What's that elephant doing in my cash flow forecast? For Paula Brock, it's a pretty typical query. As CFO for the Zoological Society of San Diego, which operates the renowned San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Center for Conservation and Research on Endangered Species (CRES), she deals with problems when constructing her cash flow forecast that it's safe to say few other finance chiefs need confront. Last year some of Brock's most sizable unexpected expenses came in the form of not one but 11 African elephants that had to be transported safely and quickly from Swaziland, Africa, to the United States–four to Florida and the rest to California. Now, those are shipping and handling costs that could make a serious dent in any CFO's working capital projections.


But Brock didn't panic. As the former manager of a $3 billion mortgage portfolio at ITT Capital, she learned forecasting in the rigorous shop run by CEO Harold Geneen. Precise forecasting meant professional survival at ITT, where managers were rewarded on their ability to accurately forecast their results no matter how events played out and punished when they failed. "He built a culture of demanding taskmasters," Brock recalls. "In eventful times, managers were expected to manage through unplanned calamities and take advantage of opportunities that arose to optimize results, then reissue new, accurate forecasts reflecting those changes."

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