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A finance team designed for the future

At Keurig Dr Pepper Canada, CPAs have completely shifted their outlook from tracking transactions to driving growth. It’s great for business—and fantastic for recruiting.

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keurig teamMembers of the finance team: ‘We focus on what’s going to drive value.’ 

In 2014, when Guillaume Gratton joined Keurig Canada Inc., the Canadian subsidiary of Keurig Green Mountain Inc., he found himself in an unusual corporate environment. While the organization was large and growing rapidly, Keurig still had the feel of a young company. “At home, single-serve coffee systems were barely 10 years old,” he says, adding that the place felt almost like a start-up. “We had to create a lot.”

Four years later, in July 2018, Keurig Green Mountain merged with Dr Pepper Snapple Group to create a US$11-billion-a-year powerhouse. Its Canadian entities, Keurig Canada and Canada Dry Mott’s, merged business forces and now operate under the name Keurig Dr Pepper Canada. With 1,600 employees strategically located in Montreal, Mississauga, and across Canada, they combined forces to grow iconic Canadian brands such as Mott’s Clamato, Canada Dry and Van Houtte. Gratton—who began his career at Deloitte and worked in the media and food sectors before jumping to Keurig—moved from Montreal to Boston, where he is now Vice-President, Corporate FP&A. 

What he brings to his new position is the experience of shaking up the Canadian finance function by completely shifting its outlook from a traditional transaction tracking mandate to a far more proactive orientation aimed at driving growth. Today, the finance team works closely with other departments to plan and execute corporate strategy and operations. “We focus on what’s going to drive value,” Gratton says. 

Continuing some of the groundwork his predecessor had laid, Gratton worked closely with his team to bring real change to their tasks. The story of the transformation he led was all about rebooting the role that CPAs play within a finance team and the company more generally. As has happened in other organizations that have attempted similar cultural resets, Gratton focused on showing the other members of the senior management team that CPAs can boost the performance of even a fast-growing company. 

“I’m looking for people who can identify risk and are willing to challenge the status quo and conventional ideas.”

A key step, he says, was encouraging his team members to rethink their relationship to other functions. “It was about shifting the mindset from being purely transactional and GAAP-focused to focusing on insights and analytics.”

For example, Gratton’s group began working with Keurig’s sales, marketing and commercial strategy teams to optimize the promotional spend on various retail accounts. To deliver those insights, he says, the finance team used data analytics tools to track the performance of previous promotions, and use those findings to generate profit-and-loss pro formas showing how to maximize return on investment for a given account without alienating other customers. 

Guillaume Gratton Guillaume Gratton (Erica Allen Studio)

That kind of forward-looking financial analysis “forces the business to find new ideas [for driving revenue] instead of just repeating the past,” he says. “It’s all about partnerships with the business [side] and being open and candid about sharing data.”

Another crucial aspect of the cultural transformation involved demystifying the company’s granular financial information so the insights could be useful to the business side of the firm. “If we keep the information to ourselves,” Gratton explains, “the rest of the team can’t know if it’s doing the right thing. We had to remove the complexity and share the insights with all our internal partners.”

Lastly, Gratton’s strategy extended to the way his finance team recruited and retained new talent. Most CPAs who have been involved in hiring in recent years are familiar with the ongoing war for talent. For his part, Gratton knew he wanted a different sort of recruit for Keurig’s finance group. New recruits had to be comfortable with the emerging analytics tools that allow CPAs to make historical financial data relevant to a firm’s growth strategy.

As well, he wanted to hire new CPAs with an entrepreneurial bent and a willingness to do things differently. “I’m looking for people who are interested in business because this is as close as you’ll get to running a business,” he says. “I want people who can identify risk and are willing to challenge the status quo and conventional ideas.”

To that end, in 2015, Keurig began steeping itself in continuous improvement training, and especially Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. By the time the program rolled out, almost a fifth of Keurig’s 100-member finance division in Montreal had received their CI certification, which, Gratton notes, produced a critical mass of people constantly looking for new ways to leverage financial data to drive growth and profitability. It’s not a coincidence that Keurig’s Canadian division was named as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for both 2018 and 2019.

As validation of the success of the transformation, Gratton points out that other functions, including commercial strategy, supply chain and human resources, actually started recruiting members of his team, clearly demonstrating that finance CPAs understand and deliver value to the business. The result is a further strengthening of the growing partnership between the finance function and the key operational units. “It shows the CPA designation can open the door to other functions,” Gratton observes.