Winners of the first annual 2020 Controller of the Year Awards have been selected after a nomination period and judging process that began in January of this year. The awards program was available to Corporate Controllers and related titles that have controller responsibilities including VPs, Chief Accounting Officers, and more. Hundreds of applicants were either self-nominated, or nominated by a colleague via a brief and anonymous online survey that requested information on 2020 financial performance, work experience, volunteer or philanthropic activities, and educational background.

All nominations were screened by an algorithm and judged by Controllers Council Board Members. Winners are announced for 5 categories based on size and type, along with public or private classifications, and Runners-Up, where applicable (Small, Medium, Enterprise, Startup, Not-For-Profit). Learn about the 15 winners below.

National Winner: Brandt Kucharski

Brandt Kucharski started his career in public accounting. He then found Grubhub – started working there when there were only about 50 employees and helped build it up from a start-up to a 7-billion-dollar company. In his eyes, it has been a dream to see the company start so small and grow.

Top Keys to Brandt’s Success

  1. Great, motivated team
  2. Looking for ways to grow
  3. Predicting the future

Start-Ups: Julie Kinnard

Julie Kinnard background was always in accounting, finance, and HR. When she made the change to FreightWise, she was at a part in her career that she was doing the same thing over and over, and she was ready to dive into a business that she could build from the ground up. Julie states “that is about establishing those relationships and building the right structure that is rewarding and exciting.”

Top Key to Julie’s Success

  1. Building relationships

Small but Mighty: Kim Ausk, Michael Chernoff, and Chris Brubaker

Kim Ausk background was that she started in public accounting. In this past year and half, she has had the opportunity to work at Laird Superfood, and they took the company public last year.

Top Key to Kim’s Success

  1. It is a team sport; takes the ability to work together to win.

Michael Chernoff background was that he spent a ton of time at software companies and a few startups. It is a lot of hard work. It is a grind.

Top Key to Michael’s Success

  1. Understanding software tools

Chris Brubaker background was that he started out in finance and ended up going to law school but did not enjoy being a lawyer at all. His role as a controller became accidently; he was looking for a director of finance role.

Top Keys to Chris’ Success

  1. Building a good team with experience
  2. Use the tools of his network
  3. Use all the technology available

Medium Public: Brenna Albert and Faisal Rusho

Brenna Albert background was that she started in academia, then went back on a master’s in accounting and was on the track of PhD. She then started out in fortune 500 companies. Just 6 years ago, her path brought her to Chicago to work for Cresco, which was a risk-taking experience in her eyes. The journey she is on now is to take things to the next level.

Top Keys to Brenna’s Success

  1. Building teams
  2. Solving problems

Faisal Rusho background was that he started in finance at the department of education. About 10 years ago, is when the CEO threw a challenge at Faisal that led him to a leadership role. In 2019, he went to Medable, which in his eyes, he is kind of getting a redo.

Top Keys to Faisal’s Success

  1. Becoming a business partner, not just in your department but to convince someone why they should care, why it matters to them and why they have to act on it
  2. Focus on what the company needs

Medium Private: Daniel Bradley and Brad Cook

Daniel Bradley background was that he has his master’s in accounting. He has experience in public accounting, internal auditing, and managerial accounting. Now, he is a controller at L. Keeley Construction.

His CEO says, “if you get the people right, the rest will take care of itself.”

Top Keys to Daniel’s Success

  1. Build a team
  2. Education
  3. Technology

Brad Cook background was that he was in public accounting, then an accounting consultant. He was looking for a small, start-up to transition his career path. This is what led him to Hungry. He joined this company right before COVID-19 hit, but they were able to pivot and experience success from this challenge.

Top Keys to Brad’s Success

  1. Tech-Savvy
  2. Communication

Enterprise: Brandt Kucharski and Liz Johnigan

Liz Johnigan background was that she started out in auditing for KPG, then adventured to the corporate world. She then moved to the UK and spent some time in London, where she worked on the US Gap Accounting Team. She has now worked for cars.com for the past 3 years and has been in the controller role for the past year and half.

Top Keys to Liz’s Success

  1. Hard work, but also teamwork
  2. Mentorships
  3. Listening and rewarding

For more great insights and advice from our 2020 winners, watch the full webcast now on-demand here.

Registration for the 2021 Controller of the Year Awards will begin in December of this year at the following link: https://controllerscouncil.org/recognition/

How Automation Can Solve Your Reconciliation ChallengesWebinar Tuesday, October 19

According to The Hackett Group, accountants and financial personnel spend 65% of their time on manual, low-value processes. These processes include reconciliations, meaning accountants are likely to be focusing the bulk of their time on repetitive tasks as they complete the period-end close. The challenges that come from spreadsheets and other manual methods of reconciliations don’t have to impact your entire organization; financial automation solutions can pave the way for many benefits and opportunities to maximize your accountants’ time and effort.