CFO of the Year: The financial force of Steve Cable

The 2016 In Business magazine Chief Financial Officer of the Year is actually an interim chief operating officer who was appointed COO in a pinch because of his stellar work as a CFO.

If that sounds confusing, it’s mostly due to Steve Cable’s ability to multitask for Total Administrative Services Corp., a Madison-based third-party administrator of employee benefits programs.

Not that Cable minds being stretched thin, but nothing would appear to be too thin for a man who’s been instrumental in the growth of TASC since 2010, especially in his work building the company’s acquisition competency.

Growth guru

Without Cable’s skillset, there would be less growth through acquisition and perhaps unsuccessful integration of business cultures. In his first six years with TASC, the company acquired and integrated 13 companies, added more than $40 million to its overall corporate revenue, and enjoyed a six-year streak in which its annual growth rate exceeded 20%. TASC now has 808 employees and reports $89.2 million in annual revenue.

Cable came to TASC with a reputation for laser-sharp, strategic focus on helping organizations grow. “I’ve been fortunate in my career to work on a lot of different acquisitions,” Cable notes. “I’ve worked at Fiskars and Springs Window Fashions, so those experiences helped me to help TASC’s growth through acquisition.”

At TASC, upgrading acquisition competency entailed gauging the company’s desire for more rapid growth, which led to a targeted growth rate, building competency around the due diligence required for larger acquisitions, and establishing a credit facility with the help of business partners like BMO Harris.

Cable was directly responsible for growing TASC’s $20 to $30 million line of credit for acquisitions to $70 million, including a $30 million mezzanine, for a total of $100 million, and he also helped the company’s operational group build competencies for acquisition absorption.

“We had to build a competency around due diligence because we had been buying some smaller companies but we hadn’t been buying anything of any size,” Cable notes. “So we stepped up the size of the companies we were buying, and we had to get the competency of due diligence in hand.”

Being a stand-alone entity, TASC was able to bring new acquisitions onto its technology platforms, and it addressed cultural considerations by not letting go of new employees. “We don’t go in and just lay off a group of people,” Cable states. “We try to retain them because they are already trained up in our industry.

“One thing that really helps us is in terms of getting that cultural alignment is that we, at our executive level and throughout every level of our company, are comprised of a lot of people who came to us through acquisitions. Our culture has probably evolved a little bit, too, but we were able to very quickly give people from an acquisition a real chance to have an impact at TASC.”

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Understandably, the organization also had to build its competencies around change, starting on the external side with customers exposed to new products or changes in existing ones. “We use that internally now, as well,” Cable says. “That helps us get people to see the benefits. A strong and compelling vision is one of the terms of that effective change, so we show them a compelling vision of why it’s good to be a part of TASC.”

Steve Cable

One of Cable’s responsibilities is to mentor other functional leaders in all aspects of financial decision-making. Using David Norton and Robert Kaplan’s strategic planning “maps,” including those designed to build financial competency in the workforce, and supported by TASC’s financial department, Cable leans on business partners to advance financial acumen.

“Some financial departments are mere scorekeepers and view that as their function,” he states. “Here, our financial people are willing to work alongside us, do the analysis, and make suggestions on where they might see improvement. So while they are recognizing me, a lot of what we have accomplished here is due to the strength of that team and due to the business leadership being willing to take that input and use it to help assess their alternatives and make the best decisions.”

These and other contributions in the CFO role prompted the company’s board of advisors to nominate Cable for acting COO, a role he has filled during the past year. Given how much he can affect company performance in the CFO role, would a permanent move to the COO or even the CEO role interest him? Not necessarily CEO but a combination CFO-COO position might be too tempting to pass up.

“I’m very operationally oriented, so as far as the COO spot, that was really sort of in my sweet spot,” he says. “It’s more energizing for me and I get to work with a real strong team of operational folks here.”

Elite company

Bruce Stein, public relations and communications director for TASC, says Cable has cemented his place as an integral part of the executive management team at TASC, bringing much-needed financial leadership, experience, and focus to a firm committed to organic and external growth.

Cable has established himself in TASC’s executive suite, and thanks to the awards program, others have noticed him, too. Cable was chosen CFO of the Year by a panel of judges that includes Deb Archer, president and CEO of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, retired UW–Madison Director of Athletics Pat Richter, and Mark Bakken, founder of Nordic LLC and HealthX Ventures.

While Cable is not a man to seek publicity, he’s grateful to the people at TASC, including Stein and CEO and Owner Dan Rashke, who nominated him for the CFO of the Year award. Cable also is impressed by the judges who selected him. “Being recognized by a group of such accomplished people from outside of TASC is fantastic,” he states. “It really means a lot to experience something like that.”

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