On the Road Toward Success
September 1, 2008
As early as age 10, Janis Kline steered a motorcycle along the washboard roads and highways of southern Utah. A ranch girl who grew up in the shadow of Bryce Canyon, she rode back and forth from her parents’ Henryville house to the farm, checking the fields, changing the water, and wrangling lost cattle from the honey-colored slot canyons and grottos.
Not much has changed—except the intent and the bike. Now CFO and part owner of Western Petroleum, the girl who has always loved numbers spends much of her leisure time on the seat of a Harley Fatboy, spotting hoodoos instead of heifers with her husband, who rides a Heritage. “Our favorite place to ride is southern Utah, of course!” Kline says. “There is no place better!”
Kline was recently honored by the Salt Lake City chapter of The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) as Woman Business Owner of the Year, an accolade that highlights how her career has been both nimble and focused. During her 30 years of experience, Kline has been much more than a number cruncher. She is an engaged consultant who has helped her clients hone their focus and growth potential. “I haven’t been a traditional accountant,” she says. “I tend to step back and see the big picture.”
Kline spent 12 years with international accounting firm KPMG, followed by eight years as the CFO of a large restaurant chain. She started her own CPA firm, Pinnock, Robbins, Posey and Richins, PC, to “take a rest,” which she operated for eight years. It was during this period that one of Kline’s clients, Western Petroleum, needed her to step in and assist through “a huge growth period.” What began as a year of heavy consulting, then a role as external CFO, led to a full time position and ownership in the company.
Western Petroleum is headquartered in Vernal and is what’s known as a “petroleum jobber,” selling bulk fuels to industry. Kline wasn’t an oil insider, but says it didn’t matter. “Any business has the same fundamentals,” she says. “My philosophy is that if those fundamentals are met, the numbers will come—and if the right people are in place.” Western Petroleum has expanded, Kline says, because its customers are never allowed to run out of fuel. “We have mastered the ‘difficult delivery,’” she says. “We have a good logistics group; we have the trucks where they need to be before the customer needs the fuel.”
On the surface, Kline is a mild-mannered accountant and a mother of three children who indulges in “totally mindless” suspense novels. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find someone as slick as black gold and as tough as red rock. A member of NAWBO for 10 years and president of the organization in 2005, Kline says she doesn’t believe in “this ‘poor picked on women’ thing.”
“There are hurdles, but there are hurdles for everyone,” she explains. “Business is relationship based. Women tend to try to have win-win deals [as opposed to] win-lose deals. It’s not that we’re too soft; we just take a run at things differently.”
In regards to her current position, Kline says that a woman’s approach can come in handy. “We want to create a win-win deal to create a lasting, long-term relationship and when there are periods of heavy growth, that’s when some of those relationships really come in to help you.” And, she adds, with a bit of a twinkle in her eye, “Most of the time I get what I want.”