This is the second of two stories spotlighting CFOs and their hobbies. Read the first one here.
Paul Blubaugh has been torn between music and business since he was a kid. He started out in college as a business major but quickly switched to guitar performance. But upon receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in that subject, he realized there weren’t a lot paying jobs available in that line of work.
“Why don’t you be an accountant, like Bob?” his sister said, referring to a fellow employed by Blubaugh’s dad, who ran a family business. Click. Paul eventually went for a master’s in accounting, which he earned while playing in a Top 40 band on the side. Today he is the CFO of R.S. Hanline & Co., a produce packager and distributor.
Back then, even as he embarked on a five-year gig in the frenzied world of public accounting, Blubaugh was thinking, “I hope I can become one of those guys who has a day job and plays music on weekends.” He says now, “I realized that if I didn’t start playing guitar again, I wasn’t going to be a very pleasant person to be around.”
So he started playing in a local coffee shop that had open-mic nights every Friday. He learned 30 minutes worth of new music every week. After a few months, he had enough material to play all night. “I asked the owner if I could play by myself on Saturday. He loved it — because I told him he didn’t have to pay me.”
Before long, Blubaugh joined with another coffee-shop denizen to form a duo called “dr. simple.” For the past 16-plus years they’ve been staples of the club and restaurant music scene around north-central Ohio, playing acoustic and sometimes two-part-harmony versions of popular songs from the 1960s to the 1990s.
What place does music hold in Blubaugh’s life? “It doesn’t pay the bills, so obviously my full-time job is important in that respect. And it doesn’t raise my kids — obviously my family life and my wife are very important.”
But, he adds, “Let me put it this way. There is no conflict at home. My wife knows how important this is to me, and my kids are proud of what I do on the side. They don’t brag to their friends that their dad is a CFO.”
Blubaugh is one finance chief who sees a connection between his hobby (that’s what it is, even though dr. simple plays for pay) and his work. “There’s a lot of math in music,” he says, “and there’s a lot of art in accounting.” Not everyone appreciates such insight. “I said that once at lunch with the owner of the company,” Blubaugh says. “He didn’t like that.”
Track and Feel
If you’re going to treat yourself to an Audi RS 4, you might as well learn to drive the thing properly — and at 100-plus mph.
So figured Mike Ray, the CFO at California Casualty Management, after he bought one of the high-performing vehicles and attended a social event at the Northern California Audi Club.
In the five years since then, Ray has participated in about 50 driving-education events at venues like Sonoma Raceway. “You’re out on the track with 20 to 25 cars,” he says. “As you get more experienced, you move up into the advanced levels where you’re passing cars at speed. There could be two or three cars side by side at a turn, while you’re traveling at more than 100 miles per hour.”
(Ray and Blubaugh, like other CFOs interviewed for this article, entered a contest on the website of CBIZ, an accounting and professional services firm, for which they submitted a photo and description of their hobby.)
Ray used to be a runner and is well familiar with the zone of euphoria one enters 10 or so miles into the jaunt. He insists he experiences something similar during the driving events. “You’re on the track, listening to the engine, and you’re down-shifting and rev-matching properly before a turn, and you’re smelling the heat from the engine and the rubber from the tires. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
A couple years ago, the Audi club asked Ray to become an instructor during the events, a volunteer position he’s filled on about 20 occasions now. A reporter asks: How well do you know this person, whom you will accompany while he zooms around the track at high speeds, before you get into the car with him?
“Not very well,” he says. “And there are different skill levels, and you’ve certainly got to trust that the driver is going to listen to you.”
Sometimes, that proves to be wishful thinking. “The Audi club, compared to other clubs, is a more conservative group — we’re not attracting a yahoo that just wants to drive fast. They’re generally interested in protecting themselves and their cars. Still, people can get competitive out there, and drive over their limit or think they should be a better or faster driver. You have to dial them back a bit.”
Has he been involved in or witnessed any accidents? “I actually feel safer on the track than in my daily commute, because at the track most people are fairly competent drivers who watch the mirrors and things like that,” he says. “But yes, I’ve seen a couple of accidents. I myself have spun off the track at 100 mph and almost hit a wall. Just last August I did $8,000 worth of damage to my car when I lost focus for just a brief second. It was a pretty scary situation.”
He got over the fright in time to buy a new toy the following month, a Porsche GT3 RS, which he picked up in Atlanta and drove over three days back home to San Francisco. “I won’t tell you our top speed,” he laughs.
Dad’s All, Folks
If jammin’ oldies and burning rubber are hobbies, can simply doing Dad duty qualify as one? Well sure. It all depends on the effort expended and the rewards reaped.
A case in point is Marty Moore, finance chief at Baldwin Technology Co., a $150 million provider of technology used mostly for print publishing. His four children, ages 20, eight, four and four, “are the most important thing in my life,” he says.
That’s not an uncommon sentiment, but Moore points out that he’s fortunate to help run a global company and be able to take the kids traveling with him. The accompanying picture was taken during a six-week period last summer in Germany, where the family temporarily relocated while he worked at Baldwin’s German manufacturing facility. The troop also got to see healthy does of France, Switzerland and Austria.
Of course, the kids can’t come along on every trip. What’s the key to being a devoted father while having such a big job? “Our company is 80 percent international, so I travel extensively,” Moore says. “I use Skype a lot to connect with my kids on an iPad. Just last night they videoed with me when I was walking around outside Windsor Castle.”
When he’s at home in St. Louis, he spares no effort to get himself into position to completely unplug from work on weekends.
“Watching these loved ones grow up is an adventure, and I’m loving it,” Moore says. “It is all-consuming. I gave up golf for it, and I used to play a lot of golf. Now I don’t have time. I coach my kid’s baseball team, for example. I’m heavily engaged in their lives, and that’s fine with me. I’m at a point in my life and career where I’m perfectly fine spending my free time with my kids.”
Cause and Effect
OK, we acknowledge this one is not a hobby. But Mark Anderson, CFO at Delta Dental of Arizona, submitted a photo for the CBIZ contest, and that’s good enough for us.
Anderson’s niece, Brynn Lund, was diagnosed with cancer about three years ago. She was treated with chemotherapy and went into remission, but the cancer returned. When additional treatment caused Brynn to lose her hair, Anderson and his kids were among many who shaved their own heads in a show of support.
Frustrating for Anderson, whose sister is Brynn’s mother, was that he lived and worked in Arizona while Brynn’s immediate family was 1,500 miles away in the small Canadian town of Barnwell, Alberta. “There were a lot of things that that community did that we tried to get involved in from afar,” he says of Barnwell, whose official 2011 population was 771. “It meant a lot to her.”
Anderson says the way a young girl inspired action in others was remarkable.
“The big story here is how Brynn was able to bring a community together for a cause, not just herself but cancer patients everywhere,” he says. “This wonderful young lady had such an impact at such a young age, making people want to step forward and do things. She was featured on radio programs and was really able to raise awareness for kids’ cancer.”
Brynn passed away last October at age 14.