“You must own the numbers and be the source of truth about the details. You must work with operations on execution, in addition to strategic direction, to ensure success. Last, you must be a voice of reason when communicating both internally and externally.” –Joe Euteneuer
Lovers of tortilla chips will swear that the only true ones are made with corn (and never wheat) and that when it comes to sourcing them, the highest-yielding kernel of corn comes from West Texas.
Or so explains Joe Euteneuer, who exited an auditor position with Price Waterhouse in the mid-1980s to join a snack-making entrepreneur in a quest to lower the cost of tortilla production—a coveted advantage in what was quickly becoming a highly competitive market.Read More
“I flew to West Texas and bought corn crops from those farmers so that I could get the best deal that we could and get the best return on my—on our—invested dollars,” explains Euteneuer, a seasoned finance leader who has to date occupied the CFO office at more than a half dozen companies, including hefty brands such as Mattel, Sprint, Sirius XM Radio and Comcast.
Still, it’s Euteneuer’s trip to West Texas that comes to mind when he’s asked what experiences best prepared him for a finance leadership role.
Reflecting on his encounters with the Texas farmers, Euteneuer observes, “It was the type of experience that you don’t typically get in an accounting department.”
The company’s small size, Euteneuer says, gave him the opportunity to take on more responsibility, which quickly allowed him to step into a chief operating officer role.
“It was like doing a practical MBA, inasmuch as we were building a company from scratch,” recalls Euteneuer, who adds that during his COO tenure, the company’s customer base began to spread across the western United States, which required the company to add greater capacity to its Phoenix and Minneapolis hubs.
Says Euteneuer: “I learned how to get chips and salsa onto every store shelf west of the Mississippi.” – Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: What’s exciting today about finance and business?
Euteneuer: I think about some of the things that have changed as a result of COVID and other things going on. First off, we used to think that working remote was a faux pas—don’t even think about it. Telemedicine was like, there’s no way you’re going to get a prescription over the phone or in a teleview. Now it’s totally acceptable.
So, it’s being able to rethink how your staff works together in a post-COVID world and having the ability to give people flexibility to work from home and reduce your office expense and stuff like that, but yet still build the comradery that you need to have a team that works together to drive for success and thinks about each other. This balance I find interesting and something being worked on as we go forward here.Read More
I think that AI—artificial intelligence—is really important, and how it’s being used in the finance function. Is cryptocurrency going to be something that becomes the next currency that we’re all using, and what does this mean for the finance function? How does it affect your books and records and how do you reflect it?
I think that there are a lot of things that are out there right now that make the finance function so important. I’ll give you one example. At Mattel, there were I-don’t-know-how-many PhDs—100 to 150—who were giving us information about the consumer and what they liked and what they didn’t like. We would even have people come in with virtual reality goggles and look at store shelves so that we knew where to place our products and stuff.
But the finance function got this responsibility of sharing the findings because we were the “one source of neutral truth.” We didn’t want the results tainted in one way or another. Finance wasn’t marketing. We weren’t product. We were just finance. We were the one source of truth. So, I think that being able to be involved in some of these things that are more operational—that haven’t been traditional finance—is what the finance role needs to be embracing.