Ep. 15: Kaiser Mock - Cross-functional Relationships with Non-Finance Individuals

September 09, 2019 | 18 Minutes

Kaiser Mock, CMA, CPA, is a Financial Analyst for Brewery Operations at MillerCoors in Golden, Colorado. He is an experienced financial professional passionate about applying accounting knowledge to business operations. Kaiser enjoys sharing his accounting and finance knowledge with new audiences and giving back to organizations as an established public speaker. In this episode, Kaiser emphasizes the importance of relationship building. He explains how his financial knowledge helps identify opportunities or problems on the floor of brewery operations by learning more about the the overall manufacturing and brewing processes and developing strong cross-functional relationships with those in the company who are NOT finance professionals. Kaiser says, "I view accounting as a tool to use to help the business achieve it's goals and an integral partner in a successful strategy." Listen for more!

Contact Kaiser Mock:
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaiser-mock/


Music: (00:00)

Adam Larson: (00:05) Welcome back to "Count Me In". Thanks for joining us at IMA as we bring you the latest perspectives and learnings on all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is Adam Larson and with me as always is my co-host Mitch Roshong. Today's episode we will get into an area of accounting, not often discussed - the importance of relationships with non-financial individuals. Our guest for today's conversation came to us from the MillerCoors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. And with that I'd like to ask our listeners to send us a note letting us know where you're listening from. We'd be happy to share some of the unique locations and let everyone know what kind of global reach "Count Me In" and IMA has. But now back to today's episode. Mitch, how was it speaking with Kaiser Mock?

Mitch Roshong: (00:50) Our conversation was great. Kaiser is a Financial Analyst for Brewery Operations at MillerCoors. He monitors the brewing process and provides assistance with costing, variances and overall manufacturing processes. He is also a former IMA Young Professional Leadership Experience winner and remains very active with IMA as he strives to share his experiences and talks about the opportunities within accounting. The underlying theme for today's episode is the importance of relationship building for accountants. Automation has happened before and will continue to change their roles as new technologies emerge. But accountants of the future must be able to communicate effectively and work with individuals across all functions to add value to their organizations. Kaiser shared how he's worked alongside and built relationships with non-finance individuals to help drive efficiencies. And I think our listeners will be able to learn a lot from this episode. So let's listen in.

Music: (01:43)

Mitch Roshong: (01:48) So, tell me. What are the trends you've seen with accounting and automation? I know we tend to think about trends being these big dramatic changes but are we seeing changes right now that maybe are impacting business and accounting you know, slowly and steadily and a big future implication?

Kaiser Mock: (02:09) Yeah, you know, Mitch. I think it's such an interesting topic with this because there's a lot of concern and a lot of hype out there right now about where accounting is going and what role accounting is going to play in the future. But I think if you look at what the profession has done over the past 10, 15, you know, you go back 50 years, accounting today is dramatically different than it was then. And you look at the horizon in technology and what, you know, even computers and automated reports have done for us. Automation is not something that's new to the field. It has been happening for a very long time now. And I think that what you see today is there might be an increase in the speed of the change, but the change is all the same. And I think what the biggest topic that I think when people are concerned about where accounting is going I think what people really should be asking themselves is, you know, what, what am I doing today to add value and are the changes that are coming and whether it be automation or you know, other changes to the accounting field. Are they replacing the role that I do or, or, or are they going to emphasize the impact that I'm having on my business? Because if it's simply replacing the role and replacing the responsibilities, that one has an accompany. I think that begs a better question about whether or not one is utilizing their skills and utilizing the abilities that they have for the business. And if it's more of how is it going to change my role within the company, I think that's a better question for us to say. How can we eliminate non value added tasks? How can we eliminate inefficiencies within our own jobs to increase what we are doing and the information we are providing overall to, to our companies, to the business world, to whoever our ultimate state quarter's stake holders are that we, that we support.

Mitch Roshong: (04:12) And how about the overall scope of the profession? How are these impacts, you know, not just changing the role of the accountant and the way the finance function operates, but what kind of changes do you see the finance professionals realizing with the relationships with non-finance functions across the organization?

