As Johnson Controls Inc. follows its customers around the world, the distance between many of the 2,400 members of the financial team and the Milwaukee-based company's headquarters grows ever greater. And when Controller Susan Kreh joined the $34.6 billion auto parts and temperature controls maker one year ago, she took on the job of reducing that distance. This is especially difficult, says Kreh, at a time when the company's internal accounting policies and government regulations are rapidly being revised. "The combination of a changing company and changing rules creates a dynamic and complex environment," says Kreh.
Kreh, 46, has been working to standardize education and financial systems from Wisconsin to Slovenia and beyond. That effort includes working with outside vendors to translate--literally and figuratively--Johnson Controls' corporate policies and corporate culture. Under Kreh, the company, which makes auto interiors, batteries, thermostats and environment controls for buildings, created a series of training modules that can be accessed either electronically or taught in person. And that's just the beginning. "With continuing changes, including the expected international convergence of accounting standards, we expect the program to grow exponentially."
While talent management is not obviously a job for the controller, it is something Kreh understands well. In her previous job, as treasurer of $11.2 billion PPG Industries Inc., she led a corporate team to train workers around the globe. "I'm translating what I learned there into building this more nascent program here," says Kreh. After 22 years at PPG, Kreh's decision to move on wasn't easy. "I did a lot of soul searching," she says. But she decided the controller's job would build on her experience as a treasurer and move her closer to her ultimate professional goal. "Sometime in the future, I would like to be CFO of a Fortune 200 or Fortune 300 multinational company," she says.