For Sid Sullivan, life is all about the challenge.
“I love people challenging me, and I like to challenge myself,” he says. “I love the opportunities that come with challenges and I love the opportunity to be a puzzle solver.”
Sullivan, the marathon-running, mountain-climbing chief financial officer of AceCo Precision Manufacturing, has proven that he’s up to any challenge, from the track to the board room .
He was put to the test in 2011, when AceCo’s owners were getting ready to retire and started looking at options to sell or merge the company. True to form, Sullivan dove into puzzle-solving mode and was able to forge an unconventional path forward: an employee stock ownership plan that would allow the employees to purchase the company from the owners.
Thanks to that decision, today the company is thriving.
“Owners act differently from employees,” he says. “They have a stake in the game.”
Beyond acting as the company’s resident expert on employee stock ownership plans, Sullivan serves on the company’s board and is ultimately responsible for everything that leads into the company’s financial health, including human resources, payroll and accounting. But it’s not uncommon to also find him out on the production floor of the manufacturing facility.
“Leaders get best inspired by people they work with, and the only way to get that inspiration is to listen to them about the challenges that they have,” he says.
His willingness to step outside of the office and learn about the operations of the company has served him well in his 17 years at AceCo. Today, he is considered the heir apparent to the CEO’s office, according to Raleigh Jensen, chairman of the board.
For Sullivan, that success can come at a cost.
“The only way to be successful is to do a lot of hard work and sometimes that is very lonely,” he says. “It means late nights and early mornings. You’re doing stuff when everyone else is out playing.”
If this philosophy sounds like an athlete’s mantra, that’s no surprise. Sullivan has been running competitively for 45 years and was a track star in college at the University of Oregon and then at Boise State University. It was during his time there that he decided to study accounting, after he met several prominent financial executives in the community and admired their lifestyle.
“I thought: ‘Those guys seem to have it going on. They’re great role models with a great career,’” he says. “So I decided to get an accounting degree.”
After graduation, he got a job as an auditor at Key Bank, and then worked as a controller for a small manufacturing company. He found a job at AceCo 17 years ago after responding to a job ad in the newspaper, and hasn’t looked back since.
As one of the company’s top leaders, the employees and board at AceCo look to Sullivan to lead with integrity and honesty, and to continue to propose well-studied solutions.
“What distinguishes Sid is his passion for knowledge and understanding of a broad range of disciplines, from engineering to production to sales,” says Wayne Rancourt, chief financial officer at Boise Cascade and AceCo board member.
In his spare time, Sullivan enjoys climbing mountains, like Mount Ranier and the grand Teton. He has two grown sons, one of whom lives close by and helps him build hot rods. The two just sold a 1928 Model A Ford coupe that took four years of work.
He also still loves to hit the track, and hopes to break the five-minute mile before his 50th birthday in May.
Of course, once he hits that mark, there will likely be a new challenge on the horizon.