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Recognizing research with impact

Professor Eva Labro receiving Bullard Research Impact Award for her work in managerial accounting.Research that focuses on one of the most basic aspects of running a business – how to use accounting information to make better business decisions – received the 2018 Bullard Research Impact Award at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Eva Labro, professor of accounting and Michael W. Haley Distinguished Scholar, received the honor for her significant impact on managerial accounting

The award was the brainchild of Clifford E. “Clif” Bullard Jr. (BSBA ’76), CEO of the Bullard Restaurant Group. His goal was to inspire and provide incentives for faculty members to consider the impact on the business world as they choose research topics and communicate their results.

Managerial accounting is taught in every introductory accounting course and used by every company, no matter its size, industry, or geography, said previous Bullard Award winner Anil Shivdasani, Wells Fargo Distinguished Professor of Finance, when he presented the award to Labro. “Yet, despite its importance, research in this area has essentially stalled. Companies rely on ‘rules of thumb’ – in sharp contrast to the highly analytical and data-driven progress we see in almost all other areas of the business world.”

“Eva has conducted some of the most path-breaking research on cost-based accounting systems, developing ways in which in which companies can better use their accounting information to get a true picture of their overall costs,” Shivdasani said. “She shows how the typical approach of activity-based costing tends to be prone to many errors and leads to less accurate information for understanding and lowering costs. Her work has pioneered the use of time-based costing systems instead.”

Labro’s research appears in the very best academic journals in accounting. The fact that she has published four award-winning papers on managerial accounting – and their funding by leading professional organizations, such as the Institute for Management Accounting and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants – is evidence of their relevance to business professionals. Business professionals have reviewed her papers and proposals and deemed the questions she studied to be very relevant to the business world.

Three of her papers, in separate years, won the award for the Greatest Impact on Management Accounting Practice.  She is the only author to have received this award three times. The fourth paper won an award for the Most Notable Contribution to the Management Accounting Literature. Her studies have written about in the business media, white papers produced by companies such as SAS and GMAC, UNC Kenan-Flagler outlets, and as Harvard Business School cases that are taught in MBA classrooms across the world.

Understanding the role world-class research plays in the continued success of UNC Kenan-Flagler led Bullard to establish the research award in 2009.

In support of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s leadership priority and the Campaign for Carolina, Bullard made an additional gift in 2017 to grow the Bullard Award, which helps the School support and retain top faculty by rewarding breakthrough research that makes a significant impact.

“It is important to have incentives for productive and useful research that is not only applicable for business practices today, but relevant for businesses in the future as well,” says Bullard.

Bullard credits UNC with helping him learn how to establish strong relationships “because in the restaurant business, it’s all about people, all the time.”

In the restaurant business for almost 40 years, his company operates Burger King, Smithfield’s Chicken ‘n Bar-B-Q, Moe’s Southwest Grill, BurgerFi, Positalia Italian Eatery and CoreLife Eatery restaurants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and New York.