June 1, 2012

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Educating for the Future

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CFO of the Year

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CFO of the Year

Di Lewis, Heather Stewart, Sarah Ryther Francom

June 1, 2012

“Brent played a key role in helping to grow the company organically, without burdening the company with unmanageable debt or surrendering equity,” Brady says, adding that Rowser is dedicated to building every aspect of the Sandy-based company. “One of Brent’s greatest attributes is his ability to effectively and efficiently lead multiple areas of the business simultaneously.”

Rowser says key to his role at Pedersen is knowing which risks are worth taking. “An organization unwilling to accept risk will stagnate and become stale,” he says. “Opportunity is created by embracing acceptable levels of risk. Some initiatives will fail but only through embracing a controlled level of risk can you create a new brand.”

A key risk that Rowser took was launching Cariloha, a bamboo-based apparel and accessories products division. “Our first Cariloha store opened in 2008, just prior to the economic downturn,” Rowser says. “As the recession deepened, difficult decisions had to be made. Initial losses were much greater than anticipated. Yet we knew the decision to launch the brand was the right decision and despite the additional investment required, made the decision to continue to invest.”

Though a risk, launching Cariloha was instrumental to Pedersen Worldwide’s success, leading the company to record growth during 2011 and the opening of 26 retail locations. “We introduced more than 70 new product lines and styles. 2011 brought new locations across the U.S. as well as in countries such as Japan, the Dominican Republic and new stores in Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia and Mexico,” Rowser says, adding that the company plans to open hundreds of Cariloha stores within the next five years.

Rowser says what he enjoys most about his leadership role at Pedersen is the direct impact he has on the company and the community. “The ability to create something of value that can benefit the lives of hundreds of employees and contribute to the communities in which we do business,” he says. “I have a passion for the energy and excitement of creating something new. Rapidly growing a business requires that you are continually innovating. Creating a successful organization also allows you to give back to the communities.”

Private, Small

Ken Kaufman
President & CFO, Aribex, Inc.

“The CFO is not the person who says ‘no,’ says Ken Kaufman. “He or she is the person who says: ‘let’s look at how this will help or hinder the business in the short- and long-term, and then let’s see if there is an even better way or method to implement it.’”

Kaufman has a great deal of experience helping executives focus on their strategic goals. In 2006, he founded CFOWise, a company that provides contract CFO services to companies of all sizes in a variety of industries. Aribex, Inc. was initially a client of Kaufman’s, but in September 2011 he joined Aribex as its president and CFO.

Since then, the company has become debt free and saw its revenue increase more than 30 percent. It has also experienced 12 consecutive quarters of profitability.

“A little more than three years ago we were really struggling,” says Kaufman. “We were almost profitable, but we were almost out of our cash runway. Things got pretty tight and we had to cut back in some areas. It was a great test for our organization, and we continue to benefit from the discipline that instilled in us. We carefully plan for the future and conscientiously deploy our resources.”

To plan for the future, Kaufman helped Aribex develop its five-year pro-formas and analyze its cash needs to ensure financial resources would be available to fuel continued growth. He also implemented a dashboard metric that allows Aribex executives to quickly view important financial data and make critical decisions.

“The CFO is the guardian of the core business model. The CFO protects it while, with the rest of the executive team, constantly trying to find ways to make it more repeatable, scalable and cash-flow rich,” he says.

Kaufman is a member of the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum and is the treasurer of the Young Founders Organization of the BYU Center for Technology & Entrepreneurship. He regularly mentors BYU business students who are interested in entrepreneurialism.

“Don’t limit yourself to just accounting and finance,” he advises new CFOs. “Get experience in all areas of running a business. Take advantage of every opportunity you can find to become more well-rounded professionally. Being a CFO has just a little to do with numbers…it’s mostly about knowing how to help the entire company improve.”

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