New High Companies CFO embraces challenge
Karen Biondolillo was a public accountant for years but her time as a financial analyst at Black & Decker convinced her that she needed to lead business decisions rather than keep score.
“It’s the difference between making something happen versus seeing it after,” Biondolillo said.
Hired by High Real Estate Group LLC in 2005 and then by High Industries Inc. in 2013, Biondolillo has been using her experience to lead day-to-day decision making as vice president and controller for High Companies, the corporate parent.
Biondolillo is now preparing to become the company’s first woman CFO this March after months of preparation for the new role and is ready to take her leadership to a new level.
She is succeeding Michael Van Belle, High Companies’ CFO since 2005. The two have known one another since Biondolillo graduated from Elizabethtown College. Van Belle said she is more than ready for the task ahead of her.
“Over the years I have watched her grow to be a consummate professional in her field, and a servant leader,” Van Belle said. “Leadership of the High Companies finance function could not be in better hands."
Biondolillo will oversee the operations for High’s corporate finance, accounting, tax and information technology departments. Biondolillo said she saw those departments work as intended under the leadership of Van Belle, and what she hadn’t learned on the job she has learned during a transition period.
Understanding the needs of High’s 10 businesses and knowing how to channel resources between them is a challenge, according to Biondolillo, but one the company has met head on.
“You may have one business that’s growing and they don’t necessarily know how to handle billing and we can draw on so many resources,” she said.
High has imposed increasing discipline on its strategic planning process and the research behind its business decisions, according to Biondolillo. Among the beneficiaries is High’s concrete business.
In recent years, High Concrete Group has diversified from primarily focusing on parking garage projects to adding pre-cast structures and architectural projects such as the Lancaster County Convention Center.
“We’ve learned how to do well in the different segments there and have been able to do bigger and more complex projects,” she said.
But it is not just about the buildings.
Diplomacy and perseverance are important qualities to Biondolillo, who said that as a leader, she is a listener who wants to hear every side of a problem before working through it as a group.
Biondolillo said that the step to CFO was a natural progression in her career.
“The vice president controllers are supporting the day-to-day business decisions, but as CFO you have to look broadly and for the good of the whole and I look forward to that,” Biondolillo said.
High Companies, based in the Greenfield Corporate Center in East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County, employs about 1,700 people. It is the parent company of High Properties, High Concrete Group and High Real Estate Group, as well as other entities.