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Thanks, Admiration, & Respect to the Team…

July 20th, 2012 Comments off

     While I’ve certainly been enjoying the first few weeks of my “Summer break”, my recent increase in training miles have given me quite a bit of time to reflect on the closing of my experiences at DC. There’s no doubt that it was a pretty hard ride over the last 3-years. Between a relocation from Vista to HB where we lost a significant part of our staff, the achievement of growth plans, and our SAP implementation, it’s put huge pressure on the team. For those that know me and worked with me, they know I’m not a delegator and spent the majority of my days in the trenches. It was those times working so closely with each of the teams that I was able to develop strong relationships, learn the strengths of each individual, which in turn, allowed me to orchestrate the broader team to achieve our results. I was fortunate enough to work with a fantastic group of people that were sincerely dedicated to the brand and delivering on the goals we committed to. My goal each day was to earn the respect of the team. I never pushed the team harder than I pushed myself. In turn, we delivered.

     The philosophy I have always tried to work by is that respect is earned through your day-to-day actions with the team and isn’t automatically granted through the conveyance of a title. It’s critical to lead by example, to develop the team, and to ensure that all the players are clear on the goal and the tools available to them. I strived for this every day at DC, and in return, found myself the recipient of incredible support and thanks in the end. There’s nothing more I could have asked for as I start creating the next chapter. Those teams have nothing but my admiration, respect, and thanks for everything they accomplished.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Categories: CorpFin Cafe, CorpFin Careers, H.R. Tags:

What Is Your ROI As A Corporate Asset?

July 9th, 2012 Comments off

     We spend our time constantly assessing financial results, retooling forecasts, and debating the legitimacy of OpEx or CapEx spend. However, when was the last time that you sat back and calculated your personal ROI and the contribution margin you deliver for your company? Whether you are a candidate in transition, or a current member of the Executive team, are you ensuring that you are delivering the proper value?

      It’s rather easy to look at the majority of the positions in a company and determine the value those positions deliver.  Whether you are looking at overall revenue per employee metrics, new sales generated by a new channel manager, or the improvement of collections through a new Credit position, it’s a relatively basic calculation. However, what is the multiple you assign for senior Finance positions, particularly a CFO position?

     First, have you determined what the necessary overhead is to support your position? This will be an all inclusive figure that should include everything from salary, benefits, and other compensation….to any travel and related OpEx considerations. You need to figure out your “all-in” number.

     Second, are you clear about the expectations on your position? Are you being tasked with a turnaround, overall EBIT growth, or other projects that will result in improved operating metrics? Are you setting additional goals that will add to the EBIT-multiple your position will generate? Can you look back at your results over the last 2-3 years and see the value you were able to deliver as a result of your direct involvement and guidance?

     Although we are constantly dealing with nothing but firm metrics and comparisons against historical results, we have an obligation to deliver the highest achievable multiple for the investment that is being made for us to have a seat at the table. Whether that multiple is a 10x, 20x, or higher, you better be able to quantify what your contribution is…or will be. It’s absolutely critical to assume the role of asset rather than expense.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

10Q w/ CorpFin Cafe – Ken Tudhope / Project Pro Search

June 3rd, 2012 Comments off

            I’m fortunate enough to call Ken both a friend, as well as a valued member of my network. It’s amazing to see what Ken has been able to accomplish with his firm over the last 5-years.  Thanks to Ken for his participation…and I hope you enjoy this new addition to my blog.

