I’m incredibly proud of working for Godiva. I have a lot of pride around the brand, because I think it’s the best. I can go to parties and talk to people, and they know the brand. There’s definitely a very strong positive reaction to the brand, and I love that aspect of my job. It’s not just in the U.S. You go everywhere, and people know the brand. A lot of companies spend a lot of money building awareness of a brand, but we already have the awareness.
I am involved in a lot of meetings around product innovation, so I get to sample a lot. If you’ve ever done a wine-tasting, they give you, like, eight glasses of wine. You have to make sure you don’t drink all eight. It’s the same thing here. You could be in a meeting, and literally they’re going to bring out 20 different chocolates. You could eat the full chocolate every time, or you could just take a little taste. So I try to manage that, maybe have three whole ones and just taste the rest.
I went to the University of Massachusetts, and that’s when I found accounting. I thought I would go into marketing. I took my first accounting class, first semester of sophomore year, and I loved it. It sort of came naturally to me. It was a nice, technical discipline within finance. I think it’s a great way to start your career because it gives you that technical foundation.
I started at Price Waterhouse. I come out of college, and I don’t really know anything. I was so excited I had a job and could buy a car. I’m studying to be a CPA. And PW—it was PW then, not PwC—talked about the business approach to auditing. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. The first thing they taught you was, “Before you go in to audit a company, you need to understand the company from the top. You need to understand the business perspective, what are the strategies of the company, how do they compete.”
As CFO of the company, I don’t directly handle technical issues day to day, but I use accounting every day in how I look at our business. The training to become a CPA¬—it’s a more analytical path than people give it credit for.
I met my wife, Doreen, at Price Waterhouse. She’s a CPA as well. My wife is probably the best accountant I’ve ever met. I started a year before her, and certain people that are really good jump up to the next level. She was one of them. She’s done a good job reminding me of the importance of life/work balance.
With mobile devices, the expectation has changed. Because everyone has these devices, if you send an email and someone doesn’t respond in 10 minutes, you start to wonder, is something wrong? Really, it’s a little bit too much. It’s a double-edge sword. Technology’s great, and it has great advantages, but the expectation’s higher now. I have to admit, I’m always looking at my smartphone.
I’m a huge sports fan. I love all Philadelphia sports teams. That absorbed a lot of my time, as a kid and even as I’ve grown. My No. 1 sport is baseball. I played baseball, and when I can, I coach an American Legion baseball team of 14- to 15-year-olds. It’s my passion.
Before Godiva, I worked at Tasty Baking Co., the maker of Tastykakes. At both companies, I’ve had an opportunity to work with very talented product development and marketing people that really remind you of the importance of the consumer. Sometimes you can forget about that. Innovation is great when it’s done right, because you’re constantly thinking, “What will work? What’s that thing that’s going to wow them?” It’s understanding the consumer, but constantly bringing them something new.
Is chocolate recession-proof? That’s a tough one. I’d say yes and no. I think we have seen growth during a time when a lot of companies have been negatively impacted by the recession. Chocolate is a behavior that’s very strong.
—As told to Neil Amato,
a JofA senior editor.
PHOTO BY ROBERT MILAZZO/ROBERT MILAZZO PHOTOGRAPHY