Covering all the angles

For Beverlee Park, CPA, FCA, gaining experience on the operational side of business is a necessary element of successful management.

Q: What has been your toughest leadership challenge?

It was as the CFO of TimberWest [a BC timber and land management company] and the president of Couverdon [the real estate division]. When the US housing market collapsed we went fairly quickly into a cash-negative position. We were worried about our survival. We needed financing and we needed our markets back and there was nothing on the horizon that was very positive.

How did you meet that challenge?

It was a matter of facilitating a lot of good people to come together to solve problems. In the real estate side, for example, we had to sell a lot of assets to keep going and that took a lot of creativity because we were selling into a relatively small market. Everything we did we did as a team and we tried to find the best people to put on whatever problem was at hand.

How is the role of board member evolving?

There’s an ever-growing need for board members to be on top of industry issues and trends and the strategic direction of a company. And board members are taking their own training and development more seriously. I get out to a range of seminars and have taken specific governance training.

How did your accounting background prepare you to be a successful leader?

Financial statements are a powerful way of learning about a company. You develop a set of skills for how to analyze a business or an industry or your competitors and can distil that information into something that is useful for your own strategy.

What is your advice to young accountants who aspire to lead companies?

However you can, touch the operational side. Seek out roles outside of the financial stream either within or outside your company. I got involved on the board of the Vancouver YMCA when I was in my 20s and it was one of the best things I ever did as a young person in the accounting stream. I learned so much.

Beverlee Park has held senior management positions with TimberWest Forest Corp. and has served on boards in a variety of industry sectors. She is currently on the board of Teekay LNG Partners and InTransit BC.

About the Author

Susan Smith

Susan Smith is a freelance writer in Toronto.

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