Interview with Controller Steve Fulmer

March 27, 2024


IOFM recently chatted with Controller Steve Fulmer, who oversees the Accounts Receivable operation at the Pennsylvania-based headquarters of South Mill Champs, the leading vertically integrated mushroom company, which has farms, processing facilities, and distribution centers across North America. A longtime trainer and conference speaker for IOFM, Steve is excited about his role as Career Development and Training Liaison for IOFM’s new Accounts Receivable Chapter.  

IOFM: What is your professional background?

Steve: I started my career in public accounting, which I did for a year, and then I spent 12 years in various accounting roles for a large chemical company. I joined South Mill six years ago and worked in general accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management and payroll. In my current position as controller, I oversee accounting, AP, AR and payroll.

IOFM: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Steve: I’d have to say people development. We’ve built a great team, which has driven positive results. We’ve cut DSO by two days, dropped our past-due percentage from seven percent to under four percent, and increased our accuracy with postings. We’ve also forged a better relationship with our sales and operations departments, becoming more of a partner to them.

IOFM: To what do you attribute these improvements? 

Steve: We got some new staff, but it’s not just about having new staff. We also put some more effective policies and procedures in place. But the key is our emphasis on customer service. I am big on treating other departments the way you would treat outside customers. Seeing the relationships change between finance functions and other departments has been rewarding. Many employees within finance have taken on more work, improved their careers, and gotten promoted. They are better at being more vocal and coming up with ideas. Recently someone in our government affairs department, who had been working our team, sent me an email telling me about how helpful the team has been. That’s the stuff I get excited about!

I attribute much of our success to helping employees feel empowered. I tell them where they fit into the puzzle and help them understand how important their jobs are to the company. For example, I explain to my AR people that the company can’t invest in projects and expansions without cash, and the cash doesn’t come in without you. They have worked hard to reduce DSO. Having two extra days of cash has meant a great deal to the company’s ability to invest in different improvement areas.

IOFM: What are the biggest changes you've observed over the last few years? 

Steve: We’ve gone from selling mostly to restaurants and other small customers to selling to larger companies, such as big-box chain stores. This has necessitated changes in the way we interact with our customers. The big-box customers use up-to-date technology such as EDI and portals. We’ve educated our staff on how to investigate problems, handle past dues, and communicate with our new customers. Our AR people have taken courses in EDI transfer processes and learning how portals work. Now they’re not afraid to be persistent and get on the phone and find someone on the other end to help. 

IOFM: Where do you see AR going in the next few years?

Steve: AR will become increasingly automated. Also, larger companies with multiple locations will move from having local AR teams to centralized service centers.

IOFM: What advice do you have for AR professionals?

Steve: Become as knowledgeable as possible. Stay up to date on the AR industry. Don’t fear new technology or the change that comes with it; instead, learn as much as you can about it. If you build your knowledge, you may be offered a role as an in-house technology expert. Follow developments in our industry by taking advantage of the resources and learning opportunities offered by IOFM. This will better prepare you for any change that is going to happen.

IOFM: How do you believe the new IOFM AR chapter is going to benefit the industry?

Steve: I am extremely pleased they’re also going to be emphasizing AR. There are plenty of AR employees in the U.S. and the world, and they need a place that will help them keep up to date on their industry and enhance their professional success. My new role with the new AR chapter will be as career development and training liaison. 

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