The New York Racing Association (NYRA), the not-for-profit organization that operates the three largest thoroughbred horse-racing tracks in New York, is bringing in roving musicians, better food and picnic tables, all to lure new customers to the races. But NYRA also needs to boost its online presence, and it is starting with a new platform that will allow customers to interact with each other as if they were in person.
CFO Susanne Stover says she’s up for the challenge. As the former CFO of Rosa Mexicano restaurants, an upscale dining chain, she helped build the corporate infrastructure that allowed the firm to grow from five to 15 restaurants in nine states. She has also been the controller at California Pizza Kitchen and finance manager at The Walt Disney Company.
Stover says infrastructure is key to growth, but so is financial strategy. NYRA recently made a land transaction deal with the state of New York where it turned over its property to a racino (a combined race track and casino). The association will receive a percentage of the racino’s earnings. With NYRA in a transformative stage, Stover’s job is to think carefully about where to invest those funds, as well as build a strong scaffolding so the company doesn’t topple as it grows.
“It’s about prioritizing all of those projects and really looking at them and saying, ‘Is there something that’s related to safety? OK, we have to do that. Is there something that’s revenue enhancing? Is there something that we do that’s going to be cost saving?,” Stover says. “And then you know, what is really going to drive our strategy forward.”
Stover sat down with CFO at our Rising East conference in Miami to talk about what she learned from her time as finance chief at Rosa Mexicano, and how she is managing growth at NYRA.