At first, playing soccer was just a way to fit in. He stood out as the only Latino in his high school, and he needed a way to make friends. Playing soccer also taught Harold Tamayo the cornerstone of his business philosophy. As corporate vice president of finance and corporate controller at H.D. Smith, a leading pharmaceutical wholesaler, Tamayo preaches the same thing that made him an all-state player on the field: fundamentals.
Tamayo implemented strong fundamentals when he worked at his uncle’s upholstery shop to help pay his way through an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. It was his time spent restoring antiques and managing his uncle’s books that sparked an interest in finance and accounting. “I’ve always liked numbers and could see the connections and trends,” he recalls. “I could analyze numbers and use them to solve operational problems or financial issues.”
Over time, Tamayo found himself drawn to the health care sector for its potential to impact human life on a wide scale. “If you work in health care, you reach patients no matter what job you do for an organization,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of that.” He started to look for a way to unite his passion of numbers, engineering, finance, and health care, which led him to study finance, business, and operations in pursuit of a dual master’s degree at the University of Miami while at the same time working for Merck & Co.
The position at Merck allowed Tamayo to exercise his passions in direct ways. He studied market trends to build a repertoire of automated decision making tools to analyze financials and provide key insights faster than ever before. That led to direct involvement in marketing and sales strategies to grow the business. “Someone who is very successful in finance and accounting needs to go beyond the basic numbers and measure how each variable impacts business decisions,” Tamayo says. “When I started seeing that, I discovered how to leverage finance and accounting fundamentals to their full potential.”
In 2003, Tamayo left Merck to join Novartis Pharmaceuticals, where he had the chance to participate at an even deeper business level. As director of finance, he led areas of finance and accounting for the transplant, general medicines, and oncology business units as well as technical operations.
Now, in his role at H.D. Smith, Tamayo is leveraging fundamentals in finance to help manage a pharmaceutical wholesale company that is expanding in the specialty health care services market. “My job is to build an understanding of the business and use finance and accounting over the entire company to make sound business decisions,” he says, adding that a finance expert should craft systems and processes to measurable outcomes around strategies, tactical plans, and risk management.
To do so, his team is tackling not only the basics in finance and accounting, but also analytics to provide decision support to help the company’s bottom line. Tamayo’s goal is to drive profitability by improving the product and growing the customer base. He must know the revenue and cost drivers of H.D. Smith. In doing so, he provides better service to internal and external customers and improves the company’s margins.
The fundamental steps are critical. First, a financial leader should have the right basis of good data to craft into analytics. Furthermore, he or she must be able to build tools to become a business partner and make decisions and recommendations that add value to the business. “If you want to be in finance, don’t just be the numbers person,” Tamayo says. “Work on understanding your business, and then use finance and accounting as a tool to bring stewardship and add value.”
Ultimately, Tamayo hopes to grow into a CFO position, but for now he’s passionate about adding value to H.D. Smith. After 16 years in the industry, he says, it’s still all about the fundamentals.