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A Conversation with Wandra Luhrs, Our CFO & COO

Describe your average workday at Canto.

A typical workday can consist of a variety of tasks – no two days are alike. But, a typical day can start with processing client orders and making sure that the information gets to the warehouse and into the production queue; working with a variety of consultants on matters such as developing systems to make our processes more streamlined, speaking with attorneys on any legal matters such as patents, trademarks, collections, or the accounting software consultant on customizations, and updates. I may be touching base with our graphic design and webpage person, Jason Reeves, [President/Guru at An Ion Design, Inc.] about any marketing-related projects we have going on. Then, I would move on to processing payables, wiring monies to and fro, invoicing, handling any HR matters, updating benefit information, and the list goes on. Right now, we’re trying to get a 401K plan set up. Our bank has been bought out and the system conversion is taking place, and our payroll service is changing to a new software. It’s always interesting!

Can you describe your education and work background, and how those experiences led you to your role now?

I began college right after high school. I started in a small community college and soon transferred to Georgia State. I started out with a major in Pre-Med, but soon learned that Chemistry and I do not get along.  While going to school, I worked as a legal secretary. The law firm decided that they needed some additional help, so I took a class in Accounting. I loved the accounting class and understood it pretty well. That led me to change my degree to Business.  At work, I was promoted to Legal Administrator at barely twenty-one years old! I stayed with that law firm for a while.

The next job I took is actually where I met John [Luhrs, our General Manager].  I was doing accounting for a division of the company and he was Director of Operations of another division. I stayed with that company until I decided to go back into the legal field, so joined a law firm by the name of Lamberth, Bonapfel, Cifelli, and Stokes (LBCS). I was with LBCS for 13 years as their Legal Administrator. They were a small firm, so I pretty much handled everything from accounting to general office administration, everything to do with HR including benefits, marketing, IT, and assisting with the preparation of the company tax return.

When I decided to move on from LBCS, I went to a commercial real estate company called Studley, and was doing pretty much the same type of work for their Atlanta office. The major difference was that Studley is a much bigger company and had a corporate headquarters in NY, where the major accounting was done. I was handling  minor accounting, such as processing POs, entering lease deals and commissions earned into their system, handling HR for my offices, public relations, marketing, etc. I worked with budgets and revenue projections. I started helping the company with our Florida offices and was eventually assigned the two offices there – Tampa and Miami offices.  The offices in North Carolina soon followed as I took on the Southeast Region.  Studley was purchased by Savills and became Savills Studley.  Through acquisitions in my area, they “inherited” staff to handle my offices outside of Atlanta, which was a good time for me to transition to working full time for the company that John and I own together.  The timing was perfect as our business began to expand, and my role expanded with it.  We have since taken on another owner, Brian Moon, who has helped us to grow even further.

Who is the mysterious Shopdog? What does she do at the warehouse?

Shopdog (aka Sophie at home) is the alpha in our pack of dogs. They come to the office almost everyday, so she is our mascot and tries to keep the other dogs in line. She’s a Shih Tzu, as are most of our dogs (we have one Maltese).  We let the dogs to roam the warehouse floor only after manufacturing is over for the day, that way they’re not in the way. Side note: “Business Insider” released an article recently about how an office cat or dog may boost productivity as well as lower stress. Shopdog has a big job besides being cute!

What’s something you’d like our customers to know about you?

This is my first exposure to the lighting industry, and I’m excited to keep learning more, especially about products in their development stage. It’s very different as I am used to working for service companies, so while a lot of the work itself is the same, some aspects are new to me, such as inventory and keeping track of the parts used to build our products. I really like that John demands excellent commitment to our customers and exceptional customer service.  The quality of our salespeople, and the customer service, is much better than any place I’ve ever worked.