In 2012, Mark Bouckley served as the CFO of a footwear company and earlier this year signed on as the CFO of a retail business. But much of what he did in-between those postings bore marginal relationship to being a finance executive. “I’ve enjoyed the last two or three years,” says Bouckley, 43. “In hindsight, I’ve had some pretty good experiences.”
Finance executives are often pigeonholed as the kind of personalities for whom “fun” consists of binge-watching C-Span hearings. Based on the direction of his early career, Bouckley would seem to fit the mold. A UK native, he joined KPMG as an auditor in 1993, eventually moving to Philadelphia with the giant professional services firm. Then, in 1999, he left. “I just didn’t see myself doing it on a long-term basis,” Bouckley says. “I’d like to say I had some grand career plan, but that wasn’t the case.”
He did have a next step however, joining the North American outpost of The Clarks Companies, the UK-based footwear maker. Between 1999 and 2010 he served in several different finance roles, including Corporate Controller and VP of Finance, rising to CFO in 2011. The next year, with the company’s revenue in North America reaching almost $1 billion—a major global restructuring downgraded his role; instead of operating independently, he would have to report to his counterparts in the UK. “I knew it was the right time to leave,” says Bouckley, who had relocated with his wife from Philadelphia to Boston. “I wanted a little bit of a break.”
In the two-plus years that followed, Bouckley’s pursuits included an impressively broad range of activities. Guided by his gut, his personal path suggests patterns that any financial executive who is feeling crunched by the numbers might want to consider:
Tap into a Passion. A devoted hop-head, Bouckley took an intensive seven-day course to learn how to brew beer. “If ever I was going to do it, I figured this was the time,” says Bouckley, who had watched the frothy rise of craft beers like Harpoon Brewery and Sam Adams. He even reached out to a couple of brewers to see if they might have use for his skills. “I quickly found out how small they were,” he says.
Sustain a Long-standing Interest. Bouckley also educated himself about sustainability, enrolling in a course about it. Outside the classroom, however, he found sustainability to be less than a sizzling topic. “During conversations, I’d ask people at companies about it and they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we have a sustainability practice, but I’m not sure what they do.’ I kept trying to bring it up. But the only response would be along the lines of ‘we have recycling bins in the canteen.’” It didn’t take long, Bouckley says, before “I realized that I wasn’t going to be a sustainability professional.”
Market Intelligence. By connecting with startup incubators, Bouckley offered his time—and advice—to several consumer product companies, including about half a dozen that were seeking to have a social impact. In 2014, he served as acting CFO of Karmaloop, an online retailer of streetwear, for six months. Karmaloop ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection and in June, the new owners invited Bouckley to rejoin as CFO. “We’re setting things up from scratch, so the job is a challenge,” says Bouckley. “It’s nice to be at a place where I can make a difference.”