Case Study: CCN Supports Global M&A at iA American Warranty Group

iA American Warranty Group plus CCN Logos

Mike Forsythe recently retired after 11 years as the CFO of iA American Warranty Group (formerly IAS), offering finance and insurance solutions to dealerships and agents across the US.

Throughout that time, he’s enjoyed a close relationship with Andy Cox and a long line of consultants who have helped his finance team through major growth milestones.

Just what has kept him coming back time and again for new finance and accounting talent? We sat down with Mike to find out….

When did you start working with Andy?

I first met Andy when I came to IAS in 2011. I got to know him, and then I kept up with him and learned about his vision of what he wanted to do with his new company. I encouraged him, and we just had networking lunches or kicked ideas around. When he developed CCN, that became our go-to for accounting and finance talent.

Mike Forsythe with his wife Renee. Mike recently retired after 11 years as CFO for iA American Warranty Group.

Why did you keep coming back to CCN?

The talent the CCN team sourced was superior. It sounds cliche, but somehow they vet talent so when the consultant shows up, I trust that they’ll stay engaged. They’re self-disciplined, work hard, and I don’t have to worry, “Are they skating over here? Just sliding by? Do they hold up their hand when they need more work? Are they really trustworthy? Are they an out-of-the-box thinker?”

Where do you think that superior talent comes from?

The trend that I see with CCN’s consultants is they’ve developed their skills in whatever their original environment was. They’re really good, but they tend to want to control their destiny a little bit more. One way for top talent to maintain work-life balance is to work as a consultant.

We’ve used a lot of consultants from CCN and hired one or two full-time. But we have kept some of their consultants for three or four years. The trust I had in CCN allowed me to invest the time and effort into our consultants with less concern that they would leave us quickly.

What are some of the challenges that have inspired you to reach out to CCN?

First of all, mergers and acquisitions. I’d say that’s at the top of the stack. When you’re buying companies, it creates spikes when you need a whole lot of horsepower for a limited time — or you think it’s a limited time, but many times it gets extended.

During the last half of my 11 years with IAS, we were acquiring lots of companies, so I needed some burst capacity, people who could understand our GL and our accounting environment and help us absorb and produce financials for the companies we acquired.

So, we were mostly making acquisitions, but when we sold to iA, things kind of flipped on us. We went from a PE-backed to a publicly traded company.

How did CCN help with the transition to a publicly traded company?

We came from private equity accounting and financial reporting expectations, which are much less stringent. You just need to clear the hurdle of getting through an audit and make sure your lender is comfortable.

As iA American Warranty Group, we became a subsidiary of a publicly traded company. That company is an international out of Canada, which creates higher scrutiny, and they’re an insurance company that is heavily regulated.

We kept on having these new requirements coming right at us, and CCN’s consultants seamlessly supported our team. We set out to accomplish one thing, thinking maybe we can let our consultants go, but then there’s a new expectation or a new requirement, and we need to keep them around.  In 2023, we finally reached a point where we could shed some of the “burst capacity” of CCN.

“We have had all these challenges, and the extra talent from CCN has helped us turn the tide and help prevent our own staff from getting burned out.”

What are some of the benefits you have seen from utilizing CCN?

I’d say continuity of major complex projects. Having the same consultants with you over several years, we have repurposed their institutional knowledge which helped us accelerate and improve the quality of other projects. That’s a major benefit as opposed to just having a sort of “popcorn style” talent that they show up and maybe they quit after six months, and you start over.

I’d say the other benefit is related to preventing internal turnover. Your existing staff, your full-time employees, see that you are bringing in really high-quality consultants to help them out. That sends a message: “We value you enough that we’re investing in someone to work with you so that you have better work-life balance.”

What’s the difference working with CCN versus other talent companies?

Much easier and much smoother. Andy and his team are easy to work with — directly with our accounting management or with our HR personnel. They can get you quality consultants very fast. And there’s less turnover among CCN’s liaisons or recruiters than other firms. You don’t have to figure out, “Who’s my account manager today?”

As you move into retirement, how do you reflect on your partnership with Andy and CCN?

My experience at iA was very rewarding to me. I learned a ton. I had a lot of success. For instance, when iA acquired IAS, they asked me to be the CFO to bring all three of these companies together. So, I got to lead that effort while at the same time trying to harmonize data and blend into a new parent company. That was very challenging, but our different accounting and finance teams had a lot of success, and we accomplished a tremendous amount.

Our success is very much related to our ability to lean on CCN to help us down a multi-year journey to get a lot of things done. And every time there was a new surprise, it’s like, “Nope, we’ve got to keep CCN’s consultants. They’re too good to let go.”

“When you retire, you hope to retire on the tailwind of success. And I feel like I was able to do that. CCN was a part of the team that helped us do that.”

In retirement, Mike looks forward to more travel and time spent with his wife, four adult children, and three grandchildren (with one more on the way!)

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