Around the World with Global CFO Phil Flaherty
When Phil Flaherty first joined City Electric Supply in 1988, he started out as an office assistant in the Isle of Man. Today, more than 30 years later, we’re honored to announce that he’s the Global Chief Financial Officer for City Electric Supply.
As Global CFO, Phil Flaherty will oversee the North American and UK accounting teams while growing and evolving our financial strategy across the entire company.
“City Electric Supply is a global operation. Around the world, our branches operate on the original footprint that our late CEO and Founder Tom Mackie started in 1951,” Flaherty said. “With a global overview, we can now implement the best ideas from around the world — people, skills, technology, financial arrangements — all with the goal of bettering CES and its employees.”
“I really see this as a positive step forward for the future of CES,” he added. “I’ve been with the company for 32 years. It feels like everything we’ve done has been building us up to this moment.”
President and CEO Thomas Hartland-Mackie recently announced Flaherty’s new role and how he’ll continue to help grow and evolve City Electric Supply, especially in light of the recent pandemic.
“Phil has been with City Electric Supply for over 30 years. We hope to leverage his knowledge and experience, as well as his familiarity with the company, to position ourselves strategically,” Hartland-Mackie said. “We are continuously seeking ways to gain more market share globally, and the pandemic has certainly shown us that a strategic global perspective is more important now than ever.”
For Global CFO Phil Flaherty, this new role is as much about learning as it is about leading and guiding the financial future of CES.
“Personally, the first steps for me are to spend time to get to know everyone on the finance side of the UK business. I also want to learn as much as possible about the operations that are so new to me,” he said. “Then, as is so common inside our branches, the key to success is having strong teams.”
When asked to expand on those points, Flaherty had a clear path forward for our financial operations.
“We will build upon the existing successes. In time, we’ll look for ways we can continue to grow and stay relevant with the digitalization of accounting practices and leveraging technology for increased efficiency.”
And as this happens, CES will continue to grow and scale up. Even then, the focus will still be on how we can improve the service inside our branches on a local level.
“The intent of this new global role is to help ensure that we have a consistent strategic direction across the whole organization, with the added benefit of leveraging the best ideas and financing arrangements for implementation,” Hartland-Mackie said.
“One of our continued priorities will be to support the commercial teams and branches,” added Flaherty. “As I work with our local teams all around the world, I believe we can harness the best practices and ideas to implement within our organization.”
While Global CFO Phil Flaherty is excited to see what this new chapter brings for City Electric Supply, he remembers the long journey that has taken him from the Isle of Man to England, from England to Canada, and from Canada to the United States.
“I truly started at the very bottom of the business,” he laughed. “As an office assistant, I filed paperwork and made tea — and I wasn’t very good at filing paperwork.”
Fortunately, Flaherty was very good at making tea!
He soon received an opportunity to enter the management training program where he found himself in England. It wasn’t long until he became a manager in the accounting department in Warwickshire.
“If I would not have taken that leap into the program, I wouldn’t be in Dallas today,” Flaherty admitted. “Everything you do in life has an element of luck. As luck would have it, Roy Jenkins, who originally hired me in the Isle of Man, gave me another opportunity in Canada.”
And that’s where Flaherty’s career really took off.
“They sent me to Canada for a purpose,” he said. “The finance department was all over the place. At just 22 years old, they sent me to go clean it up.”
For Phil Flaherty, a six-week stay turned into a 24-year career.
“When I first got there, it forced me into an uncomfortable position,” Flaherty said. “In the UK, I understood how things were done, but in Canada, I had to take charge of things. In turn, that led me to keep an open mind to doing things differently. But I recall that I also had my fair share of mistakes during that time, and I learned from these, too.”
That moment would change Phil Flaherty and his financial career for good. In 2005, he was named Chief Financial Officer of Canada. In 2017, he was named Chief Financial Officer over all North American operations.
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Having worked his way up, Flaherty knows that his deep CES background is only going to help him be a better leader.
“I’m never going to ask someone to do something I’m not prepared to do myself,” Flaherty said. “And because I started at the bottom and worked my way up, there’s not a lot I haven’t done, so that helps.”
“I believe that’s a cornerstone of being a good leader, and I believe that it helps build stronger teams,” he added.
When he says he’s done everything, he means it. Throughout Phil Flaherty’s career, he’s helped CES navigate not just one but two financial crises — the Great Recession of 2008 and now the 2020 pandemic.
“In 2008 and 2009, keeping the branches going was a primary focus to ensure we survived through those difficult years,” he said. “What we learned from that recession definitely prepared us for the economic impact we felt in early in 2020. As the world changed overnight, we had to adapt quickly, and we applied some of those same lessons from the 2008 Recession.”
But this time, it wasn’t just an economic crisis. It was a medical crisis, and that changed the very way our branches and accounting offices operated.
“2020 was tough on so many levels and for many of our CES family,” he said. “It’s been a challenge for everyone because it changed literally everything. But I really believe that if you can get through this, you can get through anything, and we will be stronger for it.”
CES and its teams have proved this point as the company CES and CEF are on track for one of the best years on record.
From his first days as an office assistant to his new role of Global CFO, Flaherty recognizes that the opportunities he had have truly changed his life.
“During my interview, Roy Jenkins really emphasized the growth of the company and the potential for someone willing to work hard and put in the effort. I really left that interview feeling there was no limit on what you could achieve with CES.
“My takeaway from this is that we should never underestimate the potential impact that our words can have on new and existing CES team members because who knows who those words will encourage in the future.
“For me, when I look at the opportunities presented to me, it says a lot about CES and the principles of the Mackie family,” Flaherty said.
“CES offers opportunities based on a person’s proven track record and individual skills and does not limit their opportunities due to not going to the right school or knowing the right person. CES sees the whole picture of a person and doesn’t limit them if they are capable of doing the job.”
“The opportunities are real,” he added. “The sky is the limit. Just stick with it, work hard, and the opportunities will come.”
Now, Flaherty has reached a position where he could return those same types of opportunities that he himself has received.
“I can say that it’s been a privilege bringing people into the business and watching them grow,” he said. “My big goal is to build strong teams. I enjoy working with people and learning from the people I work with. With this new spirit of cooperation between the US, Canada, and the UK, we’ll all be learning new things.”
And that’s part of what motivates Flaherty every day he steps into the office. But really, it’s simple; it’s the work itself that Flaherty loves.
“I’m eager to get up and start working,” he said. “After 32 years, I still feel like that. Thinking about the possibilities of what can happen and what you can achieve — it’s fun.”
Does Phil Flaherty have a secret to his success? Oh, he has a lot of them.
“I’m not perfect by any means,” he laughed. “It’s learning from mistakes — that’s the key thing. Be open-minded to doing things differently, don’t resist change, don’t have tunnel vision, continue to learn, be a better listener. It’s not one thing; it’s everything together. I’d definitely recommend getting a mentor — I’ve had many throughout my career.”
If Flaherty had to use one word to describe his 32-year career, one word to describe his rise from office assistant to Global CFO, what would it be?
“From my perspective, it’s been a real honor and privilege working for CES. For me, in one word, it’s been exciting.”