Colorado Container

In 1991, I made a major career change by becoming the Controller/CFO of Colorado Container.  Colorado Container was a very successful family-owned manufacturer of corrugated containers (brown boxes).  One significant aspect of this job was that I also signed on as the Kelley family accountant to handle the accounting needs for the various additional entities that had grown up over the years because of the success of this company.

The books were in very good condition when I got there, but I essentially took them to a higher level by ensuring that every single balance sheet account and many important income statement accounts were tied out and properly scheduled every single month.  I set up a perpetual inventory system within the first couple of years which all but eliminated formal inventory counts.  We cycle counted each quarter and rarely had differences in either quantity or square footage of more than .2%

I also took over the computer systems and managed them through a Network Administrator:

  • The company was using an industry-specific Unix system for its accounting, estimating, production and shipping when I got there, but only had a couple of PC’s.
  • Implemented two full computer conversions; first to a better Unix-based system that allowed custom reporting, and then to a Windows-based system that had great flexibility in allowing information to be retrieved
  • Plugged in a full PC network for all office and supervisory people that enabled e-mail, Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Word processing and many, many other specialized programs.
  • Implemented Colorado Container’s first CAD system and Design table that automated the design department which is an important part of the business.
  • Implemented a complete document imaging system which eliminated all paper filing and improved efficiency throughout the company.
  • Developed literally thousands of Excel spreadsheets that were used for everything to calculating bonuses and commissions, to determining costing and pricing standards to answering literally thousands of questions about cash flow, income projections, budgeting, inventory problems, accounts receivable, accounts payable, production reporting and on and on.
  • Tracking the company’s and the Kelley family’s investments using Quicken.
  • Creating and maintaining general ledgers and financial statements for the many Kelley entities (approximately 20 of them) I have taken care of through the years.
  • Learned, implemented and eventually had custom programmed a specialized estimating system that was unique to the Box Manufacturing industry.  The owners and management of our company believed it was this unusual, but highly profitable estimating and commission-paying program that was the biggest reason for the company’s on-going success.

Through a credit manager, we maintained a collection program that typically averaged less than $50,000 in write-offs on at least $25 million in annual sales.  Our worst year was $125,000 in write-offs (0.5%), and our best year was $7,000 (0.03%) in write-offs.

I developed a cash management tracking system that allowed us to constantly know where the company’s cash was, where it was headed in the next month, and when we could easily take the excess cash generated by the success of the company and have it invested.  This system also ensured that the month-end bank reconciliation took about 10 minutes to complete and that the company’s cash balances were always completely nailed down and tied out.

More than just accounting for the company’s retirement plan I was also its Plan Administrator and the one primarily responsible for finding the investment managers and third party administrators to take care of it.  I had responsibility for the retirement plan nest eggs for our employees, which I took very seriously.  I learned how to help our non-investment savvy employees make sense of their account balances (some in excess of 500K) and how to invest them.

I would have enjoyed working for this company and the family that owned it until I retired, but in December of 2011, the son who now controlled the company decided to sell it to a large New York Stock Exchange Company.  This company was very interested in having me continue as the ‘Plant Controller’ for their acquisition.  However, having worked throughout my career as the ‘chief’ accountant for much smaller companies than the one that now employed me, I chose to move in a different direction and start this exciting new venture.


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