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Member Spotlight: David James

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

By David Flynn & Cal Beyer

David James is a longtime member and volunteer leader of CFMA. He hails from the Valley of the Sun Chapter (VoS) and is the CFO for heavy/highway contractor FNF, Inc., in Tempe, AZ. Dave is a lifelong learner with a heart of gold, a penchant for giving back, and a dedication to making things better. Dave has long been highly regarded for tireless advocacy for CFMA, his mentorship of leaders, and the depth of his own leadership in various committees.

Dave recently announced his retirement at the end of 2018 and asserted: “My immediate task is to help with the transition of my position here at FNF and make certain that I am leaving the company ready to move ahead with my replacement.” When asked about his future plans, Dave emphasized his “plan to expand my horizons; both physically and mentally. I do plan to stay connected with the industry. And certainly, the suicide prevention movement might be able to use a bit more of my time!”

Dave also shared some memorable aspects of his career.

What did you enjoy most about your career?
DJ: First, the people. Being in the same industry for most all of my career, you develop amazing relationships with industry peers and coworkers. And second, the projects. Construction is a unique industry in many ways. The ability to create and build something tangible and see it, touch it, or drive on it is extremely rewarding. 

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of your current position?
DJ: Industry involvement has been meaningful to me. I have been active in many industry associations, which adds to job satisfaction. CFMA certainly has been the organization demanding most of my “association time.” I joined in 1985 and to this day have only missed one annual conference. I have been active locally and nationally, and during my “CFMA run” have earned my CCIFP designation and received both the Debra Hahn and Joe Quigley Memorial Awards.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment/legacy?
DJ: I would hope most of my peers and/or coworkers would say I have given back to the industry and it is a slightly better place for me having been there – be it through industry involvement, being a “boss” that cares, or related community activities.
Another critical topic recent to our industry has been the number of suicide deaths of our workers. Construction has the highest number of suicide deaths of any industry, and I have joined with several of my peers and CFMA to address this problem through education and resource development. It has been very time consuming, but very rewarding.

What advice would you give to young professionals within your organization and CFMA?

DJ: First, find a mentor if you can. I was lucky. My career allowed me to work primarily with two contracting firms, Joe E. Woods, Inc. (23 years) and FNF Construction, Inc. (14 years). Both companies had leadership (my bosses) that were ethical, talented, and encouraged personal and professional growth. I was mentored as my career developed, then became a mentor to help others. 

Second, find humor: our industry is challenging and requires tremendous focus and energy. Survival is key, and humor is an effective avenue to survival. So, have fun. Several years ago, I “invented” an alter ego following some interesting e-mail exchanges. Donnie was born – my evil twin – so that when it is time to lighten a topic, Donnie pops up and responds with some obnoxious (but quite meaningful, according to him) comments. He even has his own e-mail signature block:

Donnie – Trouble; Just Waiting to Happen

Third, get involved and champion something. It makes the long hours worth it – you grow, you learn, you feel good. Over the years I have found myself deeply immersed in certain industry issues. TPT (sales tax) here in Arizona has been a challenge for several years, and I had worked with industry peers and organizations to help right the ship. This effort continued on as recently as this year, as we were able to “simplify” the existing tax structure.

Do you have any final insights you can share regarding how you were able to get to your current position or crucial steps along your path that opened doors and opportunities?
DJ: I think it goes back to the people thing. For the most part, doors were opened because of someone I knew. The job at Woods was presented to me by a friend. The job at FNF came to me when I was in insurance, and I knew the FNF CFO (a client of the agency) who was planning to retire. The road to knowing people that can open the doors is involvement. The more involved you get, the more relationships you develop and the more doors and opportunities open up in front of you!

A dear friend of Dave, Michelle Walker, Vice President of Finance and Administration of Specialized Services Company in Phoenix, AZ, summarized what Dave James has meant to so many professionals throughout his career: “One of the greatest benefits I’ve received as a CFMA member is the amazing industry leaders that I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from and the greatest of these, for me, has been Dave James. Dave is the definition of a servant leader who not only gives completely selflessly to benefit and improve the industry but develops other leaders as he does this. Dave has always been available to guide and assist young leaders, imparting wisdom and giving encouragement while allowing them to learn and grow, never forcing his opinion or his way of doing things.

Congratulations, Dave, and please do take time to enjoy your well-deserved retirement!

DAVID FLYNN, CPA, is currently the CFO of B2W Software located in Portsmouth, NH. David has been involved with CFMA for several years and participates on the Heavy/Highway Committee and the Talking Heavy Task Force. B2W Software has been serving heavy civil construction companies for over 25 years, empowering them to win more work and complete it more profitably with unified applications for estimating, operations, and business intelligence.

Cal Beyer is the Director of Risk Management for Lakeside Industries, Inc. in Issaquah, WA. Cal has more than 30 years of professional experience in safety, insurance, and risk management serving the construction industry in various capacities. He has extensive experience in strategic risk improvement and risk management best practices for the construction industry.  Cal also serves on the Executive Committee for National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Cal is a former member of CFMA’s Executive Committee and served as Secretary for 2009-2010. He speaks regularly at CFMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition, frequently presents at CFMA regional conferences, and is an established author for CFMA Building Profits. Cal received the CFMA Danny Parrish award in 2016 and CFMA Chairman’s award in 2018.