Before I got the job I have now, I was the controller at a manufacturing plant that made auto brakes and ABS units. During the 3 years I was there, I became good friends with my assistant controller, Brian. We formed a bond based on a mutual love for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and a mutual dislike of our boss. Brian got out of there in 2003, a year after I did.
We’ve stayed in touch and today I went to have lunch with him at the new company he went to work for just a year ago. His company is owned by Perkins Restaurants and they make all the desserts for Perkins, including … wait for it … pies! They also make pies for Marie Callenders and various other restaurants and frozen food vendors. One of the perks of Brian’s job is, free pie to take home whenever he wants. I don’t know if he has to juggle numbers to cover up the pies he takes, but it doesn’t matter, it’s FREE PIE. Brian even gave me two pies to take home, slipping them to me from under his suit coat as he ushered me out the back door. It was suspicious but, hey, it was FREE PIE.
I know what you’re saying, “JohnnyB, how did your assistant controller end up with YOUR dream job?” Well, I figured out today that controller or CFO for a pie manufacturing plant might not actually be my dream. Wait. Let me explain.
There would be some obvious problems if I were doing the accounting for a pie factory. The CEO would constantly be calling me in and saying, “I have a few questions about some of the items on your report. Is this a smear of blueberry filling or cherry? Have you ever tried using a napkin? And could you possibly stop eating pie for one minute?"”
But the main reason is that I hate accounting for manufacturing. Doing inventory and cost accounting is only slightly more interesting than being an actuary or a pill bug. Even if you are making pie. Let me put it this way: I like women. I like the way they smell, I like the way they look and I like the way they are put together. But I don’t want to be a gynecologist. I don’t want to deal on a daily basis with the technical aspects of their pieces and parts and equipment .
There is one other reason I will never go back into accounting for a manufacturer. Brian and I had a terrible boss. Every quarter he would come up with some new report he needed two hours before the board meeting. He crushed morale - he was constantly telling my accounting team to stop “laughing and chatting.” He once got angry at me and smashed his fist into a computer white board, breaking the equipment. Brian and I became lifelong friends in the way that John McCain will forever be close to the men he shared a prison camp with in Viet Nam.
When I went to see Brian, he gave me a tour of the pie plant and, as I stepped onto the manufacturing floor, I had flashbacks and had to struggle to not run screaming back to the business office. But suddenly my senses were soothed and I calmed down. The plant didn’t smell of oil and metal and water treatment chemicals. It smelled like flour and butter and fruit filling. It smelled like heaven.
Still, watching pies being made in a factory is not like watching pies being made in your mom’s kitchen. My mom taught me to take the scraps of pit crust dough and make little tarts in the oven, to be topped with strawberry jam. At the factory, the scraps are dumped back into the machinery so they don’t go to waste; except, Brian assured me, the pieces that fall on the floor. “What about all these signs that say ‘remember the 5 second rule’”, I asked. “Too much chatting,” he replied.