Food for thought

Jeff Boomer, CFO of the booming eatery Earls Restaurants Ltd., reflects on changing the perception of finance jobs and making a company relevant.

Q. You’ve been the CFO at Earls for 15 months. How do you get your team onboard when you’re the new guy?

I have told my team that we don’t want to just be producing a bunch of numbers. We want to ask, "What are the implications of those numbers? "But to get buy-in, you need to follow through.

What have you done to follow through?

We’re looking at new technologies to manage our human capital, to analyze data that’s integrated with our point-of-sale system and to get data out in a way that’s timely so that we can make decisions with it.

What has the reaction been?

If you explain the vision, people say, "I love it." Bookkeeping is not exciting. What’s exciting is being closer to the decision-making. Finance can be a "head-down" function in a company, but I’m trying to get people to look up a little bit.

Earls is making a big push into Eastern Canada and the US. What challenges does that present to you as CFO?

Running a business from Vancouver to Miami is very difficult. Each restaurant presents a new set of challenges, whether it’s labour compliance, legal compliance or just different time zones. That’s why we’re using technology to help us.

What attracted you to Earls as a company?

The president, Mo Jessa, has a vision for transforming Earls into a company that’s going to be relevant for another 30 years. Consumers are demanding more out of companies these days. You have to be socially responsible and you have to provide your employees with more than a paycheque.

What do you think Earls offers its employees?

There’s a sense of believing in people at Earls. When someone says, "I believe in you," it gives the employee the sense that he or she has untapped potential. It goes back to our president. He started out as a dishwasher.

Jeff Boomer was in investment banking and mergers and acquisitions before being recruited by Earls’ Vancouver-based head office in 2013. He has his CFA designation and an MBA from the Ivey Business School.