Coworking with Craig McKasson

Premier is a national healthcare provider
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· 4 min read

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Craig McKasson is chief financial officer and chief administrative officer at Premier, a national healthcare provider that unites more than 4,400 hospitals across the country.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in finance?

I would say that my job is to ensure that the things that we own—the company owns, our assets—are well protected, and managed appropriately, in order to generate return for our customers, employees, partners, and shareholders. I would also say that a really important part of my job, along with our CEO, is to communicate and explain the company and its performance to internal and external audiences.

What’s something that we wouldn’t be able to tell from your LinkedIn?

First of all, I would tell you that—and I’ll be transparent—I’m not very good about actively maintaining my LinkedIn profile, so I really probably have some enhancement to do there. But what I would say is that I don’t think somebody would guess from my LinkedIn profile how important my passion for teaching and educating others is and explaining the “why.” A big part of my philosophy as a finance leader is that it’s not about the numbers; you have to actually explain the story and the “why” behind why things are happening.

What was your pathway to the CFO office?

My professional career started at a Big Four accounting firm, so kind of a typical runway. I spent six or seven years with Ernst & Young. I actually have a tax background, so I am a little bit of an anomaly—not as many tax people become CFOs. After tax work, I then spent a little bit of time doing tax for Premier and then became the comptroller, under the CFO.

Sort of a funny story I would tell you from all the way back to my youth where it all started: I was actually somewhat on a whim got involved in Junior Achievement as a high school student, and I was the CFO of our company in Junior Achievement, and actually went to the National CFO of the Year Conference for Junior Achievement. So, it was sort of ingrained in my blood early on.

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Given that the role has changed and given that things are evolving, what would you say to someone who might have to be a CFO in five years? Ten years?

The most important thing—even today, but also into the future—is there seems to be a stereotype of being really good with the numbers. But I think actually, the focus on communication skills, both oral and written, are critical for a CFO to be an effective leader, an effective storyteller to provide the right context for the business and its performance. It’s not about just reciting numbers; it’s really about providing context. For a CFO to be successful with how complicated the macro environment is, and how complicated businesses now are, you have to be able to take complex business discussions and issues and distill them down into a simple-to-understand explanation in order to provide better value to your peers and to stakeholders.

If you weren’t a CFO, what would you be?

I would be a teacher. Both of my parents were school teachers; that’s the environment I grew up in. I always recognize the importance of educating. One of the most impassioned moments I’ve had in my life is when I was probably about eight years old, and I was with my dad somewhere, and a person in their 20s walked up and remembered my dad as a teacher and said that he had been the most positive influence in that individual’s life. So I tried to bring the thought process of education into my professional career, but I would be a teacher because the reward of seeing a light bulb turn on when somebody else understands and gets what you’re trying to say is incredibly rewarding, in my opinion. —KT

News built for finance pros

The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.