Staff Spotlight: Jan Brewer, CPA, CGMA, MBA


Posted by Kathy Drumm

Topic(s): About FHB, Our Experts, Staff Spotlight, Careers

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What's it like to work at FHB?

Get the inside scoop from our valued team members in this special blog series. 

Jan joined FHB in 2022. As a Principal Consultant, she trains, guides, and supports our clients throughout their projects. Her experience includes 30+ years in the finance industry, including 20 years in a government setting. She holds a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation, is a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, a Bachelor of Science degree in finance, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.  

We recently sat down with Jan to discuss her experience at FHB. The following are excerpts from that meeting.  

Q: Before you came to FHB, what were you doing? 

A: I was the CFO and Deputy County Administrator for Manatee County, which is in Bradenton, Florida. [It has] a population of about 400,000. 

Q: What is a highlight of your time at FHB?  

A: For me, professionally, it [has] pushed me beyond the barriers of where I was, as far as my knowledge in Excel, and also in the use of Workiva. Because [at FHB] I primarily work in Workiva. Even though I was the CFO of this big county, I had not heard of it [before joining FHB]. And it is life changing...I feel like we're really helping these people who [are where I once was]. They can have [their] life back. They can actually go home when [they're] supposed to go home. [They] don't have to work holidays and [they] actually get to go on vacation without taking [their] laptop with them. So, for me, that's the most life changing event that I've had in this last year. 

Q: Do you think our clients appreciate the fact that you have that similar experience, that you can relate? 

A: I think the clients—when we're going through the process and [at] the end of the implementation—they realize I've been there in the trenches, and they understand when they bring up something and I [say], "Yeah, I used to do that. Here's an alternative we used to do...” I think it helps because they know you've been there. You've been the boots on the ground, you understand how it works, and you've been in their shoes. So, [now] you're the cheerleader trying to help them get to a simpler life. 

Q: Why did you choose F. H. Black? What made you decide to come here? 

A: I had an employee [who] had moved on in her career and had called me up. And she said, “Hey, this is what you need to do. This makes a difference.” The timing of it all was just right when she contacted me. And then of course, Elaine [former FHB Recruiting Manager Elaine Kolenosky] contacted me, and I fell in love with Elaine.

And then I got to talk to [FHB President] Jamie [Black] and just loved his leadership style and where he was headed. For me, it's also about the leadership—who I'm following. It's not really a job. It's the mission I'm on...I have to agree with the person at the top and how their leadership style goes...I love Jamie Black's management style; I think he is dead on in all of his analysis and all of his implementations. So, for me [the timing] was [right]. [My former colleague] recommending it, and then meeting the leader. And then I knew [this is] where I wanted to be.  

Q: How has FHB demonstrated that they care about you as a person? 

A: I love that I could reach out to anybody, and they would help me. I feel like that is probably the biggest characteristic I love of this organization...its teamwork. There's always somebody there to help you. And, I call it positive competition, where everyone comes to work every day, they're just trying to be the best that they can be. And it inspires you to be the better part of yourself. It's not negative, there is no negative competition. But it's that positive environment. And I really thrive in that [environment], where you're trying to be better than you were the day before...I could reach out to anyone and say, “Can you help me? I'm just not understanding this.” You don't find that very often, not in an organization...this has to be one of the healthiest environments I've ever been in. 

Q: How do you think we ended up here with all of these great people who have low ego and help each other?  

A: That comes from the top down, that comes from the leadership style comes from what the leader values. The leader values family. I love seeing that a lot of my teammates have children, and they get to take the time with the children that they need. I mean, that's just second to none. And I feel like Jamie Black is setting the pace...if I have an issue or a difficulty with a client, or I'm hitting a wall with a problem...he is the first one to reach out and brainstorm with you. “How can I help you? How can I make this move?” So, I think that teamwork is literally from the top down. That's why it's been infused. I think it's been purposely cultivated that way. And it stays that way. It's phenomenal, it really is. I've enjoyed it. 

Q: Can you tell me about a time that a coworker stepped up to help you on a project?  

