62 Taking Stock of Your Priorities with Leigh Ramsden, CFO at Trulioo

9 June 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Leigh Ramsden, CFO at Trulioo, a leading global identity and business verification provider specializing in anti-money laundering and ‘know your customer’ compliance. With over 15 years in senior level finance, Leigh is accomplished in the leadership of finance teams while implementing strategies and managing effective business processes to achieve corporate goals and maximize growth in high-volume environments.

As CFO at Trulioo, Leigh has been an effective operational leader, providing financial and business strategy and direction to the organization. Throughout his career, he has excelled at building teams and successfully linking overall corporate goals to individual personal achievement. His previous experience includes financial leadership positions at Absolute Software, Deloitte, Radiant Communications, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Leigh talks about what it takes to be a productive partner working alongside the CEO and the best ways to make that relationship work. He discusses the changes the pandemic has introduced to the finance world and stresses the impact that working from the office has on company culture. Leigh also explains the importance of being open to adopting new technologies to help advance the finance industry.

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Time Stamp Topics:

01:16 Leigh’s journey into finance

02:38 Changes in the audit world

03:24 Transitioning into industry

04:18 First role as a CFO

07:12 How the role of the CFO is changing

08:58 Advice for upcoming CFOs

11:41 Deciding on priorities

19:36 Recruiting and retaining staff at Trulioo

21:45 Importance of working from the office

29:10 Finance impact on employee experience

31:38 Final advice for upcoming CFOs

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Sponsor:

This show is brought to you by Soldo, the brighter way to manage business spending and expenses. With Soldo, you can control every expense, track spend in real time, automate financial reporting, and then use those insights to fuel growth. Learn more at Soldo.com

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Links:

Connect with Ross on LinkedIn

Connect with Leigh on LinkedIn

The CFO Playbook Listener Survey

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Leigh’s Playbook: Building Strong Partnerships

Leigh Ramsden, CFO at Trulioo, has over 15 years experience as an accomplished financial leader, directing finance teams while implementing strategies and managing effective business processes to achieve corporate goals and maximize growth in high-volume environments. Throughout his career, he has been dedicated to providing informative, timely, and accurate internal and external financial reporting and metrics to enable data-driven decisions. Leigh prides himself on his ability to analyze complex problems in order to find pragmatic solutions while minimizing business and financial risk.

In the latest episode of the CFO Playbook, Leigh talks about what it takes to be a productive partner working alongside the CEO and the best ways to make that relationship work. He discusses the changes the pandemic has introduced to the finance world and stresses the impact that working from the office has on company culture. Leigh also explains the importance of being open to adopting new technologies to help advance the finance industry.

Working Alongside CEOs

The CEO of any company has a wide mandate to be in control of everything that is happening in their company. They need people to rely on that can help them oversee and support different parts of the business. As a CFO, you are a partner that provides a financial lens and context to the numbers. You need to be a trusted, informed, and strategic advisor to the CEO.

“You really have to get clarity from the CEO about what their expectations are. Depending on the individual, people have different interpretations of the same topics. So, getting clarity from that individual about what their expectations are really helps frame how you need to think about your role, and how you operate going forward.”

Refining Your Skillset

​​Having intellectual curiosity and getting an in-depth understanding of the business that you’re in is important. You need to have context and be able to explain the meaning of the numbers. Identify your strategies and understand the information that you need to provide to your company. If you don’t have the tools or staff to accomplish this, consider expanding your knowledge base or hiring people that can help fill the gaps.

“Taking stock of your skillset and understanding where you need to make improvements or learn, and then figuring out a plan to make it happen is really important. No one’s perfect in every area. Everyone has areas of strength and weakness. So, being thoughtful about making improvements, learning, or figuring out how you’re going to backfill some of those weaker areas is super important.”

Capitalize on Communication

People need to understand the finance function’s perspective. As a CFO, people are looking to you to provide insight into the business. You need to have a sense of what the future holds and have a clear grasp of what’s happening in the market. Improving the way you interact with the company and being able to provide financial insight and analysis, could help the company perform better. 

