Search past winners/finalists

Marsha Couch, CFO - Creative Lodging Solutions

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2012, Click to Enter The 2014 American Business Awards

Company: Creative Lodging Solutions, Lexington, KY, USA
Company Description: Creative Lodging Solutions, a leading corporate lodging services provider, specializes in providing customized lodging programs for corporate clients nationwide and specializes in long-term and project based stays. Creative Lodging Solutions was founded in 2002 by Michael Tetterton and has won numerous awards recognizing our high growth and exceptional customer service.
Nomination Category:Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Female Executive of the Year – Business Services –11 to 2,500 Employees

Nomination Title: Marsha Couch, CFO

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated executive since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

Marsha Couch, CFO and certified CPA, oversees Creative Lodging Solutions’ finance department and manages internal auditing, forecasting, cash controls, budgets, and reporting. She has been integral in ensuring the company’s 48.3% CAGR since its launch thirteen years ago.

In 2014, Creative Lodging Solutions (CLS) experienced tremendous fast paced growth with a revenue increase of 27.8% to exceed $128 million. The company also increased their client base by 15% with an employee growth rate of 14%.

CLS is a travel management company that specializes in providing customized lodging programs for corporate clients nationwide. Lodging services include negotiating and booking hotel rooms for clients and providing them with accurate consolidated billing.

The company’s rapid growth over the past several years led to a unique challenge. While 70% of reservations are direct billed, approximately $30-35 million in reservations was booked on the company’s credit card last year. Of these credit card reservations, CLS found itself funding 100% of the clients’ hotel bills and assuming all risk. Marsha eliminated this financial risk by setting up accounts receivable insurance.

Booking such a large number of reservations on the credit card resulted in a huge increase in fraudulent charges. Up to 42,000 hotels are given access to CLS’ credit card number each year and fraudulent charges began appearing weekly. Each time fraud was discovered, the credit card had to be closed and all hotels with outstanding charges had to be notified of a new credit card number. This became a time-consuming and difficult process.

Marsha found a company to issue CLS thousands of virtual credit card numbers a year. This allows for one-time usage of each number. Not only did this eliminate the fraud, but Marsha also negotiated 1.9% cash back for paying the credit card daily. Marsha then secured a $7.5 million line of credit to fund the growth of this new service initiative and established Priority Pay for hotels. This resulted in over $800,000 in additional revenue in 2014.

Marsha’s initiatives eliminated CLS’ risk, allowed the company to continue offering unlimited hotel options to clients, and resulted in a new Priority Pay program for hotels. Priority Pay had an 83.75% profit margin last year and actualized an additional $670,000 in profit.

Over the previous year, Marsha also negotiated to secure tax incentives of up to $1.75 million through the state’s Economic Development Finance Authority. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets. The incentives are highly sought after with only a few businesses being awarded each year.

Marsha is currently working on rapidly growing the core business through acquisitions and increased business offerings. The company will be moving into new 68,000 sq ft offices later this year which Marsha helped negotiate the lease on over a fourteen month span.

Outside of the office, Marsha also volunteers time with her son’s high school football team where she has served as the Bluegrass Bowl Chair, Banquet Chair, and 7 on 7 team mom for the past two years along with volunteering on various other committees.

Provide a brief biography of the nominated executive (up to 125 words):

Marsha Couch, CFO and certified CPA, was integral in developing the Creative Lodging Solutions (CLS) concept and business model. Marsha graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky and was the controller at Hughes Aircraft Company before joining CLS. In the start-up stages, Marsha acted as controller, became the VP of Finance in 2006, and CFO in 2010. She also ran operations for the hotel side of the company for two years. Marsha manages CLS’ internal auditing process, forecasting, cash controls, budgets, and reporting. She was named an Executive of the Year Gold Winner at the 2015 CEO World Awards. Marsha also volunteers with her son’s high school football team where she chairs multiple committees and is the 7 on 7 team mom.