There’s a fun yet convoluted argument to be made that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s desire to acquire Warner-Lambert and lay claim to the billion-dollar, cholesterol-controlling wonder drug Lipitor paved Clarence Baker III’s path to Toshiba America Business Solutions’ (TABS) doorstep and an ensuing career that spans more than 21 years with the industry OEM. Let’s explain.
Baker was working on an SAP implementation for Lambert’s Parke-Davis subsidiary when Pfizer came calling; consequently, the project was scrapped and he became a lead for Parke-Davis’ accounts payable department for several months. He pivoted to integration manager for Pfizer’s Computron financial application, and post-implementation, Pfizer offered Baker the opportunity to transfer to Groton, Connecticut, which he declined.
Baker had designs on finding a position that would dovetail with accounting, finances and possibly taxation. At this point, he boasted experience with a pair of multi-national giants in Warner-Lambert and Pfizer, as well as ProQuest, a regional IT company, among others. TBS Michigan posted a position for a controller, and Baker saw it as an opportunity to gain hands-on accounting experience in warehouse management. He interviewed and won the gig, yet it wasn’t quite what he expected.
“I had no clue it was an office technology shop, and surprisingly the interview was more about my accounting background and integrity than about any industry expertise,” said Baker, a 2022 ENX Magazine Difference Maker. “They were looking for an outsider. And from there the fun never stopped and it still doesn’t currently. Always evolving and changing.”
Pfizer got its Lipitor, TABS got its financial wizard. And Baker found a professional home. Over the ensuing 21-plus years, he’s held positions including vice president of finance and administration for Toshiba Business Solutions-Michigan, finance manager, Americas for Toshiba Business Solutions and, currently, director of finance for TABS, a role he’s performed for nearly seven years.
His skills and certifications include Certified Public Accountant, project management, financial systems (Oracle, SAP, mainframe applications) and Certified Fraud Examiner. Baker also hopes to pursue an Executive MBA when the time is right.
At Toshiba, he’s had the good fortune to work with talented individuals across the full spectrum of business—finance, marketing, information systems-financial, technical, infrastructure, accounting, supply chain, and sales, among others—as the quest to provide clients with needed solutions requires a team approach to provide input, execute and reshape TABS’ business and provide industry-changing solutions. It is those people and their enthusiasm, energy and leadership that help to drive change.
“Over my career, I have been a change agent, a leader, and a supportive team member for current change efforts,” Baker said. “…the talented people, the variety of assignments, and the opportunity to participate in difference-making efforts is never ending. But the interaction and working relationships I share with my TABS professionals is extremely rewarding to me, and I love every minute of it. Always something new, interesting, and challenging. The business is not simple, but the challenge to make change always requires some strain and a bit of short-term pain for long-term accretive gain.”
One of Baker’s prime value propositions is his penchant for tackling complex financial materials or situations and huddling with team members and partners to devise a simple solution that can enhance effectiveness. “I believe in enabling those around me with the tools that improve their work experience, drive efficiencies in execution, and improve understanding in the overall process,” he said. “My consideration to improve others’ understanding and supporting their vision is one of my pillars of success. The more our team knows, the stronger and more productive and efficient the team grows.”
Over the course of his storied career, Baker has reaped the wisdom of many key associates at Toshiba. Mark Downing, a VP of finance, impressed Baker with his ability to “keep a cool head” and focus on the objective in spite of the challenges. Fellow Difference Maker Scott Robinson, another VP, “is a model of professional consistency and truthfulness, and demonstrates loyalty to the organization and team members” (that he has never missed wishing Baker a happy birthday, he feels, adds a personal touch).
Baker also credits Dan Skaggs, a VP of finance, who recruited Baker to his team. “Dan’s philosophy and support in hiring me demonstrated his commitment to allowing others to lead and demonstrate competency, and when the time arose, provide support for my personal and professional growth initiatives,” he noted of Skaggs.
Another cornerstone during Baker’s tenure is Michael Torcaso, a senior VP and CFO, another executive who demonstrates an unflappable demeanor and a financial leadership style that Baker seeks to emulate. Lastly, another Difference Maker, Maegan Lujan, is organized and highly professional in all of her interactions, and Baker is struck by her ability to evolve her personal and professional brand.
A Wayne State University magna cum laude, Baker has experienced many highlights at TABS. The one that stands out most was detailing the impact of the company’s Global One conversion on its cash position and service maintenance revenue billing (service accrual) in a presentation to senior financial leadership and Toshiba Tec Corporation liaisons.
“It was of extreme and significant importance to explain to PWC auditors and subsequently TTEC,” he said. “It gave me additional confidence that I could explain key financial business metrics. This was very fulfilling and I received positive feedback from my peers.”
Baker faces many difficult roads as 2022 fades into the new year. He’s helping his mother, Phyllis, rehabilitate and regain her ability to walk following a serious auto accident, which involves multiple surgeries and long-term care. On the professional front, he’s seeking to become a better industry expert and bring the needed skills to help move Toshiba forward. Collaborating with team members and understanding future trends to limit financial exposures will be vital, and it will be equally important to think about how Toshiba’s business conforms and adapts to changes in the market.
“[I’ll] stick with the fundamentals that have gotten me here so far and look at what some of my Difference Makers have done to continue to contribute and remain successful in the organization,” he added.
Baker and his wife, Carol, have been married 14 years. They love to visit the Hawaiian Islands, especially Maui. A fitness enthusiast, he enjoys powerlifting, walking and martial arts. Baker’s volunteer initiatives include fresh water and the Humane Society.