*I first met you through FEI about 5-yrs ago, but when did you actually start Project Pro Search?
10/2007.  Not real good timing for a start-up, just months before the beginning of the Great Recession.
*You actually have a background in Accounting & hold a CPA. Do you feel that this gives you an edge over other recruiters in that you have a working insight of their needs?
I believe that I am the only professional recruiter in Orange County who is BOTH an actively licensed CPA and an active CMA.  I think I have “Knowledge and Network.”  The CPA and CMA certify the knowledge, and yes, I think it gives me the ability to add more value than most of my competitors.  I understand the technical aspects of the jobs I recruit for, which reduces risk to my clients and saves significant time since I don’t present unqualified people.
*What are some of the core traits that you look for before taking on a candidate?
Paying clients don’t give me very much leeway so I stick to their  job specification and find people that meet the requirements. In my career as a recruiter, I have seen so many resumes that now see patterns that are lost on those who only recruit periodically.  I can quickly determine a quality career over time, from those with a lesser experience.  Also, because I have a large network of people that trust me, I get lots of confidential information about candidates.  This is information you will never get by calling the names on the reference list.
*MBA or CPA?
General or technical?  I have both and I’m glad I do.  I like the MBA because it grew my mind and gave me a great foundation for my business career.  I like the CPA because it puts me in a Society of Professionals with a standard of conduct and a code of ethics.  You didn’t ask, but the CMA is an excellent program; more broad coverage like the MBA with the standards and code of ethics like the CPA.
*Is it true that you’ve really had over 1,500 individual networking lunches?
Actually today was 1,521!  When I got into recruiting, a mentor told me “if you go to lunch with a client one time per week, in a year you’d have established a relationship with 50 people and that would be a great start for your new career.”  In that moment I decided once per week wasn’t good enough and that’s I’d go every day.  That was 6 years ago and I’ve only missed a few days.  I patterned my Lunch Counter after Scott Ginsberg, “The Name Tag Guy” who counts the number of days he’s warn a name tag.  When Twitter came out I started tweeting the number of my lunch every day when I returned to my office after lunch.  For some reason people love it and it has created all kinds of goodwill.
*What are some of the current trends that you are seeing in the hiring of Finance or Accounting candidates?
It is the best of times and the worst of times.  If people don’t have the right technical skill set and attitude it is very difficult to get a job.  If they do have the right skill set then there are plenty of competing opportunities.  Clients are increasingly looking for systems ability and people / communication skills.  Computers are handling basic accounting and financial planning so companies need people who can process massive amounts of BIG DATA using real statistical techniques and then draw conclusions and influence decision makers.  On the down side, we see people all the time who don’t have these skills.  Last week we had a case where the candidate was an executive who had not really used MS Office (a staff person did it for them).  That’s fine as a long-time executive in a company, but it doesn’t work in a job search, even for an executive.
*I’ve seen many recruiters and firms come and go over the last 5-years while you’ve been able to stay the course, as well as grow. What do you attribute this to?
This is an excerpt for the “About Me” section of my www.networkingnote.com blog.  In a word, it’s networking.
Project Pro Search has grown significantly every year during the Great Recession as a start-up company competing against billion dollar public corporations. OUR NETWORK SIMPLY DELIVERS BETTER CLIENTS AND CANDIDATES THEN THEIR ADVERTISING AND MARKETING even with multi-million dollar budgets.  For many in our industry it’s just a job, at Project Pro Search it’s our life’s work.  They serve companies, while we serve friends. We can’t imagine letting down our friends.
*For individuals, better to work with a stable of recruiters or with a few selective individuals?
Just remember, recruiters work for clients not candidates.  Anyone who is confused by this should read my friend Darrell Gurney’s book “Headhunters Revealed!”  I think people should notify as many recruiters as possible, but be careful on two things.  Don’t let them waste your time with jobs that don’t fit YOUR criteria.  I am a contingent recruiter who gets paid if you take MY job.  Don’t confuse the two. Second, be weary of recruiters who are not of quality.  Some of our candidates complain about recruiter sending their resumes out without permission, we would never do that.
*One of the biggest lessons learned in your professional career?
There is a saying that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I believe it!  Since leaving my prized Fortune 100 executive finance position, work is no longer work.  I love what I do and money chases me.  I recommend people go deeply into their heads and hearts to determine what their passions are and move in that direction.  You will be amazed!
*Turn the tables…the one question you would ask yourself?
Where do you expect to be in 5 years?
I would like to sell my business and move more deeply into teaching networking.  This could be as a consultant, instructor or trainer.  For years, I’ve said that someday I’m going the be the Executive Director at the Paul Merage School of Management at UCI.  I would love to teach young professionals the power of networking and there is no bigger fan of an MBA than me.  I just published my first book called “The Key:  A Networking Guide to Meeting, Connecting, and Succeeding.”  It’s the story of a young professional woman at a Big-4 CPA firm  who  learns how to networking early in her career and the benefits that this affords her (along with a conceptual guide of how she did it).  I like it because it shows that networking doesn’t take resources, budgets or organizational power and the sooner one begins the more the social capital compounds.

Is Your Network Just Another Statistic?

May 28th, 2012 Comments off

     During the course of my career I’ve been fortunate enough to assemble what I believe is a pretty fantastic network. I’m also thankful that I can call a significant number of these folks good friends and have the fortune to see them outside of the office. Recently, it seems I’ve been receiving more frequent introductions to recent college graduates who are looking to establish their own networks and kick start their career paths. Some have been working on this effort during their college stint while others are just beginning. You have to start somewhere…

     As I looked at my own network it begged the question of how I can leverage it in some way to help them, as well as provide some of my colleagues with a bit of recognition for what they have accomplished in their own career. With this thought in mind I’ve decided to start a new series I’m tagging as “CorpFin 10Q’s”. Essentially a brief 10-question format for those in my network. With a network that spans the areas of Finance, Investor Relations, R&D, Manufacturing, Sales, Consulting, and other areas, I’m hoping it provides an interesting perspective. 

