Executive Profile: Dan Bullock, CFO of Cleary Building Corp.

In the 1980s, Dan Bullock, 45, now the chief financial officer for Verona-based Cleary Building Corp., would pull his hair into a ponytail and head off to work as a senate messenger at the State Capitol. But on weekends, he was a rock star. "Or at least I thought I was," he laughed.

Indeed, for several years, Bullock was the lead singer for Rok Sally, a "moderately successful" rock group that toured the Midwest and even produced some records. But one day a challenge from his younger brother changed everything.

"At my college graduation (UW-Madison, BBA '88), Josh asked me to promise that if I didn't sign a major record deal by the time he graduated from college in three years, I'd go to graduate school with him." A keeper of promises, Dan Bullock graduated with an MBA from UW-La Crosse in 1993.

Growing up in Fond du Lac, Wis., Bullock said his parents taught their children the value of hard work at an early age. "[Dad] would pay us to do work — like cutting lumber or reroofing a garage — for a quarter an hour. We'd never see that money. It would all go into a savings account." Meanwhile, Bullock was developing into "a numbers kid," he said, "memorizing baseball cards and statistics. I kept all my money in a box, sorting nickels and dimes."

And when many of his young peers might have been idolizing athletes or rock stars, Bullock discovered Albert Einstein. "My mom used to call me the Absent-Minded Professor," he laughed, "and that morphed into a discussion about Einstein, who was often described the same way, so I started reading his work." He's gravitated toward the philosopher-physicist ever since.

Some might say Bullock now watches the nickels and dimes at Cleary, where he's been CFO since 2007, after spending 11 years in the same role at Wood Communications Group. He currently is the president of the Madison chapter of Financial Executives International, treasurer for the nonprofit Mahala's Hope, and he's taught undergraduate and graduate-level accounting, finance, and statistics at area colleges. "Obviously I have a strong numbers background," he said, "but this position [at Cleary] is more of a management and decision-making role. I like being 'the guy' and making decisions. I like helping a company with creative direction, and establishing plans to achieve goals."

Cleary Building Corp. is a manufacturing and construction company of pre-engineered structures, erecting everything from churches and garages, to airplane hangars, to agricultural and large commercial buildings. Bullock said the economy has caused a decline in fancy garages and hobby facilities, but the company has fared well on the municipal (schools, salt-storage sheds, etc.) and the commercial sides. "For some reason, fire stations were big this past year," he said, helping the company chalk up a positive 2009. "In many people's eyes, our 2009 would be in the 'W' column. We built a lot of buildings, made money, and protected our employees. But we feel we could have done better, and we anticipate growth in 2010. We're in this game to win."

Bullock commutes from Sauk County, where he lives with his wife and their three children, and when not attending to that full house, he chases another — as a professional card player. He's played in several competitive poker tournaments, and has "won a couple," he said humbly. When he can, he enjoys perpetual motion on his Harley.

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