The Role of a CFO in a Construction Company

January 24, 2023 Lydia Adams

CFO from construction company talking to project manager and supervisor on field

There are plenty of non-traditional paths that CFOs have taken to get where they are today. We’ve spoken with financial leaders who came from marketing, sales, and even psychology. Today, we dive into a story shared by Samantha Cook, who started as an architect and became a CFO in the construction industry.

Samantha is the CFO of Brinkmann Constructors and the President and Founder of Third Entity Group, a private consulting firm focused on delivering strategic business, finance, technology, and supply chain direction to SMBs. Before Brinkmann, she held several roles in finance and operations leadership at companies like Clayco, Brown Smith Wallace, and Escala. Samantha was named a 2019 influential woman in real estate by the REJournals and won the 2019 Inclusion Award from SLCCC.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately get results with your host, Megan Meese. Let's jump right in today.

Megan - 00:00:18: My guest is Samantha Cook. Samantha is the Chief Financial Officer at Brinkmann Constructors, a $1.3 billion national general contractor company. She manages the company's financial, accounting, and technology divisions. She is responsible for aligning Brinkman's plans for future growth and setting the organization's overall financial and ESOP strategy with a national footprint. Brinkman's offices are in St. Louis, Missouri, Denver, Colorado, Richmond, Virginia, Kansas City, and Phoenix, Arizona. Through her successful career in a male-dominated field and as an immigrant from Mexico, Samantha's passion for the construction industry has been a key differentiator among her peers. Samantha's financial and operational expertise, as well as proven experience with some of St. Louis's most respected organizations, aids Brinkmann's leadership team in ensuring Brinkmann takes full benefit of the challenges and opportunities associated with the significant growth the company has experienced. Samantha is experienced in driving successful financial strategies while building collaboration with key business decision-makers. Samantha was named a 2019 top influential Woman in Real Estate by the RE Journals and won the 2019 Inclusion Award from SLCCC in 2015. She was also part of the LinkedIn marketing campaign, Opportunities highlighted as one of the top professionals in the industry. She served on the Board of Directors of NAWIC and is a crew St. Louis member. She has been a contributor to many articles, conferences and publications. Prior to Brinkmann Constructors, Samantha spent ten years in finance and operations leadership roles at Clayco, a $4 billion company where she most recently served as Senior Director of Fp&a. Samantha also spent five plus years in construction operation roles in international companies in Latin America. Samantha holds several degrees, including an MBA, a Master in Finance, a Master in Construction Management and Architecture, and an Executive Leadership program degree from both Cornell University and Harvard University. Outside of work, Samantha loves to travel with her husband Nathan and her 20-month-old son, Landon. She is a triathlete and endurance cyclist.

Sam, thank you very much for joining me on today's episode.

Samantha - 00:02:56: Thank you. Thank you. It's my pleasure. Yeah.

Megan - 00:02:59: I'm looking forward to learning about you and your story and hearing about your experience as a finance leader. And we've got a lot to talk about, so let's get started. Good first, and as always, let's start with you and your career journey and how you got to where you are today.

