Jen Regas wanted to be an accountant when she was twelve years old.
“I grew up on a farm in Iowa,” recalls Regas, who is now CFO at Hallcon Corporation. “I knew I didn’t want to live there for the rest of my life. So, I said, ‘Dad, what can I do in a career where I can make money and move to a big city?’ And my dad said, ‘You know, I pay my accounting firm a lot of money every month.’ And I thought to myself, ‘I could do that job. I could be an accountant.’”
From that moment on, Regas devoted herself to the profession, enrolling in business classes and completing internships at local accounting firms while in high school and obtaining a position in the accounts payable office in college. “I have a very strategic, focused personality,” Regas explains. “I’m very much a planner.”
Following her graduation from the University of Northern Iowa, she quickly realized the value of cultivating a team-focused business strategy as she landed senior positions at Deloitte, SPX Corporation, and AMC Theatres. “I developed a passion in buying and selling companies,” says Regas, who is one of the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2019 CFO of the Year honorees. “I know how to turn one dollar into five dollars, very quickly. I have growth targets of ten and twenty percent, whereas other companies may only grow three percent a year. I’m successful in achieving those targets, and in my role as CFO, because I build teams that get behind my department vision. If I get the right players behind me, we execute much faster than an individual contributor.”
Regas’s team-focused strategy centers on making people feel as though they are part of each and every one of her efforts. Each time she joins a company, she makes a point of holding quarterly meetings attended by everyone, all the way from vice presidents down to data-entry workers. Those meetings are a chance to inform people about her goals and recognize high-performing team members through “bravo moments,” but they’re also an opportunity for Regas to hear others’ ideas on improving company processes.
“That’s how I get buy-in, and how I get it so quickly,” Regas says. “I do it by bringing people into the think tank. How are we going to work together? What do people need to be more engaged, or productive? Maybe people need greater flexibility, or more bravo moments, or a bigger computer screen. There’s a great deal of diversity in what people care about, and I’ve had to change my approach to fit the differences in what people want and what I think they might need.”
Today, Regas has found a perfect match for her strategic personality and team-based mentality in Hallcon Corporation. Hallcon is number one in safety, Regas says, because everyone is on the same page in their mission to enhance the lives of people on the move. “We believe in our mission,” Regas notes. “The executive teams believe it, and it filters down into our culture so that we keep safety in mind at all times.”
As the CFO, Regas has capitalized on her team-building skills by developing initiatives that integrate reports from people all across the company, including safety managers, payroll, risk management representatives, and members of the claims department. One of those initiatives was building a mobile learning app. “We have people working all across the United States and Canada, so they don’t come into an office—their office is a car,” Regas explains. “We had to be able to touch all those employees, and my team has built a best-in-class, cloud-based safety program that helps all Hallcon employees learn what to do when they encounter various safety distractions.”
“That’s how I get buy-in, and how I get it so quickly. I do it by bringing people into the think tank.”
Creating this type of streamlined, highly efficient program is an integral component of her responsibilities as CFO of Hallcon. “I came in knowing that my job was to grow the company through acquisition and organic growth,” she says. “But that so often comes down to creating better processes and making sure that people don’t have to waste time on unnecessary manual work. When I first come into a company, I look at the numbers, but I also look at the processes because it’s the processes that produce the numbers.”
Under Regas’s leadership, Hallcon’s processes have certainly improved. In April, the company rolled out a comprehensive HR solution that allows everyone to see the same information and communicate with other teams within a single system. “It was a lot of work, implementing an HR system for over five thousand people,” Regas acknowledges. “But it was worth it.”
Editor’s Note: At press time, Jen Regas was no longer with Hallcon.