Joe Coughlin, CFO Ergotron

Joe Coughlin, CFO Ergotron

Joe Coughlin, CFO of Ergotron, had a stand-out year in 2020 even in the face of adversity. Leading the company’s global finance organization, overall strategy, and long-range planning is no small feat especially during a global pandemic. His communication, authentic approach, and relationship building skills have always been foundational in his success as a leader and came into play during challenging times. Joe’s 30-year career was given a well-deserved spotlight when he was recognized as the “2020 CFO of the Year” by The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. His accomplishments based on cornerstones of good education, strong values, and hard work made Scouts Talent curious to learn more…

If you could try a different job for a day, what would you choose?

Based on my professional interests, I’d love a day shadowing Jamie Dimon. As the CEO at JPMorgan Chase, Dimon is not only incredibly successful in business but he’s also been named “The Most Authentic CEO” in a Fortune 100 business. He communicates in a consistent way that doesn’t change by topic or by audience whether friends, employees, investors, media, or even Congress. I admire his commitment to always be his genuine self. Aligned with my personal interests, I would love to be a wildlife photographer focused on desert and mountain settings—peaceful and exciting at the same time.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your industry?

I’d suggest someone starting out should network with people in and outside their organization, across functions, supply channels, customer types, etc. Knowing the nuances of an industry helps with broad organizational understanding and it also helps individuals know how their specific role can help or hinder collective success. Building your network early on also ensures you have insight and support you could never imagine starting out. Finally, focus on learning early on. If you do that, earning will eventually follow.

What is your mantra?

If we worked together long enough, you’d likely hear me say, “I’m looking for simple, straight-forward and honest communication.” That’s surprisingly challenging for many good and well-intentioned people overly concerned about how their messages are received. Yet, I believe we owe each other clear and concise communication that allows everyone to best respond and make decisions.

How do you get yourself out of a slump?

There are times we all must simply power through but, when possible, I get re-energized by stepping away and finding success elsewhere. Once I do that, I’m often able to move forward with a fresh and better perspective.

What companies or leaders do you admire?

I admire those companies and leaders that continually innovate to maintain a strong leadership position. While companies like Apple get a lot of attention for their innovation, there are many lesser-known companies in the Twin Cities that are equally as innovative and have served their stakeholders well.

What has been the biggest shift you’ve noticed in your industry in the last decade?

I can think of two. First, the number of global competitors is increasing in every region of the world. To stay a step ahead and successfully grow a business today requires constant innovation of products and business models. Second, the big shift to online sales and the need to have an omni-channel presence to meet customers where and when they want to buy has forever changed go-to-market strategies.

Have there been any silver-linings for your business as result of COVID?

I hesitate to call it a silver-lining because it never feels good to gain from the misfortune of others. That said, when COVID-19 struck, we quickly pivoted to focus greater resources on supporting our healthcare customers’ needs. This decision not only made financial sense, but it allowed the Ergotron team to make a meaningful, positive difference for both our customers and those needing care during this difficult time.

Who has been most instrumental in your career?

My parents instilled in me the importance of a good education, strong values, and hard work. In countless ways, they emphasized these three guideposts for as long as I can remember. Just one example, when I was 12, my dad insisted I get a job working at a local farm. I learned a great deal about effort, results, and teamwork as a simple farmhand. Since then, a multitude of business leaders have also given their time and energy to help guide me professionally.

What is your go-to celebration meal, drink or tradition?

As a kid, my Bohemian mother’s go-to celebration meal for our family was always homemade duck, potato dumplings, and sauerkraut. It was a family favorite meal growing up and it still is for me. Today, regardless of the menu, I prefer dining at home to celebrate—taking the extra time needed to slow down, prepare, and enjoy both the meal and extended time with family and friends.


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