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That was then, this is now

Congrats to the 2018 CFO of the Year honorees

Anne Janotta Erickson, MNCPA senior business & industry marketing coordinator | December/January 2018-19 Footnote

Early inspirations, challenges and dreams form the underpinnings for our future professional selves. This year's Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal CFO of the Year honorees never could have predicted they'd drive the financial well-being of the organizations they serve. But here they are.

Let's get to know the MNCPA members honored in 2018.

Penny Allen

New Horizon Academy

That was then ...

"I was the weird kid who always knew I wanted to be an accountant."
Allen discovered her love of numbers via her dad's dental practice. The two bonded over the monthly payroll, a task she eventually took over completely. But it wasn't until serving as an officer for Beta Alpha Psi at the University of Wisconsin Madison that she knew becoming a CPA was in her future.

This is now ...

"A colleague once asked what fills my bucket. Undoubtedly, it's when I tour our schools and see our mission statement -- 'Providing the best child development on the planet' -- in action."

New Horizon Academy believes out-of-this-world child care should be the expectation, not the exception. Under Allen's 24 years of leadership, this child care and early education provider has doubled in size across four states while maintaining an accreditation level that sets them apart. 

Steve Gfroerer

Cobb, Strecker, Dunphy & Zimmermann, Inc. (CSDZ)

That was then ...

"I had a high school teacher that was instrumental in making me think about accounting as a career. He hooked me on accounting."

That teacher's name is no longer on the tip of Gfroerer's tongue. But he's grateful nonetheless for the guidance that pushed him into accounting. Gfroerer earned his undergrad degree from St. John's University, where the importance of the CPA was stressed throughout his four years in Collegeville.

This is now ...

"I enjoy mentoring. If someone is passionate and wants to learn, it's all about giving them attention so that passion doesn't fade."

A confident CFO coaches his team on how to replace him. It's this very approach that allows Gfroerer the opportunity to grow, too. During his 20 years at CSDZ, his role has evolved beyond the numbers to include operations, too. Today, he works across departments, bridging the gap between where the numbers are and where they could be.

Marv Hannon

Minnesota Diversified Industries Inc.

That was then ...

Raised on a South Dakota farm, Hannon dreamt of carrying on the farming tradition. "But when you're a kid with allergies and asthma, that isn't going to work." Law became his new focus, but there was something about his general accounting courses that piqued his interest. Armed with an MBA, he landed at Touche Ross with his CPA not far behind.

This is now ...

"If you're having a bad day, walk out onto our manufacturing floor. It'll put a smile on your face."

MDI's not-for-profit mission of employing people with disabilities is the ideal complement to Hannon's strengths as a CFO. Yes, there's a business to run. But Marv loves the organization's mission so much it hardly feels like work. MDI's unique business model serves an underemployed and underpaid sector of society.

Jolene Hart

Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest

That was then ...

"I've been hooked on accounting since I was a high school junior. I loved it so much I did two years of course work in a year."
In high school, Hart was an introvert who craved digging into the numbers. Earning her CPA stripes at McGladrey, she never anticipated how much she'd enjoy working with clients. But, years later, she'd have it no other way.

This is now ...

"Being a CPA gives me the ability to take the numbers and translate them into a story. I'm able to show operational staff what these numbers will do for them in plain English."

Junior Achievement's story is growing more exciting each day. By year's end, they'll be operating from their new Midway facility, doubling their student outreach efforts. Hart has been influential in writing this chapter in the nonprofit's story, overseeing the sale of their Maplewood location and renovation, and move to St. Paul.

Brooks Smith

Innovative Office Solutions LLC

That was then ...

"I didn't grow up with an accounting background. Most of what I have learned has been on the job, which makes me appreciate the discipline required of the accounting profession."

How does a political science major turned lawyer end up with CPA behind their name? When they're told they'll never make manager without it. After years at Coopers & Lybrand and KPMG, Smith's corporate shift came by way of the med-tech industry. Specifically, his buddy's then-garage-based medical device company.

This is now ...

"Every day comes with challenges and rewards. I value that my CPA background allows me to get involved in all aspects of the company -- not just the backside of accounting but the front lines, too."

Businesses are buying less paper, staples and paperclips than ever. And, yet, Innovative Office Solutions is experiencing rapid growth. Through product and service diversification, and a series of acquisitions, the company has hit $150 million in annual revenue, expanded into three states and hired more than 300 employees.