In 1979, when Hank Funsch joined Long Island-based Dayton T. Brown Inc. as its treasurer, spending decades with the same company was still a common practice. Thirty-one years later it’s a rare career that takes that course, but Funsch remains at the company as its CFO, a position he has held since 1987.
That’s not the only unusual fact associated with Funsch, who is 63. During his long tenure he has been remarkably close to the company’s information-technology systems, far more so than is typical even at other companies where IT reports to the CFO.
Technology, in fact, is Dayton T. Brown’s business. The $40 million private company provides engineering and testing services for electronic equipment, mainly for the U.S. government, and publishes a wide range of technical manuals. A manufacturing division that produced precision sheet metal was shuttered in 2008.
The following is an edited transcript of CFO’s recent interview with Funsch.
It’s a long way back to remember, but what did you do before coming to Dayton T. Brown?
I was in public accounting for 10 years as a tax manager, first at Price Waterhouse and then at Hurdman & Cranston on Long Island. I was looking to find a position as a tax manager for a Fortune 500 company, the only kind that would be interested in hiring someone at my level of specialty. But Dayton T. Brown was a Hurdman & Cranston client, and after the company founder died I worked with them on the estate. All of a sudden they offered me the treasurer job. It was a total career change.
Why have you stayed at the company so long?
It was always challenging. I’ve never been bored. There were times when I did interview [elsewhere], before I got to the age where you feel you’re locking yourself in, just to make sure I felt comfortable about staying.
But the company has treated me very well. I may not have maximized my earning power, but it’s not all about money. There is a lot of diversity and no such thing as a typical day. I find a lot of ways to add value.
When did you start interfacing with the technology operations?
After just a few months. The information systems (IS) manager at the time was more of a political type of person. I made certain observations to the CFO and the chairman, and they told me I was now responsible for the department.
Did you have any technology background?
No. After I got that role I took courses at night on COBOL, just to learn what programmers did. The first two or three years, I probably didn’t add a lot of value.
When the first personal computers came out, IS didn’t feel we should be doing anything with them. They were toys. So there was a bit of resentment when we in finance decided to purchase the first IBM PC in 1982. We spent a huge amount of money for a limited amount of capability, when you look back. We had a specific task, our government billing process, that we wanted to automate because it was taking our accounting clerks 80 hours a month to prepare.