How One CFO Is Using Finance To Grow A 100+-Year-Old Firm

Bolanle Williams-Olley, CFO at Mancini Duffy
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Bolanle Williams-Olley, CFO and co-owner of design and architecture firm Mancini Duffy, takes a broad and strategic view of her work as finance chief.

Bolanle Williams-Olley thinks the finance role is critical to the future of design and architecture firm Mancini Duffy. As CFO and co-owner, she is shepherding technology advancements, playing a key role in customer relations and focusing on culture and talent.

“I believe that blending financial excellence with a people-centric approach is the recipe for long-term success,” she tells StrategicCFO360.

Williams-Olley even sees her responsibilities going beyond Mancini Duffy. She has founded several impact organizations, including She Builds Lives, which seeks to improve education in a low-income school in Nigeria (where she grew up) and She Builds Waves, which seeks to empower women in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Williams-Olley is the Amazon best-selling author of Build Boldly: Chart Your Unique Career Path and Lead with Courage.

What role does the finance function play in evolving and modernizing a company with 100-plus years of history, such as Mancini Duffy? How have you done so within your department during your tenure at the firm?

The finance function plays a pivotal role in propelling a firm with a rich history and legacy forward. As the CFO and co-owner of Mancini Duffy, I have actively contributed to the company’s evolution and modernization through key initiatives within our finance department. 

One of our recent achievements is the successful implementation of advanced accounting and finance technology. This cutting-edge system serves our internal finance team and our project management and marketing teams, allowing us to streamline processes, improve data analysis and provide real-time financial insights across our projects and firm-wide performance. By harnessing the power of technology, we have enhanced our ability to make informed decisions and drive our financial success.

In addition, fostering a culture of cross-functional collaboration has been a top priority. I believe that the finance team should be more than just a “back-office” function. By empowering my finance team members to become integral members of project teams, we’ve been able to work closely with project managers to proactively contribute to the success of our projects. This collaborative approach enables us to identify financial opportunities and challenges early on, ensuring better project outcomes and financial performance.

A key aspect of my role as CFO is to develop and implement financial strategies that support our firm’s growth initiatives. This involves conducting comprehensive financial analyses, identifying areas for cost optimization and providing strategic guidance for long-term growth decisions. By leveraging our data and staying attuned to industry trends, I can provide valuable insights that contribute to the company’s overall success.

Undoubtedly, embracing bold transformations and driving change comes with its fair share of challenges. However, I remain committed to pushing boundaries and exploring new opportunities to further enhance our financial performance and overall success.

What are you focused on for the year or two ahead from a financial perspective at Mancini Duffy? 

This is a great question, especially in the context of the post-Covid era we’re emerging from. It’s been quite a ride, navigating through uncertainties and adapting to rapid changes. So, as we look ahead to the next year or two at Mancini Duffy, my focus is on creating a financial roadmap that brings our long-term objectives into clear focus.

In the immediate term, our top priority is enhancing operational efficiency and boosting profitability. We want to make sure we’re firing on all cylinders. This means fine-tuning our financial processes and implementing streamlined project management systems that eliminate unnecessary roadblocks. We’ll closely monitor our financial indicators, regularly analyzing our performance to identify areas where we can optimize costs and improve our overall financial health. It’s all about making informed decisions and taking timely action.

But success isn’t just about numbers and spreadsheets—it’s also about the amazing people we have at Mancini Duffy. Our team members are the heart and soul of our company, and we recognize their immense value in achieving our financial goals. We’re committed to empowering and supporting them, providing the tools and resources they need to excel. We’ll invest in their professional development, encouraging a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. After all, it’s their expertise and innovative thinking that will drive our operational efficiency and help us reach new heights.

Looking a bit further down the road, our sights are set on driving revenue growth and expanding our reach. We’re actively exploring new sectors and markets that align with our core clients, always looking for opportunities to expand our services and connect with new customers. By strategically expanding our client base, we aim to achieve sustainable growth and continue to make our mark in the industry.

These immediate and intermediate goals are all part of our grand vision—to be at the forefront of our industry. We’re particularly proud of our patent-pending technology called The Toolbelt, which enhances our design process and revolutionizes how we deliver projects to our clients. 

In addition, we’re committed to consistently evaluating and adjusting our financial strategies, ensuring we stay ahead of the curve and navigate the ever-changing business landscape. I believe that blending financial excellence with a people-centric approach is the recipe for long-term success. 

Architecture and design isn’t typically an industry known for diversity. How have you worked at Mancini Duffy to ensure a diverse talent pool and also encourage women and people of color to get into the field?

At Mancini Duffy, we deeply understand and value the importance of diversity. We believe that when your talent pool is diverse, it brings richer solutions to solve our clients’ needs. In addition, a diverse workforce sparks greater creativity and engagement, tapping into a broader range of skill sets and expertise derived from different backgrounds.

As a woman of color at my firm, I am particularly committed to continuously thinking about how we can create a more diverse and inclusive environment. I am proud to share that Mancini currently has a composition of 60 percent female employees, which is more than twice the industry average in architecture. 

However, we don’t stop there. I challenge our talent team to consider our recruitment and hiring process. Where are we looking for candidates and posting job opportunities? What educational institutions are we connected to for recruiting? How can we support organizations that educate and bring visibility to career paths within the industry? Intentional efforts in these areas can help us move the needle in diversifying our workforce.

Firms must strive to foster an inclusive culture where all individuals feel valued and empowered to succeed. This means creating an industry that reflects the rich diversity of our society. We understand that by embracing diverse perspectives and experiences, we can better serve our clients and deliver innovative and impactful solutions.

How have you cultivated meaningful and impactful relationships with your firm’s clients as Mancini Duffy’s CFO? How important is it for a CFO to do so?

I deeply understand the importance of forging strong and meaningful client relationships. While my primary focus lies in the financial realm, I recognize that client relationships are vital to the overall success of our firm.

I’ve found that people remember and prefer to work with individuals who genuinely care about their projects and can provide valuable insights that contribute to their decision-making processes. That’s why I am always ready to jump in and assist our client-facing teams, including our project managers, to gain a comprehensive understanding of each client’s unique needs, goals and expectations.

Additionally, I recognize the importance of building rapport with my counterparts on the client side. By establishing a solid working relationship, I can better align our financial strategies with their objectives and foster open communication.

It cannot be overstated how essential it is for a CFO to cultivate these client relationships. As a CFO, my role extends beyond managing finances—I strive to understand our clients’ business landscapes, identify potential financial risks or opportunities, and provide guidance that supports our overall growth and profitability. By fostering these meaningful and impactful relationships, I enhance the overall client experience, increase their satisfaction and build lasting partnerships that extend far beyond a single engagement.

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