Interviewee Name: John Fink, Chief Financial Officer
Company Name: Dinosaur Restaurants
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
John Fink: I was raised in a small town in Wisconsin, kind of a company town. My dad was my hero and is to this day even though he’s passed on. My life has generally been about adventure and achievement and I guess that may sound kind of strange, but that’s the way I like to position it. I was the valedictorian of my high school class and a letterman athlete, graduated college with high honors, was the President of my college fraternity, passed the CPA exam on the first shot, was a VP for a company by the age of 28 and became a CFO at 35. I moved from Wisconsin to Florida to Missouri back to Florida to New York City back to Florida to Wisconsin to New York State. I have an amazing wife who shares my love of adventure, we have a couple of kids who give me the gift of love and laughter every day, and I’m really looking forward to the future.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
John Fink: When I’m at work, I focus. Not a lot of chit chat or personal conversation. At home, my family comes first, and they are my focus, but I seize opportunities to be productive when they present themselves. It is, after all, what I do to earn my daily bread.
Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- As a financial person, I’ve learned that money flows to where the best after-tax investment returns are, at any given time. It doesn’t matter how things used to be, it doesn’t matter what people think is fair. If that wasn’t true, the United States would never have taken over the lead in the world economy in the first place. If some person in a remote place in the world somewhere creates an attractive and compelling profit proposition, people will seek that person out, and they will go there and give money to that person, in some fashion.
- As an individual, what I’ve learned is that people regret saying no to an opportunity. It’s been said that people regret the things in life that they didn’t do, rather than the things they did. I’m on board with that. I think if you do something and fail, you can treat it as a learning experience and get value.
- I think people generally have much more passion for alternative realities, whether video games, movies, TV, golf, or spectator sports, than they do on their daily work. When someone is truly engaged in their work, it is a beautiful thing.
- Nostalgia is powerful, but I think it’s something to be savored. Yesterday has value, in the lessons that we’ve learned, but focusing too much on yesterday as the “good old days” is unhealthy. Someone once told me that when yesterday becomes more important than tomorrow, the death process has begun.
- I believe that obvious displays of wealth like fancy cars, designer clothes, grown-up toys, and things of that nature, are often the manifestation of a lack of discipline or some sort of insecurity. The average American 401K balance is about $72,000, and the average homeowner has less than 50 percent equity in his/her house, yet we spend an inordinate amount of money on entertainment, designer clothes, and the like. I think it’s worrisome that those things have become the priority nationally.
Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
John Fink: Listening and watching. I discuss problems or issues with my family, friends, anybody who will listen, and I get their feedback. I try to build consensus in my mind from all those opinions and ideas without having a formal process.
Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite quotation and why?
John Fink: General George Patton said, “Accept the challenges so you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” I can’t imagine anything sadder than living a soft, sheltered, small life. Maybe living in fear or living vicariously through actors, sports heros, or others. I believe you have to get in the game. You have to take risks. You have to explore things, and be open-minded about opportunities. You may win or you may lose, but you have to do something.
Avil Beckford: How do you define success?
John Fink: I think it’s satisfaction through achievement, not by the trappings that achievement brings. I take my satisfaction or my successes in what I’ve done to advance others or myself, and not so much about whether I went to Italy on vacation, or drive a Range Rover.
Avil Beckford: In your opinion what’s the formula for success?
John Fink: It’s different for everyone. In my case, it’s seizing opportunities to lead. Raise your hand, don’t say no. Take on the challenge. Respect those you work with, but don’t necessarily defer leadership opportunities to them, unless they show you they are the best choice. Lead different efforts, and several at once, if you can. Become known as a leader, because if people understand you as a leader, then opportunities will come to you.
Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
John Fink: I used my eyes and ears. I’ve found successful people wherever I was, I watched them, and figured out how they spent their time, what was important to them, what they were trying to do, and I took that. I didn’t generally talk to them about it, because you get pie-in-the-sky “do as I say, not as I do” kind of rhetoric. I actually watched what they did on a day-to-day basis and I took what I believed was the best.
Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
John Fink: I would say that people are rarely promoted into a more advanced role, and then start doing it. Usually, a person is actually doing the more advanced role, and then his/her title and pay catch up. Don’t ever think to yourself, “I’m going to start working hard, and I’m going to start taking initiative, AFTER I’m promoted to supervisor, manager, director, Vice President, whatever it is.” Figure out what the big shots, the heavy-hitters feel is important, what would make their lives easier, and jump on it now. Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder, and tell you how wonderful you are, and give you a title.
Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
- Not necessarily in this order, but one person would be from the music world, a gentleman by the name of Zac Brown. He is a country music guy, who has done some really amazing work lately. I would tell him, “Thank you very much for the music” and to keep his head on straight, because he is a relatively young guy and can keep the music coming for a long time yet, if he doesn’t get caught up in everything.
- I would want to meet Aaron Rogers, a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. I would tell him, “Thank you for the entertainment. Thank you for working through adversity as you have.” I would tell him that he’s been a class act thus far, and that I certainly hope throughout his career he keeps that together and doesn’t let the trappings of success derail him. I’d tell him I have a son who will be playing ball about 15 years down the road, and I’d ask, jokingly, if he could work with him.
- I would want to meet Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp has demonstrated the most amazing reach as an actor that I’ve ever seen. He is bold in his selection of roles. He’s played Donnie Brasco in a mafia film. He played Dan Juan, John Dillinger, Ichabod Crane, Willy Wonka. I can’t imagine a role that he couldn’t accomplish well. It’s just fascinating to watch his progression throughout his movies. He’s about my age, so we might have a good time of it.
- Archbishop Timothy Dolan would be another person. He’s in New York now, but I lived in Milwaukee when he was there and I heard him speak on a regular basis. I’d ask him some of the same questions that you are asking me. I would pray with him and explore him, his mind, his faith, what he believes is in store for all of us.
- I would want to meet Warren Buffett. He is brilliant, from a business perspective. I’d ask him every question I could possibly think of, regarding business value, spotting opportunity, obtaining financing, operations, everything. He’s also an amazing example of someone who hasn’t let wealth and success ruin him. Very humble in his personal spending and “plumage”. I see people at the grocery store that dress more flashy and act more wealthy. Incredibly grounded. Continues to stay in the game and pursue opportunities, when he has absolutely no reason to have to.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
John Fink: I would say it’s the Bible. Beyond the obvious purpose as the word of God, it’s an owner’s manual for life in many ways. I think one thing is that most of the people God talked to and worked with, were quite flawed. King David had issues with lust that he pursued in the extreme. Moses had an anger problem. Saul, before his conversion, had a hatred and violent intolerance for Christians. I took from that that people are flawed, and “Don’t put your trust in princes.” Even those who accomplish great things are flawed and we should know that, but at the same time we should embrace them and work with them. Much is made of the concept of “role models” in our world. Sports heros, politicians, etc. We need to be careful about putting our faith in them. I also take away that we must not keep a running list of all the slights that others have caused us, because we are meant to forgive. If we don’t forgive, it will only result in our isolation, and ultimately being less, achieving less, and accomplishing less than we otherwise would.
Avil Beckford: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Summarize the book in two sentences.
John Fink: My nature is to be a practical individual and that means I’d bring a book on first aid, a book on edible roots and berries and things of that nature, a book on fishing, a book on boat building, and for fun, a book on how to distil your own spirits.
Avil Beckford: What one music CD and movie would you like to have with you (on the deserted island) and why?
John Fink: The CD would be the original album or disk from the band Boston. It’s energetic music, it takes me back to a place in my life that was fun, and I guess the CD would be about entertainment. The movie would be Patton, which was about US General Patton during World War II. I like the movie, it’s one of my favorites, and it would give me a message to stop feeling sorry for myself and get moving.
If you cannot view the YouTube video of Boston, click here.
If you cannot view the YouTube video of Patton film trailer click here.
Avil Beckford: What excites you about life?
John Fink: It changes throughout life. Everyone changes as they age. Right now it’s raising my kids. I love to watch them. I love providing for my family and being the Papa Bear. I love feeling like I have my little group of individuals, and it’s us against the world. I also enjoy growing companies, doing more with less, staying current.
Avil Beckford: How do you nurture your soul?
John Fink: Worship regularly. I reflect on the Bible and on history, because I think in both cases, there are amazing examples that help us understand there is nothing new under the sun. We are experiencing the same things that were experienced throughout recorded history, in one form or another. We might think we live in turbulent times, but viewed through the lens of history, we have it made.
Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
John Fink: The health and safety of my family for 100 years. I can’t think of anything that would be more crushing to my wife and I than for one of our kids to have a serious health issue.
Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..
John Fink: I’m busy working on a project that will make my family’s life better in some way. Grow our relationship, or bring more resources or comforts to them.
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