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Chanticleer Holdings CFO Patrick Harkleroad knows how to distinguish between signals and noise. That’s evident when he’s helping colleagues mine an expanding trove of data for customer insights to improve customer experience at the company’s fast, casual, and full-service restaurant brands. It’s also the case when Harkleroad assesses his varied career experiences in investment banking (both capital markets ad mergers & acquisitions) and the restaurant industry and while guiding struggling companies through turnarounds as a consultant to CFOs. He’s learned to pair his dogged determination and true-north focus with larger doses of empathy to better understand the unique perspectives of all stakeholders involved in difficult decisions and tough deals. Harkleroad also discusses the value that finance executives can derive by dedicating themselves to the “day-to-day grind” required to perform as an elite CFO.
Guest: Patrick Harkleroad, CFO
Company: Chanticleer Holdings
Headquarters: Charlotte, NC
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CFOTL: When we ask for a finance strategic moment, what comes to mind for you?
Harkleroad: I think it was when I was brought on for a frozen food manufacturing/processing company. It was owned by a group of investors and they didn’t really have a ton of leadership. There was not one investor that controlled the operation, or owners.
And so there was really no cohesive sort of vision or strategy around where the business should go. But this company had an unbelievable product that was pushed through the Sysco US food channels as well as retail. It also had an international presence.
And I think what I learned was this: In my previous career, I was in banking and, as I mentioned, I was in the hospitality/restaurant/entertainment concept side. And then I got this opportunity in this project, and I learned a lot about ensuring visibility across the entire supply chain from supplier all the way to the end user. What I mean is, we processed sweet potato fries and sweet potato fries products, and understanding the timeline was critical – the lead time you needed from the time literally a sweet potato was pulled out of the ground, and delivered to your facility, to being processed. And understanding how critical downtime was, too.
We had a customer that was in Ireland and the UK that was a large customer to a very large national retail chain and a grocery chain. Knowing, understanding and learning how to put all those pieces together so that they would be delivered on time to their warehouse, so that they could be in turn delivered to this large grocery chain – that helped me learn. They didn’t have a great communication flow with their end users, so they needed to improve that process so that we would know what their deliveries looked like and what they expected deliveries to be over the next 12 to 16 weeks so that we could then come back to the supply we’d need today and next week. And I think that’s where I learned a lot about how to create communication flow so that everybody is accountable for their own silo, but also they recognize how it impacts another piece of the business.