As Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Vogel oversees all financial aspects of the company, leads the company’s M&A efforts, and participates in various other strategic initiatives and activities. The Finance Team regularly interacts with customers, vendors and employees.
I started with Walsworth in December of 2004. I'm coming up on my 20 years here later this year. Very similar date as (COO) Jim Mead; we started right around the same time.
They had been looking for a CFO and just hadn't found the right person to fill the spot. Don's wife, Shea, has a brother named Jason, who I’m friends with. I think they were at Thanksgiving dinner. Don happened to mention they were having a heck of a time finding the person who could fill the CFO position. Jason told him “I know a guy you should talk to.” That was when they called me. It's funny how life happens.
Out of college, I worked for what was, at the time, the single largest professional accounting services firm in the world, Arthur Andersen in St. Louis. I grew up in a small town in Bowling Green, Missouri. And when I left Bowling Green, I said “Boy, I can’t wait to get to the big city.”
After living for five years in St. Louis, I just realized that wasn't me. My wife is from a small town. So that brought us back to Columbia, where I went to college at the University of Missouri. We were content to be there for the rest of our lives and raise our family there. But this opportunity presented itself, and Walsworth is an icon in the state of Missouri as a successful, family-owned business, especially in the circles I ran in at Mizzou.
So having the opportunity to work for a large company with a lot of exciting, interesting dynamics where I could challenge myself professionally, but also live in a town like Marceline or Brookfield, you just don't find that very often. For me, it was the opportunity I literally could not pass up.
My job is a little unique in that I’m working with our super-talented executive team to help the company achieve its business objectives and help the family grow the value of their investment. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.
I’ve always found it interesting how the Walsworth family balances those business objectives with the core of who they are. For example, a number of years ago we had a challenging year. There were opportunities where we could cut some costs and preserve some cash. Some of those options we discussed, in terms of trimming costs, were going to adversely impact some people. I distinctly remember the conversation in Don Sr.’s office, where he leaned back in his chair and he said, “Jeff, that’s not who we are.” I get emotional thinking about it. I know I’m in the right place.
(Laughs) I'm proudly not an attorney. I get exposed to a lot of legal documents that are business-related. In my role, if you can't understand what these documents mean, that's a problem. I have been blessed to work with a lot of very talented attorneys throughout my career. Maybe some of what they've done has rubbed off on me.
I remember when I got here, we were at 80-some million dollars in revenue. Don Sr. wanted to get to $100 million in revenue. You cannot cut yourself into greatness, you have to grow the top line to achieve great things, and Don understands that.
I remember sitting in this office when we had hit $100 million in revenue. Don Sr. walked in and said, “Jeff, it just feels so good to hit that milestone, I can't wait to get to $200 million.” Well, it took us 72 years to get to $100 million (laughs). And that was through all organic growth. But then we talked about growing the company through a combined organic strategy and a smart M&A (Merger and Acquisitions) strategy and decided we could certainly do that.
We talked about what a smart M&A strategy means for us. When most companies do acquisitions, they are trying to hit the home run. They’re swinging for it all and they're taking on a lot of debt. That’s not who we are. We're never going to bet the company on an acquisition. But you can win a lot of games with singles and doubles.
If we go out there and identify some good prospects that build on what we're trying to accomplish strategically and fit with our company culture, we can accelerate the growth of our company. That’s what we’ve been able to do with Saint Joseph, Fulton and Ripon.
Along with our ownership and executive team, I help identify what we’re looking for in a company and what we need. Once identified, I would either engage a firm to help us identify candidates or I would simply make some cold calls to owners of companies to introduce myself and Walsworth.
Rarely would we meet with a candidate the first time and leave that room without saying, “If you're looking for the very last dollar, we're not your people. But if you're looking for an ownership family, management team and a company that cares about and is going to preserve your family legacy and the community you're in, take care of your employees and do right by your customers, we'd probably be a pretty good buyer for you.” That resonates with people who are in smaller communities like us and want their company to continue to support their employees and customers.
I grew up in Bowling Green, a small town north of St. Louis, population 3,022. Lived there all through high school. Interestingly, my whole family is accountants. My dad is a CPA who worked for Price Waterhouse. My sister, who is three years older than me, worked for Price Waterhouse. My brother's a CPA who worked for Price Waterhouse. I don't know if it's a DNA thing, or what.
We are all very proud graduates of the University of Missouri's School of Accountancy. That school did us all very well, and we all have had wonderful careers that we’re very thankful and appreciative of.
I am who I am due largely to the unwavering set of core values and incredible work ethic instilled in me by my parents and the small-town upbringing they provided me. I will be forever grateful to my mom and dad and my entire hometown of Bowling Green.
