Written By: Beth Atlas, Manager & Curator, 49ers Museum
Contributor: Joe Hession, 49ers Museum Historian
Football is a game of numbers. Points scored, time of possession and statistics are among the variables collected, analyzed and referenced on a regular basis. For the business and accounting side of an NFL franchise, numbers are just as important. Esther Chi, 49ers Vice President and Controller, oversees all accounting functions for the team, including financial reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll.
"When I was hired as a staff accountant, the Accounting & Finance department totaled six full time staff," Esther recalled. "At that time, we were playing at Candlestick Park and our sole business was NFL football. I was an individual contributor and handled revenue accounting, sponsorship/suite billings and collections, and daily cash management."
Most of the work in 49ers departments varies in scope, with new types of projects and initiatives springing up constantly. Though accounting has its busy seasons, it is generally steady work. Esther explains, "accounting is not really project-based, but more a cyclical routine of getting essential things done on a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly basis. With that said, it's always satisfying to implement new systems or processes that result in increased efficiency, accuracy or convenience."
Implementing new procedures that expedite processing is as welcome a change for payees as it is for those on the disbursement end. "A couple of examples are the use of Concur for electronic invoice approvals and expense reporting and utilizing software to organize the month end financial close and audit deliverables."
The biggest game changer, of course, was the construction and ultimate operation of Levi's® Stadium. The endeavor required much more work for which the then-current Accounting team had bandwidth. "During the pre-construction phase, I had been handling the accounting. When it began, we hired a separate team to handle the construction accounting," Esther recalls.
Assembling a team to handle construction finances was just the beginning. Levi's® Stadium completely changed the way the franchise operated. Operating the building and all of the new initiatives planned by the 49ers for the new venue necessitated hiring people for entirely new positions and job functions. "Once the time of opening for Levi's® Stadium drew near, the first official hire for Financial Planning & Analysis was made and the Accounting & Finance department officially split into two branches under the [Chief Financial Officer]."
Levi's® Stadium was designed to be used year-round whereas Candlestick Park was primarily only used for 49ers home games in its later years. Unlike Candlestick, which was maintained by the City and County of San Francisco, the 49ers would oversee operations at Levi's®. "NFL football is still a key line of business for us, but we are now also a stadium management company," Esther said.
The Accounting and Finance departments manage the monetary aspect for the 49ers as well as for the management and operation of Levi's® Stadium and events of all sizes held within the venue. Private and public events were not the only new endeavors for the franchise. The 49ers Museum presented by Foxconn Industrial Internet and the 49ers Team Store presented by Visa, brick-and-mortar features of the stadium, became the first established amenities in the 49ers home venue that could be patronized outside of home game days.
During her 20 years with the 49ers, Esther has successfully climbed the corporate ladder. She worked her way up to Vice President and Controller after serving as Accounting Manager, Senior Accounting Manager and Director.
"I can't believe how quickly 20 years have gone by," Esther said. "I have experienced significant life changes during that time, some were wonderful and some were devastating."
Perhaps the most impactful was the passing of Esther's mother, to whom she credits her career accomplishments. Esther's mother raised her with love and care, even when encountering intergenerational and cultural differences.
"My mother was raised as a traditional Korean woman, so I was raised to not speak up and not ask for anything, but to work hard and do my best, and I would receive the rewards I deserved."
While Esther recognizes that staying silent does not always reap rewards, she completely understands her mother's methodology.
"I feel so lucky to have had her for a mother and I would attribute most of the success I have achieved to her...she was our primary source of support for most of my childhood. My siblings and I owe everything to her love and support. So although what she taught by word or example may have been contradictory, ultimately the result was that she raised two strong and independent daughters."
As such, Esther has imparted advice onto to others, including things she wishes she had done herself. "Take some risks; even if you do not meet every qualification in a job description, go for it anyway. Find mentors early in your career. Take a public speaking class. Seek out career networks and maintain the relationships. Ask for what you want and what you deserve. Express your opinion and speak up in meetings. Take pride and have ownership in your work, no matter what the job. Learn to delegate as needed. Be a student and a teacher. Find something that you enjoy doing. Take the time for the things that really matter to you, spend time with your loved ones and prioritize your health. "
Esther also has one bit of personal finance advice: "Contribute to your 401k and take advantage of the maximum match amount!"
Sage advice coming from someone who certainly knows the importance of numbers.
back to top Up Next Latest Videos Channel Jimmy Garoppolo Breaks Down the 49ers Offense Entering the 2021 Season Latest Videos Channel 49ers Players Have Fun on the Green Screen Latest Videos Channel Alex Mack Talks 'Fresh Start' in San Francisco Latest Videos Channel Arik Armstead on How Becoming a #GirlDad Puts Life In a Different Perspective Latest Videos Channel Mike McGlinchey: 'The Sky's the Limit for this Football Team' Latest Videos Channel DeMeco Ryans Recaps First Week of #49ersCamp Latest Videos Channel Kentavius Street Keeping His 'Foot on the Gas Pedal' in 2021 Latest Videos Channel George Kittle, Trent Williams Talk 49ers Training Camp on NFL Network Latest Videos Channel Samson Ebukam: 'It's Green Lights at all Times' in 49ers Defense Latest Videos Channel Mohamed Sanu Discusses the Standard the 49ers WRs are Setting in 2021 Latest Videos Channel Dre Greenlaw: 'Everyone on Defense Can't Wait to Put Pads On' Latest Videos Channel Kyle Shanahan Talks Injury Updates, Competition at Wide Receiver and Right Guard Latest Videos Channel Brandon Aiyuk Feeling 'More Confident' in Year 2 Latest Videos Channel Meet the Rookies: Which Teammate are the Rookies Most Excited to Meet? Latest Videos Channel Trey Lance Recaps Start to First NFL Training Camp Latest Videos Channel DeMeco Ryans: Fred Warner 'Will Do Great Things This Year' Latest Videos Channel Football and Family: Raheem Mostert's Approach to the 2021 Season Latest Videos Channel Jason Verrett: 'I Know What I Can Bring to the Table' Latest Videos Channel Nick Bosa: 'I'm Moving Better Than I Ever Have' Latest Videos Channel Mike McDaniel Says Goal for 49ers Offense is to 'Improve Every Day' Latest Videos Channel Jimmy Garoppolo: 'We Have an Opportunity to Do Something Special' Latest Videos Channel Fred Warner Says Getting Bosa, Ford Back Boosts the Entire Team Latest Videos Channel Kyle Shanahan: 'Guys Are Pumped' to Have Fans at #49ersCamp Latest Videos Channel Deebo Samuel Says Jimmy Garoppolo is 'Locked In' Latest Videos Channel Kyle Juszczyk Sets Goals for Year 5 in SF Latest Videos Channel 49ers PREP and Nike Host Nike 11-On Tournament Latest Videos Channel John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan Discuss the Start of 49ers Camp Latest Videos Channel George Kittle: 'Every Year I'm Just Trying to Be a Better Football Player' Latest Videos Channel Trent Williams: 'This is a Year We Can Do Special Things' Latest Videos Channel Jimmie Ward Says 49ers 2021 D-Line's Potential is Reminiscent of 2019 Latest Videos Channel D.J. Jones Says 49ers Defense Has Same Playmakers But 'New Attitude' Latest Videos Channel Oh Snap! 49ers Players Guess the 90's Latest Videos Channel Joovv is Giving 49ers Players an 'Advantage' in Their Recovery Latest Videos Channel Jim Trotter Says 49ers Defense Will Be 'More Attacking' Under DeMeco Ryans Latest Videos Channel Fred Warner Excited to Stay in San Francisco 'For a Very Long Time' Latest Videos Channel Fred Warner's Best Mic'd Up Moments Latest Videos Channel Tony Jefferson Says He's Ready to 'Make a Name for Himself' in San Francisco Latest Videos Channel Meet the Rookies: Who Were the Rookie's Favorite Athletes Growing Up? Latest Videos Channel Patrick Willis is Headed to the 49ers Hall of Fame Latest Videos Channel See the Entire 49ers Roster at Players for a Purpose Presented by SAP