     Hopefully your own network isn’t just a statistic, but more an asset that can help in broadening your knowledge base and assist others in the building of their own career.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Ken Tudhope on Making Miracles….

February 26th, 2010 Comments off

     Anyone who knows me knows these two things:   I have a passion for networking, and I love Jeffery Gitomer’s books.  I have given out literally hundreds of copies of his Little Black Book of Connections, which I happen to think is the best networking book available.  I am such a good customer at BuyGitomer.com that all my books arrived signed by the author and I receive a nice discount.  Mr. Gitomer is smart, his books are excellent, and I look forward to the day when I can say that he is part of my personal network.

     Recently I read Gitomer’s Sales Bible.  Given my situation as a small business owner and a salesperson in this tough economy, I try to read at least two Bibles!  In it he writes that he loves sales because “you can make your own miracles.”  I know from experience what he is talking about.  One of the best parts about the profession of selling is that your success is limitless.  Of course, so is the possibility for failure…  For people who have never been a salesperson it is hard to describe.  Before I entered the accounting profession and went to work at Price Waterhouse, I was in sales and every year my income was different.  The unlimited possibilities were exciting and motivating!  Indeed though, that kind of uncertainty doesn’t work for everyone’s temperament, but there are still lessons to be learned from it – even for accountant types like us.

    Now when I read Gitomer’s line about making miracles in sales, I instantly think about networking.  My personal mantra is:  “Through networking everyone has the opportunity to make their own miracles.”  Every day I see people go into the job market and through networking create miracles by finding fantastic jobs with great companies.  People solve unsolvable problems by asking the right person the right question at the right time.  I established a new career in my forties and started a successful company during tough economic times through relationships with great people.  In fact, I didn’t know anyone in Orange County when I moved here 10 years ago, yet I’ve created “miracles” through opportunities I seized as a result of a strong network.  

     My advice for you is to make your own miracles by creating relationships with the people out there who can and will help you.

Ken Tudhope

Project Pro Search

ktudhope@projectprosearch.com 

Ken Tudhope on Networking: Focus, Focus, Focus!

February 12th, 2010 Comments off

            Did you ever notice how kids love to create fire with magnifying glasses?  If given the chance, my kids sure do!  Why, you might be wondering?  First, fire is basically pretty fascinating.   Years ago when I attended Indian Guides camp outs with my three young boys, I was always amazed that nearly every boy there would attempt to burn anything from paper plates to plastic cups – just to watch in amazement at fire’s intense power.  Second, using the magnifying glass is like a science experiment, and I never stopped them from using this scientific method to generate fire in a safe and controlled environment. 

            The patience and persistence it takes to generate fire with a magnifying glass is a great metaphor for success.  Imagine that tiny intense white beam of light coming through the magnifying glass that is hot enough to start a fire.  If that beam of light wasn’t focused, there is no chance for fire.

            In my work every day, I talk to people who are novice networkers looking for work.  They know that they need to “network” to find their next job, but they aren’t skilled yet.  Continually, I encourage these job seekers to be persistent because, in my opinion, the people they are calling should return their calls! Who among us hasn’t been looking for work at one time or another – and maybe even very recently for some of you.  The average life span of a CFO is now 3 years!  

            So many people think of networking as something you do when you’re out of work.  And while I regularly espouse the benefits of networking while in a job or out of one, job seekers in particular need to be as focused as the beam coming from the magnifying glass igniting the paper.  People can’t help you if you can’t tell them what you are looking for.  The worst offenders are the most experienced and talented people looking for work because they can do anything and everything.  Your network of contacts can only help you if you have a specific goal.  When you are networking for a job, you need to know the answer to the question, “How can I help you?”  So my advice to both the novice and experienced networkers who are in a job search is to call, call, call!  Get those meetings, talk about your specific goals, and watch them lead to job opportunities.  Focus, Focus, Focus!

 

Thanks for reading . . .

 

Ken Tudhope

When Skillsets & Application Separate. How Do You Qualify Those That Need to Quantify?

