By Adam Moore
When it comes to unsung heroes in the modern business world, are there any more deserving of recognition than the financial executives?
Once considered just number crunchers or “bean counters,” CFOs, treasurers and controllers are now being asked to wear multiple hats and take on strategic leadership roles within their organizations. For most financial executives, that means doing everything from negotiating access to capital markets to training employees to interpreting financial results – all without the acclaim or fanfare that comes from being CEO.
That reality formed the basis for the Corridor Business Journal’s inaugural Financial Executive of the Year awards, which were given to five executives from around the Corridor during a June 3 event at the Cedar Rapids Marriott for their outstanding contributions to their businesses or organizations.
“We are recognizing individuals who don’t normally get a lot of recognition, but are integral to their organizations,” CBJ CEO and Publisher John Lohman said in his opening remarks at the event. “When we selected this year’s class and started promoting the honorees, I got some feedback from folks who said, ‘John, I didn’t know very many of your honorees.’ That’s exactly why we’re putting this event on.”
This year’s honorees spanned five categories, and were selected by a five-person panel with more than 150 combined years of experience in accounting and finance.
The honorees included Dawn Jindrich, budget director of Linn County (government/education); Milton Aunan, senior vice president and CFO of UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Healthcare (nonprofit); Chris Hartman, CFO of Geonetric (private small company); Jeff Quint, CFO of Involta (private medium company); and Mick Slinger, CFO of Van Meter Inc. (private large company).
And while each executive faces unique pressures and needs within their respective industries, they all spoke of the challenges and rewards of being a financial executive in today’s rapidly changing business climate – whether during their acceptance speeches or in the interviews that formed this issue’s profiles.
“I work with people who make me uncomfortable almost every day – and I mean that in the best way possible,” Mr. Hartman said of his teammates at the fast-moving software and web development company, drawing laughs from the more than 180 people in attendance. “I work with people who are constantly changing direction, searching for the next thing to break, and I have to keep up, or else I’ll be left behind.”
“It has made me very uncomfortable at times, and for that I will be forever grateful, as it has made me a better person and a better accountant,” he added.
For Mr. Slinger of Van Meter, managing his company’s growth from $48 million in revenues to $480 million over the past two decades, and its transition to a 100 percent employee-owned company, has come with its share of challenges, but it has also given him the opportunity to redefine his own role as one of educator and culture creator.
“I get the blessing to do what I love,” Mr. Slinger said. “I get to work with 400-plus employee-owners and do what I’m passionate about, which is to help others understand what they can do to impact the business they own.”
And while the CBJ’s first Financial Executive of the Year awards aimed to dispel some of the lingering stereotypes surrounding accounting-types (or “accounting geeks,” as Ms. Jindrich called herself), they also revealed a few of the traits that have made these financial executives so integral to their organizations.
Mr. Slinger and Ms. Jindrich demonstrated the value of teamwork and loyalty by dedicating their awards to the rest of their co-workers, while Mr. Aunan of UnityPoint health delivered a lesson on patience and gratitude through a touching tribute to his wife’s encouragement throughout the years.
Mr. Quint of Involta talked about the importance of perseverance and staying true to one’s self, despite the extreme ups and downs that come with starting new ventures.
“[Success] didn’t happen on any particular day – it happened slowly over time as we just stayed in the game,” Mr. Quint recalled, adding, “Don’t give up, don’t give in – find a space you love and stay in the game.”
The Financial Executive of the Year Awards were sponsored by United Fire Group, Marco, The Overture Group, Marco, University of Iowa Community Credit Union and Prairie Capital Advisors.