Samantha - 00:03:14: Yeah. So I know a lot of people said, that's an interesting story, but I do think it's a little interesting, the story of how I got here. I don't have the traditional background that a financial leader in a CFO position would usually have. So I actually was born and raised in Mexico, and I was there until college. Well, I actually went to college in Mexico and I picked architecture as my first degree. I have several degrees, but I think it's important that I say that I was born and raised in a small, small town in Mexico with no real infrastructure, no architecture around. And so that really was the reason why I was interested in architecture and construction. So when I think about my background, a lot of what I picked has come because of my passion for building and the business as a whole, but most so because of where I come from. And so I picked architecture as my first degree. I went to Monterrey, Mexico, and I took a major on construction management. A lot of my background has been in engineering in that sense. And so that's how I started in the world of construction. And my 15-plus years in the industry really start there. And I picked a career I finished pretty early. I finished in three years, rather than the typical five years. And so that gave me like two years to explore the areas of the industry that I was interested in. And in those years, I started to work in construction more so than in design. And I started as a project engineer. And roles that, again, are not typical to finance, but it gave me a very different perspective on the world of construction. And so in one of the roles, eventually, I took an opportunity to work with an international company that imagine they build the kind of like 7/11s, but it's another brand across America, Latin America, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico. And in that role, I had the opportunity in the construction division, I had the opportunity to work in the investments area. And so I learned more so about the profitability of construction and how decisions were made to decide where we were going to build these thousands of convenience stores, and how we were going to subcontract those, and why it would make sense to align risk in certain areas for new markets. And so that was the first time that I had access to see construction as a business, rather than building the building or designing the building. And that was very exciting. I was pretty young in my career, and it kind of switched a lot of my thoughts on how I could grow in this in this industry. Not long after that, I took a position as a strategic cost manager for a project that was over a hundred millions dollars, a very iconic project in Monterrey, Mexico. And I was part of that group that was working directly with not just the construction side, the general contractor side, but also with the developers and the financial group. They were looking at the performance and the clients, and how the architect, their renowned architects, were being directed, to some extent also by the financial decisions and how it was impacting the performance in many areas that in architecture and construction manager, you don't necessarily see. And so I start creating a brand for myself as someone in the industry that knew a bit of both, and obviously more so about construction, but that had a good understanding of what was needed in order for a project to succeed from the business side. And so I started creating this brand for myself in the construction industry to a point when I decided, okay, I'm going to start looking for opportunities outside Mexico. It was crazy how many companies out there were needing this liaison between construction and finance. And so that's really how I got into the very early steps of my career in finance. And I came to us in a construction audit position for a renowned accounting firm here in the Midwest area. And then quickly a construction company over a year offered me a position. This would be Clayco, and it was a role of cost engineering. The company was growing back then, Clayco was maybe 400 and 500 million by the time I left. Four and a half billion. But they needed this position that was between operations and finance that could kind of communicate and create processes and understand that aspect between these two groups that need to work closely, but they just have different backgrounds. And so I became this person who kind of had that, and I worked my way up. I eventually went back to school. I got a master's in business. Then I got a master's in finance. And obviously, I worked closely with all the executive groups to work with new markets strategy, for profitability compliance, et cetera. So that's how I solidified my career in the financial world. And then yeah, now, today I am the CFO of Brinkmann Constructors. We are a national company here in the Midwest. We have offices in Denver, Bitfinex, Richmond, St. Louis, and Kansas City. So we're over a billion. So we do a lot of industrial work, et cetera. So it's really been not your traditional path, but here I am.

Megan - 00:09:25: Yeah, that's a great story. And I hear more and more these days, CFO is coming from nontraditional backgrounds. But I do have to say that you're the first one I've ever interviewed that comes from an architecture background, but I can see how that would have helped you along the way. And secondly, you're the second CFO I've spoken to in the last few days that's talked about branding themselves and the importance that played in their career and shaping where they wanted to go.

Samantha - 00:09:55: Yeah, I don't think that any of us tried to create a brand for sale. At no point, I sat and said, okay, what is Samantha's brand? But I think that over the years, just yesterday, I was in a lunch meeting and someone even said that you just have such a good brand. And it keeps bumping in my head that, yeah, you do build a brand. You do build recognition based not just on your technical aspect, but how do you impact different roles? And how do you interact with crowds differently? Because if you only focus on your group or what you know, or what you feel you know, you're missing the opportunity to really connect with other groups and see what's the value, they added value to those. And I think that's been something that I've done without even trying. But I created diversity groups, I've worked with a lot of boards that work in that area. And again, it comes from my background per se, maybe, but yeah, I've created a brand, I think, of this world between construction and finance that sometimes gets missed in translation and you're a fairly.

Megan - 00:11:08: New first-time CFO. I think you've held the role now since November of 2021, so just over a year. And how are you finding it? How are you finding being a CFO?

