Ann E. Martel, Attic Angel Community

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Ann E. Martel, chief financial officer, Attic Angel Community.

1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

As the chief financial officer, my main job is to ensure the financial stability of Attic Angel Organization. That often requires a balancing act between funding our wonderful activities, recruiting and retaining excellent staff, and making sure we keep our rates competitive and fair. Right now in the senior living industry we are faced with mounting staffing pressures as the demand continues to grow for quality health care workers. It is difficult to address those pressures while also trying to keep rate increases to a minimum. Attic Angel Community, which includes services from independent living through skilled-nursing care on Madison’s west side, is home to more than 300 seniors.

I am rewarded every day and feel very blessed to be working with more than 250 staff and 500-plus wonderful volunteers called Attic Angels who give so much to our senior residents in so many ways. Many times, I get caught up in the numbers and do not have the opportunity to interact as much as I would like with our residents. I truly enjoy the times I am able to present at a meeting or volunteer at an activity.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

One of my favorite business people to follow is Kjell Lindqvist, CEO of Celemi Inc. out of Sweden. His company is at the forefront of developing simulation games that help participants understand financial acumen and strategic thinking in organizations. While many people think these are just “games,” they are truly serious games for learning and change. They help participants visualize and experience situations in a safe environment and try out various decisions to see the impact on the performance of a company. As a CFO one of my favorite simulations is Apples and Oranges. This simulation helps employees think like business owners and develop a foundation of understanding about financial statements and the language of business. This builds confidence to make better business decisions. In that environment, everyone wins.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

I have been very lucky to have several milestones and high points in my career. I know I feel a great sense of satisfaction every time I present financial information and someone from the audience approaches me to tell me they have never understood the financial data before but the way I explained it actually made sense. Whenever I see that light bulb go off for someone I feel good. Along with that, I was selected a couple years ago to help the University of Wisconsin overhaul its Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Professionals Program in the Professional and Executive Development Division. Their program now is a much more interactive session that focuses on building financial acumen for the participants — not turning them into junior accountants!

4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Pay attention to the small things because that’s what will set you apart in your career. But also learn not to sweat some of the small stuff. I know this sounds contradictory but I know when I sometimes do small things, like a simple thank you to a coworker for a job well done, it has a ripple effect. On the other side of the coin, if I am spending too much precious time worrying about the classification of an expense I know I am not managing my time in the most effective manner.

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5. What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I absolutely love the lakes in the area. I have to live near some sort of water and the lakes around Madison offer so many fun activities and incredible beauty.

6. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I love to sing. I have sung in a choir since I was in sixth grade! I currently sing at Gesu Parish in Milwaukee. I am one of the cantors (song leaders) at the parish. I am an alto through and through, which means I am much more comfortable making beautiful harmony than singing the melody.

7. What are your guilty pleasures?

I am definitely a chocoholic. I love chocolate in any form. Dark chocolate is probably my favorite. I always know when budget time is coming at work because chocolates will start appearing on my desk when people deliver their budget worksheets!

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