Kaiser Mock: (04:36) Yeah. You know, I think it's funny because a lot of times, at least for myself, and I'm sure a lot of the listeners can relate to this, when you tell people that you work in finance, or you work in accounting or whatever it may be, you'll typically get a response for individuals outside of the profession that say, Oh, I couldn't, I couldn't ever do that. I'm not good with numbers. I'm not good with math. And to me that completely misses the point of what we do or what we should be doing. Because, you know, we get the stereotype of number crunchers, whatever that may be. But really what we're doing is we are storytellers and we are individuals that analyze information and convey that to our stakeholders, whether it's within the finance industry or outside of it, at our businesses that help them better understand what is going on and help them make better strategic decisions. So what I look at, the changes in the industry are ones that if we are truly, truly doing what our roles are and truly you know, as I said earlier, maximizing what our potential is. And what our skill set is, all that that does is it creates a better relationship with individuals that might not be accounting or finance per se, because it allows us to spend more time on the analytical, allows us to understand better about what is going on within, within our, our roles so that that information can be more useful to, to the outside world. You know, as an example, even here at my business, I work at MillerCoors here in Golden, Colorado. When I'm able to eliminate the need to run reports manually or to manipulate reports, what that does is it allows me to convey information to individuals here at the brewery about what exactly is going on in their field and whether it is helping them understand labor variance reports. So instead of spending hours computing it myself, I can simply have a report produced for me that I can then analyze and give them information or maintenance spend. It's something that allows me to spend more time giving them useful information instead of just giving them data.

Mitch Roshong: (06:52) Let's talk a little bit more about that because I'm kind of interested as you're putting together these variants reports and you have a lot of financial data but as you said, you're trying to communicate it to people who may not fully understand. How do you go about really telling the true story behind the numbers and making sure everyone in the organization understands exactly what it is that you're trying to add value to or improve?

Kaiser Mock: (07:15) Yeah, I think one of the most important things for that process, and at least for myself, what I've found is it's kind of the idea of instead of taking a top down approach, taking a more of a bottom up approach. And what I mean by that is I find myself very frequently caught in the idea that okay, I have reports or I have information and I need to, I need to get this information out to other individuals. And then they are going to follow up with questions about what it looks like or what, what the information that I'm conveying means. And what I have found useful is to start from kind of start from zero, go to my stakeholders and ask them, what's the information that you're looking for? What is it that you are trying to accomplish with this report? And then more customize the information that I'm delivering to them so that it's actually useful. You know, for example I had an an issue recently when it came to maintenance spend here at the brewery. We have a, you know, maintenance team that they, they go out and make sure the plant is operating efficiently. And we had a report that we were running on a weekly and monthly basis to help them review where, where the money was going, where, where they were spending and we ran into consistently problems with how it was, how it was being delivered, the manner in which we were conveying that information to them not being useful. It was taken very much a a past look at items, a, a very a big time delay. And then not helping them understand where they were going as a department. And after recognizing some of those problems, what I did is I sat down with them and I said, regardless of what we've been doing, what is it that you want to accomplish with this report? And when we meet to do financial, for lack of better terms, financial deep dives, what, what does, what do you want to get out of that? How, how can it help you as a department make better decisions? How can it help you better steer and manage what you're, what you're trying to accomplish. And so we redeveloped the report to put an emphasis on forecasting and look at where we expect future spend to be and then also deliver the information so that they could analyze past trends a lot easier. And what that did is it's now allowed them to take, instead of just a, a managing past approach to saying, okay, this is what we've done as a department and this is where we know we're going. So these are the steps that we can take today to manage months and years down the road so that we know that we are going to be successful in the short and the long term. And I think that's something that's really important for listeners and for individuals in the accounting and finance field is to realize that we are here to support other individuals. We, you know, even even accounting firms, the ultimate goal here, right, is not to necessarily do accounting, it's to support the business purpose. And if all we are doing is pushing accounting or pushing reports or pushing data that doesn't necessarily add that value and add the the, the skill set that I guess that businesses are looking from us. So it's really about, instead of saying, how can I do my job better? It's how can I support individuals better? How can I make sure that what I'm doing accomplishes the tasks and the expectations that the team, that others that I support have of me and allowed them to do their job in a more efficient manner.

Mitch Roshong: (10:42) And what would you say these accounting and finance professionals can do in order to put themselves in that mindset? In other words, how can they start to prepare for this kind of shift in value added to the organization as opposed to just themselves in their individual roles?

