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The Business Elite: CFO of the Year – Wisconsin

June 30, 2016


Established in 1909, Wisconsin Aluminium Foundry has consistently provided the finest quality aluminium and copper based alloy castings for a wide variety of industries. We spoke to Kory Brockman to find out more about the firm and how he, as CFO, has helped steer it to success.

Wisconsin Aluminium Foundry (WAF) was formed 107 years ago and has been privately owned its entire history. WAF is primarily a jobbing foundry pouring aluminium, brass, and bronze alloys. The firm also has a consumer products division which manufactures and sells high quality cookware, pressure cookers, sterilizers, and metal canners under the Chef’s Design and All-American trademarked brands.

WAF specializes in permanent, semipermanent, low pressure, green sand, and dry sand molding processes. We are known for excellent casting design services and for taking our customers from prototype samples to production castings in a time frame that meets or exceeds their needs. WAF takes great pride in its Quality, Engineering, Manufacturing and Customer Service with the goal of leading the industry and staying ahead of our competition.

As a jobbing foundry, it is critical that our processes are innovative in order to be a leader in this industry. Manufacturing is without a doubt the most competitive business endeavour one can undertake, as competitors are world-wide, and not just in your city, state, or country. Anytime we improve throughput, reduce scrap and rework, or take a different approach to making a casting with less resources, we improve our value in the markets we serve. Customer-driven quality specifications continue to become more stringent, which adds to the daily challenges. Meeting these challenges and overcoming them is key in order to thrive and not just survive.

Additionally, a key means of ensuring consistently strong sales revenue is to make sure all the pieces are in place to support a sales function that strives to be world class. By this I mean the company is perpetually working at reducing the cost of its products, at reducing its lead times, at delivering its products on-time every time, and at developing innovative solutions to producing its products. In our industry, new sales revenue is as much about the sales force finding new casting sales, as it is end users of castings finding us unsolicited. In either scenario, you have to be the best value proposition available to the customer – day in and day out. Economies rise and fall, so you ensure better sales revenue by having a business platform that takes advantage of markets regardless of the direction they are trending.

I have been CFO at WAF since 2009, prior to which I worked for 10 years in the roles of Vice President of Finance and Controller. I have always aspired to grow and learn and take on more responsibility and perform at a high level. WAF presented a great opportunity to develop its accounting systems back in 1999. My educational background and prior work experience gave me the confidence to accept this challenge, and the journey has been both professionally and personally rewarding in many ways.

In my role as Chief Financial Officer at WAF, I am responsible for the accounting and finance operations of the company, as well as oversight of our insurance coverages related to risk management. Through working with our senior executive team, I provide the financial and accounting expertise in support of our company strategies and the metrics that measure and support the strategies once deployed. These responsibilities require me to work closely with my accounting personnel to insure our systems accurately record the data that supports our decision-making processes.

Financing and cash management are key to any successful business, and I communicate regularly with our bank to report performance, discuss forward-looking strategies, and insure adequate credit to support the business both now and into the future. I also accomplish these activities in a fun and positive manner, as employee morale is critical to our goals and aspirations as a business. In addition, I am also heavily involved in tax matters, employee benefits, union contract negotiations, budgeting and forecasting, capital expenditures, and portfolio investing. My approach to staff management is very collaborative, and I work hard to encourage a friendly, relaxed atmosphere in our office and aim to be courteous, polite and fun. 

This approach extends beyond my staff and through to my clients, and I aim to be as approachable as possible. I feel very proud that I have overcome the ‘bean counter’ stereotype that pervades through the corporate landscape with regards to CFOs. Some people want to box you in to this skill-set, and view those in accounting roles as nothing more than a score keeper. I got some strange looks earlier in my career when I brought attention to opportunities for productivity gains in operations or tactics to grow sales. This has impacted my view on running a business and I strive to always listen to what is being communicated.

A collaborative approach is also key to keeping up to date with the latest industry information. I value discussions I have with suppliers, OEMs, customers, and sales personnel about what is happening in the industry. The American Foundry Society and the Non-Ferrous Founders Society are valuable sources of industry trend data as well as the internet, which has made it remarkably easy to research relevant information quickly.

Ultimately I feel that the secret to my personal success is that I truly love what I do, and therefore it never really feels like work. A lot of people rely on WAF for their livelihoods, so running the business well means better job security for our employees and their families, and this is a big responsibility which I take very seriously.

With regards to the future, the company is well positioned in a mature industry. Innovation and diversification are key to its continued growth and success, and as such our future direction will be driven by strategies and activities that add value for our customers. The US-based foundry industry has contracted over the last 30 years, and it is my personal opinion that there will be struggles ahead with regards to the industry’s ability to remain autonomous, and the transfer of trade knowledge from this generation to our next generation.

With regards to my own personal future, I believe this is firmly focused on growing WAF, making it stronger, making it more innovative than our competition, and having fun while doing so.

Company: Wisconsin Aluminium Foundry

Name: Kory Brockman