Samantha - 00:11:20: Well, I think looking back in my career, there's been this aspect of there's been a consistent thing that I've been comfortable being uncomfortable. And I say that because I've always taken roles that maybe I wasn't fully prepared for the credentials. That's not the case today. Like I said, I wanted to make sure that everything I needed to feel that I should have, I had it. But the point of the story is that I constantly put myself in those roles that looking back, I was like, maybe I wasn't fully prepared for that. I've had the opportunity to implement very early in my career, for instance, I had the opportunity to implement this technology division in one of their innovations that I worked on, and today is still running for more than four and a half billion. And I look back and I was like, well, maybe they didn't have all those credentials. But at the time of two years, I was able to work closely with a lot of IT folks, a lot of people from who I learned. But as long as you're able to have the leadership aspect, you can kind of build teams and build a strategy around it. Being uncomfortable, being comfortable with being uncomfortable has been kind of a key thing for me. Another thing is that I think that over the years I have been able to define what I feel are my strengths and what I feel are not my strengths or my weaknesses. And sometimes I think those are my weaknesses. And other people may not even see it as such, but when you do that, and again, I guess I've done it naturally to some extent, and I guess I've been lucky by having that kind of thought process. You do make sure to surround yourself with people who can help you to overcome those. And in my case, I think one of the things that I make sure is to build great teams, right? Understand that the leadership position has nothing to do with the role, and more so with how you strategize and the people that surround you. And so as a new CFO, I make sure that moving into this organization, into Brinkmann, I build the department, I build the people who I trust and who I rely on. That's been the case. I also think, yeah, I'm not sure how much this has to do with the typical answers that you may get, but I think I got promoted to the hardest job I ever had. Seven months before becoming a CFO, I became a mom. And by doing that, I think I learned that there's one really hard job out there, which is becoming a parent for the first time and not knowing what you're doing. So, hey, if I'm able to do that, everything else, you can figure it out.

Megan - 00:14:21: Yeah, that's funny. Having kids definitely put things in perspective.

Samantha - 00:14:26: Right?

Megan - 00:14:27: And how does the role of a CFO differ from your previous title, which was the Senior Director of Finance, right?

Samantha - 00:14:36: So I was the Senior Director of Finance. And like I said, I grew in that role over my eight years at Clayco. And the main difference, obviously, is that I have a different set of responsibilities. And with that, it comes the strategy and working with senior leadership to make sure that the vision of the company and the financial stability of the company is aligned. And as a Senior Director of Finance, I would do a lot of the FB&a, I would do a lot of teams, obviously, but I would do a lot of the working with operations to translate that into our financial strategy. Whereas as a CFO, I work a lot cross-functional, not just with operations, but with talent people, and talent management. You talk a lot about the safety and how that impacts your risk management. I'm also responsible here for the technology division. So how do we make sure that we have the right technology for where we go and for where we are and to mitigate risk? And so I think in many areas as a CFO, you're not just looking at the financial aspect, the accounting aspect, you're looking at the more encompassing vision and how do you get there? And you work with the CEO, President, and other leadership to ensure that those results are there and the strategy of growth. Right. How do you make sure you grow in a different, in way that is sustainable, that is achievable, that is also risk-adverse?

Megan - 00:16:18: And since joining, how have you found integrating into Brinkmann as part of senior management?

Samantha - 00:16:26: I think that for me, we spent a lot of time going back and forth before I made the move and I think Brinkmann per se. It's a great organization that has great leadership. When I joined, they were closing the year, and the 800 million, we're obviously moving into the billions. We're crossing the year way over a billion, and obviously forecasting growth as well. And I think over the years they were preparing for what a CFO role could be for them. They didn't have a role as established in the financial group. Obviously, they had a Vice President of Finance and everything, but they've been preparing for that. And so I think it was the right time. I think that they understood what the role could bring. And so for me, I'm a partner with the CEO and the President on a daily basis, not just with them, but also with the Vice President of HR and Operations, and vice president of operations. It's spending time aligning. But I think what it's been on my advantage, it's been that I know the industry, I know ins and outs. And so my curve, different from many CFOs, has been less abrasive when it comes to understanding how we work. And I've been able to be more hands-on right from the beginning. So that's really it.

Megan - 00:17:59: And in addition to being a mom and a CFO, you're also a President and founder of your own consulting firm. So talk to us about that consulting firm first. And then secondly, how do you juggle everything?

