Erik Anspach, CPA, CGMA

CFO of Bison Engineering Inc., an environmental consulting firm based in Montana

Erik Anspach, CPA, CGMA
Photo by Janie Osborne/AP Images

'It's all about relationships ...'

Wearing many hats: I have my accounting role, but I also handle human resources and IT responsibilities. I'm involved in the company vision and looking at how we're going to implement it and make it a reality. At times I can be doing all of those things in one meeting, while listening to people and gathering their input. I enjoy coordinating all of those different pieces together simultaneously. I'm able to see what the possibilities are and then create solutions to overcome the obstacles that pop up along the way, and help people to work together. Having that role and ability later in my career gets me fired up.

Managing finance and IT: Being an accountant in charge of the servers and the computers is about knowing enough not to be dangerous and knowing I can't fix all the problems. It's all about relationships. I develop strong relationships with our technology vendors so they know our business, our needs, and our risks. They come up with the solutions — that's not my background or expertise. My background and expertise allow me to look at the risks and rewards of each solution — what does it cost? Is it worth it? And what does it take to deploy? But I still need to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and how to use that in our firm.

When to take the plunge: My technology vendor and I work together closely. They know who we are, and they know about new technology. If they think new technology could be good for us, they explain how we can benefit. For example, Office 365 was a great decision for us. A couple of years ago we did the financial calculations and we weren't there, but we kept it in view, and each year we'd think about whether we should take the plunge or not. Then the pricing changed, and our needs changed. Our software was out-of-date and wasn't as compatible as it should be with our clients, so we made that switch. Our IT vendor guided us through the transition, and it was well worth it.

Getting the most out of our people: We want our employees to feel they get to be part of a team that builds and accomplishes something valuable and meaningful, and to think about how their skills and interests fit with the needs of our company and clients. We look at professional development and where that fits in with the work that our staff does and the overall strategy of the company. Recently, we looked not just at technical development but looked at social or emotional awareness — how do you work together as a team better? How do you work through issues? People can pick up the technical side of a job pretty quickly, but the emotional intelligence side is tougher and often not as obvious or straightforward.

— As told to Lea Hart (lea.hart@gmail.com), a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.

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