The CFO and the Sea

Solo-sailing CFO races across the Atlantic; brothers in finance.
Kate O'SullivanOctober 1, 2004

Joe Harris, CFO of New Boston Fund Inc., a Boston-based real estate investment company, isn’t your average weekend sailor. Last spring, Harris finished second in the 50-foot monohull class of the Transat, a solo transatlantic sailing race from Plymouth, England, to Boston. Setting out in the teeth of 20-knot head winds, Harris and his boat, the Wells Fargo/American Pioneer, completed the grueling 2,800-mile voyage in 16.5 days.

While most senior executives find it hard to take a day away from their desks, Harris has figured out ways to combine his sea fever and his work. “A lot of people I do business with have become supporters of my sailing program,” he says. When he bought the yacht in 2003 and set sights on the Transat, Harris tapped Wells Fargo and Boston-based law firm Goulston & Storrs to sponsor him. The two firms work frequently with New Boston Fund (also a sponsor) and enjoyed access to the Wells Fargo/American Pioneer after the race was completed in June.

Harris says he also depended on a strong finance team to keep New Boston Fund running smoothly in his absence. And if sailing has taught him anything about business, it’s the importance of planning. “On a boat, there’s a good chance that any piece of equipment that should have been serviced but wasn’t is going to break down when you get offshore. The sea has a way of finding chinks in your armor,” he says. “It’s the same in business. If you haven’t thought through a particular area, your business is probably going to fall down there.”

But even with the best-laid plans, balancing work and play can be a challenge. Harris admits he spends “an above-average amount of time away from the office,” but says it usually comes in short bursts during the racing season. That could change, though, when he takes on his next challenge: the 5-Oceans, an around-the-world race beginning in 2006.

Brother Act

In 1995, Bob Calderoni was faced with a major career choice: whether or not to leave his post at IBM headquarters in Armonk, N.Y., to take a new position with Big Blue on the West Coast. A New York City native, Calderoni worried about the impact the move would have on his family. So whom did he call for advice?

Big brother, Frank, naturally. In addition to his credentials as an older sibling, Frank Calderoni was also working in IBM finance at the time. “He wanted to talk it through,” recalls Frank.

With his brother’s support, Bob decided to move west. In 1997, Frank, too, moved from New York to Northern California with IBM — but not before calling Bob. Since then, the Calderoni brothers have climbed parallel ladders, holding top finance positions at IBM, SanDisk, Apple Computer, Avery Dennison, and QLogic.

Today, Frank, 47 is vice president of worldwide sales finance at Cisco Systems Inc., while Bob, 44, is CEO of Ariba Inc. The two have served as sounding boards for each other throughout their careers, discussing everything from how to break bad news to launching new initiatives, although they are careful to avoid specifics about their companies.

“People say it’s lonely at the top, and there’s some truth to that,” says Bob. “It’s great having someone with similar experience who can relate to what you’re going through.” Bob also knows he can get the unvarnished truth from his brother, citing the “deep level of trust” that comes from their sibling relationship. Frank agrees: “When you’re talking to your brother, you know you’re going to get an honest assessment, whether you like it or not.”

So when the two families get together for Thanksgiving dinner, does finance dominate the conversation? Not if they can help it. “We’d be booed out of the room,” says Bob with a laugh.

CFOs on the Move

Embattled health-care provider HealthSouth Corp. has named John Workman to the CFO post…. Roy Templin has been promoted to the lead finance role at appliance company Whirlpool Corp…. Clothing maker Mossimo Inc. has announced that CFO Mali Shrinivas has resigned. It has been alleged that he falsified his résumé…. Chiquita Brands International Inc. has a new top banana in its finance group, adding John W. Braukman III as CFO…. Liquor purveyor Diageo Plc has named Deirdre Mahlan finance chief of Diageo North America…. Ted Owens joins research firm Aberdeen Group as CFO.