Samantha - 00:18:13: Yes, I think that well, I guess I'll answer the first question first. Yes. I'm the president and founder of Third Entity. It's a consulting firm that works with small businesses, and small to medium businesses that are looking for financial strategy, growth strategy, and technology strategy. And again, looking back on my career, I don't think I ever thought I was building up to this moment where I was going to have this set of experiences that would help me to support organizations and align the vision for them. And the way that I am able to perform with them is I'm very selective. I'm very selective with the clients, just as they should be selective with who they work, I am equally selective with the clients. What are their goals, what are the opportunities that they have, and also how open they are to the strategies that I know I'm going to be able to bring to the table? So really that is the key when you're having a firm like that, where again, I'm very selective of those clients. I'm very selective of the time that I invest with them and make sure that that screening process allows me to be very intentional with them. And so that's really it how I'm able to work with them. And to your quest of juggling, I think every day it's full of choices. Every day I make the choice. What is it going to be for today? Obviously, I plan, I'm a planner, but more so, I have a good system. I got a good system where my husband is super helpful as a partner. And I say it's super helpful. He is a parent. And so being a mom, in my case, I need my spouse to be 100% there and he is 100% there. And as a professional, I'm very intentional with my time as a strategy. And I'm very upfront. I remember even with Brinkmann, I was very upfront on, this is what I bring to the table. This is how I can work with you guys and looking for good partners. In that sense, it's the most critical part when you are a leader, making sure that you're going to be able to align with the vision of the organization, to be able to align with your clients and with your priorities.

Megan - 00:20:49: Great answer. So talk to us about your time at Clayco. You were there for more than eight years. So what kept you there for that long and how did your role change during that time?

Samantha - 00:21:01: Yeah. So I started at Clayco as a Cost engineer. I was the only cost engineer, and there was no role description, and there was no onboarding. The company, as I said, was about maybe 400 and 5500 million. And back in those days, I was able to say to name every project manager and every person in finance. It was two people. Right. And I was able to just know everyone. And it was neat for me because when you are in a position where there's not a role description when there's not a script, you are able, even though you're not maybe at the top of your career, you're in the senior leadership. I was able somehow to capitalize on that. And anytime I saw an opportunity to kind of insert myself in areas that were necessarily repetitive day-to-day things, I would just get on it. As like I said early in my career, the implementation of one of their technology platforms for the construction and the finding side, it was the operational portfolio management system. I said I'll do it, I'll do it. And so what that did is that suddenly I went from not understanding the ins and outs. I had to understand all the background on how operations would send data to finance and accounting and then backward. And then how does that play with integrations and how would that play with our accounts payables and how would that play with our billings and how would that play with the subcontract and legal and all that? And so being in that role was tricky because it wasn't scripted. And I know a lot of people sometimes even today, that I have the opportunity to hire and build teams. Sometimes people want a role description, and of course, you should give that to people so they understand what is expected and how to go about it. But I always see it as a huge opportunity when there are things that are not very scripted and limited to the role because those are the areas where you may be uncomfortable for a while, but then you grow. So I was a Cost engineer and I did many things. I work with Operations closely to understand what I mean, I have a background in construction management, but as a Cost engineer, I worked directly with Operations and eventually moved as a cost manager, which had more to do with the financial side of the passing operations to finance. And then I moved as a director of Finance, where it was more so the strategy, working with business unit leaders, executives, Oppressing, the co, et cetera, and working with them on the forecasting, on the risk management, on the FB&a, on the compliance portion, and so insurance risk and profit centers. And so eventually I move as a senior director, and I a lot leading the teams for FB&a, making sure that the goals are clear, sales goals, FB&a goals, all those things, and translating it to people who are nonfinancial. Right. For most those are business unit leaders and operational leaders. And so by doing that and making sure I went back to school, I got all the credentials. And that was kind of a key because I went back to school during those years. It was really intentional during my time at school, I didn't just want to take a class. And I created great synergies that today I still use with people within the industry that today, now they're also executives back then, they were also going back to school. I was very intentional with that. I was very intentional about my financial classes, capital assessment classes, and my, you name it. I just didn't go as that. I was a professional making a very good amount of money, making having a really good title. And so I wasn't just sitting there just to get a degree, I was trying to get something out of it. So back to understanding the areas that you feel knowledgeable in and the areas that you don't. I was like, okay, why do I don't feel knowledgeable in this area? Well, maybe because I don't have this credential. So I checked that box, but I checked it very intentionally. And I would go back to my day-to-day work and apply it. And then I build great relationships with professors that obviously they are my colleagues, and even they were my colleagues, but I was very intentional with creating those relationships. So Clayco was a good place for me to stay over the years, I saw the growth, where they went from that size to be more than four and a half billion by the time I left. And so building teams, I saw what was needed to build a team in that area. And that'll help for where I am today.

