accountant on the tax side of the business, and my brother-in-law works for the FBI--all three of us are CPAs. But I want my children to find something that best suits their personality, whether or not that is accounting.

I balance my life in ways that suit me. In my down time I read novels--Danielle Steele Nora Roberts Fern Michaels. As for work/life balance it comes down to personal motivation--I've always worked hard, no matter what company I was with. I attend my children's sporting events whenever possible. My balance is spending time with my family while making sure I get things done at the office. My BlackBerry keeps me connected.

--As told to Loanna Overcash
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Title Annotation:accountants' work-life balance
Author:Overcash, Loanna
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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The last word.

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