November 8, 2010 | last updated May 29, 2012 11:25 pm
CFO OF THE YEAR -- Winner: Small Private Company

Brian Beck, President and CFO Wealth Management Group of North America, a division of Lexco Wealth Management Inc.

Being a CFO in a small business means not only attending to the accounting, budgeting and forecasting needs of the company, it means being capable of switching hats at a moment's notice to tend directly to customers' needs.

For Wealth Management Group of North America, a 15-year- old personal and business financial management firm based in Farmington, this means providing clients the same business discipline and careful attention to detail as employees inside the firm and the business itself receives.

In other words, according to president and CFO Brian Beck, "We practice what we preach. This means, that the steps I practice inside the office as CFO to help our business grow, to manage our firm's money, to make sure that as a business we're living within our means, we apply to our clients.''

"I'm on the front line with individuals and small businesses and executives, professionals and high net worth individuals helping them achieve their life goals. The principles that we apply to ourselves to succeed work very well for our clients."

The need to stay close to Main Street clients while managing the financial operations of the business helps keep Beck and the firm focused and grounded in the ever changing dynamics of the economy and realities of the firm's markets and clients' challenges, he said.

"This is an area where Brian shines," said CEO Daniel Friedman. "The added value is that Brian is not just a numbers guy. At the same time he is CFO, he is also a trusted advisor to about 100 middle-class millionaire families. This gives him both behind-the-scenes and in-the-field expertise."

To succeed in a role like his, Beck said, not only does a CFO need an excellent grasp of accounting, tax laws, and a keen big- picture awareness of changes coming out of Washington, one also needs to possess highly effective interpersonal skills to be able to communicate rapidly developing conditions to employees and clients.

"To continue to grow business in this kind of environment, it is extremely important to communicate what you are trying to do as a business and help employees feel a part of it. It's not just about job security. If you let employees know they are appreciated, they, in turn, will be motivated when they are dealing with clients, and your clients will be better served."

With cost margins for small businesses so much tighter than that of large corporations, Beck said, the next key ingredient for a CFO to be successful is an expertise in technology because of its tremendous potential to help save time, raise productivity and lower costs.

"We use a multitude of financial software programs and we're in the midst of doing a full review of all our financial systems and programs. It's essential for a CFO today to be at the forefront of technology because of its impact on raising productivity and lowering the costs of the business. We can't afford to misspend on technology software because it takes us far longer to recover the cost than it takes a much larger corporation."

Beck said that he tries to run the firm like a Fortune 500 business. This means he is constantly performing cash flow analysis and forecasting, and conducting stress tests on the business to determine how the company will perform if particular scenarios were to occur.

Every six months, the staff gets together at an offsite meeting to review the operations manual for the purpose of finding new ways to lower costs, grow the business and help employees focus more of their efforts on operations, sales and marketing and client relations.

"Being proactive is the most important thing you have working for you in a small business," he said.

In 2009, Wealth Management Group merged with Lexco Wealth Management Inc., a financial management firm in Tarrytown, N.Y. Over the next few years, Beck said he will be working to integrate the two companies operationally and financially. This will drive cost savings, through greater efficiencies, to their clients.

"The overall mission of our firm has been to help our clients achieve financial and life goals," Beck said. "So, as much as we like making money, some of the most satisfying moments for me have been helping our clients reach their life goals, which a lot of times doesn't bring in revenue, but it brings great client satisfaction.''

"It's when a parent comes in and says, 'thanks for helping us put two kids through college without student loans,' or when a grandparent comes in and says, 'thanks for transferring the business from one generation to the next.' That's really what's been satisfying for me in my job."

Name: Brian Beck

Title: President and CFO

Company: Wealth Management Group of North America

Company headquarters: Farmington

Annual Revenue: $650,000

Age: 43 Hometown: Farmington

Education/credentials: Bachelor of Business Administration, Emory University; candidate for Certified Private Wealth Advisory degree through the University of Chicago Boothe School of Business (part of their executive education program)

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