February 9th, 2010 Comments off

            Over the last 2-years+ I have come across some very talented Finance folks who have been forced to the employment sidelines as a result of mergers, corporate bankruptcy, or in most cases, downsizing at their respective companies. I have also had a chance to interview some of these same candidates and have come across what appeared to be some very good and talented individuals….at least on paper. However, in a number of cases, I have seen a drastic divergence between the skillset that is shown on a resume and the application of those skills in an everyday environment. The more I talk with companies about the hiring of Finance talent, the more I see a challenge for companies to really look beyond a resume and qualify those who need to quantify.

            A good example is the candidate that has come from an Audit background, has large company experience ($1 billion+) and is on the job hunt. You receive dozens of resumes and all seem to be very well qualified at first review:

·         CPA

·         Good company history & tenure

·         Summaries about efficiencies & controls.

·         Recommended by a trusted recruiter

·         Interviews well with the team

            So you finally make your choice and extend an offer to the Controller behind door #1. Great, that opening is now filled and you can check the box. Wrong. This is where there is often a divergence between the skillsets that are presented by a candidate and the actual application in an everyday environment, as well as their ability to effectively function with the rest of the staff. Have you just hired the candidate that you really wanted, a partner, collaborator, and someone that will help drive value for the company, or a candidate that will just create busy work and consume the time & resources of those around them? So what am I really talking about at this point….?

·         Is your new hire someone that would be inclined to zero in on a expense report form when there is no issue with the travel spend?

·         Is your new hire someone that wants to keep information silo’d and on a need to know basis because it’s “not your function”.

·         Is your new hire someone that wants to put in controls and processes that are only effective in a large company environment with larger staff?

·         Does your candidate understand the differences between working in a large company environment vs. a micro-cap or small privately held?

·         Does your candidate really have the ability to work effectively with others when the daily regiment really does mean “being in the trenches everyday”?

            This is where I tend to believe that many financial professionals, while accomplished and credentialed, really do not have a handle on the dynamic between their knowledge base and it’s application in the environment that they are potentially hiring into. That most candidates have not put forward the proper effort to not only run a diagnostic on the company, but one on themselves to truly understand their skillset and what they can offer a prospective employer. There is also the difficulty posed to the prospective employer when they need to qualify those who quantify. Show in the interview that you can deliver value, as you’ll be expected to do daily….

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael

Ken Tudhope: Return On Investment….

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

     Recently a client told me at lunch that there was no real return on investment for networking.  Can you imagine saying that to a fellow like me?!  I am the guy with 5 Rolodexes and I write the Networking Notes articles.  So of course I begin to launch into my value of connections, and the importance of rich relationships speeches, but then I stopped myself because I figured that maybe this thing which I’m so passionate about isn’t for everyone. 

     Then on a morning not long after, I had coffee with someone in a really tough situation, someone I had met awhile back at the Harvard Business School Networking breakfast.  He called me and asked for a meeting.  When we met he told me he wanted to make a career change and he asked me to help.  I reviewed his resume and told him it would be tough considering he’d been in management consulting for many years.  My clients hire me to find people with specific, recent experience in finance & accounting.  I encouraged him to reach out to his network and reminded him that most jobs are found through referrals, not recruiters.  He mumbled that he didn’t really have a network for referrals.  I smiled as I thought, “He does have a network but he just doesn’t know it.”  Professional consultants with years of experience know many people because they go from engagement to engagement, meeting clients along the way.  What’s even better is that consultants are viewed as experts in their field and their former clients already know their work.  When I recommended that he contact this network, he said he could not because his colleagues knew all the same client contacts. 

This made me think about what kind of return on investment networking really has.

    If you don’t get out and meet people outside your company and even your industry, it’s pretty tough to conduct a confidential job search.  Given that jobs are getting shorter and turnover is more common, we are all going to have to be in a search at some point.  If everyone you know knows your manager and coworkers, then you will have to wait to get let go before you can start the job search.  That will delay your search, cost you money, and decrease your options. 

I think there is a high ROI on networking, and I encourage you to invest in yourself!

Taking Charge of Your Career….It’s Your Responsibility.

January 22nd, 2010 Comments off

            It seems like my career has taken so many different twists over the last 20-years that sometimes I wonder if I’ve been a victim to the constant upheaval cast in my direction or if, more often than not, I have just been prepared to deal with the change as it comes. In my most recent round of interviews we discussed my career path and I discussed how I felt as though I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to bring my career to the point it’s at.  Very simply, I’ve gone through multiple acquisitions, multiple recessions, the death of a company founder, and more. Through it all, I’ve managed to secure some great opportunities, all of which, in some way, contributed to my most recent position.