Megan - 00:26:02: Yeah, sounds like it was a great place to learn over those years.

Samantha - 00:26:06: Yeah.

Megan - 00:26:06: So talk to us about being a finance leader in the construction industry. You guys set these huge budgets, and then you have to stick with them, and you don't know what you don't know. So how do you manage all the risks associated with that?

Samantha - 00:26:23: Right? I like to tell people that I don't. And this is, I guess, where I've learned different approaches. And I said, yes, of course, we're doing a budget. But I look at it more as planning profit. When you plan profit when you tell people who are not on day-to-day looking at your budget on your income statements, or that they're not on the day-to-day key financial metrics when you tell them okay, we're going to go through our season of planning profit. The profit planning for your group, for your business unit that makes the switch into people who are nonfinancial and say, okay, I get it. I'm not here to work with you to set up a budget. I'm here to set up a tool that will help me to go about it during the next quarter, the next year, during the next 18 months. Right? And so that's been one of the things, for instance, that I approach differently. And when it comes to the key financial it’s of course understanding when you work directly with the people and not just make all the assumptions about how we performed last year. But no, you meet with the people who are out there working on getting these plans, and you're able to understand their thought processes. And so that helps you to understand how, what are the risks on the backlog, what are the risks on forecasting future working place for the following years? Obviously, what are the assumptions on cash flow, and what are the assumptions on gross profit per market? And are we tapping into a new market? Are we tapping into an area that we feel comfortable with the historical data on that, with the historical performance in different regions? And so you start going to be able to have more insights into it than just going about the budget. So it allows you to understand the thought process, allows you to really build teams within your group that can work directly with operations and give them insights. And so then you have to be on top of it. I mean, I like to tell people in construction, you don't look into at the commercial level, you don't look into the current year only you had to look at the next three years or so because what you're contracting today most likely will go over twelve months to 18 months. And so you have to be constantly looking at that and understanding what are the macroeconomics around, what are the industries that are being affected for whatever case, and what are you depending on? What are your backlogs? What is your current work in a place that you're forecasting for certain industries, certain areas, and clients? So you get very intimate when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of that budget and not just looking at it from an FB&a perspective, which again, that's been my forte by being in the industry and the other side.

Megan - 00:29:13: And let's talk about your MBA. So I think a lot of people out there might struggle with should I get one, shouldn't I? So how do you feel that that's helped your career? And secondly, how did you make sure that you got the most out of it while you were there?

Samantha - 00:29:30: Yeah, so anyone who knows me, and is close to me, knows that I'm a fan of education. I tell people I know that there's a lot of well, education. MBAs are not necessary, and I'm not saying they're necessary either. That makes you a leader at. But I do think that anything that you can learn, you have to be able to figure out how you're going to apply that. And an MBA, if you choose correctly, is the program that works for you if you choose to be intentional when you go to class, like something I will say I don't recommend a lot of people to go to an MBA right after they graduate school. I know that sometimes that's an opportunity for many, but to me, looking back, it made a lot more sense to wait till I was, you know, 1010, 15, you know, years into your career. Then it makes sense. It makes sense to go into it and get good at something, specifically if you're going outside the industry that you went for, in my case. So the MBA for me generated a lot of relationships, but also, again, anything that I felt that I wanted to understand better, not just self-taught, I went ahead and I sat after class and I said, hey, I'm having this issue. How would you handle this? And can you explain this? Can you dumb down this for me? And maybe it wasn't even part of the class. And I created great relationships today. I've hired people who I went to school with. I've also used them as vendors, suppliers, and consultants. I mean, it just really created for me a network of people and tools that I could have access to. Also, obviously, I'm not from the US. And so if there was any aspect of education that technical education that I needed to kind of, like, strengthen, I was very intentional during that time to make sure that if there were any gaps into the business side internationally, from what I learned previously to now, I was obviously on the look for that. When I got my Master's in finance, it was similar. Right. I was trying to make sure that there was anything that, from a technical aspect, regulation, like, there were a lot of classes for compliance, et cetera, that obviously I paid attention in a different way. For me, education, as I said, I come from a very small town in Mexico where if you don't have an education, it really closes a lot of the doors. The reason why I think where I am, where today is because I've always been into getting education and youth, that I don't think grace is necessary for any young person out there that is considering it's not so much the grace, it's what you get out of it, for me.

