The CFO Playbook

4 tips for building a system capable of delivering

25 April 2022  |  

8 minutes read

Anthony Rawlinson has more than 12 years of experience working in finance. He joined Papier as CFO four years ago, after serving as a consultant for the brand beforehand. Previously, Anthony worked in investment banking with Greenhill & Co. and PwC, providing generalist corporate finance advice. Since he started as the finance leader at Papier, the team has grown to 20 people. Not only does Anthony lead the finance operations at Papier, but he also oversees Data at the company. He believes it is important to have synergy between the two functions to help better the organization.

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Anthony talks about how his path to CFO was led by his interests and passions for the product and the autonomy that comes with working for a startup. He explains the importance of having a centralized source of truth for data. This allows the company to have a standard reporting function that sets up the organization for success by focusing on insights and action. Anthony also stresses the important traits that every CFO needs to help them learn and grow personally, drive the company to prosper now and in the future, and how to maintain a content and capable support team.


1. Capture the culture in hiring and retention

Hiring should be part of your reflex. You always have to be continually responding to and reevaluating what’s happening in terms of team culture and resourcing.

Your team tells your company’s story. Having great people on your team is fundamental to that.

“I suppose we think about it (retention) as holistically as possible. Yes, people will focus on the numbers, and the salary, and the comp, and all the benefits. But, to be honest, if you’re a young person looking for a job, you don’t necessarily go to a startup or scale up for those things. I think you’d need to pay people fairly and offer people something that is competitive on the market for their skills. But, I think for us the differentiation really comes around culture and the things that we can do that are big cost drivers for the business and drive a lot of employee satisfaction.”

You need to make sure you have a diverse and representative workforce that reflects the customer base, but also doesn’t skew too close to people who have already been hired before. It’s about the way you do things as much about the raw numbers.

2. Tout the best tools and practices

Having some level of autonomy can go a long way with you and your staff.

There is no single way that really works the best when approaching your work. What can help you to achieve this is having tools and technologies in place that will allow people to dedicate more time to other things, while all working from the same information.

“The way I like to do things is just simply trying to encourage best practices of having an agenda, trying to be respectful of people’s time, and try not to be too prescriptive about how people actually do things. You just need to find your level.”

Having a central source of truth for data, along with a team centralized for responsibility over it can help your organization. This will allow the company to focus on action with common insight to help set it up for success.


3. Be flexible and forward-thinking

Have confidence in what you’ve learned throughout your career as you move into different roles. Your training and insight can differentiate you in many ways from others.

It is okay to try before you buy, gaining beneficial experiences by trying new and different opportunities. Being flexible and experimenting with working in different roles, ways, and formats can be beneficial.

“When it comes to that transition from advisor to principal, there’s lots of stuff you have to learn. You have to be open-minded. You have to be a generalist. You have to be humble, particularly interpersonally, and you have to be flexible in your approach because you go from a world where you’re effectively operating with lots of very similar people, to a world where there’s more diversity in the different skill sets. Not everyone loves numbers. Not everyone speaks the same language as you, and you do have to affect your approach in ways that you haven’t ever before.”

Use your strengths that you’ve been hired for but also have the humility to take it back to the basics and educate yourself more to enhance your knowledge base.


4. Capitalize on chemistry

When you are looking to identify a new opportunity, take a look at the market, team, investors, and get a sense of what the chemistry is like between the organization and management team.

As you make a decision towards a huge investment in your career and journey, you always want to look for alignment in the company’s mission. Once you have taken on your role, work on cross-functional collaboration, building relationships and being a resource to the entire company.

“In particular the chemistry with the organization, the management team, I think that’s obvious in any role that you’re looking for. But, it’s no different at a senior level. That personal chemistry, particularly with the CEO, who for me has become a good friend over time, is fundamental. I do also think that alignment to mission and vision is also fundamental. You can’t lead and effectively dedicate your life to something that is not something you believe in.”

Be willing to utilize entirely new processes, new systems, and new ways of doing things to optimize or evolve as the business changes.


Be partners with your organization

Anthony believes chemistry within your finance team and organization at large is very important. Having an alignment of mission and vision is fundamental to help you lead effectively.

With the finance team, he has adopted a hybrid decentralized approach model to how it focuses on different aspects of the company. The finance team functions as business partners with different areas within the organization to benefit accuracy and efficiency.

Anthony thinks you need to go above and beyond and challenge yourself to encourage continued team engagement, being cognizant of culture and experimenting with ways to find the right balance for your team.

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