VP Finance/Controller Mike Lolli’s advice to reverse engineer your accounting dream job | Episode 3

In this edition of Beyond the Numbers, Bernadette Grattan, Founder & Recruiting Director of The Resource Link, is joined by Mike Lolli, VP Finance/Corporate Controller of Open Road Collision.

Bernadette wanted to interview Mike because his career is a role model for many accounting professionals as they progress in their careers. He has checked all the boxes: public accounting, CPA, and making CFO in his early 30s. In hindsight, Mike can now reflect objectively on his career and share insights on things he wishes he had known earlier on. We hope you enjoy today’s episode. 

So Many Choices

Mike believes the great thing about the accounting profession is that you can take many paths. “There’s public accounting, which has great career paths. There’s government accounting that I think was probably underplayed when I started. Government accounting is a viable path that is lucrative both financially and professionally. And then, of course, corporate accounting where you could be in public or privately held, large, small companies…”

I wish I had known at an earlier age which path I wanted to take. If I had identified that, then I could have tailored my career to building the skill set that I would have needed to achieve that.

TLDR: There are so many choices and paths in accounting: public accounting, government accounting, public companies, private companies…Know your path and tailor your career.

Reverse Engineering Your Dream Job

According to Mike, the great thing about technology today is that this is easy to determine. We can talk to recruiters, we can talk to other professionals, and we have websites like LinkedIn. “I can go in and see what the job posting is and what the requirements are. If I wanted to be a CFO of a publicly held company, I could go review what they’re looking for.”

You can then set a goal for yourself and plot a course. Do you need large company experience or international experience? Should you be a division controller or division CFO?

Mike advises that if you set that target early and then identify along the way what critical skills you need to achieve the end goal, you can ensure that you are continuing on that path. “If you hit a point where you felt, boy, I’ve plateaued out with this organization, then you have to look at a new opportunity that gets you the next set of skills you need.”

TLDR: As a staff accountant or a senior accountant, look at the job descriptions of positions or companies you’re interested in and note the requirements. Then, ensure you’re getting these skill sets in your current position so you can effectively grow into the next role.

The Balance of it

Mike enjoys accounting for 2 reasons. First and foremost, he loves the balance and order of accounting. “So just on the fundamental basis, accounting is about order and balance. You can’t be off. And I always like that because I think that way. I like organization and order in my personal life and my career. So accounting is fundamentally built to please people like me.”

From a professional perspective, Mike states that accounting is the bedrock and foundation of business. Look at any type of business, they all require an accounting system. Everything is based on the financial transactions of an organization.

“They do things differently in different industries, but ultimately, at the center of business are transactions. With accounting, you get full understanding and full access to every aspect of how an organization operates from a financial sense.”

Mike understands that you tend to do less transactional accounting as you advance throughout your career. As you become a controller or if you’re fortunate to be a CFO or a VP, it’s less about the transactional journaling of business.

As you grow in your career, you become a financial advisor.

–      You help build out sales strategies

–      You help price products. How much do our products cost, and how much can I charge for them?

–      You put your fingers in the sales cycles.

–      You make decisions on investments. Are you going to buy a piece of equipment?

What really was fun for Mike was dealing with everything from mergers and acquisitions to legal analysis and contract reviews. Looking at the big picture and the strategy. Having the accounting foundation allowed him to play in all these different sandboxes outside of traditional accounting. This is when you have your influence felt.

In accounting, you are the center of the universe.

TLDR: Mike enjoys accounting for two reasons: 1) He loves the balance, order, and organization it provides, aligning with his personal preferences. 2) Accounting is the foundation of business operations. While early in one’s career involves more transactional accounting work, advancing to roles like controller or CFO allows for strategic financial advisory. This is where it gets fun as you influence sales strategies, pricing, investments, mergers & acquisitions, and overall business strategy. 

The Value of Starting in Public Accounting

The real advice that Mike would give anybody is that accounting has a lot of options for people today. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 CFO to be successful. There are a lot of different avenues that you can take and great companies to work for.

“But the 1 bit of advice I would give is if you’re starting a career in accounting and you do have aspirations to continue and develop in that profession, I think starting in public accounting is the best thing you can do for yourself.”

Public accounting provides camaraderie, advanced training, and support for your CPA (which, again, Mike encourages you to pursue if you want to grow in your career).

Mike thinks public accounting is fundamentally the best way to get the training and the work ethic and everything else, the building blocks that will propel you on. So if you can, he encourages you to do it.

 

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ABOUT Michael R. Lolli, CPA: Mike is the VP of Finance / Corporate Controller of Open Road Collision, where he plays a strategic role in steering the financial operations. The bulk of Mike’s experience comes from being CFO/Controller at Auer Precision Company. Here, Mike oversaw the financial operations of a multinational firm, significantly contributing to strategic planning and revenue growth. His expertise spans strategic financial planning, P&L management, and cost control programs. Mike has successfully negotiated critical agreements, managed complex credit restructurings, and led the divestiture of international assets. His career highlights also include guiding the financial and operational direction of Auersoft LLC from its inception to its eventual sale.

Mike started his career in public accounting and left RSM after being promoted to Supervisor. He then transitioned to Craftsmen In Wood as their Controller before moving into internal auditing at Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.

Mike holds a B.S. in accounting and finance from The University of Arizona.

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/michael-lolli-33564819

ABOUT Bernadette Grattan:

Bernadette Grattan is the Founder and Accounting & Finance Recruiting Director of The Resource Link, Inc., a specialty search firm she started in 2002. Bernadette takes a personalized approach to understanding the hiring manager and job seeker’s needs. This enables her to make long-term accounting, finance, and executive placements. The Resource Link distinguishes itself through high-touch customer service, candid insights, and ensuring an excellent match by connecting top talent with companies aligned with their career passions. 

If you are looking to hire or considering what is next, learn more at theresourcelink.com or linkedin.com/in/bernadettegrattan

 

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About The Resource Link

For almost two decades, The Resource Link has strategically placed Accounting & Finance talent with some of the best companies in Arizona! We consult with our hiring managers and candidates to dive into the best solutions and outcomes and we provide advice and feedback along the way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or just pick up the phone! We would love to hear from you to help you build the best team or find the best career.

 

 

Check Bernadette out on LinkedIN by clicking here.  

 

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Bernadette Grattan, founder of The Resource Link

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