Kaiser Mock: (11:00) Yeah, yeah. I would say the biggest thing that everybody needs to ask themselves regardless of what role they're in is the why. I think what we get so caught up on is we always ask ourselves "how"? We look at the technical side. We look at how to, you know, whether it be concepts and accounting or whatever it may be. We look at the how instead of understanding the "why" of it. Because if we are talking to someone that is outside of finance and whether for, for myself it's working with individuals within the brewery, but if it's regardless of what it is, ask yourselves why do they care about what I'm doing and then you need to ask yourself, what is it that I am trying to accomplish within my role? What I have done is I have made it a point for myself to get outside of my, my area and learn the perspective of the individuals that I am supporting and what they're looking at on a daily basis. So here in the brewery, what I'll do is I'll go out and I'll walk with individuals in the brewhouse and I'll say, what is it that you're looking at when you are, you know, when you're brewing beer? How are, how are you looking at what I would see as cost of goods sold? But you're seen as raw material handling that you do on a daily basis? I go out and I, I help walk the lines. And if we see product loss, you know, it represents a physical loss, that's numbers to me. But to them, you know, they're seeing it as a mechanical issue. So trying to understand what they're looking at. And then I tie that back to my own role and my own the, the numbers and the finance that I see on a daily basis. And I think what that does is it gives me the perspective of not seeing it as an accountant or not seeing it as a finance individual, but seeing it as a member of the team and a member of the business that I've worked for. And that allows me to really be able to convey information, do my job more efficiently, but again, support individuals that are outside the finance world, but within the business that need the information that I'm providing to them.

Mitch Roshong: (13:13) And to kind of wrap things up here, I guess overall your role in supporting the business, and obviously you work with a lot of different functions across your organization in the brewery. How do you see your individual role potentially evolving even more as the accounting and finance field continues to grow and evolve in the future?

Kaiser Mock: (13:34) Mmhm. Yeah, you know, our, my situation might be a little bit unique. I'm working a heavy, obviously manufacturing area and I get to sit at the manufacturing site. And so my, my role is very much integrated with the operations team. Whether it is folks that are literally out on the brewery floor and, and running the machines to the maintenance team to individuals that might be sitting in a corporate office but are still responsible for managing costs. So I get to touch a lot of different areas but be very interactive with that, with that group. And I can tell you that one big push that we are having as a company and that I think a successful companies would do is looking at ways in which we ourselves as as non-operations individuals can help drive better conversations and help drive change that we might see coming through in a financial perspective or a data perspective. And taking that literally out onto the operation side and operations floor to help drive what we see as as needed change. And I think that as the accounting field and finance field evolves, what we will see in what will truly make individuals and listeners successful in their roles is the ability to, instead of being, like we've talked about at the beginning the number, contribute being someone that drives change. So if we're talking about telling a story and helping develop that, it's looking at data, looking at potential issues that we would see. And then developing those relationships with the folks that you support to help kind of drive that change and drive development in areas that, that we know needs to happen. All the time. All the time. In my role right now, I see issues big and small that, that come across my desk and in, in a variety of forms. And while I don't have, I don't have the authority, you know, I'm not a manager, I'm not someone that, that controls the entire operations here. What I can do is I can help steer conversations into the directions that I know need to need to change. So for example one of the things that we track here at the brewery is alcohol loss. And we know that when we start out at the very beginning of the process to brew beer, we have a certain amount of malts, certain amount of adjuncts that are ingredients that we know at the very end should create X number of barrels of beer and alcohol. Well, there's a lot that can go wrong and a lot that can change in that process. And part of my responsibility as even a finance individual is to help, is to compute what that loss is on a weekly and monthly basis. What I can do with that report is I can say, well, I know that we're losing this much money, but take it a step further and say, what can we change about that? Where can we focus to help change where the direction that we're going in? And that's something that I've taken upon myself to, to look at and say, you know, I can talk to the financials, I can talk to what the numbers are, but I can't necessarily impact what the brewery is doing. Let me reach out to the individuals in the context that it made it. And those relationships that I've built up with the folks that are in operations to help them drive change where I think it is needed so that the financials and the reports will look better on the other end. And I think that's the, that's the kind of message that I would, I would convey to, to listeners today is you have to develop those relationships. You have to be able to have those kinds of conversations and that kind of a mindset so that while you might not be the one that is changing the way your business works, or maybe not changing the way that things are done at your company, you can, you can play the role of the individual that steers the change and steers the direction of your company that will make it stronger. And that's how you're going to deliver the most value as a financial professional and deliver the most value to, to any business that you support or may work in.

Announcer: (17:39) This has been "Count Me In", IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.