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Running the Numbers

Written by Brian Keefe

Brian Keefe '11 found a perfect opportunity to combine his accounting major and his love for running.

It’s not just girls who are obsessed with shoes. Speak to any of my teammates on the Ithaca College men’s cross-country team and you will hear all about trail shoes, road flats, spikes, and why our favorite brand is better than yours. But no crosscountry saga would be complete without somewhere to acquire all of the latest and greatest in running gear, and that’s where the Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company (FLRTC) comes in. With shelves lined with shoes, a floor dotted with snazzy new triathlon bikes, and tons of locally owned flavor, the store is a runner’s dream. As an accounting major, though, the business has recently taken on a whole new meaning for me.

While on the prowl for a part-time job that would combine my major with my passion for running, I wandered into the FLRTC looking for a run-of-the-mill sales position. But after reviewing my résumé, Ian Golden ’99 unexpectedly made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Organizing the company’s finances, making inventory projections, talking with professional accountants, and analyzing account ledgers were all part of the job description. To sweeten the deal even further, I’d get to work in a setting that I love and with coworkers I could relate to.

Working alongside Golden, himself a former IC cross-country runner, is a lot like working alongside a really experienced teammate. Since he’s got two NCAA All- American cross-country titles under his belt, the level of intimidation runs high, but his knowledge of and passion for the sport make the work environment unassumingly educational. A typical day at the office provides lessons in accounting, store management techniques, and a few tales from Ithaca cross-country back in the ’90s (something they skip in the classroom and on the trails).

When I’m not loading account information into QuickBooks and inputting transaction details, I’m learning the finer points of sales from some very dedicated staff members. Much of my work is geared toward forming a new accounting system more applicable to the business structure, which means analyzing past inventory levels and sales figures. After I find sales trends, the store can order inventory based on historical season estimates instead of waiting until the current stock runs low. With so much different merchandise offered, inventory projections mean a lot more than crunching numbers. Studying customer buying trends and new product releases are two other tasks not to be overlooked.

Being an integral part of such a lively and interactive business has given me a very hands-on approach to learning. With more than 14 races and events organized by the store every year, there is a lot to be done each day to ensure that everything comes together. After years of being just another runner, having a role behind the scenes has opened a whole new world.

Seeing an entrepreneurial success story firsthand has been an incredible learning experience. I’m sure I’m not the only person who thought accounting majors were doomed to life in a cubicle, but Golden has certainly proved that I could—and should—change that mind-set. He graduated with a master’s degree in occupational therapy, so his small business management skills were acquired by—well, starting and owning and running a small business. Since I’m already studying the business side of things, it seems my career is limited only by my creativity. 



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