Freedom to look up from the numbers has led to a career at Radius Packaging for Angela Breitbach.
From the beginning, when she was hired more than 10 years ago, Breitbach has been given the opportunity to be more than just a numbers cruncher at Schoeneck Containers Inc., which recently changed its name to Radius Packaging.
"I started as a staff accountant back in '08 and just given a lot of freedom to be curious about the business and learn about it," she said. "I progressed up through the company, held a lot of roles, subbed in a lot of different departments."
That all eventually led to Breitbach being named the top financial official at Radius Packaging of New Berlin, Wis., in August 2017, first as vice president of finance and then as the chief financial officer since fall 2020.
And now she can call herself winner of the 2022 Plastics News Chief Financial Officer of the Year award, an honor given out at the PN Executive Forum held in Naples, Fla.
"I always say I'm looking at the past, present and the future all at the same time," Breitbach said during a recent telephone interview following her win. "I'm closing the books on the previous month or the previous quarter or the previous year depending on the time of year. I'm always looking at the current month making sure we're on track.
"But I'm always keeping an eye towards the future. What is our five-year plan? How are we drifting from it? What can we do to pivot back on point to make sure we are following those goals?" she said. "Those five-year plans are so crucial to knowing what direction you are going and making sure you are driving on the right road."
Other finalists for the award in 2022 included Matt Fish of Vital Plastics Inc., Steve Wisniewski of Teijin Automotive Technologies and Jim Wojtila of Mar-Bal Inc.
While Breitbach walked away with the hardware at the recent conference in Naples, she made it clear that she does not work in a vacuum.
"The one thing that I truly believe in is I can't do it alone," she said. "We teach each other. We rely on each other. We help each other. It's a big collaboration. That's what keeps me coming to work every day. It's the people and the willingness to step up and help and have the hard conversations if necessary but also have fun."
In her career, Breitbach has been able to participate in two rather major milestones. The company built a second, greenfield manufacturing location in Delavan, Wis. The company itself was later sold by the Schoeneck family to private investment firm Mason Wells Inc. of Milwaukee in 2020.
"We are a really nimble company. If we see something we want to change or we think will make it better, we'll move quickly on it. If you have the tenacity and the drive to want to make the company better and make it better for the people that you work with, the culture here is you can make that happen," she said.
Accountants, by nature, can be introverts. But Breitbach said it has been important for her to get out from behind her desk to learn all aspects of the company over the years. This broader perspective, she said, helps inform her decision-making.
"It's really all about being curious, asking questions and not cowering at your desk," Breitbach said. "If you don't understand, [be] able to ask the question and go outside your comfort zone.
"Seeing the big picture. … Really understanding every single department and making sure we are making the best decision to be the most profitable," she said.