Alumni in the News

Philip C. Johnson – B.S., Accounting, 1998; B.S., Finance, 1998

Utah Business Magazine
The CFOs we’re honoring this year work in a wide range of industries: auto sales, credit unions, online education, commercial real estate and technology. The products and services these industries offer may differ widely, but they have at least one thing in common – the need for competent, confident financial management and leadership. Fortunately for their companies, these five CFOs are as competent as they come. Their guidance and strength have helped their organizations weather a recession and have positioned them to continue to thrive as the economy recovers. Join us as we applaud the intrepid leadership of these remarkable financial officers. Philip Johnson: CFO, Ken Garff Automotive Group: Dynamic, visionary, innovative—these are not words typically associated with accounting and finance. But, notes Philip Johnson, “the field of accounting has undergone fundamental changes due to a variety of factors, including ever-changing tax laws and increased governmental regulations, computer and technological advances, continual downsizing and restructuring of business and corporations, and the expansion of business on a global market.” Because of all these changes, “‘Accountant’ is no longer synonymous with the nameless, faceless bean counter, but instead conjures up a well- educated, well-trained financial or management professional, adept at creating and maintaining success,” he says. Johnson himself has been adept at driving success at Ken Garff Automotive Group. He joined the company as controller and was appointed as CFO in November 2011. Previously, he served as a finance manager for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee and as a senior accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ken Garff was ranked as the 11th largest dealership group in the country in 2012 by Automotive News. The group has more than 40 dealerships in six states and employs 2,800 people. In 2012, the company’s revenue grew 25 percent from $1.5 billion to $1.9 billion, with profits growing an astonishing 59 percent. Additionally, Ken Garff added four dealerships last year. This growth is directly attributable to Johnson’s hands-on approach, says Kate Christensen, spokesperson for Ken Garff. “He is constantly monitoring the profitability of all business units and is the first to point out areas of weakness, then offer suggestions and encouragement to turn those weaknesses into strengths. No one is better at critiquing performance while making you feel good about it!” she says. He also turns this critical eye on the organization itself and never hesitates to cut through old ways of thinking. “There are no sacred cows with Phil,” says Christensen. “Whatever may impede progress or slow growth—whether it is a process we follow, a long-held company policy, [or a] 100-year business practice—if it doesn’t work in today’s market, Phil is quick to accept the realities and lead the company to change.” This active approach is a result of Johnson’s belief that the CFO is more than the person who produces monthly revenue reports. “The CFO’s role has expanded into a dynamic leadership role focused on business strategy, team management, financial planning and analysis, accounting policies, and operational decisions,” he says. “The CFO should serve as member of the executive leadership team and participate in key decisions.”