Natural Food is a Natural Fit for Shan Staka. Shan was brought up with respect for healthy food and living that influences him in his role as CFO of Western Foods, a gluten-free facility in Woodland, Calif. The company makes flour from rice and ancient grains like millet, sorghum and amaranth. In this AICPA Insights profile, we look at what prepared Shan to guide the operations of a growing natural foods enterprise.
Tell me about Western Foods and your role there.
The enterprise started five years ago and grew so fast that we were maximizing our capacity by year three. So we put forth additional resources and equipment to increase the production level, which has led to incredible growth. I am planning, forecasting and implementing financials to get the best use of those investments in Western Foods.
What are your biggest challenges?
As a startup business, our greatest challenge up until a year ago was finding the capital resources to support the fast growth of the company. We acquired capital through partnership; now, our biggest challenges are continuing to support our sales growth strategy, diversifying our portfolio and implementing an adequate enterprise resource management system that supports this growth.
What skills are critical to your role?
High integrity and high standards. Also, the company depends on my team’s problem-solving skills and their ability to make both accurate forecasting analysis and the skills to clearly communicatedata.
What do you do in your free time?
Healthy living is an essential part of my life—in the office and at home. I enjoy competitive sports like road races and soccer and have a poodle and Shih Tzu mix that I run with every day. I am a true believer in the benefits of physical activity. Not only does it keep my body healthy, but it also keeps my mind sharp and focused, allowing me to achieve optimal performance on my job.
How did your upbringing influence your role as CFO?
I grew up on a farm in Albania. We were self-sufficient, with a modest income except what we grew on the farm: vegetables, corn, wheat, fruit trees, grapes—anything that would survive in mountainous conditions.
My parents encouraged me to go college, get good grades and have an easier life than they did. I attended university in both Albania and the U.S. and then went on to get my CPA and CGMA. I learned an important life lesson early on: When you work hard, you reap the rewards. I try to instill this value in my team every day and tolead by example.
Any advice for young CGMA designation holders?
Learn from people working with you and around you, regardless of their skill level or the department where they work. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes and don't let them scare you—you learn from your failures.
CGMA Program and designation
Shan’s CGMA designation allows him to channel his passion for food and healthy living along with management accounting knowledge to be an industry leader. Learn how taking the first step to becoming a CGMA designation holder starts you on a path to elevating your technical, business, leadership and people skills to advance your career goals.