From the beginning, Tammy Fischer’s career path wasn’t an easy one. She had to put herself through school as a single parent, and she didn’t begin her career as a controller until she was 30 years old. “I managed it by sheer determination, which is a nice word for ‘stubbornness,’” she says with a laugh. “I graduated college in 1996 but didn’t get my [CGA] designation until 2003 because I could only take a limited number of courses at a time. It was a long haul, but it was worth it.” Eleven years later, she’s now the CGA, controller, and HR manager for Habasit Canada Limited, and she has her dogged approach to thank for it.
Fischer’s entire career has been about being competitive in the marketplace. She consciously got her software and human resources experience early on and made sure she had experience in various industries so that she could hit the ground running when her son no longer needed day care.
Her work with software, in fact, began right after she graduated college and started working on contract for the accounting firm KPMG, which was then switching from Macs to PCs. “There was one guy working on it, and he was pulling his hair out, so I offered to help, and it went on from there,” Fischer says. “When I took on my first controller position in 2000, the system they had was so old that I suggested an upgrade. Turned out there wasn’t anyone else to do it, so I had to. I worked directly with the software provider and learned as I went.”
FACTS & FIGURES
Companies affiliated with Habasit
Service locations the company has globally
Countries with Habasit representatives
Fischer has since implemented Microsoft Dynamics GP, AccPac, Epicor, and other accounting software and has established processes and procedures for a number of different businesses. “To date, over the course of my career, I’ve implemented new software a dozen or so times,” she says. “If there was a huge IT department, they normally do most of the work, but I’ve always been on the team. I’ve got a lot of experience in software implementation on the finance side and experience in human resources on top of the accounting designation. That makes me unique.”
Fischer had been a controller for nine years when the opportunity to work for Habasit arose in 2009, and at that point, she had always worked at small firms, start-ups, or companies undergoing change—usually of a chaotic sort. “Fortunately, Habasit was not chaos; the finance and HR departments just had not been completely set up,” she says. “And I was extremely lucky to finally find a great mentor at Habasit, so I didn’t feel completely on my own anymore.”
She created a new inventory system for the company shortly after coming aboard. “The operations system didn’t communicate with the finance system, so I created a system that tracks inventory movement and ensures that both systems are in compliance with each other and easily measurable by our auditors,” Fischer says. “That particular system reduced the inventory section of month-end close time from almost a week to half a day.”
In addition to implementing new software for the company, as controller, Fischer manages cash and physical assets in order to maximize wealth for Habasit’s shareholders and ensure that the entire operation is efficient and legally compliant with accounting and other regulations. And her well-earned reputation as a problem solver recently led Habasit’s US affiliate to hire her as controller and HR manager of a new, soon-to-be-established US division. She’s excited about the prospect of carrying her persistence into a new country. “In a small company, you wear multiple hats,” she says. “You do whatever it takes. It will pay off in the end; it always does.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Controller & HR manager
Years in the business
Where did you start your career?
Heritage Artists, in Montréal.
Describe yourself in three words
Driven, independent, problem solver.
Advice to those just starting in finance
Get yourself in the mindset of doing whatever needs to be done.