Managing Partner and CEO
Mentor, Frauke Quiroga
Frauke is the Managing Partner and CEO of Luxa Enterprises LLC, a business services firm where her clients can contract out their accounting, human resource and payroll management needs. Start-ups to mid-sized companies often have limited resources to be able to efficiently manage all these area of their business. Frauke has built a staff of experts who can take over these functions so her clients can concentrate on delivering products and services to their customers rather than having to deal with these administrative functions. Before joining Luxa, she had more than twenty years of accounting, audit and business leadership experience in Fortune 100 companies, including Bell Canada Enterprises, Allied Signal/Honeywell, Hilti and John Zink (Koch Chemical Technologies) and held positions as a Controller, Financial Analyst, Chief Financial Officer and Marketing Manager. She earned a MBA from the University of Tulsa while working full time and raising a family, has a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University in Montreal and is a Chartered Canadian Professional Accountant. She gives back to her community and is involved in over a dozen non-profit organizations.
Frauke’s dream when she graduated from college was to have a career in international business where she could travel the world and was able to reach her goal. But balancing her career and family life became difficult as she advanced in her career and her family grew, a problem many of you may encounter. Frauke talks about how she adjusted her career goals at a time when she was at the height of her international business career to better balance her work and family life. Frauke also talks about how important it is to have confidence that the career path you chose is a good fit based on her own experience. She started out wanting to be a veterinarian because of her love of animals and quickly changed her mind after working summer jobs at a veterinarian’s office. It is important for you to also do your own research about the everyday responsibilities of someone in the career you are considering before making a large investment of both time and money in your education.
My Career Path
I was born in Germany and migrated to Montreal, Canada when I was four years old. Montreal is in the province of Quebec where the primary language is French and the secondary language is English. So while I was growing up I became proficient in three languages. I had a love of animals and when I graduated from high school, I thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian. My counselors at the time put me down the path of premed and I took summer jobs working at a veterinarian’s office to get a feel if being a veterinarian was something I really wanted to do. That is when I found out that while you might have a passion for something, the reality could be that like me you might find the work is not what you had dreamed it was. Working at that job, I found out there were a lot of things about being a veterinarian that I could not handle like the surgeries and knew I needed to look for another career.
During my first year of school, I had started working in an office doing clerical work and helping out in accounting. My boss at the time told me that I was great at numbers, very quick and that I noticed things in the accounting processes. He asked if I had ever considered accounting as a career. I told him no but my premed courses had a lot of math and I knew I liked it. Before long I decided to go in that direction. I completed a Bachelors Degree in International Business at Concordia University in Montreal and then got my CPA certification. I thought I was going to conquer the world as an accountant. My counselor told me to go slow, not aim too high and start at a clerical job. I remember being obnoxious enough to say, “ I have my degree and my CPA and I am going to go for it”. I took a Controller job at Maple Leaf Foods in 1992 and learned right away that I knew nothing. I had a lot of book experience but no practical experience. Fortunately, I had a good team around me that was patient and took the time to train me to be a good boss. I didn’t stop there and continued to think that anything was possible. I took my next job as a Credit and Administration Manager at British Steel in 1996 and a year later moved to Honeywell Aerospace as a business analyst. In 1999, I was promoted to Controller at the sister company in Alabama, Allied Signal. There I met my husband who was from Tulsa. We both wanted to get back to Tulsa to be able to help with his parents. After I started looking around, a recruiter approached me from Hilti, a company based in Liechtenstein that made power tools. They were looking for a German speaking accountant who was willing to move to Tulsa. What are the odds? I joined Hilti in 2001 as the VP of Finance and got my first job working in international business traveling the world.
