How Bob Maloney, CFO of Deutsch LA, widened his business perspective and grew his career.
By Nancy Flagg
Bob Maloney can wear the proverbial green eyeshade, but he also can take it off. The ability to switch seamlessly between the two is the “X factor” that can turn an everyday finance manager into a top-level contributor.
Taking a Wider Business View
Traditional accountants manage details, leaving business leaders to focus on the big picture. There are surprisingly few people who can comfortably and successfully fulfill both functions.
Bob Maloney is one of the few. He learned early on that accountants can execute their jobs with a narrow perspective, but that they will not grow unless they develop a broader view of the organization.
After graduating from DePaul University with an Accounting degree, Maloney worked for the Leo Burnett advertising agency as an accountant. The Finance Director noticed Maloney’s interest in the business and gave him assignments beyond his daily responsibilities. It is in this capacity that Maloney learned firsthand how the advertising business operates; it was the turning point in his career.
With his deeper business knowledge, Maloney expanded his level of contribution. For example, he helped negotiate client compensation proposals—a task that generally would not be assigned to a traditional accountant.
Maloney’s contributions allowed him, he said, to “be seen as not just a financial person but as someone who can help solve business problems.” Eventually, in turn, he became the CFO.
Stretching his Skill Set
After 18 years at Leo Burnett, Maloney started his own consulting firm providing financial management services to advertising agencies. Maloney quickly realized that the broad business perspective he gained at Burnett was the critical element that brought him to the next level.
“Be seen as not just a financial person, but as someone who can help solve business problems”
Even so, running his own business stretched his skills in a way that they had not needed to in a larger organization. As owner, Maloney was responsible for every business aspect, from sales to project delivery and customer engagement. He also had to “ramp up” his project management and multitasking skills to a high degree.
Reintegrating in the Corporate Environment
Maloney was not looking for a new opportunity, but when Deutsch LA—an advertising and digital agency that counts Volkswagen and Target among its clients—contacted him about a CFO/Executive Vice President position, he accepted the challenge. Maloney was attracted to Deutsch because of the range of services it offers and its successful track record.
At Deutsch LA, Maloney has primary financial responsibility but also draws on the general management experience he gained as a consultant. Maloney works closely with the company’s CEO and Account Management leadership and leads a 10-person financial team.
With the firm’s recent dramatic growth, Maloney and his colleagues are “making sure that it has the financial and operational infrastructure to support ongoing growth.”
Maloney’s approach to managing his team is drawn from a page in his mentor’s book. Maloney ensures that his staff members see their roles in the big picture, and he gives them many opportunities to stretch their skills and integrate “into the fabric of the organization.”
Bringing it All Together
Maloney enjoys being part of a creative organization and working with people who think differently from him. It is in this interaction that the X Factor effect can be seen. By balancing differing perspectives, Maloney successfully “brings financial order without stifling the creativity of others.”
Nancy Flagg is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California.
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