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Brenda Morris: Automating the Accounting Department



 

We had the pleasure of interviewing Brenda Morris, Retail Financial Consultant and Board of Directors for Boot Barn and Duluth Trading Company. Americans recently celebrated Thanksgiving, followed by one of the biggest and craziest days in retail, Black Friday. However, an increasing number of shoppers are favoring Cyber Monday deals, which provide the convenience of savings without having to deal with massive crowds, long lines, and minimal parking. If you were one of the brave souls to enter the mall, you may have seen the popular retail stores Hot Topic, Torrid, Love Culture, Zumiez, or UNIONBAY. What do all of these fashion stores have in common? Brenda Morris helmed each of them in her career as CFO, Controller, or strategic partner. We picked Brenda’s brain for insight on ways to successfully modernize the Accounting Department.

Create Your Ideal Modern Finance Department

Are you looking for ways to be a strategic partner and optimize and add value? It has been challenging for Finance executives to change in the past 10-15 years, especially when you are comfortable with a particular process. Change can be scary! Here are some helpful tips to make a positive change to your finance department.

Warning Signs that you’re Behind the Curve

Most people think they are in a good position, but just because your books are finished on time does not mean you are ahead of the curve.

  1. Always Looking Back

You’re in “catch-up mode”, being reactive to situations. You can be looking back days, weeks, or months. Instead of being present today and proactive for tomorrow.

 2. The Millennial Thought-Process

Millennials want more energizing and learning roles. They want to add value rather than just crunching out Excel spreadsheets! They are at the bottom of the totem-pole, where they are looking at an old system and pushing for automation. Think electronic sign-off, instead of shelves and shelves of binders.

 3. Sinking Morale

Employees don’t want to have hours spikes during review time or quarter end, then back to lulls or normalized hours. This is a sign things are not going how they are supposed to, in real time.

Automate Your Process

Utilize BlackLine! Before closing the books, accountants can come to a grinding halt when faced with quarter end spikes. Continuous accounting with BlackLine will help smooth out those frustrating spikes in tasks.

Lessons Learned on the Modern Finance Journey

  • Know your Exact End Goal

What are you trying to answer or achieve? Your end goal could come in a variety of forms: going paperless, increasing automation, daily accounting, increasing analytics robustness, being more optimal and avoiding increased hires. Listen and prioritize where you can make adjustments, to create a better environment.

  • Continually Collaborate with Your Team

Make sure employees who are doing the work at each touch point have a voice in the modernization. Otherwise, it will not work as well.Be adaptable while still maintaining your clear vision, and laying out the potential rewards at the end of the journey.

What Should Boards Consider for Strategic Investments?

Accounting is often seen as a “necessary evil.” Changing that perspective can help management better evaluate how to make investments in those arenas. Put out some metrics and discuss them! For example, the cost of people to specific KPI’s, ROI’s, and efficiency information.

What metrics to measure?

Bench-marking

  1. Look at competitors

Get bench-marking data on other companies, such as number of reconciliations, days to close, DSO’s, number of assignments per accountant, etc. There is an ever-growing database of metrics to use. You can compare your team to others of a similar size.

  1. BlackLine Implementation

BlackLine is equipped with built-in metrics, which allows you to compare each user’s to best practices, internal assignments, and more. Management can analyze exactly where the problem lies and determine whether employees are always behind. This metrics and data is the area where finance and accounting are changing the most. This information can help in deciding when to make investments, and show connectivity to how you deliver value to the company.

Need help automating your accounting department for greater efficiency and greater ROI? We invite you to learn more by emailing us at Info@AvivaSpectrum.com.

More about Brenda Morris

Listen to Entire Interview

Brenda is retail financial consultant, working with teams to optimize their environments and support growth. She was most recently with Hot Topic/Torrid, an exciting leader in gift & fashion apparel retail, as a strategic partner to leadership to grow and develop the company and to spin out the Torrid brand. Prior to that Brenda was CFO for 5.11 Tactical, an international apparel and gear company, Love Culture Inc., a young women's retailer, which doubled in size during her time with them. Brenda was with Icicle Seafoods from 2009 to 2011 as CFO. Brenda was previously with Maveron start-up iFLOOR Inc., a hard surface retailing concept. She was CFO of Zumiez Inc, a specialty teen retailer. At Zumiez, she completed an IPO, 2 follow on offerings, and an acquisition of one 20 store chain. Prior to Zumiez, Brenda was at K2 Corporation as CFO. At K2, she directed all financial and ops functions. Prior to joining K2, Brenda spent 5 years as the Controller of UNIONBAY. Morris also had roles at Bowers Machine, FlowMole (aka UTILX, where she completed an IPO and two follow-ons). Brenda is the Past-Chair of Washington Business Week, a Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) Regent and Vice-Chair, past Chair Exec. Advisory Board for PLU’s School of Business; and is a guest speaker and active member of AICPA. She obtained her Undergraduate Degree in Business, Accounting from PLU, and her MBA from Seattle University focused on Organizational Behavior and Operations. She holds her CGMA, CPA and CMA. Brenda is an Advisor for Proformative.com, an online resource and professional network for senior finance, accounting and related professionals.