Megan - 00:32:33: Yeah. It's too bad sometimes that we're so focused on grades and less focus on the meaning and the importance of the education we're getting.

Samantha - 00:32:42: Right.

Megan - 00:32:43: I'm also an advocate for lifelong learning, so thank you for sharing that. And you've been a part of different female leadership groups and networks all throughout your career. So talk to us about why these are important to you.

Samantha - 00:32:57: Yes, it sounds a little bit cliche, but the word representation is so important. I don't think I grew up I know I didn't grow up seeing females in the industry as executives or vice presidents, much less as CFO. I mean, it's not uncommon for me to go to a conference or be a speaker or meet with a supplier or a vendor and it's always like oh, even today, which is crazy for me. And I see that because today I make sure everywhere I go where I have the opportunity, whether it's a stem event or it's a board or anything, I look around and I see who is in this group, what does that mean? And it's not about just having people or having females in position just because it's really because representation matters. It creates the channels for having the infrastructure that allows working parents, single moms, just females, or just anyone that is different from whom we are usually expecting in certain roles. So representation matters to me. I wish I would have grown up seeing people who could have a family and also be successful. And I say that from a female perspective. I don't think, I'm up to the, say obviously you see the one or two or three cases outside that are famous and the Sheryl Sandberg and stuff like that. But on a daily basis, I would like to see more of that in building that community, being intentional, and being part of different groups. And I make sure in the best time there because I think it matters. And from a business perspective sorry, from a business perspective, let's be clear about the fact that in construction we're in a shortage of resources and labor and women are about 9% of our construction labor. So if you think about it, we're in a constant shortage of labor. We're not tapping to that group of females that could be part also of this industry. So from that aspect, even from a business perspective, it makes sense.

Megan - 00:35:21: And what's one piece of advice that you'd offer other finance leaders or aspiring finance leaders?

Samantha - 00:35:29: Well if you don't necessarily come from the typical background, don't let that be the reason why you don't go into it. I think that connecting the dots eventually will make sense. And connecting the dots of what you've done and what you bring to the table in any way, whether your strategy skills, whether are your operational skills and maybe your risk management skills, how could those be translated into the finance world? Work or try to be surrounded by people who are in that world and try to understand what are the areas that you would like to tap into. But in general, I think my advice is to understand that finance is not a balance sheet and an income statement. It's: understanding the strategy of the vision of the company, the operational side, and how this role and how the roles within finance are going to help to model those. How do you help to forecast growth, how do you help to manage risk? And when you understand that, then the numbers make sense for everyone, not just for a particular group. So my approach is always to try to make it as simple as possible for everyone.

Megan - 00:36:52: And last question. So as a finance professional, what are one or two of the biggest challenges that you and your team are facing going into 2023?

Samantha - 00:37:03: Well, 2023, I think. Obviously, the rates, higher rates, and how that's going to impact the world and the business and for us is understanding what are the risks that we have with our synergies, our clients, our pricing, our bidding, our estimates, and understanding how that is being handled and how risk-averse we are, how are we preparing for any scenario. And I like to think that any financial person out there doesn't always look at the best case, but we're looking at the most likely case. And how does that come about from different aspects? So obviously, rates and how that affects our clients and how it affects our suppliers and just the world as a whole. Shortage of labor in the construction industry is something that we're constantly looking at and how are we part of the solution more so than just being part of the group that is being affected by it. So what do you do? How do we do and how do we impact that group, but also how do we retain our talent? How do we make sure that the people that we have ultimately are the best assets that we have and are part of the company's success, growth, and moving forward? So technical aspects for sure, as a team is to make sure that we are risk-averse. And how are you managing? What are the things that if on an economy turn, how would we handle that? Those are really it obviously supply. Demand for the construction industry has been a big challenge over the last few years. That's different than many industries. And so how do we make sure that we plan for all kinds of scenarios and that we are constantly looking at those? 2024 is the biggest challenge rather than 2023. 2023, for many construction companies, is fake. And so you've got to be looking at, of course, what can change at 2023. But how do you go about 2024 and moving forward?

