When Nick Gangestad retired as CFO of 3M, he expected to go into teaching or serve on boards, not take another operational role. But he found himself missing the daily challenges of his career and so came up with three criteria for the inevitable recruiter calls. Any company he joined needed to make a positive impact, have a CEO Gangestad would admire and give him a chance to learn something new. Rockwell Automation checked those boxes for him and he started in the role in March. He spoke with BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Arthur Thomas about joining the Milwaukee-based manufacturer and navigating a chaotic business environment.
Impressions of Milwaukee
“I’d call it an easy city to be in. My wife and I have lived different places and some places we’ve lived, you have to plan 30 or 45 minutes to get anywhere. You don’t have to do that here. ... It’s a special place and maybe the people of Milwaukee are a little humble or maybe they just want to keep it a secret from the rest of the world finding out and not letting it get too overrun.“
Sizing price increases
“What’s happening with inflation and prices is broadly seen and understood, so it’s not like we’re in an environment where ‘wait a minute, I don’t even understand what you’re talking about, why would prices have to go up?’ … We want to try to cover our cost increases, but we’re also interested in growing in a number of key markets and regions and want to make sure we have competitive prices lined up with the value we are creating for our customer.”
Approach as CFO
“We think we’re in the early stages of a multi-year growth cycle, and one of the things I’m trying to make sure that our company and the finance team are aligned around is how do we make sure that we’re making the right investments to really help this company accelerate profitable growth? Sometimes there can be a stereotype of finance really being ‘oh, we want to scale things back, we just want to cut costs’ – and sometimes that’s the right strategy – but I think part of the direction I’m bringing in, given where this company is and is poised for the future, is making sure we’re investing in the right place.”
Going beyond the numbers
“I don’t think a finance leader can divorce themselves or separate themselves from the strategic element. They have to be thinking simultaneously about operational and (the) returns that we’re generating from that but also with an eye toward what’s the bigger long-term strategy. The two go hand in hand. … I think a good CFO and a good finance organization has a balance of both.”
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