October 2019 Member Spotlight - Jeff Kordela

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Title: Owner & Managing Director
 
Company: Supporting Strategies – Chesapeake Region MD
 
Length of FEI membership: 2 years
 
FEI leadership involvement (past and present):
January 2018 to present – Board Member
July 2018 to present – Treasurer
 
Work email:  jkordela@supportingstratgies.com
 
Work phone number: (443) 252-8074
 
Tell us a little bit about your career, educational/professional background and how you got to where you are today.
 
My accounting career began while I was attending college. In order to pay for my tuition (in an era when that was still feasible), I worked various part-time office assistant positions including a role as budget clerk, thanks to the preparation of my bookkeeping classes in high school and accounting classes at the University of Baltimore. I later graduated from U.B.’s School of Business with a degree in accounting.
 
My professional accounting career started on the audit staff of Ernst & Whinney (now EY). After a few years, I knew that public accounting was not for me and I made the leap into business, working for USF&G Corporation doing SEC reporting and research. I eventually moved to the accounting operations of their life insurance division.
 
These earlier roles formed a solid foundation for my more than 30 years in financial leadership positions. Through the years I held various positions including Vice President of Finance for Videology, Inc., Executive Director for Laureate Education, and Corporate Controller roles for SafeNet and Paratek Microwave.
 
In 2018, I decided to take some entrepreneurial risks. I leveraged my financial expertise to begin providing fractional-CFO services to small-to-medium sized companies. To complement these services and to build a scalable business, I launched Supporting Strategies to deliver bookkeeping and controllership services in the Chesapeake Region, Maryland.
 
Have you ever done anything out of the ordinary to apply for and/or get a job?


My most unusual approach to getting a job was the time that I did not realize I was being interviewed. I received a call from a CFO that I had previously done some consulting work for. He said that he was considering expanding his team and invited me to lunch to discuss these plans. I thought he was simply seeking my advice. So, when we met, I asked question after question to help him explore his decision. We never discussed my qualifications. As we wrapped up, he said that the next steps were for me to meet with the CEO. Floored, I had to ask if he was considering hiring me. The moral of the story: Employers are looking for people to help them. So, explore with them how you can be helpful.
 
What is one piece of information you wish someone had told you when you first started your finance career?

Never be too busy to build your network. You see, I really enjoy working and you might even say I have workaholic tendencies. This was definitely the case at one high-growth company where I was always working long hours because our hiring budget didn’t keep pace. I missed evening networking opportunities because I was still in the office. I took self-study CPE courses because I “didn’t have time” events that also had the benefit of meeting people. When that boom phase ended and it was time to find a new job, I was at a disadvantage because I had to catch up and revive my connections. 
 
What is your best networking tip? 


Join FEI because we have a great group of senior financial executives!
 
Like so many in the accounting profession, I’m more at ease getting “up close and personal” with an Excel spreadsheet than up close and personal with real people. So, when I walk into a room full of strangers, I’m inclined to head for the wallflower status. To overcome this internal anxiety, I look for someone standing alone – a kindred spirit – then introduce myself and get to know them a little. Once we’re acquainted, I ask my new friend if they intend to meet any specific people and I offer to help to find them. Armed with a mission and a comrade, we’re much more confident navigating the room. I’ve met the most interesting people along the way.
 
What personality traits and intangible qualities do you look for when recruiting new talent?
 
While technical excellence needs to be a given, I tend to focus on the soft skills when recruiting. Can they deal with ambiguity and find solutions to new challenges? How well do they interact with the team? Do they mesh with or complement others’ qualities? Over the past few years, I’ve learned the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment is very useful in this process.