IMA’s “CMAs Making a Difference” series spotlights valued members of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) community who are making a difference to their organization, to the profession, and to their world. This issue’s featured CMA is: 

Neil Baier 
Neil Baier, CMA, CFM
Crescent Crown Distributing
Vice President of Finance
Mesa, Arizona
Can you share something specific that the CMA has enabled you to do?

The main value I find in my CMA is enhancing my ability to bring strategic thinking and the ability to convert data into actionable information on a regular basis. As opposed to just “keeping score” or “counting the beans,” I’m expected to actually assist my sales and operations teams to “advance the ball down the field.” My work in identifying grant programs to help pay for employee training, in sourcing sustainability projects that improved operational efficiencies, and driving back-end efficiency projects that directly affected the bottom line – these accomplishments were all influenced by the skills enhanced with my CMA certification.

Please describe how you have been able to contribute to “the greater good” of your community, society, or the profession as a CMA.

One of the sustainability projects that I was able to drive as a CMA was the installation of one of the largest rooftop solar projects in Arizona. We installed a total of 9,200 solar panels on the roofs of our Mesa and Surprise facilities, which produce 2.2 MWH of clean renewable power. The environmental impact of the project is enormous, eliminating 73 million pounds of CO2 over the life of the program. That’s like planting 1.7 million trees or taking 13,000 cars off the road. Plus, the project will save the company approximately $17 million over 25 years. Currently, we’re extensively expanding our solar footprint in Mesa, providing covered parking for our employees while almost doubling our solar output. At the end of this project, Crescent Crown will produce almost 80% of our total energy needs, no small feat in the Arizona heat!

Complete this sentence: I make a difference as a CMA because …

As opposed to being simply a scorekeeper, my organization expects me to be a proactive strategic force in creating bottom-line results.

Who is your role model and why?

My grandfather, who taught me the importance of treating people well.

What advice would you give to someone looking for a career/job in accounting or finance where they can make a difference?

The days of the backward-looking “bean counter” are over. Today, organizations require their financial professionals to not only report the financials but also help drive financial results. My advice for someone looking for a career in accounting is to first develop a strong educational base, enhanced by the CMA, and eventually the CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis), certification. Then, once you start working, remember that the value you bring to an organization lies in the value-added strategic thinking that differentiates you from your peers. While challenging at first, keep on looking for opportunities to show your worth. And I would also say this: Swing really hard. You may miss a bunch of times but sometimes, you’ll hit a home run.

Know someone who’s a CMA making a difference? Let us know! Please reach out to with your suggestions.