“Think about your ability to communicate. I think a lot about knowing your audience and tailoring your messaging for your audience. A lot of financial professionals can understand the business and the underlying metrics. And, understanding all that’s very complicated by its nature and a lot of people have that ability of understanding. But, the job is really around simplifying it in a way that all people can understand, and that’s where you can really add a lot of value.”

Adapting to New Tech

It is challenging to bridge the gap between the norms and protocols of the past and the needs required for future success. You need to find the best ways to utilize the data that you have at your disposal to plan ahead. The finance world is continually evolving quickly. You need to put in effort into learning about new technology and tools that can advance your team and increase efficiency and accuracy.

“I’m very open to having technology conversations now. I think you don’t know what you don’t know and learning about all the different tools that are available out there. You know, you’re doing yourself and you’re doing your organization a disservice if you’re not looking into it.”

61 Challenge the Status Quo with Kirstine Archer, CFO at Bam Boom Cloud

2 June 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Kirstine Archer, CFO at Bam Boom Cloud. Although having been in finance for over 20 years, Kirstine says she fell into accountancy rather than making it a deliberate career move. Even though she may have taken a non-traditional path to CFO, Kirstine has a clear passion and expertise for helping small to midsize businesses by increasing their efficiency through advising and technology. 

Kirstine has worked for Bam Boom Cloud for the past two years. As CFO, her role isn’t just about making sure the numbers balance, she is always striving for the company to have the best finance team around. Her goal is to make sure the company delivers world class finance systems, both as their number one fan and number one customer. Her previous experience includes financial leadership positions at Cooper Parry, Equifax, TDX, Boots and more.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Kirstine talks about the many opportunities that technology provides for improving the way finance works. She emphasizes the need for more competition among companies to develop newly innovative finance tech. Kirstine explains how the finance industry should challenge the status-quo situated around old technology to develop new innovations that would eliminate human errors. She discusses her unconventional path to becoming a leader in finance, including finding benefit from attending an open university and getting on-the-job experience early in her career. Kirstine also talks about her approach to creating a great team, and provides advice for becoming a successful CFO. 

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Quotes:

“When young people come into the world of work, they can be incredibly highly academic, intelligent, young people but don’t have work skills. So don’t have those skills in terms of communication or writing emails or just logic and problem solving and circling round to speak to people. There are a lot of skills that you don’t get until you come into the world of work. And I think that the world has moved on. I think that with the entrepreneurial spirit, you are probably going to get more from the world of work and learning from peers and seeing the good side and the bad side of what they do than you are necessarily sitting in a lecture hall, listening to somebody who is incredibly qualified in what they do, but hasn’t necessarily been in that work environment either ever or for a very long time. Knowing that you’ve got options should be really empowering to young people now because it’s something that I didn’t have when I was at school.”

“Finance can be a tough place to work at times. You get the business looking at you, suppliers, customers, it can be a tough environment to work in. We need people around us who we can rely on as team members and who not only have that tenacity, but that drive and that desire to want to do their best in their role.”

“I don’t necessarily want a team that everybody wants to be CFO. I want a good, well-rounded team where, yeah some people are knocking down at my door, wanting my job after me, but other people want to do the best they are at the job that they’ve got because they have family outside of work, or they have loved ones that they’re caring for, or actually they just don’t want the stress and the hassle of a high powered job because they want to finish on time and go and play football. We’re all many different sorts of people. And I think a well balanced team and a well-balanced company should support that.”

“Cultural fit is massively important. I think we’ve probably all worked in organizations where what they do is great and we’ve probably been remunerated well, but that cultural fit isn’t right. And if that cultural fit isn’t right, then you get demotivated and you don’t do your best. Eventually you get bored and you leave. So finding that right cultural fit from the office and spending the time doing that is massively important.”

“Young people that come in haven’t necessarily had a job in an office environment before let alone a finance function and actually setting them up with the right training and setting them up for success is important, but not everybody is going to succeed in that role. I think making a quick decision around that is equally as important. If you have gotten the wrong fit person in the team, and it could be that they’re a great person but they’re just not the right person for the role, then actually making that decision and finding either another role internally that’s better suited to them or  letting them leave and find their own career path is important.”

