After Scott Clark was transferred early on in his career to start Provident Bank's tax department, a recruiter contacted him about an opportunity to start the tax function at Cintas, which, at that time, was a company he knew virtually nothing about. "It was a similar opportunity as I had with Provident," Clark says. "The company didn't have anyone in-house to focus on the tax aspects of the business and needed someone to start that function. I didn't think I could find a company more conservative than a bank, but I was wrong. Cintas' culture, which is the cornerstone to its success, was one of a spartan attitude and unwavering high ethical and moral standards. It took a little time to fully engulf myself into the culture, but I can say I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."
Clark, now vice president of corporate taxation at the company, says that at first he felt a little like the black sheep of the accounting and finance group. "I was the only one doing corporate tax management, and at that time tax was considered 'too specialized,' so I was also given two corporate departments to close their books monthly," he explains.
Clark hadn't done general accounting for some time, so he struggled a little in this area. However, he continually demonstrated how the proper management of taxes could be a real asset to the company and that tax was just a "three-letter word," not a four-letter swear word or a big sucking sound coming from his somewhat isolated cubicle. "So, in time, they let me drop having to close books and focus on tax," he explains.
Being a department of one was both challenging and rewarding, he notes, adding, "I didn't have others in the company I could discuss tax ideas with, so many times my efforts were by trial and error. I learned a lot this way. Additionally, I was given the opportunity to be involved with all aspects of the business, which was tremendously rewarding, in that I could truly see how my piece of the puzzle fit into the entire business. I was given access to upper management and the opportunity to recommend tax planning opportunities."
Dealing With Acquisitions
What part of tax law does he find the most interesting? According to Clark, Cintas has always been a company that is aggressive in its acquisitions. "I was able to work with legal and operations to understand the process and add tax to the mix to [ensure] we understood the implications and opportunities involved," Clark says. "My experience with...