Get to Know Coleman Gunter, Our VP of Accounting and Finance
At FSB, we are committed to continuously growing and improving the resources we offer our portfolio companies. A big part of that involves attracting people who buy into the FSB vision. We look for dynamic people who possess high-level skill sets and passion to drive our companies’ success. When we met Coleman Gunter, we knew that she was the right person for us.
In January, Coleman joined our team as VP of Accounting and Finance to build out FSB’s financial analysis and accounting capabilities. As FSB’s first CPA to join the team, she brings new skills and insights from her years of experience in “Big Four” accounting, not to mention a strong commitment to making our portfolio companies better.
To learn about Coleman and the tremendous work she’s engaging in with our portfolio companies, please read our Q&A with her below.
What is your professional background?
I grew up in Alabama and went to school at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), where I got my degree in accounting and French, with a mathematics minor. But accounting was always my primary focus, and after undergraduate I received my master’s degree in accounting as well, also from Alabama. Then I passed my CPA exam and took a job at a public accounting firm, PwC, in Birmingham.
I started in the audit practice and worked there for three years, until my husband got accepted to Northwestern’s law school. So we moved to Chicago, and I transferred within PwC from the audit practice to the financial due diligence advisory practice.
How did you land at FSB?
I wasn’t really looking for a new job, but I was notified of the job opening on LinkedIn. I liked it for a few reasons. At PwC I was always a consultant or auditor. I was never really a part of the companies I worked with; I was always trying to learn about them. The description of this role at FSB made me feel like I would be part of the team, working to make each portfolio company better.
I was also attracted to FSB because the investment portfolio includes companies from a broad range of sectors. That variety requires you to be agile (a key word these days), and to learn as you go. I knew I could bring the skill sets from my time in “Big Four” accounting and apply them at FSB.
What initially drew you to accounting?
Funnily enough, my mother-in-law is an accountant — and has her own firm — and she told me not to go into accounting! But in spite of that, she has been a mentor and a guide to me.
It’s a hard question to answer. Accounting just kind of clicked with me. Obviously there’s math involved, and I do like math. But it’s also almost like a language — a financial language. There are certain structures and rules you have to follow. In that sense, accounting is like a mixture of the other things I studied in school, math and foreign language.
What is your role at FSB?
My title is VP of Accounting and Finance, and that entails a couple different things. I keep financial records of all companies we actively manage, like a bookkeeping role. I monitor transactions on a daily basis and build financial statements for FSB companies — that looks a little different for each of our companies. And I review the financial results to understand trends in companies’ performance.
The team moves pretty quickly to bring new companies into the fold, and when we find a potential opportunity, I’m tasked with studying the financials and understanding how the potential investment operates, what drives revenue and growth, and other metrics. And that is pre-diligence work but also post-acquisition. I work closely with Keenan [Ryan, FSB’s COO] and Swayze [Brumfield, FSB’s VP of Technology and Marketing] to figure out what these companies need to get up and running — it can be as simple as, “now they need to set up a bank account,” or “now they need checks,” or as complex as, “what sales metrics do we need to hit to be profitable?”
I never saw the post-acquisition integration at PwC, so it is awesome to see this side of it.
Which one of the FSB values resonates most with you?
Being scrappy resonates the most with me. Growing up, I was a counselor at a summer camp, where we worked really hard. I was a teenager teaching 10-year-olds how to ride horses. At the end of the summer they could gallop freely on trails, even though on day one they had never ridden a horse. It was manual labor working in the barn. We had to wear jeans and boots, even in the middle of the Alabama summer. That was my first job. A lot of lessons I learned from there I try to carry with me through my professional life.
I had a mentor there who always referred to a quote [often attributed to Calvin Coolidge]. To paraphrase: people can be talented, well-educated, and smart, but if they don’t have drive and persistence, they don’t get anywhere. People who are persistent and press on will always solve problems. There always will be someone smarter than you in the room, but you have to be persistent. That always stuck with me.
It’s similar to Frank [Brumfield, FSB’s CEO and founder]’s story. You can tell from working with him how hard he works — and you can see how hard everyone here works. It’s about trying to stay motivated, whether from outside factors or your own self-motivation, and pressing on.
You and Frank both have southern roots — how do you think that impacts your work?
When I came to the interview and met Frank and the team, it was kind of funny — I’m a southerner in the Midwest now, so I can always pick out another southerner, and I could immediately see that Frank is very much a southerner. That resonated with me. He has the personality of a southerner. It’s hard to describe — it basically means you work really hard, but you care about people in a deeply personal way. You develop real relationships and do what you can to help people be successful. Southerners might challenge you, but they’re kind and well-intentioned. It’s hard to describe — you have to experience it.
I grew up in the South, but not in a rural area like Frank did. However, even growing up in Auburn, AL, a college town with a reputable agricultural school, I didn’t know much about the ag sector. So I have learned a lot about agriculture since joining FSB, and that has changed my perspective. It makes you appreciate each person’s contribution and role within their areas of expertise and how that builds up the ecosystem of the U.S.
Was it controversial that you went to University of Alabama instead of Auburn University?
My parents are Auburn fans, so when I said I was going to the University of Alabama it came as a shock — but I think they knew that I needed to leave my hometown to go to college. And now we have a fun rivalry! They have always been so influential to me and helped to develop my drive and motivation.
Please tell us a little more about your life outside of work.
My husband graduated from law school this past spring and we have a one-year-old daughter named Alice. We love hanging out and exploring Chicago with her, especially now that the weather is getting warmer.
As far as hobbies, I was a golfer in high school. That’s another work ethic and perseverance tie-in. We came in second place in the state championship three years in a row (my freshman, sophomore, and junior years). One year we lost by just one stroke; over the three years, we lost by a combined seven strokes. I thought, “We are so close — we can win this. We should win this.” So I challenged myself in senior year to make it happen.
I worked hard, and we ended up winning the state championship my senior year. I had to have some failures along the way to keep pushing me toward the goal to win.
My husband is a huge tennis player, as is his whole family. I started playing tennis to fit in with the family, otherwise I’d be stuck sitting on the sidelines.
Is Alice going to be a golfer or a tennis player?
We’ll see if she’s coordinated! Alice is on the edge of learning how to walk. She’s not quite confident to take solo steps yet, but she has a little walker that she pushes up and down the hallway.
Thanks again to Coleman for sitting down with us and sharing her background with our audience. We’re so excited to have her lead the Accounting & Finance department as we continue to grow our team’s in-house resources. If you want to connect with Coleman, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from FSB over the next several months! Check out FSB’s LinkedIn page to stay updated.