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3 traits start-up finance leaders need to succeed

Luko’s VP of Finance, Margaux Gregoir, shares the attributes that have helped her succeed in building a finance team at the insurtech start-up.

Posted on 07 September 2021 by Janelle Van Deventer

Start-ups come with their own unique set of challenges – from hypergrowth to bootstrapped cash flows, you must be prepared for extreme highs and lows.

Margaux Gregoir, VP of Finance at Luko – a France-based home insurtech startup – took on her new role amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who recently made the jump from a large corporate bank to a start-up, Margaux knew she needed to think differently and took a deep dive into every aspect of the company.

During this time, she was able to build up her finance team and lead Luko through one of the most unexpected economic crises of our time.

In the latest episode of The CFO Playbook podcast, Margaux shares three traits every finance leader needs to succeed in a start-up.

1. Frugality

Frugality and hypergrowth don’t commonly go hand-in-hand, particularly if you work for a VC-backed startup. However, Margaux believes a frugal approach is the best way to control unnecessary spending, regardless of the economic situation you are in.

She says:

‘We asked people to really stick to the must-haves and not the nice-to-haves, and it turned out super well. It was also a good learning experience for everybody because we talk a lot about frugality. You want people to develop and to think frugally. I think it’s a super cool mindset.’

Not sure how to implement this in your own company?

Margaux suggests you look at the way you purchase new tools. ‘Think twice, think company-wide,’ she says. In other words, when you consider a new tool, talk to other teams to see if they could leverage it as well. This helps you avoid silos where teams use two different tools offering virtually the same features.

And always ask yourself, ‘Is this a must-have or a nice-to-have?’

2. Customer-first mindset

It might seem obvious to prioritise customer experience, but oftentimes we find ourselves in tight situations where we think about our internal objectives first.

In these cases, it’s important to continuously ask yourself whether the actions you take internally benefit your external stakeholders because, at the end of the day, they matter most.

Margaux is a strong believer in the customer-first approach and even applies this mindset to the way she thinks about her team. Rather than viewing her team as a support to her, she views them as a support to the overall business and client:

‘Yes, it’s a support team, but it’s supporting [the] business. What is the first thing you need to think of? Your client, always. And second, how do the team best serve the client?’

This mindset also applies to your quarterly or yearly roadmaps. When you plan for the future, think of ways you can improve your customers’ lives. The easier you make it for them, the more valuable you’ll be.

3. Self-discipline

As a finance leader, you need to master the art of anticipation in order to better manage your team, workflow, and projections. According to Margaux, your ability to anticipate is strengthened by your self-discipline.

While it’s important to maintain a high-level perspective, Margaux finds it equally beneficial to dive into the details herself. She explains:

‘If I have a doubt about something, I just open the document myself, go through it myself, and go to the person I want to ask a question to. And I think it’s because of that self-discipline that I’m quite well aware of everything, and I’m capable of reacting because I know the context.’

The more you gain a well-rounded understanding of the business, the better prepared you’ll be to mitigate and anticipate change in the future.

Be a partner to your CEO

In the end, you need to think of yourself as the best possible financial partner to your CEO. Margaux explains:

‘Your major role is to help your CEO be smart in investment and resource allocation. For that, you need to deeply understand what all the teams are doing and where you can accelerate or not.’

If you learn the business inside and out, think frugal, prioritise the customer, and have the self-discipline to dive into the nitty-gritty, then you have what it takes to succeed in any business…not just a start-up.

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