When Mark George first joined Otis Elevator’s accounting team back in the late 1980s, he found fixed asset accounting to be different from what he expected.
Says George: ”We had to run around the company and put barcodes on any new piece of furniture that the company had purchased.” What’s more, George tells us, he roamed the corridors as a deputy in the accounts payable department, “punching A/P vouchers” and acquiring any necessary signatures.Read More
“I was always thinking, ‘How do I get away from doing this?,’” comments George, who notes that as a 20-something-year-old he sometimes felt like a “fish out of water” at Otis, which back then—as it is now—was part of the larger conglomerate patchwork that is United Technologies Corp.
“I understood accounting to a certain degree, but I was definitely not an accountant,” recalls George.
Less than enamored with the Otis accounting career ladder and potentially facing years of manual work, George began to speak up as he roamed the office and suggest changes to certain policies and processes that could eliminate the work that he personally disliked. He also began championing the adoption of new technologies that could automate manual tasks, despite the fact that such automation would more than likely put at risk his own position “with puncher in hand.”
“If at some point if they fired me, I was young enough and naïve enough to think that I would just go and get another job, as if that would be just that easy,” explains George, who adds that over time, his suggestions found wider support—and as more tasks became automated, he found himself in greater demand, not less.
“I would solve a problem, and they would give me more problems to solve,” remembers George, who observes that he began to view his early years at Otis in a new light after returning to the United States from a stint as CFO of Otis’s South Asia operations.
“I had moved around the company quite a bit by then, and I considered why I had already reached a certain level while others who had joined Otis at the same time had languished,” notes George, who credits his aversion to manual work with having opened the door to more opportunities in process improvement, beginning with a job in Otis’s treasury department and then leading to stints in financial planning and corporate development.
“Eventually, due to some M&A work and my treasury background, I got some exposure to some international M&A roles overseas, and our regional headquarters then asked me to take a permanent role,” says George, whose stint as Otis’s South Asia’s finance chief became the first of several CFO tenures within UT—including being named CFO of Otis itself. –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Norfolk Southern … what is it that sets this company apart?
George: One thing that I should mention about this business is that we are one of six Class I railroads in North America that move freight. We operate largely east of the Mississippi, where 70% of consumption takes place. One way to think about this is to understand that we essentially transport the U.S. economy. We move consumer products; automobiles; food and agriculture, like grain; lumber; paper; metals; plastics; and all sorts of industrial products—as well as energy sources like coal, oil, natural gas, even solar panels and wind turbines. So, we move the economy. We interchange with the other railroads to make sure that we cover the continent.Read More
Market trends are creating opportunities for us. Our customers are moving back from just-in-time supply operations. Manufacturing is coming back to the U.S., and warehouse capacity is expanding. So, we serve all of that.
Our customers actually prefer to ship by rail, especially when it’s not the most time-sensitive product. We provide better cost and value to them. We create a lot more capacity. We have very, very large freight cars. Our sustainability story, in particularly, is very, very compelling.
Basically, one train removes 200 trucks from our public highway system. Think about this. We move things on our own infrastructure, so we don’t have the safety concerns that you have in the highway system with all of that heavy freight moving around. On the sustainability side, we can move a ton of freight 440 miles on a single gallon of fuel. That’s pretty attractive. In the rail industry in general, we move 45% of all of the freight-ton miles that are out there, but we produce only 7% of freight emissions, on average. This is a very, very attractive sustainability story for our customers.
This is why they like us, and this is why we like being part of this new world economy. We think that we have a role to play. While the industry has been relatively stagnant in the past, we think that this move toward sustainability will provide a great growth platform for us in the future.
We are investing to grow. We think that it’s our mission—our noble mission—to take trucks off the highway and bring them onto the infrastructure in which we’re investing so much money. It will make our highways safer and our air cleaner.
Norfork Sourthern | www.nscorp.com | Atlanta, GA