“Be you, be free, let me be me”. That’s the motto that Ashley Altum lives by and the words that describe her best. As CFO for Worlds of WOW, a company that generates imagination and fun through the design of children’s play spaces, she aims to help create a world where opportunities are seized, dreams are lived, and passions are shared. Here are a few of her thoughts on creating a successful and fulfilling career:
Describe your career path for us, including your advice along the way for other CFOs interested in this progression.
Although I had a background in graphic design, I decided, in 2008, to begin a different career path and, pursue a degree in Business Administration, with a vision of becoming a CPA and CFO. While completing my education, I worked my way from administrative roles to office manager, accountant, and, ultimately, CFO. By the time I reached the age of 30, I had completed my MBA and passed all four CPA exams. Today, I am the CFO and shareholder of multiple small businesses and my ultimate goal is to own and manage a variety of companies. For those choosing the entrepreneurial CFO career path, I suggest learning as much as you can about all facets of business across a multitude of industries. This financial expertise will prove to be an instrumental stepping stone.
What’s exciting for you as a CFO? What do you enjoy the most about your profession?
I get really motivated about taking something that needs a lot of thought and attention and coming up with a plan that directly affects financial results. Strategy, planning, growth, operations, numbers, and logic are most interesting to me. In addition, I enjoy managing issues, freeing up cash, and working on a plan for sustainable growth – metrics, financial statements, policies, procedures, processes, and organizational health all give me a great sense of satisfaction.
What’s the one thing that you could not do without as a CFO?
Although integrity, loyalty, and strong relationships with shareholders, both internal and external, are imperative, I could not do without the developed trust that I have built with my CEO. This cohesion has allowed us to make better decisions to successfully execute the vision of the company.
The CFO/Board landscape changes all the time. How do you keep yourself educated on the latest developments that affect your profession?
In addition to participating in educational events hosted by a variety of professional organizations, I listen to podcasts, read industry magazines and articles, and work with consultants and a business coach.
As you work in multiple capacities in your company, how do you stay on top of everything?
I stay extremely organized by constantly using productivity tools, applications, and software. I couldn’t live without Wunderlist and Teamwork, as well as my calendar and email, which help me to prioritize my day and properly plan for the future. I am the biggest proponent of having task lists and calendars to work off of daily. A well-scheduled day helps me be most productive.
Describe your “aha” moment, or a crowning achievement to your career.
My “aha” moment was when I realized I held a very important and influential role as a CFO and I had passed all of my CPA examinations. I was ready to take my career to the next level!
Any final words that you’d like to share with our CFOs?
The most successful CFOs put in long hours, work on the business instead of in the business, have big ideas, and see strategy and growth through the numbers. More important, though, I think today’s CFOs need to wear many hats. Financial statements are only a small aspect of the role. To make an impact as a CFO, you must be willing to hire the right people, put them in the right seats, and trust them to do a good job.