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Fahrenheit New Addition, Rachel Antrobus, Shares her Story from Fast Growth Start-Up

The success of our firm (like most companies) is in the hands of great employees and happy clients.  We recently had the opportunity to add another incredible person to our team and and we wanted to take a moment to introduce her to our clients, contacts and friends.  Rachel has already accomplished a lot in her career.  She has a great story to tell and most importantly, experiences to share with our clients.  We hope you will take a moment to read her story and welcome her back to #RVA and introduce yourself.

Fahrenheit New Additon, Rachel Antrobus, Shares her Story from Fast Growth Start-Up

Although most stories covering an accountant’s career could be compared to a lullaby, I’m grateful mine has been slightly more exciting.

After finishing my bachelors of accountancy at James Madison University, I followed suit to the typical accountant career path and became an auditor with Deloitte in Richmond, VA. Despite the numerous warnings, I loved working for Deloitte. The team atmosphere, the direct access to incredible mentors, and the constant challenge of never doing the same thing twice as I moved from client to client made every day new and exciting. After an incredible two year experience, I listened to my growing restlessness and decided it was time to move on from auditing. What next? Sunny California, of course.

Feeling the need to spread my wings outside of Virginia, I packed everything I could fit into my 2 door coupe and drove to southern California under the assumption that I would work and live there for a year and then return home to my cherished town and family and friends. However, this led to one of the key lessons I learned at age 25: things don’t always go as planned (an accountant’s nightmare!).

While I feared leaving Deloitte for a boring industry job, what I found in California was the opposite of boredom. On the following Monday after driving across the California state line, I walked (or really fell) into a role that would change my life.

I was hired as a senior accountant for a company called RED Digital Cinema. In preparation for the first day I was told I could dress as casually as I wanted, that lunch and often breakfast would be provided, and subsequently warned about the level of profanity in the office. Needless to say, I was slightly nervous.

Nervousness quickly turned into motivation. Within one week at RED, I began to dread the inevitable conversation with my mother that I would not be moving back to Virginia after a year.

In September 2007, RED was a “garage” operation led by billionaire, Jim Jannard (his “garage” was a little 20,000 square foot warehouse).  Jannard had a clear vision that he and his small team of engineers had recently developed. They created the first digital movie camera that matched the detail and richness of analog film. The launching camera, the RED ONE, delivers all of the dazzle of analog, but it’s easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera (The RED One sells for $17,500 while the average cost to rent a film camera for four weeks is $25,000). In other words, Jannard’s creation (and goal) was to make 35-mm movie film obsolete.

While old school film makers in Hollywood initially scoffed at RED’s creation, several key directors put their faith in Jim and RED. When I casually walked passed Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, in the office one day, I was pretty confident the company needed to prepare for serious growth—more specifically, the rocket-launching-into-space kind of growth.

At the time, RED’s operating style could be described as “customer satisfaction first, everything else later.” This philosophy, paired with Jannard living up to his title of “the Mad Scientist,” made the financial and operational aspects of the business very challenging. Just as the engineer team got thrown for a loop every time Jim made a change to the almost-finished prototype to give the customer more features and flexibility, the finance and accounting team felt the same waves with complicated customer contingent discounts, modular product packages, and constant free product upgrades—all of which trickled down from Jim’s relentless loyalty to the customers who were taking a chance by signing up with RED.

After a year of keeping up with the fire drills and laying out practical and most importantly flexible and adaptable processes and procedures within the accounting department, I was promoted to Controller. My first assignment—work with the CFO to set up a wholly owned subsidiary in the United Kingdom—oh and by the way they have already found a space at the famous Pinewood Studios and started shipping repair parts there. This was the essence of my job for the next four years. Every sweet calm patch after a tumultuous storm was quickly interrupted by another tidal wave. I loved it.

RED went from a single product line retailer (with approximately 25 employees) with one location in Lake Forest, California to a multi-product line manufacturer and film studio operator with 4 locations (and 500+ employees) in less than five years. Our growth was a testament to the fact that all of those tidal waves had an obvious strategic purpose. We believed and trusted in Jannard’s vision since we could see the growth before our own eyes, one blockbuster after another. When a RED camera was used to shoot a Sony franchise film (Sony makes a few cameras themselves), the Amazing Spider-Man, we knew we were the new industry standard.

While the Hollywood movie star sightings outside of my office never got tiresome, it was my emotional attachment to the success of the product and the company that made me rush into work early every morning.  I didn’t understand all of the technology behind our camera, but I knew that my responsibility to make the finance and operations of the business work like a well-oiled machine was just as important to support RED’s exponential growth. Our cross-functional goal every week was “what can we make more efficient or effective.” There was constant process revision, constant automation, constant review of system use, and constant change that made us start all over again. The phrase “this is how we’re used to doing it” was never uttered within RED walls. What I quickly learned about myself was that I enjoyed executing work where I could see the immediate value add. I liked making someone’s task easier or faster (if not disappear); I liked making someone’s data more accurate; and I liked enhancing our reporting so that occasionally we could get in front of a decision versus hold on to the rope behind it.

During the spring of 2012 I learned another lesson— family wins every time. After enjoying the 70 degree year round weather and the crazy ride at RED, I felt a familiar restlessness and knew it was time for me to head back east in order to be closer to home (and to enjoy four seasons versus one). It was a heartbreaking goodbye with my RED family but I was eternally grateful my experience there enabled me to find what motivated me as a professional.

What is better than increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of one company? Understanding, catering, and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of multiple companies. As a Senior Consultant for Fahrenheit Finance, I’m very excited to bring my experience, skill set, and creativity to the table in order to address unique client needs. With a top-notch team of professionals and  clients ranging from emerging growth companies to Fortune 500 firms, I don’t think I’ll feel that familiar restlessness anytime soon.

Connect with Rachel:

Rachel Antrobus – /