“I think the damage done to teams by keeping under-performance in place for long periods of time is worse than facing it head on and admitting that sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes we get recruitment wrong. I know that I have in the past. You have to sometimes go with your gut. You sometimes have to go with the best person that’s sat in front of you, hope they’ll fit in and be great for them. And then, unfortunately, you have to deal with the consequences if they don’t quite meet expectations.”

“I don’t see why any of us want to do something that technology can do for us. We get a bit worried about the robot revolution. That will never happen because robots will never think in the same way as humans. They’ll never spot those little intricacies and add that value. I don’t want to grow a team that’s enormous. I want technology to take away the heavy lifting so that my team could do the interesting stuff, the stuff that really benefits them in their career journeys.”

“It still astounds me, today in 2022, the world’s global finance system is pretty much still held up by Excel. There is no finance function on earth that does not have an Excel spreadsheet somewhere. I think that’s symptomatic of the fact that actually as finance people, we don’t challenge the status quo enough sometimes. I think that sometimes, because we have month-end reporting and because we have to make sure that what we do gets done, we go, ‘I’d love to fix that but I haven’t got time and I need this to carry on working, it will do the job’. And I think sometimes we need to be bigger advocates of the fact that this doesn’t work for us.” 

“There are ways that you can use technology to speed every process up, every operational process. And the more that we do that, the more that you’re not reliant on humans and human fallibility and errors with that. As finance people, there’s nothing more frustrating than being like, ‘oh, someone forgot to do this’, or ‘you posted something in the wrong way round’. If we can remove that and get people doing what they should be doing, which is controlled checks, analysis, the data and the insight side of things, then we’ll all be better for it.”

“I think there needs to be competition within this space. Otherwise you end up with just Excel again, just a newer version of Excel that everybody relies on. There needs to be competition. A single source is great and Microsoft enables that, but there has to be competition within the partners in terms of who’s going to get to market first…. A world without competition is a world without innovation. So it’s massively important that that continues.”

“Don’t rush into the CFO role. Some people seem to be very desperate to get to the top of the ladder. It will come if it’s right to come to you, like the right opportunity will come up.”

“For me, it’s just about learning. If you’re not learning in the role that you’re in, then it’s probably time to move on. But it doesn’t always have to be up the career ladder. It can be sideways or a similar role in a different organization. If you want to be a CFO of a fast paced organization, spend some time in finance in a fast paced organization. See how you like it. Because one day that’s all going to be yours to look after.”

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Timestamp Topics:

01:30 Kirstine’s career path

05:39 Formal education

07:58 Advice on university

10:31 Education v. work experience

13:04 Narrowing down hiring candidates

19:27 How Kirstine’s finance team functions compared to others

25:45 In-house v. outsourcing when it comes to finance

28:03 Opportunities for improving the way finance works

36:35 Advice for upcoming CFOs 

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Sponsor:

This show is brought to you by Soldo, the brighter way to manage business spending and expenses. With Soldo, you can control every expense, track spend in real time, automate financial reporting, and then use those insights to fuel growth. Learn more at Soldo.com

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Links:

Connect with Ross on LinkedIn

Connect with Kirstine on LinkedIn

The CFO Playbook Listener Survey

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Kirstine’s Playbook: Why Competition is Good for Finance Tech

Kirstine Archer, CFO at Bam Boom Cloud, has over 20 years working in finance with the purpose of helping small to midsize businesses achieve their goals by increasing their efficiency through technology. However, her role isn’t just about making sure the numbers balance. She is always striving for the company to have the best finance team around. Working for a company that delivers world class finance systems means that she is both their number one fan and number one customer.

In the latest episode of the CFO Playbook, Kirstine talks about the many opportunities that technology provides for improving the way finance works. She emphasizes the need for more competition among companies to develop newly innovative finance tech. Kirstine explains how the finance industry should challenge the status-quo situated around old technology to develop new innovations that would eliminate human errors. She discusses her unconventional path to becoming a leader in finance, including finding benefit from attending an open university and getting on the job experience early in her career. Kirstine also talks about her approach to creating a great team, and provides advice for becoming a successful CFO.

