The 6 a.m. CFO: How Kajima Building & Design Group’s Bona Allen Starts His Day

He shares how he mixes his morning coffee, uses humor in his early meetings, and relaxes on water.
The 6 a.m. CFO: How Kajima Building & Design Group’s Bona Allen Starts His Day

Welcome to The 6 a.m. CFO, where finance chiefs share how they jump-start their days and engage with the tasks that are in front of them.

Today, Kajima Building & Design Group’s CFO Bona Allen shares how he mixes his morning coffee, uses humor in his early meetings, and relaxes on water.

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1569844999069.jpegKajima Building & Design Group, Inc.

  • KBDG designs and constructs advanced manufacturing plants, warehouse distribution facilities, and office interior spaces nationwide.
  • Founded: 1840 in Tokyo, Japan; 1964 in the United States
  • Size: 250 employees
  • Revenue: It has generally averaged in the $600 million range, and 2023 is forecasted to be significantly higher.

Morning Routine

Weekday wake-up time and the first thing I like to do: 4 a.m.-ish. I do cardio at the house, then drive to a nearby gym to mess around with weights. As evidenced by my shape, I’m not super serious about weight training, but I enjoy it.

Coffee, tea, or other morning beverage choice: It’s a mixture of coffees: Dunkin Donuts regular blend and Texas Pecan coffee from H.E.B.Texas Grocery. I make enough to have a tumbler in my vehicle (car coffee) and one to take to the office, which I sip throughout the day.

Workday start time: Normally in the office by 7 a.m.

How I usually spend the first hour of my day: Going through my calendar, updating my to-do lists, clearing emails, and reading various news outlets.

Time I send out my first email: We have some clients in Europe, so I’ll communicate with them early. Internally, I try to remember to use Outlook’s “delay send” function so emails are not released until 8-8:30 unless I know the recipient is already working.

Best advice for writing an effective email:

  1. Be kind, always, but especially in emails, texts, or other written communication. As leaders, we have influence, so our messaging can have unintended, negative consequences. Certain messages are better delivered in person (or via video call).
  2. Think before hitting send. Oftentimes, it is important to percolate on verbiage, and how it might be received/perceived, before sending a note, especially about a difficult subject.
  3. Be clear, to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible.
  4. Be succinct, long emails may not be read or understood.

First dashboard I review:

  • Internally: It varies but generally revolves around cash balances, A/R, A/P, and significant cash received in the last 24-48 hours.
  • Externally: I also keep an eye on trends in the major financial markets.

How I structure my morning meetings: Brevity and humor are key. My group has an in-person meeting every Monday morning at 9:15 a.m. We try to start off with a light conversation… and I’ll tell the latest “Dad” joke if I have heard a new one (new Dad joke, is that an oxymoron?).

In the meat of the meeting, we’ll cover items on an agenda, or the status of some tasks/initiatives in progress, and close as quickly as possible. The goal is to make in-person meetings valuable and worth the commute to the office.

Mid-morning snack of choice: Nuts, fruit.

Leadership and Inspiration

Favorite quote or mantra: I have several:

  1. You can never go wrong by doing the right thing.
  2. This too shall pass.
  3. Respect everyone, always.
  4. Lead by example.

Favorite leadership lesson: Again, I have several:

  1. Take good care of your people, and they will take care of the business. My day-to-day role is to serve others, allowing them to grow in their careers and achieve fulfillment along the way, while also having a good time!
  2. Give team members the tools, guidance, education, and support to be successful, then get out of their way. There is a delicate balance between folks feeling isolated or abandoned, and being micromanaged.
  3. Learn from the past, but focus on the future. What’s around the corner?
  4. I heard this yesterday at a Private Directors Assoc. event: As leaders, we should “keep our ear to the ground, and our eyes on the horizon.”

Something important to know about me that you wouldn’t know from my business bio: I love the water. My wife and I have a small boat on a lake near Atlanta and love spending the day on the water — pure relaxation!

Allen out on his boat.

What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work: Replenishing the supplies in our break room kitchen. Most of the company is on the 9th floor. The accounting/finance, marketing, and project coordinators are on the 8th. Occasionally, our disposable utensils (forks, knives, etc.) run low on the 8th floor, so I’ll grab a supply from the main office and replenish them on the 8th.

Can you share one way in which you have learned to manage work-induced stress: Go outside and walk. Our office is in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and is close to some quaint residential neighborhoods. On nice days, I can walk one or two miles on tree-covered streets pretty easily. If the weather is bad, I (and others) walk in the covered parking deck.

Favorite number: Not sure I have a favorite number, so I guess my answer is none or nil.

Most noteworthy item in my workspace: A horse saddle. My family was in the leather/saddle business years ago and I wound up with several (okay, more than “several”) in our house. My wife finally asked if we could please do something with all these saddles. Our CEO has a mounted deer head in his office, so I figured, why not bring a fancy parade saddle for display in my office? It’s quite the conversation piece.

Allen’s parade saddle is on display in his office.

Do you have a pet sitting in your office right now: Ha, no. I’m usually in our office building, but I did share space with our dog when I worked remotely in the midst of COVID. As others experienced, our dog tended to start snoring loudly or barking at someone/something outside, as soon as a video call started.

Favorite app on my phone that is not related to business: Amazon music. I can get lost in music while exercising or experiencing high levels of stress.

When do you take time for learning/reading:As part of my early morning routine I’ll read through the daily email from the NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors). Beyond the latest corporate news, it also has wonderful articles about leadership, governance, regulatory issues, etc.

In the evenings, I’ll read for pleasure, but this is sporadic and I need to be more diligent about always having a fiction book available.