Paul Fehlman was named as the Fort Worth Business Press’ Chief Financial Officer of the Year at an awards luncheon Wednesday at The Fort Worth Club.
Fehlman is senior vice president and chief financial officer for Fort Worth-based AZZ Inc., a publicly traded a global provider of galvanizing services, welding solutions, specialty electrical equipment and highly engineered services for the power and industrial markets.
“This is truly a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it,” Fehlman said. “I’m very, very happy to receive this award.”
Fehlman was among 15 nominees for the CFO of the Year award. All 15 were honored at the luncheon sponsored by the Fort Worth Business Press and the University of Texas at Arlington College of Business.
Before joining AZZ in 2014, Fehlman worked for 13 years for Flowserve Corp., where he held a number of financial leadership positions. Prior to that, he served as treasurer of Global Industrial Technologies, a Dallas based diversified manufacturer, and as a principal in the corporate finance group at American Airlines.
Over the past 20 years, Fehlman has focused primarily on manufacturing organizations due to the almost endless opportunities to continuously improve and apply new processes on the shop floor, the back office, and the balance sheet. Fehlman has actively managed hedging programs for oil, interest rates, and currencies in the billions.
Over the years, Fehlman said, he discovered a fondness for manufacturing firms because he likes the idea of businesses that “get their hands dirty and make things.”
Despite some customers being impacted by low oil prices, AZZ has continued to grow and has been acquiring smaller companies for the past few years.
In his recognition as CFO of the Year, Fehlman was cited for his ability to keep the company’s finances in order during a turbulent time in the economy. Because its presence is primarily in the industrial markets it serves, AZZ is viewed as a hidden gem among Fort Worth businesses.
In 2015, AZZ reported record revenues of $903.2 million compared with $816.7 million for the previous year, an increase of 10.6 percent. The company has moved forward with several large acquisitions over the past few years.
Despite his many accomplishments, Fehlman admits that he might not have pursued a career in finance had his attempt at becoming a rock musician succeeded.
Before completing his first year in college, he dropped out to play bass guitar in a rock band. The group played gigs up and down the California coast during the early 1980s and released an album but never got a foothold on financial success.
“We had lots of kids who loved us and we could fill clubs where alcohol was not served,” he said.
During this period, Fehlman also ran and managed clubs, which convinced him to go back to school and study business.
Fehlman received his bachelor’s degree in finance from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 1988 and then earned his MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in 1990.
In accepting his award, Fehlman told of meeting with college interns at the end of each summer and questioning them about the best way to finance a business. He said answers ranged from municipal bonds to Japanese bonds and private equity.
Fehlman said the correct answer is simpler than that: “Get your customers to pay what they owe you.”
Fehlman lives in Dallas with his wife and two children, and enjoys being active in both charitable and education-based organizations.
Other CFO of the Year honorees are: Kenneth Allen, Dunaway Associates LP; Alex Allred, the TCC Foundation; Sandra Bembenek, The Strickland Group; Jason Black, SouthWest Autogroup; Kathy DuBose, Performing Arts Fort Worth Inc.; Alicia Duran, Lena Pope Home Inc.; Alissa Ford, The Cliburn; Marcia Garoon, Fort Worth Academy; Mary Goosens, Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth; Brooke Lively, Cathedral Capital; Shelly Miland, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth; Chad Skiles, Veritas Energy LLC; Karanae Spradlin, Child Care Associates; and Sarah Webb, Broadie’s Aircraft.
Fort Worth Business Press Editor Robert Francis contributed to this story.