Danielle McLarnon, CPA, CGMA

Director of Finance and Accounting, New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.

 

It’s the culture at New Belgium that makes us different. I think some of it is that we make craft beer, but a lot of it is when you work for a place that respects you, listens to you, asks for information from you, you care. You feel good about going to work each day. You feel good about the people you work with and the product you’re making. New Belgium lives that.

We are 100% employee-owned, and that definitely makes us unique. It’s pretty fantastic, because of the vibe of your co-workers. They want to know what they can do to affect either morale or culture or community, but also on the finance side, “What can I do to help the bottom line? What is it that I can do every day that will help this company in total?”

We have an all-staff meeting every month. I have about 10 minutes to give a financial update. It’s very high-level: how we’re performing, how well we are covering costs, what our margin is, what our earnings are. If I can see people aren’t getting it, then something in me says, “OK, take it back a level. Go back to the previous concept I was talking about, and make sure they understand what depreciation is or what EBITDA is.”

When I present to the management group, I get a little more detailed. Maybe I’ll talk more about why our revenue is over or under, or why our cost of goods sold was X vs. Y. Then when I talk to the board, I keep it at a high level, but I do a lot of ratios and trends. Being able to wear that different hat is fun, and I love it, and it is a challenge.

I get plenty of questions about our finances. If we weren’t open-book-managed, co-workers would still ask the questions, but they wouldn’t ask them outwardly. They would maybe talk amongst themselves and not really know the answers. Now, if they have a question, they can come ask one of us. If someone doesn’t know the answer, we’ll find someone who does.

When I’m interviewing job candidates, I always ask some cultural questions. At New Belgium, we have core values and beliefs that I like to ask about. “What does it mean to have authentic communication? What does it mean to have fun?” In today’s world, I feel like we all have to multitask so much, so I ask, “How do you go about prioritizing your day when you have all these demands?” And then, “How do you create relationships with new people?” I think those are two really key aspects of someone’s work.

After college, I worked at KPMG in Boston for about four years. Then I moved out to Colorado, working for a small CPA firm here for about two years, and I’ve worked at New Belgium for 10 years. I’ve always wanted to live in the West.

My best career move was going into public accounting after college. I think that really opened my eyes to business, and really having a more critical eye on financial statements. You see so many different things and so many different businesses. You start to learn what looks weird and what looks normal. I think public accounting is like drinking from the firehose, in a good way. You’re with a different client every week or every month. Some are public, some are private, some are not-for-profit, some are government. You learn a ton, and it’s super helpful.

The best advice I’ve received is to be authentic and honest in your communication. This is one of New Belgium’s core values and beliefs, and I’ve learned this here at New Belgium from mentors and peers. You’re going to make a statement about something that’s going to happen, you set your budget, you make a profit sharing plan, and then something changes. So to really be honest and authentic in how you arrived at the decision you arrived at, and what’s changed and where you’re at now, I think that’s really important. It builds a lot of trust and respect. I think it’s key to being successful.

As told to Neil Amato, namato@aicpa.org ,
a
JofA senior editor.

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