By LISA MONTI
Ed Crawford, a self-confessed numbers guy, had two dream jobs: working as a CPA and as an Air Force officer. He’s successfully realized both.
The Ely, Minn., native is chief financial officer of Reed’s Metals, a multi-million dollar metal roofing and metal building manufacturer in Brookhaven.
“I always wanted to be a CPA,” Crawford said. With two and one-half years of college completed, he joined the Air Force in 1980 and served for 13 years. During his service, he earned his degree and was accepted into Officer Training School.
In 1984, he was assigned as a missile launch control officer in Grand Forks, Minn., supervising the coding of intercontinental ballistic missiles that are launched only on order of the president. The codes are held inside a case known as “the football” that is carried by an officer who always accompanies the Commander in Chief.
Crawford’s service also included teaching ROTC at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg for three years.
“When I started working at Reed’s Metals in 2010, we had three stores. Now we have eight stores: five full manufacturing sites and three service centers located in Brookhaven; Tupelo; Sulphur, La.; Jackson, Tenn.; Benton, Ark.; Holden, La.; Meridian; and Jasper, Texas.” Reed’s Metals of Meridian will hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 30 at 12:30 p.m. with Gov. Phil Bryant as guest speaker.
Crawford attributes the growth of the corporation to president and founder Bernard Reed, whom Crawford calls a “visionary.” He anticipates continued expansion.
As CFO, Crawford is involved in all financial aspects of the company’s operations, “from making sure we get the best interest rates on loans, to payroll and accounting, to inventory control and invoicing.” He holds an MBA from the University of North Dakota.
Reed’s has annual sales of $65 million. “We’re a large company for Mississippi, and we bring lots of good revenue for our state. And as CFO, I have my hands in a lot of things. It’s a full day.”
Part of his job is modeling and analyzing the company’s operations for better efficiencies.
“A lot of corporations use key performance indicators, better known as KPIs, which are more like tracking devices that use trend analysis to see how a department, a machine or a process compares versus last year or versus a standard, or what is expected going forward,” he said.
“They are used throughout each manufacturing plant, and it looks at the process and the person and tries to calculate the data to see if 100 percent of the right person and process is being utilized to capacity and efficiency. KPIs take historical data and the standard such as scrap factors, downtime or waste. You build it and it tracks the machinery. What I’ve used is that type of data to make it fit the metal manufacturing industry.”
Crawford said a number of models are built to capture and track data “and then you have to train everyone to know where you are, where you need to go, and what you have to do to get there.”
But it’s more than numbers that are involved.
“You can’t just tell somebody they’re supposed to make 10,000 widgets and only make 7,000. You need to figure out why you only made 7,000, figure out if 10,000 is too much or if something happened with a machine to make the production slow down,” he said.
“We are always looking at different processes and how the flow of the process works. You have to get the flow right, and put the right person in to the flow to get it right.”
Along with his CFO duties, Crawford devotes himself to giving back to the community and being a grandfather to five.
When he was in the Air Force, he began volunteering with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program that provides low income people with free tax preparation.
He continued helping taxpayers through a company he formed and considers it his ministry. His services are free and he only charges the small fee it takes to file online. “I do it on my own free time,” he said. “When I say my ministry, I mean … I love numbers. I like people, too, but I love working with numbers.”