The Surprising Experience That Helps Rick Wagner at Dentsply Sirona

Rick Wagner, VP, corporate controller for Dentsply Sirona, uses lessons learned through the Boy Scouts to direct his company’s financial management

Rick Wagner admits that he was never the best Boy Scout as a kid. But as an adult, he more than makes up for whatever scouting skills he lacked then. As the VP, corporate controller for Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest professional dental products and technologies manufacturer, Wagner believes the leadership abilities that he developed from scouting have served him well. And as he has served as a scout leader for the past decade, he has remained passionate about passing those skills on to the next generation of young leaders. “It’s not about the camping or the hiking,” he says. “It is about instilling moral and ethical values to help the kids make good choices over their lifetimes.”

With his Boy Scout training, Wagner has made good choices in his professional career. Born in Waynesport, Pennsylvania, he attended Penn State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He started his career as a public accountant at Deloitte and then worked his way up the corporate ladder, first at Kennametal in various financial and accounting roles, which included living in Nuremburg, Germany, for two years while working on an acquisition. From there, he moved to Bayer Corp., where he served as director of financial reporting in the United States, and then to Harsco Corp., where he was VP and corporate controller.

In 2011, Wagner took a job Denstply Sirona, based in York, Pennsylvania, and Salzburg, Austria. Wagner came to the company for the opportunity to work with a market leader and within a collaborative work environment. He was also attracted to the level of responsibility and opportunity to contribute to the organization. As VP, corporate controller, he is responsible for the company’s financial-closing, financial-reporting, and capital-appropriation processes—along with policy compliance and financial policy maintenance. Wagner leads a direct, multinational staff of ten and a global organization of about 650.

One of his biggest projects of late is helping redesign the company’s financial processes and systems to help it become more effective and efficient. In the summer of 2015, when the company was just Denstply, it decided to implement a new financial reporting system to better forecast budgets and actual results. This project included establishing a data warehouse to store financial and other data. “We started that, then merged with Sirona, so the project was put on hold,” he says. “When the merger was completed, we continued the redesign with a new operating model for the organization.”

“You lead by example. You show that you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get into the details when you need to, but you are also able to step back and be an effective decision maker.”

The model modified the company’s financial reporting and the data and managerial reporting that is necessary to support the organization’s financial management. “We had to mobilize a sizable team with different talents to establish the warehouse connections and the ability to gather data from ERPs and store it in the warehouse,” he says. “We designed tools to prepare budgets and tools to train and educate staff on the new operating model along the way so that people could use the tools to budget 2017 in a way that aligned with this new model.” This system is being implemented in phases. The process started with a few pieces in the fall of 2016 and has now reached the point of refining the reporting processes and some of the ways data is gathered and analyzed.

Wagner also notes that this endeavor might take a while to complete. “We knew it would not be perfect or as robust as we wanted at first,” he says. “Now, our aim is to get it refined and improved and then add even more tools for the finance and operations teams.” A key element will be ensuring that the system is aligned with the company’s executive team and operating leadership. “This process can always add more tools, put more data in the warehouse, and then streamline the data and make it information,” he says. “It is a journey we could be on for years to come.”

The goal is to demonstrate his team’s value as a business partner through metrics. “You manage what you measure, right?” he says. “You need the statistics, so in the truest sense, we are more focused now on how we use our data to come up with different analyses.”

Another challenge Wagner faces is finding and retaining a strong labor force on a global scale. “You are only as good as the team you have, so no matter where the team is, you want to get the best talent you possibly can,” he says. “The next step is to provide them a challenging opportunity to contribute to the overall success of the organization.” Working outside the United States means dealing with different languages, skills, cultures, and experiences—all of which require patience and understanding to ensure communication and knowledge transfer is conveyed clearly and everyone is aligned with the tasks at hand.

Wagner takes a similarly patient approach to his role with the scouts, a relationship he still values greatly. He, his wife, and their teenage son and daughter are all active in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Wagner and his son have hiked to the bottom the Grand Canyon several times on scout outings. But he is especially proud of watching his scouts, including his son, attain Eagle Scout status and become leaders themselves.

“You lead by example,” Wagner says. “You show that you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get into the details when you need to, but you are also able to step back and be an effective decision maker. I tell my scouts to lead the way you want to be led and follow like you would like others to follow you.”

Resources is proud to be a long-term, strategic business partner to Rick Wagner and Dentsply Sirona. Rick’s commitment to excellence, dedication, and leadership are qualities that we try to replicate in all aspects of our business dealings with him and all of our clients. With about 2,800 consultants in seventy offices around the globe, RGP is well equipped to help clients solve their problems.