Quest Corporate Controller, Lance Ohira, Defies the Numbers
I shared a very echo-ey conference room with Lance Ohira, Corporate Controller at Quest Nutrition. I had seen Lance here and there around headquarters, but it’s pretty rare for someone who works in marketing to mingle with the number guys. After all, as I found out from Lance, he’s one of the folks who controls budgets for new marketing campaigns. Before I took a sip from my water bottle and began our conversation in earnest, I was sure to give him a playful jab about this. When he laughed at my jibe, I knew we were cool. Without Lance’s contributions to Quest, we’d be out of control (I know, I know, dad joke).
My knowledge of business finance is basically that I know there’s a Controller, but other than having a job title that conjures up images of a cloaked figure high atop a throne pulling strings from some omnipotent headspace I was relatively clueless about his day-to-day. He takes it from here, “We’re the folks on the team that put together the monthly financial closings and provide the company with financial guidance.” I ask where the “controller” title fits in and his answer opens the door to the meaning of the title, “I make sure we have controls to set budgets or wastes. We put controls in place to avoid situations where money is spent incorrectly.” Basically meaning, he’s integral in making sure Quest can keep the lights on.
As someone who works with a lot of data, numbers and spreadsheets, Lance’s job couldn’t be farther from my department (we are even on different sides of the building, which we both agree creates even more of a divide, literally and figuratively), but what unites us is the passion for our work. “If I had to choose one word to describe working at Quest it would be invigorating. There’s a lot of lively energy here. I see that not just in my department. Everybody is engaged and I think that’s huge because I’ve worked in organizations where it’s just a job and we’re selling a product and there’s no excitement to it.” It’s amazing how a conversation with someone you initially thought you wouldn’t have anything in common with paves new ground for you both to stand on comfortably.
I had to ask Lance why someone with a CPA background decided to work for Quest. “It all started back in Honolulu,” Lance begins, “There’s this mountain called Koko Head, it’s 1000 [really long] steps to the top and it’s pretty rugged terrain. One of my hobbies is photography, so I’m carrying 20 pounds of gear and my daughter kicked my butt going up. Halfway to the top, I’m dying, I’m going slow and she turns to me and says, ‘give me your bag. I’m going to carry it the rest of the way.’” He tells me that as soon as he got back to LA it was “time to focus more on health and fitness.”
He made the shift to eating healthier and exercising more. One part of his journey was to find a healthy protein bar with very little sugar so he enlisted the help of his wife and daughter. That’s how he found the Quest Bar. 18 months before he even knew he’d be working for Quest, he was already a fan. “I ate a bar every day, from that first time until the day I started.”
Lance casually drops that he has his own transformation story and since we get so many of those from fans, I’m excited to hear one from one of our team members, “I have this autoimmune disease so I went to my gastroenterologist and he told me that this was just going to be the way of life for me moving forward. Living with this disease. He didn’t offer any suggestions as to what I can do to better my situation. So I saw another doctor and a holistic doctor as well. They put me on a plan and I saw some improvement, but nothing phenomenal.” I can almost divine the next words to come out of his mouth, “I started gradually going keto and after a month my condition completely improved.” With a smile he tells me he went to his doctor and heard the words “you’re in complete remission.” Keto – 1, autoimmune disease – 0. While Lance praises ketogenic eating as something that changed his life, he lets me know “My family thinks I’m some big keto nerd now.” You can’t win ‘em all.
By now I’ve got a pretty good feel for Lance and his role at Quest, but I’m interested in learning more about the man so I prod about his photography hobby. I secretly believe that everyone’s hobby is what they’d love to do for work, but Lance makes an interesting point when I ask him why he didn’t want to turn his hobby into his career, “Photography breaks up my work. When I first started working I was going 24/7. That’s not to say I can’t still do that, but it’s important to make time for yourself. If I were to suddenly quit Quest and pursue my passion for photography that becomes my business and then I may not like it.” As someone whose career is also their passion, this logic strangely makes sense to me. More often than not the last thing I want to do in my free time is sit in front of my computer doing what I do every day.
As our conversation approaches its close I’m interested to know what’s on the horizon for Lance. As a father he’s encouraging his daughter to follow her passion and that brings him a lot of happiness. Without blinking he lets me know that, “I haven’t looked at the world beyond Quest. I’m learning so much here and from an accounting standpoint I look at myself as my department’s coach. Even though they’re great at their jobs I guide them. My management style is really based on building a team, trust and relationships. And I’ve taken such an interest in the metabolic side of Quest and how it’s changed my life. If I can help one person get to a better state through nutrition, that excites me. There’s so much growing and learning for me to do here that I don’t want anything else.”
You know how people say things like that and you’re unsure if they’re just saying it because it sounds good? Lance is the exact opposite. When he talks about the work Quest is doing with the KetoPet Sanctuary, Epigenix Foundation, Keto foods and upcoming products, his face lights up. He’s stumbled upon a hack to the age old question, “how do I do what I love?” By his own admission, “numbers are numbers no matter which company you work for, there’s not a lot of passion there.” It’s knowing that his contributions are helping Quest in the fight to end metabolic disease that Lance discovered you don’t need to do what you love if you love what you do.