While I was at Hilti, the CEO approached me with the opportunity to go out into the field and sell tools. I distinctly remember at the time thinking he was nuts. It didn’t make sense to me to have an accountant selling tools. I thought maybe they we trying to get rid of me. I didn’t see at the time what a great opportunity this was. But I was flexible and went with it. I was not a great sales person. But I got to manage two sales regions and met some amazing sales people. I learned what they had to go through each day cold calling, dealing with dissatisfied clients and building relationships. I later told my former CEO that I appreciated him encouraging me to keep an open mind and take that opportunity. Even though I would never become a sales person, learning about sales and marketing helped broaden my opportunities and helped lead to my position with Luxa. You too should be open-minded and try and be flexible when these kinds of learning experiences are presented to you.
I left Hilti five years later and went to work for John Zink Hamworthy Combustion as a Vice President and Global Controller. At that point, I was at the height of my career working in international business and finance. But I was literally traveled around the world while still trying to raise my family. The travel took its toll. It is important for all of you young people to understand that there will come a time when you have to look at your work/life balance and anticipate that things in life will sway. You shouldn’t abandon your career hopes. But sometimes you might take a different path than you first planned when it comes to your family and that’s ok. When I got the position I had dreamed of in international business, I had young children in school and one starting school and began to feel my life was out of balance. I decided to look for a position that would still allow me to grow professionally but didn’t require extensive travel so I could spend more time with my family.
I first took a position as CFO with the Clear Edge Group in Tulsa. But a year later I decided to stay home for a while and enjoy my young kids. Later I joined Luxa, a young, business outsourcing firm where I had the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and grow the business. The first two years were challenging because I couldn’t find the right presentation to explain what outsourcing meant. People I talked to would often ask if I meant outsourcing to India. They didn’t always understand that our own local employees would service them. But when I encountered people who were having challenges with their accounting or the human resource area of their business, that was something I could talk about and tell them what I saw were their opportunities and ways to overcome their challenges. This is the concept that has made Luxa successful, the idea that if you have a problem, we have a solution and are here to help you. Helping our clients analyze their problems was my way of selling without being a salesperson.
Human resource activities are about 40% or our business. These services are things like recruiting, orientation, performance management and ways to deal with separation and how to comply with employment laws. Many businesses that are growing rapidly also need to add another layer to their management team and often promote someone in their company to supervisor. But even though that person may be experienced in a job, it doesn’t mean they are able to supervise people. So we offer programs in what we call “supervisory basics” to show them how you deal with people who you were working with and who are now reporting to you. This includes things like how to do a performance review, how to deal with perceptions of favoritism and how to comply with the government regulations that an employer must follow.
I have worked hard to attract good people to my staff by having a sense that my growth was also an opportunity and benefit for the people who join Luxa. We now have eighteen members on our team and a company that very much has a service mentality. All of the eighteen employees care deeply about their clients and want to help them grow. Our people are also very civic mined. Once a quarter we all go out for a community event like working on a house for the Habitat for Humanity and other projects for many of the United Way agencies.
How to Build Your Own Career Path
I would encourage you to talk to many people in the occupation you are considering and ask them what they do day-to-day. Get an internship or part time job like I did to see if that is really something you want to do before investing thousand of dollars and several years or your time to get a great education and then finding out it is something you don’t want to do. As an example, my own stepson thought he wanted to be an accountant and came to work for us one summer. He did everything from filing to data entry to basic reconciliations and found out that it wasn’t quite as glamorous as he thought.
Talk to people about how their career evolved from what they did at the beginning so you will have an idea of what you need to do to advance your own career. In accounting, a lot of this evolution depends on whether you begin your career in public accounting or private accounting and the type of business where you work. Public accountants deal with a variety of clients and get to learn about a lot of different businesses. They also get to master the art of accounting reconciliation especially if they go through the audit path with one of the large accounting firms. Only a few people make partner at a large accounting firm and even those who are asked often use the experience they get in public accounting as a steppingstone to other opportunities. Public accounting will also give you a good foundation in uncovering errors and looking at accounting processes, something that is important for every accountant to know. Those who decide to begin their career in private accounting are trained by the company in their accounting systems and don’t have a broader sense of accounting processes. But they also get exposed to corporate culture and often get organizational behavior training or they may be involved in the manufacturing side of a business or get experience in mergers and acquisitions. This can be good training that can later offer you the chance to become a corporate financial officer like my private accounting experience did for me.