My mom was one of 10 kids and grew up on a farm in a very German Catholic family. She grew up going to church where they still did Latin. All but one of my mom's brothers and sisters still live in Bowling Green.
We still have all the big family holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, all of them with all of us. That’s 100+ people at every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not everybody enjoys their family the way I do. So, I'm blessed to have that.
My wife, Julie, grew up in a little town called Louisiana, Missouri. She is a stay-at-home mom. She worked in education for a number of years until we started having children, and we were blessed to be able to have her stay at home with our two children.
My son, Tyler, is 27. He works for Walsworth in the Marceline location. He works in the Bindery and loves it. He’s been there since he graduated high school and enjoys working with his hands. It's been the perfect fit for him.
My daughter, Emily, is 24. She is a cardiac intensive care nurse at the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia. She just got married in October, and probably the best gig for any guy is being the father of the bride. That was a good dance for me.
I graduated from Bowling Green. I was always a good student and got a very nice scholarship to attend the University of Missouri for four years, graduated in 1990. That’s when I went to work for Andersen in St. Louis for about five years. Then we moved to Colombia, where I took a position with a regional accounting firm and worked for them for about five years.
Then I took a position as CFO for a company called ABC Laboratories. ABC is a pharmaceutical and agrochemical research company. They helped companies like Dow or Pfizer with projects that move certain compounds through the pharmaceutical development pipeline. That’s where I cut my teeth as a CFO.
My job when I was hired was essentially to get us sold, and we eventually were sold to a private equity firm. After a short amount of time, I realized this was not going to be the place for me, so I went on my way.
I started my own business in Colombia. I worked for myself for about two and a half years as a rental CFO, for lack of a better word. There are a lot of companies that might be anywhere between $5 million to $20 million in revenue and don't need a guy like me every day, but they might need me once in a while. I had about four or five clients, and I usually spent two or three days a month helping them with whatever their particular issue was.
That brings us back to Jason (Don’s brother-in-law), who knew me and knew that I might be available for the right deal. That’s why he mentioned me at Thanksgiving dinner.
I was self-employed, loving life, and I remember having a conversation with my wife about the amount of flexibility I had in terms of control of my schedule. I wasn’t sure I would ever work for anybody again.
Here is a great story. I went to the interview to see if I could get some part-time work at Walsworth as a potential client, not as a full-time gig. I distinctly remember standing in my bedroom closet, getting ready to come up here for my interview with Don Sr. I had khakis and a button-down on. And I'm like, “Should I wear a suit?”
I hadn't worn a suit in years. I have no idea what prompted me to think that because nobody told me when I was coming up that I should be in a suit. It's funny how life works, right?
I'm a simple man with simple pleasures. I probably enjoy spending time with my family more than anything else. We have a little piece of ground in Brookfield. I enjoy jumping on my little hobby tractor and moving dirt around. I enjoy fishing. I will play golf a handful of times. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don’t.
Mizzou certainly gets a lot of attention from my volunteer hours. I just wrapped up my term as president of the Mizzou Alumni Association, which I'm extraordinarily proud of. There are 360,000 Mizzou alumni worldwide, and to be the guy who got to represent those people was very special for me.
I’m extremely proud of the impact I’ve had through my community service, including being a founding member and ultimately President of the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Columbia and my nine years of service on the Board of Education in Brookfield.
I’ve been a season ticket holder for Mizzou football and basketball for decades. I volunteer at the Mizzou School of Accountancy on panels when they have new accountancy students who want to ask questions.
I’m pretty good in the kitchen.
I just walk in and start throwing stuff together. I rarely use a recipe of any type.
I don’t watch a lot of television. I watch a lot of business channels. Everyone watches the closing bell on CNBC, right? (laughs)
I do enjoy a good movie. I don’t need complicated. I want to be entertained. If I don’t watch Christmas Vacation 10 times over the holidays, I’m not doing it right. Add Elf in another 10 times.
Outdoorsy stuff is always fun. Some of our best memories as a small family unit would be at the Lake of the Ozarks. When I was down there, I was able to unplug and relax.
Well, I don’t drink coffee (laughs). I’ve got a lot of special people in my life. I don’t know if it would, but I hope it would say “Number One Dad.”
It’s less about a specific moment and more about the journey as a whole. In my former life, I worked with a lot of family-owned businesses that were unable to make the leap from being managed entirely by the ownership family to an environment where you can’t do it all by yourself.
What I’m most proud of is the transition from what we were to what we’ve become. The grace with which our ownership family has made that transition and the way they’ve been able to hire good people and let them do their job, that’s tough.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last 20 years, and I think our best days are still ahead.