Numbers have always been Nancy Gleason’s thing.
“Even as a young person in school, I always liked math and did very well in school. So, it seemed like a natural way to go as I went to college and started looking for my first job,” she says. “I always had that interest in the number and the analytical side of things.”
She originally started in school as a finance major. When she had to take an accounting class during her studies, Gleason realized she liked that aspect of numbers better and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in accounting from St. John’s University in 1984.
Today, Gleason serves as vice president and controller of Vineyard Vines, the popular Stamford, Connecticut-based clothing and accessory retailer. Having started her career in a public accounting firm, Gleason was working at a family office firm that handled high net worth entertainment individuals when a friend who worked at Vineyard Vines reached out to her for a referral.
The friend was looking for a recommendation for someone who could come on board as assistant controller. After looking at the job specs, Gleason realized this was a job she wanted for herself. Not long after, she snagged the job and was quickly promoted to controller. Three years later, the company made her a vice president. Gleason recently completed a six-month stint as acting CFO while the company completed its search process, culminating in the recent hiring of Can Yazicioglu as its new CFO.
Under the prior CFO, Gleason was given a great deal of autonomy to run the controller function, and there was a very clear delineation between the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team, responsible for forecasting and budgeting, and the pure accounting side. As acting CFO, one of the bigger adjustments Gleason had to make was getting up to speed with FP&A and familiarizing herself with budgeting and forecasting and longer-term strategic issues.
“Bridging the divide between the two sides was a big challenge, but also a great learning opportunity that I really enjoyed,” she explains.
With a new year and a new CFO, Gleason is transitioning back to her previous role as VP and controller.
“I’m still in this in-between world,” Gleason shares. “I am still very much involved in a lot of the processes that were happening while I was wearing the CFO hat.”
“We’re now sitting at 275 people at corporate headquarters and we were barely at 100 when I started. It’s been very exciting to be part of that growth.”
For example, she began working on the budget for 2020 and will help complete it alongside Yazicioglu before fully transitioning back to her old position.
Not that Gleason will be worried about how she’s going to spend her day. Vineyard Vines has several big projects going on from the controller side, such as implementing the new leasing standard that the Financial Accounting Standards Board released.
“That’s a big, heavy lift on our side,” she notes. “So, it’s a pretty busy day regardless of what hat I’m wearing.”
Since she joined Vineyard Vines in 2011, Gleason has seen a lot of growth at the company, founded—and still led—by brothers Shep and Ian Murray. The company, which opened in 1998, has expanded from thirty storefronts to about one hundred in addition to building a successful e-commerce business.
“Even from a workforce side, we’re now sitting at 275 people at corporate headquarters and we were barely at 100 when I started,” Gleason says. “It’s been very exciting to be part of that growth.”
The expansion has played an integral part in brand awareness in new markets, and Gleason notes that Vines is looking to double its footprint in the next three to five years.
“Even though that might seem counter to what you hear in the news, we see retail playing an important role in the way we engage with our customers,” Gleason says. “We are committed to providing a best-in-class customer experience, and we find the stores a critical element to achieving that. It’s becoming more about creating an experience rather than just a shopping destination.”
“We try to provide a best-in-class customer experience, and we find we need the stores to be able to integrate that.”
The company’s numbers confirm that e-commerce rises with expanded storefronts as people are introduced to the brand. Vineyard Vines is also planning on going international, taking a slightly more measured approach to ensure they do it consciously and carefully to succeed.
“Our brand is rooted in the idea that ‘Every Day Should Feel This Good,’ and as our brand has grown, we’ve seen through our e-commerce business that we have a growing international audience who shares that mentality,” Gleason says. “We’re going to take a test-and-learn approach, and partner with local market experts who can help us tell our story in an authentic way.”
Other areas where Gleason’s financial expertise is coming in handy are with brand and license extensions where she helps explore the value of moving into other product lines. For example, last year the company collaborated with Target to get visibility in other lines (like pet products and homeware) to see how they would resonate with customers.
Gleason is still as excited about numbers today as she was back in grade school solving mathematical equations.
“I love what I do and love working for Vineyard Vines and Shep and Ian,” she says. “You spend a great deal of time at work, and I think when you’re able to say you love what you do and who you do it with, it goes a long way to making for a happy life.”