OUTSTANDING CFO, LARGE PRIVATE COMPANY
Half Price Books
Laura Beverly has dedicated the last 20 years of her career to growing Half Price Books on a debt-free basis.
“We expand out of our cash flow and at a slow and steady pace without overextending ourselves,” she says.
The growth of the used-bookstore chain, which was founded in 1972, did indeed remain slow for the first few decades. Lately, however, the company’s growth has evolved into something more explosive, despite the struggling economy.
“About 10 years ago, we really locked into opening six to eight stores per year,” she says. We were “trying to find the best locations we could and expanding rapidly, but not over-expanding.”
Beverly has watched the company grow from 40 stores when she started in 1993 to more than 115 today. By leveraging its good reputation, Beverly enabled Half Price to capitalize on the new growth by adding online stores, textbook sales, and ancillary events. She also has invested the company’s assets in a way that prepares Half Price for future shifts in the industry and, therefore, for its long-term viability.
“We’ve made tough decisions in regards to cost-cutting measures,” Beverly says. “And we’ve set up a budget for research and development of new initiatives so that we may continue to scan the horizon for trends and best position the company for future growth.”
Kendall Helfenbein, Romacorp Inc.
OUTSTANDING CFO, MIDSIZED PRIVATE COMPANY
Mike Bates wishes he’d never ended his three-year stint at Wyndham Jade in the first place. In 2010, after working eight years for other companies, Wyndham Jade’s chief executive, Sue Trizila, asked Bates to rejoin her firm.
Bates jumped at the chance, and now serves dual roles as chief financial officer and chief operating officer for the company, which provides turnkey convention housing and registration services.
Upon his return, Bates began establishing more-efficient internal processes to manage the company’s working capital, including improving its relationship with its mezzanine partner. He helped relocate the company’s corporate headquarters and reduced the monthly close cycle by 40 percent. He also saved the company 30 percent on healthcare premiums—while maintaining cost and coverage to his employees—by implementing a healthcare reimbursement plan.
But the biggest transformation he’s made has been to the company’s financial team. Bates has replaced about 60 percent of its members. He eliminated stale processes and hired a controller who handles the finances of the privately held company in a transparent manner, running it as though it were public.
“I want to work with people to make sure we all understand what we’re doing and where we’re trying to get to,” Bates says. “We have created a very positive and productive work environment. ... We now have better knowledge, better attitudes, and more consolidation.”
Finalist: Jill Lampert, NPG Energy Capital Management
MOST INNOVATIVE FINANCE TEAM
Hunt Consolidated Inc.
Donna German fell sideways into her career. After earning undergraduate degrees in Spanish and English, she realized that those degrees might not help her earn a living. So she enrolled in business classes, eventually earning an MBS from Kansas State University.
Before joining Hunt Consolidated Inc.—the parent holding company for a firm with interests in energy, infrastructure, real estate, investments, and agribusiness—German was working as senior vice president/managing director at Chase Bank. “Hunt was one of our customers,” she says.
German’s responsibilities at Hunt are broad, from helping lead the analysis of debt-financing alternatives to raising more than $1 billion in the private-placement market over the last decade.
Specifically, her responsibilities include management of Hunt’s financial relationships with banks, institutional investors, and rating agencies, as well as administration of the cash, investment-management, and interest-rate-hedging activities.
In 2012, German also built Hunt’s Enterprise Risk Management Initiative. “The challenge,” she says, “was building a program that integrated enterprise risk management ‘best practices’ within a framework that also preserved the entrepreneurial spirit of the organization.”
Now in her 13th year with Hunt, German often travels abroad for the company and frequently makes use of her college Spanish—proving you never know when education will come in handy. “I think that, as Americans, we get complacent about expecting people to always communicate with us in our [own] language,” she says.
Finalist: Michael Sicuro, CCS Medical Inc.