Craig Bergstrom spoke Tuesday night, at Gerdin Business Building, about his unusual path to becoming CFO of gas and convenient store Kum & Go.
Erik Kreissler, vice president of the finance club, spoke about his opportunity to intern for Kum & Go as an operations intern this past summer. Kreissler then introduced Bergstrom, a graduate from Iowa State with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 1982, who now has 34 years of experience in the financial field.
Since 2005, Bergstrom has served as the chief financial officer of Kum and Go. Bergstrom is responsible for accounting and cash management for over 20 legal entities which includes; the Menace soccer team, restaurant operations, and several real estate entities.
The unusual journey through the financial world, Bergstrom described as, “Not a straight path,” helped him build a tool kit filled with knowledge that could aide him further down the road in a professional setting.
He focused on starting off at GE, General Electric, in the financial management program for nearly 15 years. There he was able to learn about manufacturing and how to use that knowledge to tackle tough assignments.
After leaving GE, Bergstrom worked for Georgia Pacific, APV, and Chef Solutions. Bergstrom learned about strategic planning, global, business, and the specific culture of a business. He learned how to act during a crisis.
Chef Solutions struggled with building a name for their company while their parent company tried to survive after 9/11. Once principle Bergstrom lives by is staying calm in a crisis. “Solving one problem at a time is more efficient than dealing with all problems at once,” said Bergstrom.
After the decision to sell their parent company on account that business was incredibly low, Bergstrom was let go on a decision to hire a new president for Chef Solutions.
Bergstrom then spoke on being offered the CFO position at Kum & Go. The desire to grow in resources, financing, and planning was a big influence on his decision to join the company.
Kum & Go started at the bottom 15 percent of the food industry in the country, while food was only 4 percent of sales. “To be relevant in the industry, we need to transform our food business and compete with the quick service restaurants around the country,” said Bergstrom.
Bergstrom started the Food Project, in 2010, to focus on boosting food sales by making healthy food products made fresh. Now ranked at the 22nd largest convenient store in the U.S., Kum & Go growth is constant in retail food products with more than 20 percent sales in food.
Bergstrom provided lessons he has learned and the principles he lives by. Bill Krause, Co-Founder of Kum & Go said, “Hire right or everything else is wrong,” something Bergstrom takes very seriously. “When you have a good team, it’s an awesome thing to watch them grow.”
The question and answer portion of the lecture included many questions on management styles and personal preferences on working for Private and Public companies.