Laura Felice, CPA, CGMA

Senior vice president, controller at BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. in Westborough, Mass.

 Laura Felice, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president, controller at BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. in Westborough, Mass.
Photo by Josh Reynolds/AP Images

'Don't be afraid to ask ...'

Ask questions and share opinions: I've gotten to where I am by always asking questions. I ask to tag along to meetings. I'm interested in strategy and the train of thought behind why we make a decision. It's also what I tell my team. Don't be afraid to ask, because you don't know unless you ask. And be prepared to have an opinion. No one wants to hear your opinion every time, but when you have an opinion at a meeting, express it. Don't sit on it and think that someone else has already thought of it. That's really important because then people value you in the company.

Keeping up with automation: We're spending a lot of time internally on finding the right answer when it comes to automation. It's where the world is going. We need to get on board and start moving, because if we don't, we're going to be way behind. With automation, there's a balance to it. At some point, the goal is to remove manual processes that you can automate; but equal time needs to be given to focusing on people doing manual processes today and helping them become strategic thinkers to drive the business forward tomorrow. They need to be ready to share better predictive and descriptive insights. People will be trained differently, think differently, and be more strategic in the future.

Making an impact during the pandemic: I have been fortunate to work for a company that was deemed an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic. I never thought selling eggs and paper towels would be such a great business to be in. While work has been exponentially busy, I've used my time, relationships, and learnings to help benefit colleagues at other retailers who have not been as fortunate. This has included sharing best practices for safe operating, sharing supply chain relationships for personal protective equipment, and lobbying for accounting guidance clarification on lease modifications with FASB and the SEC.

Implementing new accounting standards: BJ's went public almost two years ago. The last two things we implemented were the leasing standard and the revenue recognition standard. The way to success, for us, was twofold. I have a very high-performing team, some I've put into place and some who were here before I started. They all have Big Four public accounting experience. They understand financials and controls and accounting guidance. That was our key to success in getting the new standards in on time. You have to surround yourself with really smart people. Second, at BJ's we have a strong partnership with our accounting firm. We can tell them we have a business problem we're trying to solve and we truly view them as partners in our approach. Having them by our side was really important to implementing the standards.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.

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