Eastman Insights: Melissa Fiore
Our August 2021 Staff Spotlight shines a light on Eastman Cooke Controller Melissa Fiore. While working as a Personal Financial Representative and interning at the Museum of American Finance after college, Melissa knew that a financial career was in her bright future. She joined Eastman Cooke as a project financial manager nearly a decade ago, and ever since, has been a tremendous asset to the firm’s financial operations. Now Controller of the company, Melissa continues to play a pivotal role in Eastman Cooke’s success.
As Controller of Eastman Cooke, what are your primary job responsibilities?
I provide strategic planning in every area of finance and accounting. My responsibilities include preparing and managing financial statements and reports, overhead budgets, cash flow projections, as well as monitoring job costs. I also help to ensure that financial directives are followed and maintained, and that internal controls always comply with accounting standards and procedures.
What are some important skills and traits to bring to the table when working in finance and construction?
Having a meticulous attention to detail is crucial. You also need to exhibit strong problem-solving skills, and have the ability to work efficiently. It’s particularly important to be driven, confident, and motivated.
One of the major factors that have contributed to Eastman Cooke’s success is the firm’s Work Smart System. Can you give an example of how this innovative system has helped the business run smoothly and keep budgets on target?
Accounting and finance can be very intricate. I learned early on in my career about the importance of simplifying financial and accounting processes. Eastman Cooke’s Work Smart System enables our team to plan and execute projects as efficiently as possible. We’ve been using it since our company launched 11 years ago, allowing us to enhance our processes, including our billing system. We’re able to assess and prioritize items more effectively, which has been extremely helpful from a budgeting perspective, and it’s helped to save clients money on several different projects.
Having a seamless billing and accounting process is also quite valuable for our construction and project managers. Eliminating the need to sift through confusing reports and systems enhances their productivity and allows them to focus on managing schedules, budgets, and personnel to keep projects running smoothly.
I make it a priority to provide financial tools that our teams can easily use and understand to manage their projects. I hold monthly Financial Dashboard meetings, where I present a financial snapshot of each project to review with the project teams. Together, we evaluate all financial aspects of the projects. These meetings are designed to easily pick up variances, cost overruns, and billing issues, and as a result, have helped our team become better financial managers.
How have advancements in technology helped to enhance workflow and efficiency?
We implemented Procore about six years ago. Its financial tools get better and simpler each year. The program has a level of transparency that has become very useful when there are a number of team members managing each project. Its interface is very user-friendly, and you can easily access Procore on your tablets while you’re on the go.
What is your favorite part of the job, and what is your proudest achievement at the company?
My favorite part of the job is the opportunity to build lasting relationships with colleagues, clients, vendors, and all stakeholders. Serving as the “financial resource” of our amazing team is quite rewarding to me, and it continues to be one of my proudest achievements. I truly enjoy providing guidance on each of our projects, while helping to meet our company’s financial needs.
For someone entering the field of construction, what advice would you give in order to succeed?
When working in construction, it’s not about age, gender, or experience. It’s about the skills that you can bring to the table that will drive a project forward and lead to successful outcomes for your company and for your clients. Embrace your skill set and never stop learning.
What types of activities or volunteering/community initiatives do you enjoy outside the office?
I’ve always enjoyed giving back to the community and making a difference for people in need. New York Cares and The Salvation Army are among the many charitable organizations that I have supported. When I’m at work, I also enjoy giving back to others – I frequently mentor colleagues about effective budget management, both inside and outside the office.