by Lauren Randazzo
"You are going to work hard no matter where you go [to work] so find a job you love" was the sage advice from Christine Cole, senior vice president and chief financial officer of McDonald's USA, to a group of more than 100 students from the Department of Accountancy. Cole addressed the crowd at a departmental lyceum on Thursday, April 3, following her talk, "A View of SOX from the CFO Suite."
In her presentation, Cole discussed the McDonald's franchise and the key to its annual success. McDonalds' success, she said, is "all about the brand." When sales went down six years ago, marketing and financial measures were refocused and McDonald's set its sights on its current developments rather than new developments. McDonald's embarked on its new "premium" products line and in doing so spent one billion dollars on redesigning their restaurants to regain credibility with their customers. Since investing in this new direction, McDonald's has seen a 3-5% growth in sales resulting in 2.2 million dollars in average sales per restaurant.
As a 27 year veteran of McDonald's USA and a certified public accountant, Cole was able to give thoughtful insight into the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 which has dramatically changed the field of public accounting. Cole briefly outlined the changes within public accounting including increasing firm independence, instituting whistle blower procedures, accountability enhancements and harsher civil and criminal penalties for wrongdoing.
The revisions are primarily designed to discourage fraud while encouraging misconduct reporting without turning the workplace into what Cole called a "big brother" environment. Cole stated she believed the level of documentation is excessive and should be scaled back, though in principle the act makes appropriate changes to industry practice.
For a CFO of a multi-billion dollar company, Cole's demeanor and the ease with which she responded to questions was remarkably thoughtful and calmly delivered. She spoke at length about her company, how she dealt with employees and difficult situations, how work integrated into her life, and how her career took shape in context with school, family, and opportunities. Not only did she appear to be in complete control, she was actually enjoying herself.
Lyceum Series - Department of Accountancy