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Connect, December 2011 - Alumni: Cynthia Devine - Tim Hortons - EY - United States

Cynthia DevineBrewing success

     
  Cynthia Devine  
  Current position:
Chief Financial Officer, Tim Hortons Inc.
 
  Last EY office:
Toronto, Canada
 
  Born in:
Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
 
  Board/community involvement:
Treasurer of the Tim Horton Children's Foundation; mentor with professional women's organizations; Board of Directors, ING Direct Canada
 
  Career highlights:
Canada's CFO of the Year Award — 2010; named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ 2008; Received FCA designation in 2011
 
  Most recent read:
Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders, by Alan Deutschman
 
     

While she modestly admits she’s not an expert in the specialized skill of coffee “cupping,” Cynthia Devine, Chief Financial Officer at Tim Hortons and a Canadian CFO of the Year, can certainly tell when something’s amiss with that perfect cup.

That’s because, beyond her responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer at one of North America’s most iconic restaurant chains, Devine has executive oversight of the company’s manufacturing operations, which include coffee-roasting facilities in the US and Canada.

When her schedule allows, Devine participates in the ritual known as coffee cupping. She sips a spoonful of coffee from a freshly brewed cup, lets it swirl over her palate and expels it into a spitoon — a practice well-known by the team’s roastery experts, who run day-to-day plant operations and test about 25,000 cups of coffee a year.

“The perfect-looking green coffee bean doesn’t always create the perfect cup of coffee,” says Devine. “Beans are very sensitive to weather, the region and how they’re harvested. So our job is to ensure we create the same quality cup of coffee every day, in every restaurant, for every guest.”

When you consider just how many cups of coffee are produced, you can appreciate the challenge: in the average year, Tim Hortons serves more than two billion cups of coffee at its 3,800 locations. In Canada, where a majority of the restaurants are located, Devine reports that 8 out of 10 cups of coffee consumed outside the home are served by Tim Hortons. That’s a lot of sipping and swirling.

Despite her involvement in the manufacturing side of the business, Devine is best known for her leadership role as CFO. She was instrumental in leading Tim Hortons through its initial public offering in 2006, its subsequent spin-off from Wendy’s and its complex repatriation as a Canadian corporation in 2009.

Using a disciplined approach to maintaining the company’s strong balance sheet, she helped Tim Hortons continue to grow during the recession without turning outside for financing. As a result of these and other accomplishments, Devine was named Canadian CFO of the Year in 2010, an honor she shared with Richard Bird, CFO of Enbridge, Inc., a North American energy company based in Calgary.

A passion for manufacturing
Devine began her career as an EY summer intern in 1986. In 1991, she joined Pepsi-Cola Canada Ltd. and immediately realized that her heart was with the consumer products industry. “I love consumer products because they’re aspects of business you can actually touch and feel,” she says. “There’s really no industry like it in terms of fast-paced competitiveness, which creates an incredible team culture.

There’s a real energy that goes with that — an energy I can’t get enough of.”
After 10 years with Pepsi Canada, and rising to the position of company CFO, Devine joined Maple Leaf Foods as Senior VP, Finance, in the consumer foods division. In 2003 she joined Tim Hortons as CFO.

Always fresh — promoting the entrepreneurial spirit
Recently, Devine traveled to Brazil, where she visited coffee farms. While such pursuits are a bit unusual for a CFO, they are typical of Tim Hortons. “Here, the title on your business card doesn’t always mean that’s all you’re involved in,” she notes.

Devine believes that the 47-year-old coffee and donut chain still carries the strong entrepreneurial spirit of hockey legend Tim Horton, who opened his first restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1964. Today, 99% of the company’s restaurants are run by franchised restaurant owners.

“We focus on creating a hands-on, can-do culture where our people are encouraged to pursue a variety of opportunities,” says Devine. “The same mindset flows to our leadership team.

We’re given the chance to try new things and make important changes to the business. We try to maintain a nimble, entrepreneurial approach to decision-making, which is an important part of our core values.”

Taking a Canadian icon global
Over the coming year, Devine will have many challenges to keep her busy. Although the US and Canada remain the company’s primary expansion targets, Tim Hortons is planting seeds internationally: according to Devine, the company plans to open 120 restaurants in the Gulf Cooperation Council over the next five years, including five in Dubai in 2011.

Fortunately for millions of coffee drinkers, there are no plans to change the taste of the company’s famous easy-drinking brew. “I think a willingness to change is critical. Otherwise, you’ll become a dinosaur,” she laughs. “The key is to know what should be changed and what shouldn’t be changed.

Our business has to be willing to adapt to the needs of our guests and the changing economy. But essential to our success is understanding the core elements of the Tim Hortons brand and staying true to those elements.”

 

 

December 2011

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