Reports Virginia CFO Awards

Former consultant aided the company’s evolution

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Print this page by Donna Gregory Burch
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LARGE PRIVATE COMPANIES

Charles R. “Chip” Bowman
T. Parker Host and Host Terminals Inc.
Norfolk

Since becoming CFO three years ago, Chip Bowman has become a go-to leader at the Host Companies (T. Parker Host Inc. and Host Terminals Inc.)

“The substantial increase in [the Host Companies’] geographic footprint and in its economic performance in the last few years is due, in no small part, to Chip’s motivational skills and efficient and seamless execution,” says CEO David Host. “Chip’s vision and leadership have helped the Host Companies evolve quickly from a family-run business to an international enterprise with a seasoned and polished management team.”

Founded in 1923, Norfolk-based T. Parker Host is a major international shipping agency, offering port services at cities along the East and Gulf coasts. In 1999, the company established Host Terminals Inc. to provide marine terminal operations and stevedoring.

Since then, the Host Companies have seen tremendous growth, with recent expansion to Philadelphia and Corpus Christi, Texas, in the U.S. as well as Santa Marta and Barranquilla in Colombia. The company now has more than 300 employees, and Host Terminals handles more than 10 million tons of bulk cargo a year.

“Going to the Gulf … is a whole new mentality, a whole new way of doing business,” Host says. “You’re trying to integrate your policies and procedures to a different mentality.”

Host recognized that he needed help after expanding to the Gulf and hired Bowman’s consulting firm, Cypress Advisors, to guide the consolidation of several acquisitions. Bowman’s job was to identify best practices among the company’s offices and then standardize and streamline essential business functions, including accounting.

“What you ended up having was a ton of redundancy and limited control over it,” recalls Bowman of his time as a consultant. “We needed to build the company in a scalable way.”

Host was so impressed with Bowman’s work that he offered him the job of full-time CFO. Bowman couldn’t refuse.

“I loved being a consultant, but I love the company; I love the industry we’re in,” Bowman says. “I found it all very fascinating and rewarding, being able … to be part of a team that’s driving the growth we’re experiencing. I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. To do that on a 92-year-old family business, I think, is pretty special.”

Since becoming CFO, Bowman has continued to support the company through its growth spurt, which sometimes involves taking on duties outside of finance. For a time, he managed the Host Companies’ human resources efforts.

“He’s helped us on many, many acquisitions and projects, so he really does more than CFO,” Host says. “He has put together quite a team of people, and they are all motivated and know what they are doing, but it’s the systems that he was really able to make work, so everything is very smooth for the customer.”

Streamlining and restructuring the company’s business practices is evidently paying off.

“We’re growing where a lot of other people in the industry aren’t growing or are shrinking,” Bowman says. “Providing exceptional service is resonating extremely well with our customers. You don’t build a reputation of integrity overnight. We’ve built it over 92 years. Those things are converging now at a time when the market is responding very well to our principles and brand.”


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