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2012 CFO OF THE YEAR: Joseph D. Cathcart

Sam Stall
November 28, 2012
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Honoree, Private Companies (revenue over $100 million)

Ask the CFO, secretary and treasurer of F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. about his biggest challenges and achievements of 2012, and you get a laundry list of issues: everything from developing a new generation of in-house leaders to fighting rising health care costs to monitoring the financial health of the firm’s subcontractors and suppliers. That’s what’s involved if you want to run a lean, mean company. And in Cathcart’s line of work, the only alternative to being “lean and mean” is being “run out of business.”

“The construction industry has been an extremely difficult one for the last few years, with several companies failing,” said Wilhelm CEO Phil Kenney. “This has made me realize how vital Joe has been in managing our relationships with banks, sureties, and insurance companies. Our company is 89 years old and not one day goes by that Joe takes this for granted. He knows that every decision he makes will affect lives and the future of our company.”

joseph-cathcart01-1col.jpg (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Age: 50

Family: wife Kim; daughter Kali, 26; son David, 25; son Ryan, 22; daughter Taylor, 22; daughter Kelly, 21; daughter Allie, 19

Hometown: Brookfield, Wis.

Education: bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Indianapolis; CPA

Civic Involvement: Wilhelm Actively Contributing Through Service (ACTS); Catholic Youth Organization; Scecina Memorial High School; Big Brothers/ Big Sisters

Hobbies: Family time, reading, exercising, sports and golf

There have been a lot of those decisions over the last few years. Wilhelm, an Indianapolis-based construction manager, general contractor and design/builder found itself in a tough spot during the recession. That’s when Cathcart, who describes the industry, even in good times, as a “high-risk, labor-intensive business with little or no margin for error,” stepped in to help trim the sails.

“We have a long history of running a lean, nimble organization,” Cathcart said. “We were very proactive in making changes early on in the downturn. We were disciplined, selective in identifying opportunities and careful not to bid work too low.”

The firm shared the pain with employees by bringing them together for a no-holds-barred examination of where the company stood and what was required to make things better.

“It’s still a challenging economic environment, but there appear to be signals of an upswing,” said Cathcart. “There’s a lot of cash on the sidelines, ready to be invested.”

When that money finally decides to get in the game, Cathcart wants to make sure he has the staff in place to grab Wilhelm’s fair share.

“A lot of people left our industry ‘for good’ during the economic downturn,” Cathcart said. “The last two years our volumes have increased and we continue to see more and more opportunities. This growth and the opportunities put pressure on us to continue the development of our staff and to recruit and hire talented people.”

Considering the problems of the last few years, that’s a nice conundrum to have.•

___

Click here to return to the CFO of the Year landing page.

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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

  3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

  4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

  5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).

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