            For me, all along the way, it has always been about how one takes charge of their career and avoids going stale in an uninspiring and complacent company. It has never been about working for a sexy company or brand name, although Quiksilver/DC Shoes does fit that bill. Take MGE UPS Systems as an example. It doesn’t get much duller than steel boxes with transformers and batteries. Whoa….hold onto your hat!  But what was so interesting is that they had three distinct elements of the business (custom project, flow goods, and Service), all of which required a different level of reporting, and ultimately, a consolidation into our French parent company. They were constantly innovating, open to change, driven by performance, and we had a team that worked great together…at least until the merger. Great stuff. But what happens when you work for what would be perceived as a “sexy” company, but you have complacent staff or management, an uninspiring product line, no long-term vision, and a general lack of support for your functional area? It’s time to take charge of your career.

            I can’t say that I have always taken charge of my career, at least entirely. When my North American CFO position was eliminated in the merger at MGE, I was left without a cell phone, personal email account, and even a laptop. I had placed the trust of my career in a company that I was completely dedicated to. I was not networking, I was not attending professional events, nor was I even signed up on LinkedIn. Digital footprint….what is that? Yes, I was pretty much kicked to the curb without any resources. Fortunately, with the guidance of some very supportive people, I started networking pretty darn quick. The problem was, the elimination of my position happened in Oct-07. This was right when the recession started kicking into gear and everything came to a screeching halt. So what you do….?

·         Networking became priority number one. As many events as I could.

·         Made contact with as many recruiters as possible. Although only a handful have shown the test of time and integrity.

·         Established my profile on LinkedIn.

·         Developed the strategy for my blog, which was intended to be a resume complement.

·         Started working consulting projects, some free, to stay sharp on the skills.

·         Volunteered to mentor those younger and starting their careers.

 

            Although I finally dug out from what was a pretty tough period, it’s hard to say exactly what it might have been specifically attributed to. What I can say is that many of these initiatives, which started out as survival tactics, have now turned into habits after 2-years of constant commitment. While I am fully committed to my current company, love what I do, and can’t wait to get into the office, I am a much more balanced professional than I was 2-years ago. I feel that the path I have been walked down in my career, while difficult, has provided me with the competitiveness to not be complacent in any aspect of my work. You can never blame your company or industry for a lack of inspiration or growth….you can only blame yourself.

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael

Houston….We Have a Problem!

January 13th, 2010 Comments off

            Houston, we have a problem!  I’m now 12-days into the 2010 year, and almost 3-weeks since my last half-ass blog post, and a full 2-months since my last serious posting. Granted, there’s been a lot going in those two months. 2-months ago I started the interview process for a new CFO position, which I am escatic to report….I secured! Then we rolled into the Holidays, which meant some much needed downtime and decompressing after an incredibly hectic 2009, and really, the first real chance to kick back and relax a bit since my merger turmoil of 2007. Yes, it was a VERY enjoyable Christmas this year.

 

            However, it’s time to get back to business and there’s not better way to do that than with a little old-fashioned accountability and peer pressure, which is exactly what a public posting of goals will do. Although I mentioned in my last posting that I was going to have to throttle back a bit on posting info relative to my current position (public company….), there are so many other topics that I look forward to addressing this year. Over the break I put together a listing of blog topics that I will be drafting in the coming weeks and months.  Some of these topics include:

 

Ø  Are you securing true value from your published reporting or just assembling volumes of historical data?

Ø  Can you really perform an honest introspective on your skills & abilities relative to the opportunity currently on the table?

Ø  How do you drive change within a company that is so entrenched with the old armada & “the way it’s always been done…”?

Ø  Taking charge of your career and ensuring you don’t go stale in a stale & uninspiring environment.

Ø  Driving improved financial performance in the face of non-existent staffing resources.

Ø  How do you ensure consistency in your financial reporting when the “East”, “West”, and “Russia” are all coming to the table with different reporting formats?

Ø  Are you telling me the only way to increase your corporate valuation is through mergers, reorganizations, & fancy new ERP systems?

 

            As Finance professionals, we all have an obligation to not only create and increase value within our respective companies, but to increase our knowledge base as individuals. It’s that curiousity and enhanced knowledge that will keep us ahead of our competition and to deliver results that will increase our individual “commodity value”.  Perhaps if you don’t enjoy the career you’ve chosen then this is a difficult task. However, I do love what I do and embrace the opportunity to increase my knowledge in this area. I don’t ever want to be put in a position where I feel like I’m going stale, where I have no career options, or I’m failing to create value for the company I’m working for.

 

            So here’s to a fantastic 2010! I look forward to what I feel is Volume II of this blog after having a nice 2-month break and the chance to recharge. It starts here today and let’s see where we wind up at the end of the year.

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael