Name: Tyler Comstock
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Jackson Family Enterprises
Company address: 421 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Number of company employees: 1,100
Professional background: Finance
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business from The Ohio State University
What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?A financial leader must be a strategic partner to the owners of the company, the CEO, and the other executives. It’s not enough to add up debits and credits; a leader must provide financial context and advice on all critical decisions. In the last five years, I’ve initiated quarterly business reviews that help us to more proactively manage the business and enabled us to sustain profitability through the economic downturn.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?
Consolidation at both wineries and distributors level has changed the industry landscape. Being a “mid-size” winery no longer seems to be an attractive business model, and you have to ask yourself whether you want to be a small, niche company or a large scale enterprise.
What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?
Young leaders sometimes feel like they should be the boss from Day 1. While they are often very talented with financial matters, it takes years of experience and seasoning to understand how a company works and how to manage and lead people. Building a team of people who can work together to achieve a common goal is fundamentally the number 1 responsibility of a CFO.
What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?
An honest look at what is working and what isn’t in a firm’s operations and investments are necessary. The best way to weather tough economic times is to shift resources to the most profitable activities and cut back on the rest. And then hang on tight.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years?
The major players in the wine industry five years from now will be different than today, but no one can exactly predict how. Wine companies need to be prepared for an uncertain competitive environment.
What is your most memorable business experience?
At the age of 28, Core-Mark asked me to move from Ohio to California to become Regional Finance Director over a $500M+ group of businesses. While I knew this would be a significant challenge, I jumped at the chance to take a major risk and develop myself professionally. Looking back, this was the defining moment of my career.
What is your greatest business success?
When I started, the Jackson family owned myriad different related companies and related entities. The resulting complexity cost the company in terms of management expense and limited our ability to go after new opportunities. I helped the company reorganize these businesses into an integrated enterprise that has made us much more efficient and flexible.