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Had you asked Fred Sutherland a couple of decades ago–when he was toiling away in treasury–what he wanted to be when he grew up, he probably would have said CFO. And he was well on his way, moving up steadily at $11.6 billion Aramark–first as assistant treasurer, then treasurer, then vice president of corporate finance and development and, finally, senior vice president of finance.

Along the way, he had picked up responsibility for the tax, planning, risk management and controller function. But 14 years ago, he took what many in finance would consider a sidestep–a move that was clearly a promotion, but one that could easily take him out of finance forever. Sutherland took over as the president of Aramark’s $1 billion uniform and career apparel group. “It certainly was a challenge,” he reflects. “I had to interact with managers at all levels–sales managers, HR managers, IT managers, procurement managers. I had to set an overall strategy and see that others understood and executed it, so that our group performed and achieved results. You have to learn what makes each business line tick, what its market strengths and weaknesses are, how to make that business evolve so that it stays a winner in a changing, competitive marketplace. That takes business judgment beyond anything required in finance.”

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