Chief concerns

Sometimes you just have to make a change.

Bob Shearer, president and COO of Shearer’s Foods Inc., found that his business needs were changing and he needed new leadership at the CFO position.

“We’ve gone through a lot of growth in the last five or six years,” says Shearer. “Our whole technology department with our computers and ERP system were behind where we needed to be to keep up with the growth we were getting in the business.”

Shearer hired a CIO to get the data necessary to make the proper analysis of the business.

“We were always focused on the quality of the products and selling and weren’t really focused on having the proper data and information,” he says. “With a little luck, we just flew by the seat of our pants. We made some right decisions and some wrong ones. Our advisory board emphasized the importance of profitability, and we needed to improve in this area.”

Shearer’s was also shifting to doing a lot more private labeling, and the number of customers grew.

“To service them properly, we had to know which ones were selling well and which ones weren’t,” says Shearer. “We also expanded our product lines to include tortilla chips, corn chips and popcorn. A combination of all these changes meant we needed to go to a different level.”

The search began.

“I went by word of mouth,” says Shearer. “I didn’t use a headhunter, though I was almost ready to do that. I wanted to rely on personal contacts that would have experience with the individuals. It’s sort of a delicate position. I didn’t want just anybody.

“A lot of people interview well, and you can be fooled easy. I wanted to make the right decision the first time.”

Shearer ended up with about 15 resumes and interviewed three candidates. He chose Scott Smith, a former Arthur Andersen consultant who had done work for one of Shearer’s advisory board members.

“Experience in our industry was not part of the criteria,” says Shearer. “Scott had the financial background and education we were looking for. He had done a lot of consulting work with businesses, helping them make decisions about what systems could help their business.

“He wasn’t just someone that knew accounting. He had more of an entrepreneurial background, and that was real helpful.” How to reach: Shearer’s Foods Inc., (888) 473-2824

Family perspective

Being part of family-owned business can be a lot of fun, but it can also be challenging if you are an outsider.

For Bob Shearer, president and COO of Shearer’s Foods Inc., when it came time to find a new CFO, he had seen the potential of going outside the family — and the company — to bring in a fresh perspective. Three vice presidents had already come from outside the company, which helped him land the CFO candidate he wanted.

“The decision to go from a professional services firm to a family-owned business was tough — there is a potential risk there,” says Scott Smith, CFO of Shearer’s, a former business consultant. “It’s a different world. There are unique challenges and opportunities with the family-owned business. What attracted me was Bob’s dynamic approach and his growth story.

“Clicking with him personally was a major factor, and seeing that he had brought in people from the outside for executive level positions was a factor as well.”

Shearer says bringing in people from the outside helps infuse new ideas.

“You need to have new blood,” says Shearer. “You have to have new ideas. We all become creatures of our habits.”

Smith started on the job last July, and Shearer is happy with the results.

“There were really no problems we ran into during the recruiting process,” says Shearer. “I contemplated making this change a couple of years ago. My biggest regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. If you have a plan, follow it and get rid of all the obstacles that are in the way.”