Stats are a Staff’s Best Friend

Food-segment CFO Bertrand Couture believes that being a true business partner means understanding how the numbers support the workforce

A self-proclaimed lover of numbers, Bertrand Couture was always good at math. In fact, he decided to switch from being an actuary student to studying finance in university, to combine two of his greatest passions: business and numbers. In his first job, he worked for Procter & Gamble in Toronto, a significant move for the Sherbrooke, Québec, native as his English was rudimentary.

“I had to learn this new language in addition to a new job and acclimating to a new city and culture,” Couture  says. “I have done many jobs at Procter & Gamble in the field of brand finance, sales finance, and supply finance.”

He moved to Mars Canada Inc. in 2012, as the food business planner and was promoted to food unit CFO in June 2014.

“I was attracted to the position for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and directly impact the shape of the business in the field that I love: finance,” Couture says.

Mars Canada has recently faced some major challenges given the current exchange rate, and it’s no secret that inflation has been a concern to all in the country. Couture’s team specifically has had to weather the storm, and he recently faced significant pressure to improve his bottom line for next year. Currently, he is focused on finding ways to increase revenue through the hard times.

“There is no secret recipe. Every CFO knows the concept of SRM (strategic revenue management). This is a well-known and applied process that helps you drive revenue by looking at return on investment of trade expenditures, improving your portfolio mix, evaluating your pricing strategy, driving scale, and launching innovation that will grow penetration.”

The situation has put important cost pressure on many manufacturers and Mars Canada is no exception. During that time, Couture has had to set the tone for the organization about reshaping the business while sustaining modest growth.

“We have been ruthless on generating margin to invest for our business, almost doubling our brand support investment over the last three years. This was no small task and I am very proud of all the work the Mars Canada food associates have accomplished. This shows the strong partnerships that currently exist amongst all functions and the commitment and passion to succeed.”

In his role as CFO, Couture learned that being a success means being balanced and developing solid business acumen.

“By ‘balanced’ I mean that a CFO needs to be an excellent people manager, an inspirational leader for the organization, an expert in their finance and accounting field, and have strong business acumen,” he says. “Business acumen signifies that you know enough of each business field to challenge the organization on the right issues and enable you to successfully build the company’s long-term strategies.”

Every day Couture tries to live up to Mars’ five company principles: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom. These are not just words on the wall; They are also the backbone of the way Couture lives and operates by.

“I have the freedom to have the right attitude by adding value to the business and being part of the team,” he explains. “I take responsibility in understanding the business, as the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge. Developing business acumen and knowledge will empower you to enable decision-making and ultimately add value to all business spheres.

He continues, “I seek to drive efficiencies within the organization by making everybody around me better and enabling them to make decisions. I always seek to deliver quality work and constantly build my credibility. When you do that, others will ask for your opinion, which will create even more opportunities to create mutual benefits and be a great business partner.”

Beyond working together, Couture sets out to be an inspirational leader to his people, team, and organization.

Couture enjoys being a true business partner to his colleagues at Mars, contributing much more to the team than just numbers.

“It is a passion of mine to make a difference in people’s lives,” he explains, “which is why I spend a disproportionate amount of time on talent development for the organization. We have tremendous talent in finance at Mars Canada, with great opportunity to further develop business acumen and business partnership. We are building the next generation of CFOs.”

“People come first,” Couture says. “My role as a leader is to develop, set directions, empower, support, and get out of the way. It has been proven over and over: a highly engaged and motivated team will achieve breakthrough results. We spend about a third of our life at work, therefore you need to have fun at work and love the environment you are in.”