After five months of feeling physically ill and depressed, and after seeing many doctors and leaving with no answers, Erin Brown’s health took...
Director of corporate accounting, Shelter Mutual Insurance Company
Years lived in Columbia:
Tell us about your job:
In my role at Shelter, I oversee the financial reporting for the Shelter group of companies. Most of my time is spent working to better understand Shelter’s business to ensure that we can properly record the company’s financial performance and explain differences to internal management and external parties. This work requires a deep understanding of the business and our operations and provides me the ability to work with various leaders within Shelter to build this knowledge.
Who is a mentor in your life?
I know this answer may seem cliché, but I have to say my supervisor, Tina Workman, the vice president of accounting at Shelter. As I have worked with Tina over the years, she has come to expect a lot out of my work, and as a result she holds me to a very high standard. This works in a way that makes me try to exceed her expectations, and I find myself pushing myself beyond where I might typically be comfortable. This has really worked to mold me into the manager that I am today. I also admire Tina for achieving the role of vice president at Shelter at a young age and for her work in the community. She serves on various boards and in different roles throughout Columbia, which is something I aspire to do one day as my kids grow older and become more self-sufficient.
What are some misconceptions about your job?
When you say you work in accounting, everyone assumes that all you do is taxes. I haven’t spent much time during my career dealing with tax accounting. I don’t even like doing my own private tax return.
What is the single best thing about your job?
The best part of my job is being able to see the results of the operations of the entire company. This affords me the ability to gain information and insight into the various operations of the entity and a greater variety than just being in one area of the company.
What was the last professional goal you accomplished?
Within the past year, I was able to complete the last four examinations to achieve the chartered property and casualty underwriter, or CPCU, designation. There are a total of eight examinations to obtain this designation, and it was particularly rewarding to complete this goal, as I worked on the courses outside of work and had to balance the examinations with my home life.
What motivates you?
At the core, I have to say I am very motivated to provide for my family. I think there is just an instinct that kicks in that drives you to build the best possible life for those you care most about.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I would likely be doing something in the construction field. I grew up around construction and love the feeling of creating something beautiful out of a pile of materials. I can’t get enough of home projects and love watching house-flipping shows on television. There is just something that draws me to this field and the ability to work with your hands, as well as the creativity I like to use in designing a project.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
During 2013, Shelter’s accounting management recommended that Shelter implement the Workday Financial Suite. Prior to this system, the current accounting system was a mainframe system (green screen) and operations were very manual and paper based. I served as the accounting project owner, and we were able to successfully implement the system in eight months during 2014. I am very proud of this project, as this system will serve as the foundation of change and improvement in the function of the department for many years to come.
Given the success of the accounting system implementation, I was asked to serve as the project owner as Shelter also implemented the Workday HR Suite. In November, the HR, benefits, and recruiting modules were successfully launched, and the payroll, time tracking, and time off modules are planned for launch before the end of the year. Like the accounting side, the previous process was very manual, and this new system will serve as a way to bring much efficiency to the company for many years to come.
What’s your favorite community project?
Ultimately, my favorite projects have something to do with helping kids. I went through Leadership Columbia several years ago and one of the sessions was to tour the Boys and Girls Club. More than half the class was so taken by the place that we decided to return at a later date to perform some improvements on the facility. That impromptu service project continues to be a day that I still remember.
What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that you need to be able to work with all different kinds of people in all situations. Differences come up in all walks of life, and you can really get so much more done when people are willing to work together.
What is your favorite business book you’ve ever read and what impact did it have on you?
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Shelter actually has a training class for new supervisors on this topic, and this is where I was first introduced to this book. Oftentimes, there is so much content in a business book that it’s hard to retain the key topics. With this book, it’s broken down into the habits, which are easy to remember, so these have always stuck with me. Also part of the reason that this book has had a larger impact on me is the fact that my boys’ elementary school teaches the seven habits. It’s interesting to talk to them about the habits and how they can work them into their daily lives.
If you had unlimited funds, what is the one specific thing you would do to improve Columbia?
As a young family, we take a lot of road trips, and as we pass through different locations, I am impressed with those that really showcase their city. I have commented many times that I don’t think the path through Columbia gives the best representation of what our city has to offer. I would like to see improvements made to beautify and highlight the best of Columbia so as people pass through it is somewhere that seems inviting and pulls them off the highway for a stop.
What is one goal you have for 2017 and how do you plan to achieve it?
I would love to assist in the creation of a few financial literacy reference materials for Shelter employees. I would like to create this in a partnership with employees in the investment department at Shelter. These documents could help Shelter employees be more financially literate, which can help them for many years to come.
What trait do you most want in a coworker or employee?
I think there is constantly room for improvement at work. The key trait I love to see is someone who is inquisitive. Being naturally curious and asking questions is a great way to identify areas for improvement within a role, process, or procedure and can lead to great things.
If you could improve one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would want to be a better cook — I get too distracted, and usually that doesn’t provide the best results!
What do you do for fun?
I love spending time with my family and friends. Being the father of three boys means that some sort of sport or physical activity is involved. I also like to travel and we have a family goal for all of us to make it to all 50 states before the kids graduate high school. I also like a good project. I sometimes drive my wife crazy with this, but I love construction and have used it a lot in my life! It is a wonderful pastime for me.