Interview by Andrew Zezas
Elizabeth Miller has been Vice President, Finance and Treasurer of Mauser USA since 2005, having previously held a similar position at Russell-Stanley Corp. Mauser USA is privately held and is a leading industrial packaging solutions provider that manufactures steel, plastic, and fiber drums as well as intermediate bulk containers. The company is based in East Brunswick, NJ. Andrew Zezas, Publisher of CFO Studio magazine and host of CFO Studio On-Camera, spoke with Ms. Miller about finance for non-finance managers.
(ANDREW ZEZAS) We know that in any profitable business, financial decisions impact almost every aspect of a company, and educating non-financial managers is a great way to improve decision-making and increase a company’s profitability, so I applaud your efforts. Recently you visited a number of Mauser facilities for the purpose of educating nonfinancial managers on aspects of finance. Who did you present to?
ELIZABETH MILLER: Essentially all of the plant leadership, including the customer service team, other members of the plant manager’s direct team, quality managers, production managers. We also included our sales teams in the presentations.
What drove you to develop the program?
MILLER: We wanted our plant managers to have a better understanding of what the key drivers of our P&L were. We have a great group on the operations team, but within this group we had varying levels of financial expertise, so the plan was to really bring everybody up to the same level.
Talk to me about the main topics of the presentation. You weren’t trying to teach finance per se. You were trying to teach operations people about finance.
MILLER: Correct. It was a very high-level presentation, and we really covered the three main financial statements, talked about the P&L, the balance sheet, and the cash flow. Focus was primarily on the P&L, given that our ultimate goal was to drive profitability. We talked about cost containment, and then also what drives your P&L, and taking a look at the various analyses that our controlling team does each month when we close off a period, and how does that compare to a prior period and what were the differences a result of, and how does it compare to your budget, and what were those differences a result of.
Okay, so truly tying operations and finance together.
MILLER: Correct, and we also covered working capital and how their everyday decisions affect our cash flow. And the last part of a presentation was on the reports that Mauser puts out internally, and we kind of went through them and said, “This is why we send out this report. Here’s what we want you to get out of it. This is what you should be thinking about when you’re reading it,” and just kind of tied everything together.
In the future, what would you do differently?
MILLER: We would probably focus on smaller groups, I would say no more than six, keeping the same functional areas together.