When David Graziosi joined Allison Transmission as CFO, treasurer and executive vice president in 2007, the company's finance operations were "essentially appendages" to those of its parent, General Motors. Allison's separation from GM later that year, when it was purchased by Carlyle Group and Onex, gave him the opportunity to build Allison's treasury, controller and tax functions from the ground up.

Graziosi, who had been through carve-outs before, says it's important to start the process of constructing a finance operation by identifying an overall vision for what it will do. At Allison, he first looked at individual finance functions, such as financial planning and analysis, treasury, and regional finance, then considered what specialty skills he needed, while keeping in mind his plans for long term staff development.

"Leadership's key there—getting the right people in charge of the sub-functions, then just building upon that team," he says.

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