Take the time to investigate different colleges and learn which one is a good fit in terms of your personal values. A university’s environment can make a big difference in how well you do especially with the requirement that you live on campus your first year. It may be the first time for many of you that you will be away from home and the college’s culture and compatibility with your own values is important.
Be humble after you graduate from college and get your CPA. Know that you have to learn how to practically apply what you learned in the textbook. For example, the textbook teaches you how to calculate cash flow. Once you have done the calculation you have to know what it means and how to have a discussion with the owner and other managers if there are problems. Another example is accounting policies where there is no right or wrong. Some people in small companies might take all of an expense and a larger company may accrue the expense and take the deduction over time. All this requires the judgment you get from experience.
Besides a CPA certification, consider getting an MBA. I got my MBA from the University of Tulsa while I was working by taking classes through an online program they had at the time. I knew that not having an MBA was holding me back. I had taken a few graduate hours while I was living in Montreal but put it aside because of the challenge of going to school during work hours. Internet classes fit me perfectly when I was traveling all over the world. I was able to go online literally from anywhere in the world and completed my MBA in two years. It was a lot of work and I remember staying up until two and three o’clock in the morning writing papers. But somehow the energy level was there for me. You must have a definite goal set in your mind and then just go for it. I missed out on a lot of social things. But the long-term benefits were worth it.
Learn at least one other language well. Almost all businesses now have some international operations and being able to write and speak another language is becoming a requirement for many staff and executive positions especially if you want to work for a larger company.
As I look back on my career, I can say the people who mentored me helped shape me and gave a positive boost to my career. I would not have had the career momentum or a fraction of the success I had if it wasn’t that I had people who believed in me and gave me a chance. Mentoring is a part of the management culture of most good business organizations and is something you should look for when you evaluate an employer.
I was able to reach my career goals and so can you if you prepare yourself by getting a good education and choosing a career that you enjoy where you have a path for personal growth. I found out that I was good at math and that lead me to accounting which allowed me get the experience I needed to achieve my dream of working in international business and traveling the world. I had help along the way from people who mentored me and helped me succeed. If people see you are working hard and have talent, you will also be noticed by managers in your company and will have a good chance of them wanting to mentor you. While you are building your career, remember to keep a balance between your business and family life. In my case, the transition from international business to building a local services business has been a great opportunity for personal growth. Be flexible and open to new opportunities and you too will be able to create your own successful career path and maintain a good work/life balance.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics for Financial Mangers and Accountants
The median annual wage for financial managers was $117,990 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.
In May 2015, the median annual wages for financial managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$140,160|
|Management of companies and enterprises||136,490|
|Finance and insurance||113,040|
Employment of financial managers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, growth will vary by industry.
Services provided by financial managers, such as planning, directing, and coordinating investments, are likely to stay in demand as the economy grows. The United States remains an international financial center, meaning that the economic growth of countries around the world will likely contribute to employment growth in the U.S. financial industry. In recent years, companies have been accumulating more cash on their balance sheets, particularly among those with operations in foreign countries. As globalization continues, this trend is likely to persist. This should lead to demand for financial managers, as companies will be in need of cash management expertise.
Accountant and Auditors
The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $67,190 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,930.
In May 2015, the median annual wages for accountants and auditors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||$71,760|
|Management of companies and enterprises||69,560|
|Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services||67,440|
Most accountants and auditors work full time. In 2014, about 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week. Longer hours are typical at certain times of the year, such as at the end of the budget year or during tax season.
Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Globalization, a growing overall economy, and an increasingly complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors.