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Sue Collyns

In search of Excellence
An alum’s journey from Sydney to Silicon Beach

CFO of the Silicon Beach-based fitness and nutrition company Beachbody, and Board member of popular restaurant chain Zoe’s Kitchen, Australia native Sue Collyns forged a career in finance that began at PwC and has taken her halfway around the world to a place she feels uniquely at home.

“The mission of Beachbody is to help people achieve their goals and enjoy healthy, fulfilling lives,” she says, “Who's not going to sign up for that?” Beachbody checks all the criteria for a mission driven high performance company which is dedicated to people: with a company culture and set of values she believes in. “Our co-founders are inspirational, incredible to work with, and we live our core values every day.”

As a self-proclaimed life-long learner and someone who has been in the front line as a public company CFO, Collyns has managed businesses from the early, to middle, to mature stages of their lifecycles. She’s also built teams from scratch, driven millions of cost savings to the bottom line, led sale processes and knows her way around complex financial matters as well as operations. She began at PwC in her native Australia, as part of a hiring program that allowed her to join the firm out of high school and continue her university education while working full time. Though the schedule required time management to diligently balance work, school, and travel, she found it invaluable, calling it “one of the richest intellectual experiences of my early professional life.”

Her time at PwC exposed Collyns to a variety of clients, including Pharmaceutical, Entertainment, Insurance, Banking and many small manufacturing companies, helping her identify attributes she would come to admire. “No matter what industry they were in, companies were clearly differentiated by their culture, values and commitment to developing employees through training.”  This is where she learned first-hand that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it became important to make sure she would join teams who were committed to culture, people and helping employees reach their potential.

Collyns and her husband decided to relocate from Australia to the United States in 1994—a courageous move that involved leaving stable jobs, packing up their lives and leaping feet first into the unknown. With no hands-on knowledge of the US, Collyns made use of her PwC alumni connections and what the firm called at the time its “Alumni Book.” Networking came naturally with her people skills, and she recalls with gratitude leveraging the “Book” to meet fellow PwC alumni and learn more about life in her adopted country. “I was extremely grateful to have an immediate network of smart, talented, hard-working and helpful people when we were first in the States,” she remembers. “Alumni were gracious, and gave me a good sense of the marketplace. One of the alumni I called ended up giving me advice to target international companies who might provide green-card sponsorship. That resulted in me accepting a role with BMG Entertainment in New York and then relocating to Los Angeles as VP of Finance in 1996 to lead the finance integration for a purchased record label. Incidentally, that alumnus has been one of my best friends for the past 25 years and is godfather to our youngest son – if that doesn’t speak to serendipitous encounters at PwC, I don’t know what does!”

Now that Collyns is CFO for the billion dollar multinational company, Beachbody, technical expertise, quality of work and team building within her department are critical. “Simply put, I really value having started my career at PwC because it taught me what excellence looks like. I definitely have a strong bias for hiring junior staff from the Big 4 because I know the commitment to training is second to none. I can’t think of any other profession where in four years you can audit all business areas, learn to appreciate the value of internal controls, prepare financial statements, roll up your sleeves and complete system walk throughs and have management meetings with everyone from the most junior of client staff to the CEO. The experience is truly unique.” I know if they make it through that filter and process, then they're going to have many of the characteristics to succeed and become a future leader.” She cites technical proficiency, a strong work ethic, fierce determination and intellectual curiosity among those qualities—and knows how to find them.

”I credit the strong PwC brand name and training program for having given me the opportunity and, ultimately, courage to become a CFO, COO and a Board member, and I’d recommend it to anyone in a heart-beat.” 

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Fred Zimowski
US Alumni Network Leader
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Amy Paquette
US Alumni Network Manager
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