The Finance Futurists is an elite group of leaders who embrace constant evolution as a necessity in the ever-changing world of finance.
More than number-crunchers, these leaders represent a new era for finance—one defined by a shift from IQ to EQ. Here, we speak to Jeffery Giavotella, CFO at Ballard Brands, about what the future holds for the finance function and his advice for ambitious finance leaders.
Jeffery joined Ballard Brands, a diversified hospitality business, in 2006 as Director of Finance. Throughout his tenure and promotion to CFO, his experience solving problems in real-time has proven to be a critical attribute for the growing company . Ballard Brands includes a team of approximately 1,100 employees that work together to manage the company’s multiple franchise concepts, coffee manufacturing & distribution, and other hospitality related businesses, which now total 40 companies.
As Ballard Brand’s fearless leader in finance, Jeffery is committed to ensuring his accounting team has the tools and environment necessary for optimum job performance and accountability. He is always challenging his team to think beyond their comfort zone. Jeffery is accustomed to wearing many hats, as his job functions include but are not limited to:
- Financial planning, analysis, and report
- Debt and cash management
- Cost reduction/avoidance
- Capital funding
- Mergers and acquisitions
We recently sat down with Jeffery to discuss his passion for implementing an efficient infrastructure as a means of fostering greater innovation, taking risks as a financial leader and being confident in their outcomes, as well as learning from experience to propel a business forward.
Sage: When and how did you start your career in finance? What about finance appealed to you?
Jeffery Giavotella: Believe it or not, I sort of fell into the industry backwards compared to 99% of finance professionals. Prior to my career in finance, I worked as a paramedic, but I have always had a fascination with numbers. I’ve dabbled in finance for as long as I can remember – since I was able to open my own checking account, which I think was at 13 years old. I remember asking my Grandmother to co-sign because I was too young. I would collect aluminum cans for recycling from our family restaurant and she would bring me to cash them in for dollars. The more dollars the better!
Sage: What’s the initiative or accomplishment you’re most proud of during your career?
JG: I take great pride in having adopted and integrated new technologies into my company’s business workflow. Before beginning my career at Ballard Brands, the company had zero infrastructure – I was genuinely working from the ground up. A crazy start to a crazier future. Over the years, we digitized everything, which has helped our business in every aspect. I owe a special thanks to our company owners for extending their trust and support while allowing me autonomy to achieve my vision of building them a credible accounting & finance department.
Sage: What skills do you think are paramount for finance professionals today? What about finance professionals of the near future?
JG: Common sense. I cannot express the importance of this rare gift to humanity. Other critical skills include the ability to multi-task and one’s integrity. It is also important to hold yourself accountable for your actions and in my case, the actions of many others. It’s important to have the ability to make your own decisions and be able to have the trust that if you spend money, you’re spending it in the right place.
Additionally, ensuring you are up-to-date with everything will guarantee you have your finger on the pulse of how the company is operating financially – which also allows you to pinpoint opportunities to streamline processes and identify areas for improvement.
Sage: In a post-pandemic world, what do you think will be the most important role of a CFO? What advice do you have for other finance leaders?
JG: The CFO of tomorrow must be able to manage a balance between technology and human capital. Never stop thinking of ways to make things more efficient and credible. Instead of dwelling on the hardships that the pandemic has dealt to the business, financial leaders should take this as an opportunity to triage their current business processes, review vendor agreements, and prepare to surface as more efficient and profitable business.
A CFO must be able to manage pressure without losing focus. You will develop thick skin. CFOs must be able to think in objectively and not be afraid to be very candid of the facts.
As we’ve learned over the last few months, the ability to work remotely and have everything accessible is essential to any business, especially in the modern world. Implementing technology to support remote workforces, aid in disaster recovery, and support digital payments will continue to be a trend that finance leaders should welcome.
Sage: What professional opportunity in the coming months or years are you most excited about?
JG: I am up day and night thinking about ways to streamline and make things more efficient in an effort to increase productivity. Technology has enabled us to build a scalable, reliable infrastructure and create efficiencies while minimizing manual entries to significantly reduce our error potential.
While I still have an interest in the medical field from my background as a paramedic and would love to go to med school, I look forward to continuing to learn from experience and find opportunities for advancement in the world of finance.
To learn more about the Finance Futurists and get sage advice and insights from the other US recipients, explore the Finance Futurists website. To keep up with Jeffery and his innovative work at Ballard Brands, be sure to connect with him on LinkedIn.