“If you’re really good at finance, you’re never talking finance. You’re talking business.” It’s almost a thesis statement for the career of Larry Bitton.
The current vice president of finance at Nihon Kohden America (NKA) communicates unlike most finance leaders you’ve ever met. He’s a striver, supportive, vulnerable, and deeply committed to his team in ways that make you wonder how the stereotype of the quiet corporate finance professional ever came to be.
Bitton is the by-product of excellent leadership training; first at Pepsi for eight years, and then in the healthcare space at Allergan for ten years. With great mentoring both internally and externally, the VP is collaborative in a way that can make you forget his job title. His continuing commitment to both his own education and the development of his team conveys a finance pro who has a much, much more comprehensive perspective on how his function can better serve and partner with the wider business.
More than a Finance Guy
“I always tell my team that while 95 percent of our job is about execution, the last 5 percent is the communication that proves the 95 percent,” Bitton explains. “The numbers are there to support the business. When I partner with you, I want to talk with you about the business. Our role is to help enable the company’s success.”
Bitton came to Nihon Kohden America literally days after the COVID-19 lockdown began in 2020. (In fact, he accepted his role having never set foot in company offices, which were locked down the day of his interview). When Bitton started at Allergan, he helped manage Botox, including for the treatment of chronic migraines. He wound up overseeing Allergan’s $7 billion finance operation in Irvine, California, but he ultimately wanted to be able to make a broader impact across an entire company.
“I really wanted to work for a small company,” explains the VP, who came to Nihon Kohden America literally days after the COVID-19 lockdown began in 2020. (In fact, he accepted his role having never set foot in company offices, which were locked down the day of his interview.) “Even though I had a great role, you just felt like one small part of a much bigger machine.
“I just had a conversation with someone here [at NKA], and they admitted they thought I was just a finance guy,” he adds. “Now he sees me as an executive trying to connect and partner to help drive the business. That’s the kind of impact you’re able to make for a smaller organization.”
Working Across the Business
Since coming to Nihon Kohden America, Bitton has committed to building bench strength in his finance organization. Everywhere he has gone, the VP has been known to restructure his teams to ensure ownership of one’s desk and transparent cross-functional relationships across the company, with an ability to communicate with non-finance audience.
The finance team has achieved significant working capital success in lowering its day sales outstanding (DSO) by working with the NKA field teams. Additionally, Bitton’s team works hard on inventory management. Many companies are ordering more inventory than needed because of worldwide supply chain issues, and this can create a potential cash strain.
“We’ve worked very closely with operations, sales, and marketing on everything from timing to product lifecycle,” Bitton explains. “We want them to own their functions, and we want to be great facilitators, unafraid to be almost project managers for the company as it grows and matures.”
“Larry’s creativity was instrumental in developing an employee benefits plan that added value for employees and provided cost containment,” says Anthony Bird, principal consultant at OneDigital. “His team approach insured that all stakeholders remained engaged throughout the process. Through Larry’s leadership and partnership, we were able to build the type of environment where employees can thrive.”
A Coach, A Mentor, and an Advocate
Bitton also is willing to act as a facilitator, mentor, and driver for those on his own team. The VP currently is hiring a new FP&A (financial planning and analysis) topline manager after the predecessor was offered a promising job for a large public company. But it almost didn’t happen.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, we weren’t sure this person was going to make it,” Bitton says. “I asked him what he really wanted to be doing, and after he told me, I asked him to figure it out in the next three months. If your heart’s not in it, then it’s not going to work. But if you really want this, I’m here to support and partner with you.”
Larry Bitton watched and supported an incredible turnaround. He knew the future leader’s journey would include him eventually leaving the company, but this time on his own terms. “I try and work closely with all of my people,” he explains. “I’ve been fortunate to develop a lot of great talent, and it’s been very rewarding watching their success.”
When it comes to people development, Bitton is willing to act out. At Allergan, Bitton brought in improv and soft skills development professionals from Second City Works to help the finance team better connect and stretch their own capabilities. The workshop helped create awareness of behavior and emotions, recognition of nonverbal communication, and a willingness to be vulnerable and have empathy.
Bitton wrote up an executive summary of the activity. The last line reads, “Be authentic and genuine.”
“I was purposeful about having those be the last lines that people read,” the VP says. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.”
Be great. Be communicative. And be yourself. That’s how you land a spot on Bitton’s team.
The Man in the Middle
Larry Bitton, vice president of finance, also is Larry Bitton, award-winning soccer referee. He grew up playing baseball on the East Coast, but in Southern California, soccer is the preferred sport for most everyone—including his daughters. But even after they aged out of play, Bitton continued to referee over 350 games and currently is pursuing his advanced certification.
Along with refereeing, Larry Bitton also is the manager of an Irvine, California, champion adult softball team. “These things are really just about the community,” Bitton says. “It’s all volunteer work, but I love it. It’s another way to mentor and make a difference where I live.”
Marcum LLP values our working relationship with Larry. He is one of the most personable, knowledgeable, and practical leaders we’ve had the pleasure to work with. Larry is always up to speed on the latest industry and reporting trends. NKA is lucky to have Larry!
Congratulations to our friend and client Larry Bitton and the team at Nihon Kohden America for this well deserved recognition as leaders and innovators in modern healthcare. The Life Sciences team at McDermott+Bull are enjoying our role helping to grow the Nihon Kohden leadership team as we bring game-changing talent and help to further strengthen their strong patient-centric culture. Larry Bitton is the embodiment of that culture, and we are proud to be associated with him.