As part of the Meet the Controller/CFO series, the Controllers Council recently interviewed Lensford McKenzie, Financial Controller at Americas at Argus Media. His prior roles include controller and accounting stints in the energy and finance consulting sectors and audit roles in public accounting. Lensford earned a bachelor’s in accounting/finance from the University of Houston
Following are some questions from moderator Neil Brown, and answers from Lensford McKenzie. If you are interested in learning more, view the full interview video archive here.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in corporate accounting finance?
A: Personally, what inspired me was finding out things that I didn’t like, and I took a myriad of different courses in school. I had thoughts and plans to attend law school but doing a hard look at the numbers in terms of just future employment and what would be more beneficial for my career, I decided to go in the corporate accounting/finance world, and I haven’t looked back ever since. I have no regrets. It’s been great for me and my family, and it’s really, really broadened my horizon as far as my career.
Q: What is it like to work for an Americas division of a large global corporation?
A: It can be challenging at certain points, and by challenging it is because the headquarters are, again, for my company, based in London and a lot of times their preferences and their best business practices work in London, but they don’t work in the Americas. Having to not only account for best business practices in the US, I have to account for best business practices in Brazil and in Mexico and in Canada, and trying to marry all those goals under the same umbrella of my role can be quite challenging. But it is really rewarding because you get to really meet a lot of different people and you kind of see a bigger point of how business is being done, not only within the US but also our neighbors to the north, neighborhood to the South. So, for me it is a mix of challenging and a mix of growth as well.
Q: Who do you report to then? Do you report to a CFO in the Americas, or do you report to corporate?
A: We kind of have a matrix style leadership where I don’t necessarily report to just one person. In the Americas I report directly to our senior vice president of the Americas, and I also report directly to the CFO of the entire company who’s based in the UK. But there’s a myriad of different business sector leaders that I report and support either financially or operationally, so it’s really a web of different people. But the end all, be all say on top, regarding my career with the company, would probably start and end with our CFO Stuart Ashman in London.
Q: Tell us about some of the most significant keys to your success.
A: For me, just throughout my career I’ve learned that for the most part when it comes to just the skill set of people, there’s not a huge difference in terms of someone’s ability to do the job. It’s more about their ability to actually lead and to actually work with varying different people. For me, what makes my career successful or has led to success in my career is the ability to always deliver what I say I’m going to deliver, be consistent with everyone. I know office politics plays a lot in just about every company and every company I’ve worked for has had the same issues, but kind of staying above the fray and really just focusing on treating everyone as individuals and really being fair and being transparent, that has really led me to where I’m at today and hopefully to where I want to go in the future.
Q: Are there any tools or solutions that have helped you be more effective in your role?
A: I would say there’s a myriad of different tools. Not to be too biased, but one of the tools that we did implement recently was Trintech’s Adra Task Manager. Before we came on board, or before I came on board with Argus, we didn’t really have an active task manager that would assist us with month end close. There was a lot of issues in where certain team members were not aware of the status of certain tasks being done or yet to be completed. Having this tool in hand has really helped us with the communications. Of course, I think any controller would tell you the easiest, one of the biggest items to have in your back pocket to make your job a lot easier is to have a robust ERP environment, and right now we use NetSuite.
In my opinion, NetSuite is probably the most user-friendly tool and it’s just easy to adopt and has all the reporting functions that I can hope for. I’ve used others, I’ve used Microsoft Dynamics, I’ve used just your basic Oracle platform, and I would say by far this has been my most pleasurable experience in the ERP environment.
To learn more, view the full discussion here.