As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q4 2016 Issue
FOR T&M ASSOCIATES’ CFO, WORKING TOGETHER KEEPS HIS COMPANY AT THE TOP
-BY MARTIN DAKS-
With clients ranging from small, local municipalities to large, multinational corporations, T&M Associates’ CFO Michael Dentici has spent the last decade helping the national consulting, environmental, engineering, and construction management services firm stay on target and be poised for growth in the ever-changing architecture/ engineering/consulting (A/E/C) market.
As CFO and a Board member, Dentici, 62, finds himself involved in a wide range of activities spanning numerous functions of the Middletown, NJ–based company, which posted $64.7 million in revenue in 2015. From expanding the firm’s geographic footprint to helping with financial software decisions, Dentici credits T&M’s collaborative culture for being able to actively engage and offer his expertise.
“T&M is more collaborative than other companies of its size or type,” says Dentici. “I am able to work with interdepartmental teams on a regular basis, reevaluating our company programs to ensure we have the right processes in place.”
As an example, Dentici cites routine review of T&M’s benefit programs that he conducts with the human resources department. “The frequency, combined with the perspectives of inside experts and outside consultants, ensures our employees are provided the best programs at a competitive price,” he says. “I also collaborate regularly with other departments to find faster, more economical solutions to a wide array of issues, from developing internal operational reports to contract reviews.”
Currently with about 400 employees, the company operates in a non-hierarchical, flat business model and is led by a four-member operating committee of top executives, including Dentici, which meets weekly to discuss strategy and current issues. The committee and three other officers from across the company compose the Board of Directors, ensuring that those who are setting company policy have an intimate understanding of the business. Dentici also routinely huddles with operational executives to review billing, collections, operational reporting, and other enterprise processes. This operating structure gives Dentici tremendous insights and the opportunity to impact a wide range of strategic decisions and programs.
“I work with a hard-working team to serve our company’s strategic financial and growth needs,” Dentici says. “The success of our collective efforts depends on teamwork, and cross-functional communication is enhanced with monthly meetings that include regional leaders from throughout our operations.” By encouraging teams from different departments to develop cross-functional skills and by promoting a deeper understanding of the company’s capabilities across geographies, collaboration enables T&M to better anticipate situations and respond in a timely manner.
“The validity of this kind of sharing has been vetted in studies, including one by the IBM Center for Applied Insights and the IBM Institute for Business Value,” he says, noting that “collaboration in the C-suite is linked to higher enterprise performance.”
Share and Share Alike
A flexible, team-based approach has enabled T&M to handle an array of challenging projects, including one that’s currently in progress for Holtec International, an Evesham-based power plant supplier. It involves building a 600,000-square-foot nuclear reactor manufacturing complex, test loop facility, and corporate engineering facility near the Walt Whitman Bridge on Camden’s Delaware waterfront. The project broke ground in July 2015 and is expected to be complete by the middle of 2018.
“On the finance side, we have to be accountable to our client while staying on budget,” Dentici reports. “In the case of this project, this meant working with operations leaders, project managers, and others to develop budget and cost controls. With the flexibility to provide customized management reports, we were able to deliver what the client wanted, and helped our front-line teams do their jobs in a timely manner.”
A Sense of Passion
As Dentici talks about his responsibilities, it’s easy to see the passion and enjoyment of accomplishment that he brings to the table. “To be successful, a CFO has to be flexible,” Dentici says, adding that he and his team also get involved in acquisitions, like the company’s 2015 purchase of a smaller engineering and planning firm. In that project, Dentici was tasked with due diligence, financial, and other responsibilities.
Dentici says his ability to stay calm while jumping from one issue to the next comes from experience. In 1976, after graduating from Thiel College, a small, liberal arts institution in Greenville, PA, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration, he joined international CPA firm Touche Ross & Company (now Deloitte). “I eventually left Touche and commenced my extensive career in the engineering and construction industry.”
His current position fulfills Dentici’s natural curiosity, letting him get involved daily in a wide range of issues like project analysis, team management, financial systems and reporting, and other operational matters. Dentici is also called on to help in evaluating software to process management-level information.
He is quick to point out that the job is about more than just producing financial statements and analyzing cash-flow needs. “You have to be able to work closely with other departments, clients, and strategic partners,” he says.
Even when the subject is debt financing, terms like “teamwork” and “collaboration” keep popping up in a conversation with Dentici. For example, while some companies shop around for financial partners, moving from one institution to another, T&M Associates has worked with one bank, TD (formerly Commerce Bank) for more than 15 years.
“Financing is important for our short-term working capital needs and long-term growth,” he explains. “So [we wanted] to establish a long-term, close relationship with an institution that understands our company and our needs.” This attitude of collaboration also extends to T&M’s other key business partners, including Aon, UBS, Conner Strong & Buckelew.
Dentici negotiates with TD on such issues as T&M’s line of credit, noting that although he’s not happy with any debt at all, “having access to credit and capital is just part of our business and the challenges of collections that can accompany work for local, municipal, and county agencies, a big component of T&M’s client base.”
The beat and the teamwork go on. Dentici recently participated on an eight-member team who prepared a strategic growth plan that will guide T&M through 2020, a task that involved input from just about every component of the company and took nearly nine months to complete. “Making a company successful is a long-term endeavor, and I’m pleased to be surrounded by other leaders who can link arms and create a vision that inspires employees and motivates them to follow.”
“I love working with people, especially my team,” he says. “But communication is vital, and a CFO has to be able to wear multiple hats. You have to enjoy being a generalist if you want to do this job.”