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In the Comfort Zone

Wyndham Worldwide’s cash-generating business model keeps investors happy — and presents enviable challenges for CFO Thomas G. Conforti.

How involved are the business units in deciding where to spend that billion dollars of cash?
Steve and I set financial goals in concert with the business units. Each unit has a strong finance team. One thing that has made my job so easy is that the business units are aligned and are supportive of our capital allocation. Our business guys understand that we’re committed to grow their businesses. They understand that we’re prepared to give them capital for commercially viable ideas. And so they can really focus on executing their businesses. They know they’ll have the support from the company to do that. The business units are always trying to achieve the highest level of return that they can for those investments.

Do you supervise the finance chiefs of the business units?
There’s a dotted-line reporting relationship, but I have a personal relationship with each of the CEOs and CFOs. Whenever anything comes up, I’m on the phone with them. Whenever there’s anything they need my help on, they’re on the phone with me. We want the operating executives to feel that my involvement or anyone else’s from corporate in the business units is a value-add, not an obstacle to their performing their businesses at the highest level.

So you’re not perceived as a “Mr. No,” then.
My goal is to help enable good decisions throughout the company. I think if you were to ask our operating executives, they would say they view me as a friend and a resource, not an impediment to good business-unit progress. But we do have a robust dialogue around questions or concerns.

We have an extraordinarily positive culture here. We call it a “count on me” culture. It’s a simple notion, but in my career I’ve found that simple labels that capture the essence of what you’re trying to do are the most effective labels. I have to say that when I came to the company, I wasn’t sure how legit it was. But people live it day in and day out, and they’re proud to be a part of it.

One thought on “In the Comfort Zone

  1. Seems like Wyndham Worldwide is receiving phenomenal leadership from Tom Conforti. I wonder what a company like Wyndham Worldwide is doing to m manage and track their spending.

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