CFO Intelligence Magazine – Winter 2022
Executives were energized at the CFO Intelligence launch event
The ongoing pandemic has created challenges for individuals and business — but the 80-plus CFOs and other executives who met in-person at the 2021 CFO Intelligence launch event were upbeat. In conversations with leaders from a variety of industries, common themes included the need to be innovative and responsive to employee and customer concerns.
A live event business finds workarounds
As a “live event business” — with marquee assets that include the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center — Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment could have been slammed when social gathering restrictions were imposed following the pandemic’s outbreak “But we had assets on TV … as long as we were playing [professional sport] games, business was moving along,” said HBS&E CFO David Collins.
He believes the live entertainment sports business “Will continue to grow,” partly since streaming services “are interested in live content,” and also because “it only happens live once … and I think the value of entertainment and the value to these media companies will continue to grow, and I think it’s a really positive trend in the business.”
Cost savings are more vital than ever
With the advent of COVID, companies may be spending less on some categories, like T&E, “But at the end of the day, companies are spending money somewhere,” noted Ben Simons, a representative of Divvy, which uses a “smart” Visa-branded credit card to automate expense reports and other business processes. “Divvy [which was acquired by Bill.com in June 2021] is a consolidation solution that’s meant to pull in not just T&E, but all of the expenses of a business.”
Simons was impressed with the CFO Intelligence launch event, noting that “CFOs are the decision makers at the end of the day — so if I can get in front of a CFO … it’s a perfect situation.”
CPAS innovate to meet client needs
CPA firms like EisnerAmper are at Ground Zero when it comes to assessing Covid-related effects on companies — and they’re also adapting to the new ways of doing business. To perform inventory counts, for example, the firm considered “the concept of using drones, which had never been used before,” according to Audit Partner Travis Epp. “We learned that we could do things in a different way that speeds things up.”
A lot of the issues “that our clients are facing are the same issues that we’re facing,” noted EisnerAmper Tax Partner Allie Colman. From transitioning to a hybrid or totally virtual environment to “continuing your culture in an environment where you’re not together in person.”
Technology helps, added Tax Partner Barbara Peña. “I have clients I’ve never met (in person) but we have video calls quite often,” so even if the meetup format of the business relationship “changed slightly,” there are ways to keep the relationship going, “through video and texts. In some ways, the relationships are even stronger now.”
A CASE STUDY FOR THE FUTURE
“We are the case study … for what the future will look like,” said Scott Lesh, a Managing Director at the global real estate services company JLL. “There’s a lot of diversity” in approaches to office and other work environments, he added.
Some of it involves repurposing. In markets like New Jersey, office space is being repurposed for industrial and for life science use. By category, industrial is “extremely busy,” and retail is “slowly” making a comeback, he noted, while Class A office space “tends to have a higher success rate” in attracting and retaining tenants. Like other companies, JLL had to quickly pivot to maintain contact, at a distance, with clients and prospects. But some things did not have to change. Lesh said his client conversations always start with “the human experience … so we understand how you work, and then we drive a solution.”
HELPING BUSINESSES TO TRANSFORM
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and more people switched to a work-from-home model, Sutherland — a digital transformation and business processes company that counts Amazon, Airbnb, T-Mobile, Goldman Sachs, Sony and others as clients — quickly shifted gears, according to Director of Business Development Mark Gervais.
The company quickly and safely arranged for its 40,000 global employees to work from home while continuing to meet client needs, he noted. To maintain confidentiality for banking, insurance and other clients while employees work from home, Sutherland computers monitor the background activity at an employee’s location and “they mask the information if somebody walks behind the employee,” he added.
AN ESSENTIAL BUSINESS ADAPTS
Doka USA makes concrete forms used in a variety of infrastructure and other projects, and as an essential business, “Our [outdoor] projects went on, and our yard work went on,” said CFO Ralf Hermkens.
But the company also adopted remote tools for meetings, and “People realized we were flying out to different states, or even countries, just to have a two-hour meeting,” he added. “That put a lot of stress on people and families, and people realized that videoconferencing works. It may not work for everything, but it works for a lot of things.”
A BET on GROWTH PAYS OFF
Despite the pandemic, Carl Stahl Sava Industries continues to grow, turning in a “record 2021,” according to President and CEO Chris Krasas. The company, which is active globally, provides custom cable assemblies, precision miniature and small cables, fittings, pulleys and tools to businesses in a variety of industries, including a planned entry into the fast-growing robotic surgery market.
He noted that a move to “go long on inventory” in February 2020 paid off when many manufacturers were stung by supply chain shortages. For savvy CFOs, Krasas added, “Our ability to handle the unknown … really shined through the pandemic.”