Michael Rist of VIP Petcare wins CFO award

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Michael Rist

President and CFO

VIP Petcare

5813 Skylane Blvd., Windsor 95492


Michael Rist of Windsor’s VIP Petcare wins one of North Bay Business Journal’s 2017 North Bay CFO Awards.

Professional background: CPA in “Big 4” public accounting

Education: Certified Public Accountant, bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Copenhagen Business School; an MBA from the Villanova School of Business, Villanova University.

What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?

Today’s financial leaders face a complex and challenging business environment that requires tremendous business savvy. In this environment, innovation is an essential driver of excellence, and the finance department is no exception.

Financial executives must play a leading role in accelerating strategic growth across the enterprise. CFOs are uniquely qualified to provide meaningful input to their organizations’ current and future investments, participate in the broader corporate vision, and advocate and produce strategic transformation. CFOs who understand this new requirement to be a catalyst agent of change — and to lead transformation across the enterprise—can create enormous competitive advantage for their corporations.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?

Pet ownership and expenditures have been rising for decades—and today’s pet owners are spending more per pet than ever before. Pet owners insist that their pets lead the same healthy lifestyles they do—a transition that’s largely the result of changing generational attitudes. While Baby Boomers were the first to humanize their pets, Generation Xers and Millennials are following suit—and the industry is lapping it up.

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?

As our organizations continue to grow, a key objective for me is to ensure that we recruit and retain the right talent and that we have the right programs and benefits to enable them to perform at their best.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

Be curious and focus of the big things that really create shareholder value and try not to get caught up in the small stuff. Or as Steven Covey point out in his books 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Focus on the Big Rocks first, and fill in the pebbles and sand around them. Where the Big Rocks represents the major things you want to accomplish, the pebbles, less important things and so on.

What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?

Maintain a lean organization and stay in tune with the market forces in your industry. This is important for companies in rapidly-changing environments under any economic conditions

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

Pets are becoming more and more mainstream, and pet owners are spending more money than ever on pet-related goods and services. The way Americans view their companion animals today has definitely evolved from a time. Most pet owners view them as part of the family. Dogs and cats are going on vacations with their families, proving that “pets as family” is becoming more accepted, perhaps even expected. In fact, over the last few years, we are seeing a movement toward the “humanization” of pets.

What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it?

Hindsight is 20/20. The important thing for me is did I make the best decision possible based on the facts and circumstances available to me at that time. If not, what lessons could be learned?

What is your most memorable business experience?

Far too often business transformation efforts concentrate on the process improvement strategies and business process reengineering; while essentially ignoring the people aspect of the change initiative. Subsequently, these transformation initiatives do not achieve their desired results. However, ten years ago I was part of a successful transformation team that focused on developing critical organizational competencies around organization and culture, which resulted in a more effective and sustainable change effort.

What is your greatest business success?

I am pleased that, in such a short time, we have achieved the operating goals we set out at the acquisition of PawsPlus Management back in 2014 to create a highly profitable and fast growing company. With the structural changes achieved, I believe VIP Petcare is well positioned for the future and will continue to be the trusted partner to pet parents and pets.

What was your toughest business decision?

Every decision is a learning opportunity. For me the hardest decision was to reduce staff during the recession. Any decision you make that affects the lives and well-being of others is always a very tough decision.

Michael Rist

President and CFO

VIP Petcare

5813 Skylane Blvd., Windsor 95492


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