Learning to Fly With Efficient Data Decision Making

When Valero Energy spun off its retail division into CST Brands, Tammy Floyd helped turn years of careful observation into rapid growth

The core values of a business can reverberate with its employees for quite a long time after a given employee parts ways with that business. Tammy Floyd, current vice president and controller for San Antonio-based CST Brands, was recently reminded of this while interviewing several prospects for an opening within the finance department. “I asked them to name one of the first things they would do if they were hired,” Floyd recalls. “And they all said the same thing: the first thing they’d do was get clear on what exactly was expected of them, so they could set out to meet those expectations.”

Tammy Floyd, CST Brands
Tammy Floyd, CST Brands

All of these interviewees were former employees of former Big Five accounting firm Arthur Andersen—as is Floyd. She was with the firm from 1994 through 2002. The clarify-expectations-and-meet-them mentality instilled in her at Andersen stayed with her when she came on board with Fortune 500 company Valero Energy in 2002, starting in the budget and forecasting department for four years before moving to the retail controller role for a one-year stint and later into the vice president of operations accounting for four years.

“It was looking at the business at a very high level, preparing presentations, working with corporate development to model potential acquisitions,” Floyd says of her budget-forecasting days at Valero. “When I was in that role, I thought it was the best in the whole company.”

But when Floyd became retail controller in 2007, she says she gained a great sense of appreciation for operations that gave way to a better understanding of acquisitions and a deeper appreciation for the transactional level detail and how it drives all other activity.

“Understanding the actual transaction and following it all the way up the chain enables you to answer operational questions,” Floyd explains. “When we do integrations, we have to go into it thinking, ‘How am I going to capture the data so I can report it in a way to allow the operators to make good decisions?’”

It was in 2011, when Valero acquired Chevron’s Pembroke Refinery—which had operations across the United Kingdom and Ireland—that Floyd recalls some of her most vivid lessons. “They had a lot of disaggregated systems, which caused the staff to perform multiple reconciliations to ensure that each reporting unit had complete results,” she says. “It took them a really long time to close their books. But we were able to create an integrated system that better utilized personnel and yielded a lot more efficiency, and provided better data.”

“When we do integrations, we have to go into it thinking, ‘How am I going to capture the data so I can report it in a way to allow the operators to make good decisions?’”

When the time finally came, in 2013, for Valero to spin its retail operations off into the publicly traded CST Brands, Floyd found her longtime supervisor and mentor at Valero joining the CST family as chief financial officer. She quickly followed suit as CST’s controller. In doing so, she’s now part of one of the largest independent retailers of motor fuel and convenience merchandise in the United States and eastern Canada.

Part of Floyd’s challenges that come with such a “new” business and bringing the US and Canadian entities together was a standout issue for Floyd and her team. Previous considerations of a CST-like spinoff business had not included Canada, so interaction with those offices had been minimal. Once that changed—gradually, as Canada’s Quebec-based offices also resulted in a language barrier—it became clear how thin-stretched the accounting and finance team was.

“I would say creating the infrastructure for that public company was a challenge,” Floyd says. “It was the rare opportunity to be an entrepreneurial company with a thirty-year history.” In order to do that, she had to merge the two segments together and create the supporting infrastructure, the appropriate limits of authority for transactions, financial reporting, SOX compliance, and separate audits. In addition, she created appropriate key performance metrics.

In just three years, CST has grown with acquisition activities to include the purchase of 100 percent of the equity interest of CrossAmerica Partners’ General Partner, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, Landmark Industries, and Flash Foods Inc.

As Floyd’s work at CST pulls farther away from her days at Valero—more acquisitions and integrations, fewer routine days of operations—she’s also able to better cite the way CST’s core values—servant leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and strategic thinking and innovation—steer the company toward success. Although servant leadership is not specifically named as a core value at Valero,  Floyd explains, it is shared by both Valero and CST. She also credits CrossAmerica with the idea of entrepreneurial spirit. As for strategic thinking and innovation, she believes those two values are intertwined.

Floyd points to the company entering the MLP market by buying the equity interest in  CrossAmerica’s general partner as a great example of strategic thinking in action. “That’s not typically done,” she states. “Most people that want to be in a master-limited partnership form their own. But we gained control of CrossAmerica through our acquisition and with it we also got into the wholesale business and acquired market expertise from the partnership’s high-caliber personnel.”

Growth for CST in the year to come looks to be in already-established markets, with one notable exception—the Georgia and Florida markets that are now available to it by way of its 2016 acquisition of Flash Foods Inc. “That’s the largest acquisition that CST has ever done,” Floyd says. “Those kinds of accomplishments are indicative of the core values we have established.”