A: Yes. [There are] three ladies that I truly love working with: [Principal Consultant] Jill Moats, CPA, [Principal Consultant] Amy Manthey, CPA, CITP, CISA, and [Principal Consultant] Joy Richardson, CPA. Each of them, on different projects, has always stepped up to offer any help they could give, and great guidance. Jill was one of the first ones I worked with. We were [helping] a very large client. And [I was] new, I wasn't sure. And just the kindness and guidance of working with her was wonderful. And Joy and Amy have just been me good get better at my craft, and better at what I want to accomplish, and doing it the “F. H. Black” way—with the highest [standard of] quality we can. That—I should've mentioned that earlier. To me, that's critical. [FHB] always strives for the best quality. And that makes a difference. That makes a difference for your client, too. 

Q: Can you give me an example of a time when FHB helped you strike work/life balance? 

A: Yes. I think they do it all the time...for me, it's important, because I came from a world where it was very unbalanced. [I worked] excessively long hours. And...there was no work life balance. But coming to FHB, they really push holistic balance, because they want you mentally healthy, physically healthy. And then you show up being your best self. It took me months to...get out of that unbalanced state, to get back to balance. But the whole time, everyone at FHB was encouraging it. They encourage you to make sure you take the vacation days you're supposed to be taking. They watch over you to make sure you're not working excessive hours...just the other day, we had one team member that had a personal crisis in their life. So, I took the load for a week to help. But I had someone else call me and say “Hey, I understand you're doing this. So, do you need me? I can step in.” That's just amazing. You don't get that very often. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about working for FHB? 

A: In my career, I never intended to be in government, ...yet here I spent 20 years of my life. But [in government] I felt like I was doing my little piece to help the keep it moving. My... public duty. Working with FHB, I feel like I still am, because I'm helping those people [who] are carrying on for government. I'm not in government, per se. But boy, are we helping the ones that are still trying to carry out the duty. I feel like Workiva shifts where you're spending 90% of your time...manually making sure the numbers allows you to shift it to almost 35-40%...the rest of that time now those people get to spend it on doing analytics, and that's [how] you best serve your administrator or your, that, to me is my favorite thing. I feel like we're still helping's not just [helping people] figure out a software...this is life altering, because you are freeing up their time. I love [the faces] on the clients, when they really see it [working] with their own numbers. Tremendous. And that's a reward. And that makes me feel good. That's a good mission. 

Q: If I am working in government, and this tool called Workiva is fabulous, why do I need F. H. Black? 

A: In the cities or counties or states, right now, there's not enough hours in the day to do the workload that you have. The cities and states all took a downturn in 2008 when the economy [declined]. And I truly believe...they've never scaled back up, because they've had such fear of it happening again. So, learning Workiva is a journey in itself. And for the average person [who's] wearing two or three hats... it is amazing to have someone [like FHB] come in. They know how to do it. They know how to implement it; they'll guide you through it. And then [you have] the product on the other end. You're not struggling to create it. Now you're just using it. And that's a different learning mechanism. And I feel like FHB shortcuts that—I would say by a year or so. [They] come in...walk alongside you, create the document for you. [They] show you, help you walk all you have to do is just [make] sure you're using the software appropriately, not learning to create. That's the difference. 

Q: What do you think FHB gets right with its employees that other companies miss? 

A: I feel like, not only in government but in private companies as's easy for management to be worried about the result of whatever [they're] doing. But the difference is, I see that FHB balances that result...they want the quality, they would like [the result to come out] the way [it] should be, they want to be the best at what they do. And that clearly echoes throughout the organization. But the difference is, they temper that with—they're not going to risk you as an employee, risking anything about your health, your family, your life. They're not doing that. And oftentimes, you don't see that. It's more just about the result. So...that, again, is leadership down, top down. And I think that's also what makes people very loyal, because they realize you're going the extra mile for them [so] they're going to go the extra mile. [It’s] just a positive loop...I really think FHB does it right. 

You can find another company that is trying to be number one at what they do. But they're going to risk everything to make themselves number one. This company cares about feel valued, you feel important. And you feel you’re a team member, you're not just an employee number, you're actually a person. So, I can't say enough good things about this company. 

For more on this topic(s), see: About FHB, Our Experts, Staff Spotlight, Careers

Originally Posted on 16 November, 2023

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