TrainingPros CFO Jill Vogin describes her early-career public accounting experience as a “virtual master’s degree” in corporate finance and accounting. It was also something of a good omen, given that Vogin now leads the finance function of a highly specialized staffing company with virtual offices throughout the country and (more recently) around the world. It’s also fitting that Vogin oversaw the implementation of a cloud-based ERP system. Vogin discusses how she’s adapted her leadership style to suit the virtual environment while resetting her team’s expectations concerning performance and collaboration.
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Guest: Jill Vogin, CFO
Headquarters: Atlanta, GA
CFOTL: Tell us about a finance strategic moment that you experienced during your career …
Vogin: One of the things that I learned is that communication, good communication, is key. And these days, I see that a lot of people will rely on email and be afraid to pick up the phone. This sounds like a silly little thing, but I realized early on that it could make a huge difference in productivity. The story I’d like to tell is about when I was just a couple of years out of school and I was in internal audit at a large Fortune 500 company.
Their corporate staff was fairly small, so we knew each other. I knew the presidents and the vice presidents of this large company just because of the location. A year or two later, I ended up transferring to a subsidiary. I was a staff person, and I got assigned to a department that spent a tremendous amount of time producing a 30-page statistical report for one of those vice presidents back at corporate.
I questioned it, and I said, “You know, are you sure he really wants all of this?” Because this was really before personal computers. It was a lot of man-hours in producing all these statistics. I was given a “This is how we’ve always done it, don’t question it.” But I couldn’t help myself. Because I knew him personally, I called him and I said, “You know, I have a couple of questions about this report that we do for you.” He said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Well there’s this like 30-page report and they name it after you and it has all these statistics.” He laughed and said, “Oh, that thing! I just asked some questions many years ago and they keep sending me this package every year and I just pitch it in the trash.” And so my “A-ha!” moment was that you can’t be afraid to ask questions.
The lost productivity for creating a report that the executive threw in the garbage because everyone was afraid to question the executive–that, for me, is something that has stayed with me forever. In the way that I relate not just to the people above me, but also to the people who work for me. I tell them, “I want you to tell me, I want you to question me. I want to put out the best product–not for you to just say, “Yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am,” and follow my rule. Because you know, you just never know. If you treat people with respect and with professionalism, then asking questions should never be a problem. So that was my “A-ha!” moment.