Brandon Sink, CFO of Lowe's, values the interactions he has with employees across all levels of the company. His extensive career in home improvement began with Deloitte, where he first served as Lowe's external auditor. He later joined Lowe's as the Director of Corporate Accounting and eventually took on the role of Vice President and Corporate Controller.
Brandon and I sat down for a conversation about his journey to CFO, what he's learned along the way and how he builds and mentors the finance team. He shares practical advice for balancing a demanding job with his family and offers guidance for aspiring CFOs.
Read on for written Q&A along with video highlights of our conversation.
Brandon, you've been CFO for a little over a year now. What's been the most exciting part of this job so far?
There are a lot of exciting things as part of the job. One of the things I take a lot of pride and joy in is the opportunity to interact with our 300,000 red vest associates. They're truly the heartbeat of our organization in what they do every day to serve our customers.
I get a unique opportunity in this role to get in front of them on a pretty regular basis. We had our annual store manager meeting in February, and it was my first opportunity to get on the big stage and share a bit of my history, my experience and talk about our financial plans and vision.
At our corporate office, we bring about 50 store managers together as part of our Lowe's University, which offers associates the skills, knowledge, insight and development they need to deliver top-notch service to customers. This is one of the highlights of my week, where I get to have lunch with the associates, take questions, ask what's on their minds, and what do they see with me and my role.
How did you prepare yourself to take on the CFO role?
I think in some ways, I've been preparing to take this role my entire career. I started my career in public accounting, and the first job I had out of school was with Deloitte, and my client was Lowe's at that time. After I left public accounting, I did a brief stint at Nucor Corporation, which was based out of Charlotte, for three years. Then I came back to Lowe's. My first opportunity was Director of Corporate Accounting in 2010. I had an opportunity in that role to learn the internal control environment, financial closing, consolidation, reporting 10-Qs, 10-Ks. Ultimately, my first vice president role in 2015 was Corporate Controller, so I had expanded opportunities, roles and responsibilities. In 2018, it was a transition period for the company, and I had an opportunity to serve in a board liaison role.
Then the last three to four years, prior to assuming the CFO role, I worked on a number of different financial planning and analysis fronts: serving merchandising partners, supply chain operations, marketing, and dot-com. So that was just a great opportunity for me to learn the mechanics of essentially every function, every business within Lowe's. Building strategies, building strategic priorities, formulating financial plans, and helping execute against those.
So a lot of different roles, a lot of different opportunities for me over time, and really diverse experiences, I think ultimately prepared me, so when the opportunity made itself available, I was ready to raise my hand and step in.
You've rotated through a number of different areas on your path to CFO. Are you intentional about getting people on your team similar types of experiences?
For sure. That to me has been one of the benefits of being at Lowe's. I've joked over time, there was a period of about five years in my career where I didn't hold a single, individual job for maybe more than 12 months, just because there were so many new and different opportunities and I would hear, "Hey Brandon, need you to do this, need you to jump in on that."
I am definitely a proponent of pushing my folks and getting them plugged into new experiences and different areas as well. I tell them pretty regularly, there are three things that have made me successful over time.
How do you go about influencing the various constituents that you work with across the organization?
We have a big organization with a large leadership team. I think my history certainly helps me, being in a lead finance role supporting almost every major line of business that we have. That to a degree has helped me forge relationships with the functional leaders of those organizations and to understand their business, the operational levers, participate in the strategic planning process and build financial plans.
There’s a natural connection point there that makes me very comfortable walking the halls, stopping in somebody’s office and saying, “Hey, what’s going on? What challenges are you seeing? How can the finance team help?”
I was serving previously as their lead finance partner. Now I’m a peer. But it’s really important to me to spend time with them as a group and individually every single week. We’re sitting down, we’re talking about trends in the business: “What’s going on, what’s upcoming? Are we having that healthy friction, and are we seeing around corners? How does the business flex to respond and adjust and maneuver?”
For people who aspire to be in your chair, what advice would you give them in terms of critical experiences and ways to accelerate their careers?
To be a CFO, you have to learn a lot of different roles and wear a lot of different hats. Being able to be strategic, think three to five years out, partner with the board, with your CEO and with your peers, to build growth plans and growth strategies – that takes a unique skill set. But also, the very next hour you're in a meeting talking about what the business did last week and how you're adjusting and what changes you're making.
You're playing in the long term, you're playing in the medium term, you're playing in the short term, and you have to have the right skill sets to thrive in all those different areas of the business and seek out those roles and opportunities across the course of your career.
Tell us about some of the mentors who played an active role in helping you get where you are today.
A few folks come to mind. One is David Batchelder, who has been one of our board members since 2018. He has a tremendous depth of experience on the investor side and is a board member at a lot of large companies, and he just brings a unique lens to what we do here at Lowe's. He's been a tremendous voice for me and key counsel, as I've experienced a number of firsts in this role.
Another great mentor is Bill Boltz, our Executive Vice President of Merchandising, I think he's one of the best merchants that I've ever been around. His ability to understand who our customers are, what they want, how they shop and the opportunity to walk stores with him and see his passion for product, passion for our stores, passion for our associates. He's been a great friend, a great mentor and a great role model. He taught me how to not just look at the business from a financial lens but very much on the operational front.
And Marvin Ellison obviously selected me to step into this role, put a lot of trust and credibility in me. I've sought his advice daily and weekly in navigating challenges, such as how do I approach board meetings, external audiences and PR. On a personal basis, just watching how he's balanced his personal life, his family and his kids has been helpful. I have two younger kids, and that's been extremely valuable as I've stepped in and started to learn and grow in this role.
Work-life balance is something everyone struggles with. How have you found that balance?
Work-life balance is certainly the holy grail for all of us as we seek to balance our personal lives and our professional lives. My first piece of advice would be to marry well. I have a beautiful wife, Kelley. We've been together for 22 years. She's a great listener, has been with me at every point through my career and really works to keep me grounded. I also have two beautiful daughters, Karsyn and Presley. I think one of the concerns I had stepping into the role is how do I do this job really well and also be a great dad? I remember Marvin and I sat down, and I told him, "Hey, this is what's really important for me. These are the things I want to make time for. These are going to be priorities."
One of the things I do with my admin, every season that the girls' schedules come out, I give them to her. She blocks the calendar three months out. I may not be able to attend every event, every week. But I work to make it a priority and be as intentional as I possibly can to be there and be present. I have a commitment with my girls when I am there. I want to make sure that I'm engaged.
The last thing I would say is it gives you a lot of flexibility to be there for your personal commitments when you deliver at work. Coming through on your commitments, delivering results, leading your team, building an effective team, that tends to create more leash and more opportunities, as opposed to being reactive, fighting fires, and always feeling like you're chasing things.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.