Megan - 00:39:12: Yeah, that's interesting. No shortage of challenges these days. And yeah, I'm sure 2024, fortunately, we can't predict what's coming down the chute, right?

Samantha - 00:39:27: Making sure that orientations are ready for that, for anything. Yeah, you name it. The Pandemic, I think it's shows that we know nothing about what can happen in the future. And truthfully, the Pandemic ended up being for many construction commercial companies, and general contractors that do commercial work, that do industrial work and end up being one of the catalysts for new markets and growth. A lot of distribution centers, a lot of industrial work, a lot of they're just with a lot of eCommerce work that a lot of companies in the construction world. I mean, we did not stop working.

Megan - 00:40:08: Yeah. The construction company has seen a huge growth in the last couple of years. I dabble a little bit in it, and it's impossible to find contractors, or people willing to do the work.
Which makes it difficult for you, but also lots of opportunities. And I guess even in bad times, it's been good for the construction industry.

Samantha - 00:40:33: Yeah. But you want to make sure that the people that work out on the field, that the culture and the vision organizations are not consumed by that growth. Right. That came out of nowhere to some extent. So it's a juggle between making sure that the organization as a whole is financially stable, and operationally performing, and also that the cultural aspect is not being missed by all these external factors. So it's just a day-to-day challenge. So working with everyone in the organization to make sure that no focus is just on a number, but more so on the goals of the company as a whole.

Megan - 00:41:19: Sam, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Samantha - 00:41:21: Thank you. Thank you. I love your program, and your show, and it's just exciting to be part of.

Megan - 00:41:44: Thank you. And I really enjoyed speaking with you and hearing all of the insights that you've gleaned along the way. And I wish you all the best and Brinkman, all the best and to all of our listeners, please tune in next week. And until then, take care.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • Construction and finance

  • What should first-time CFOs focus on when taking the role?

  • CFO versus Senior Director of Finance

  • Supporting SMBs

  • The CFO role in the construction industry

Key Takeaways

First-Time CFO

First time cfo in the construction industry

Samantha took on the role of a CFO for the first time in her career, which was exciting yet challenging. Over the years, she has always taken roles she wasn't fully prepared for. However, that helped her identify her strengths and weaknesses, as well as the importance of surrounding herself with people who can help her overcome those weaknesses.

“Looking back on my career, there's been a consistent thing, I've always been comfortable being uncomfortable,” Cook said. - 11:06 - 14:22

CFO VS Senior Director of Finance in the Construction Industry

Samantha Cook, CFO of Brinkmann Constructors and the President and Founder of Third Entity Group

Before taking on the role of CFO at Brinkmann Constructors, Samantha was Senior Director of Finance at Clayco. The main differences between these roles lie in the set of responsibilities. As a Senior Director of Finance, Samantha was mainly focused on FP&A and working with operations. As CFO, she works cross-functionally with operations, talent management, senior leadership, and technology.

“As a CFO, you're not just looking at the financial and accounting aspects. You're looking at the more encompassing vision and how you get there,” Cook said. - 14:27 - 16:18

SMB Consultancy

Smb consultancy for construction companies quote

Samantha is also the Founder of Third Entity Group, a private consulting firm focused on delivering strategic business, finance, technology, and supply chain direction to SMBs. To make the most out of her multiple roles, Samantha is very selective with her clients and the time she invests with them, making sure that the screening process allows her to be very intentional with them.

“As a professional, I'm very intentional with my time and strategy, and I'm very upfront,” Cook said. - 18:00 - 20:49

The CFO Role in the Construction Industry

Quote cfo role in the construction industry

When it comes to the financial side of construction, you have to work directly with the people involved to understand their thought processes and forecast future working places. That allows you to build teams within your group that can work directly with operations to give them insights.

“I like to tell people in construction at the commercial level, don't look into the current year only. You have to look at the next three years or so because what you're contracting today will most likely go over twelve to eighteen months,” Cook said. - 26:06 - 29:13

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