Kelsey Letizia Seeks Out Change for the Better

As global controller for RXBAR, Kelsey Letizia instills her team with a desire to always improve and drive growth

When Kelsey Letizia first started as global controller at Chicago-based RXBAR, it used to take two weeks to close the books. Less than four years later, it now only takes two days.

That’s just one of the impressive finance and accounting changes Letizia has been able to make for the company, as it’s grown from a twenty-five-person team to approximately two hundred after being acquired by Kellogg’s in a $600 million deal.

“We were a start-up when I came aboard, doing around $30 million annually in revenue, so we were still small,” she explains. “I was initially tasked to evolve the accounting function. This was my first experience with a CPG product and manufacturing, so I wanted to hit the ground running.”

Kelsey Letizia RXBAR
Kelsey Letizia, RXBARPhoto by Sara O’Brien

It was immediately clear to her that the product had potential, so Letizia helped prepare an infrastructure for people, processes, and systems to ensure that potential was realized.

“I knew we needed more people, and we needed a more scalable tool as we grew, so I was assessing an ERP early on and focusing on tightening up our financial close process,” Letizia shares. “We were booking revenue and processes manually, in Excel, using information from various other systems. The file sizes were large, taking days to complete which was not sustainable. We went live with the new ERP in January 2018 to improve time management and overall outcomes.”

Shortly after the company was acquired by Kellogg’s, Letizia was motivated to get her team’s performance consistent with standards they set. “As the team was growing and adjusting to the new environment, they were coming to me with great ideas,” she notes. “The communication was strong, and I always try to instill with the team the desire to seek continuous improvement and become more efficient.”

“The communication was strong, and I always try to instill with the team the desire to seek continuous improvement and become more efficient.”

Letizia became interested in accounting during her sophomore year of college when a favorite professor explained accounting simplistically—she came to think of the field as a type of foreign language of business. With her bachelor’s degree in accounting in hand, Letizia didn’t take the traditional accounting route.

“A lot of people go to the Big Four immediately after school, and although I was offered that exciting opportunity, I wanted to explore other options,” she explains. “I decided to go to DePaul University for my masters, and that brought me to Chicago, where I’ve been ever since.”

Letizia spent three years as an analyst at Spencer Stuart, four at SP Plus, and found a new home in September 2016 at RXBAR, a brand she was excited about.

“Growing and scaling the business as it was all happening is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of,” Letizia shares. “With my role as a controller, I’m constantly balancing priorities and trying to promote quick decision-making. The commitment to weave in change management is also imperative.”

Letizia has also brought on more efficient tools to support the business from a systems standpoint, such as trading out an expense management system for something more robust and adding an accounts payable automation software to simplify the process for the entire team.

“I look to implement ways to keep the team running lean, but running well,” she explains. “Rather than multiple people doing excessive data entry, we use automation where it’s available in the market and where it makes sense for us.” She’s also working on getting better visibility to reporting, making sure the entire team is on the same page from finance to other functions across the organization.

“Growing and scaling the business as it was all happening is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of.”

Goals for 2021 include continuing to help the RXBAR team to find efficiencies.

“What’s bogging down the team? What are the requests we get from sales, for example, or asks from our customers that currently take significant time to put together?” she describes. “For me, the foremost goal is the accuracy of the numbers and the availability of financial information for our stakeholders.”

Reflecting on her career, Letizia is thankful for that professor who guided her toward the accounting role, as it is more than she ever thought it would be.

“What’s been most rewarding to me is seeing the pivotal role accounting plays in the growth and success of the company. I am proud to be part of that journey and story,” she remarks. “Being exposed to a lot of different things has been great. I love that I’ve been able to experience and learn so much.”

Editor’s Note, 1/20/21: Kelsey Letizia is no longer with RXBAR.

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