A Well-Rounded Team for a Well-Balanced Company

Moving horizontally across roles can be very important for one’s personal needs and development, and prove quite beneficial to their career aspirations. No one role in a well-balanced team is all-encompassing, including that of the CFO. In order to succeed as a team, each position should be tailored to the specific talents of the individual of that role, and vice versa.

“I don’t necessarily want a team where everybody wants to be CFO. I want a good, well-rounded team where, yeah some people are knocking down at my door wanting my job after me, but other people want to do the best they can at the job that they’ve got because they have family outside of work, or they have loved ones that they’re caring for, or actually they just don’t want the stress and the hassle of a high powered job because they want to finish on time and go and play football. I think a well balanced team and a well-balanced company should support that.”

Challenging the Status-Quo in Finance

Technology is making great leaps in industries across the globe, but some of the most-used financial platforms are highly outdated. Improvements can be made but not if people aren’t willing to step up and demand modern solutions. 

“It still astounds me, today in 2022, the world’s global finance system is pretty much still held up by Excel. There is no finance function on earth that does not have an Excel spreadsheet somewhere. I think that’s symptomatic of the fact that actually as finance people, we don’t challenge the status quo enough sometimes. I think that sometimes, because we have month-end reporting and because we have to make sure that what we do gets done, we go, ‘I’d love to fix that but I haven’t got time and I need this to carry on working, it will do the job.’ And I think sometimes we need to be bigger advocates of the fact that this doesn’t work for us.” 

Eliminating Human Errors

Everybody makes mistakes. Adopting new technologies will alleviate the complications caused by human fallibility. While there’s growing cause for concern when it comes to autonomizing everything, robots can only go so far. Our livelihoods are saved by the value we provide as living beings, because computers can’t replace the thought processes of people.

“There are ways that you can use technology to speed every process up, every operational process. And the more that we do that, the more that you’re not reliant on humans and human fallibility and errors with that. As finance people, there’s nothing more frustrating than being like, ‘oh, someone forgot to do this,’ or ‘you posted something in the wrong way round.’ If we can remove that and get people doing what they should be doing, which is controlled checks, analysis, the data and the insight side of things, then we’ll all be better for it.” 

Competition as a Driving Force in Tech

The word ‘competition’ can have a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t. Two or more parties, competing simultaneously at developing a new technology, allows for growth, innovation, and individualism. This is highly necessary when it comes to achieving customer satisfaction and service, especially in the financial industry.

“I think there needs to be competition within this space. Otherwise you end up with just Excel again, just a newer version of Excel that everybody relies on. There needs to be competition. A single source is great and Microsoft enables that, but there has to be competition within the partners in terms of who’s going to get to market first…. A world without competition is a world without innovation. So it’s massively important that that continues.”

60 Mingling Finance with Product with Mariana Lazaro, CFO Latin America at SumUp

26 May 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Mariana Lazaro, CFO Latin America at SumUp. Mariana has extensive experience in driving continuous financial and operational improvement, designing and implementing accounting processes and systems, developing and implementing strategic plans, and evaluating and executing mergers and acquisitions. From early in life, Mariana knew that she wanted to work in finance because it was important to her as a woman from an immigrant family to show she knew how to be an independent thinker that was able to own and manage finances. She thinks it is important for any CFO to be creative and nimble, building a finance tribe that invests in technology to be successful.

Throughout her career, Mariana has become experienced with leading providers in the Technology, Bio Technology, Agriculture and Financial Services industries with Fortune 500 publicly traded corporations and private equity backed companies. She has been recognized for her ability to develop cross functional relationships and build high performance teams, while motivating and aligning personnel around a common set of goals.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Mariana talks about the importance of innovation in financing for companies and customers, and the traits required of a CFO to build a team and lead it to success through the use of technology. She provides insight on integrating engineering teams to help accomplish goals and develop a harmonious ecosystem. Mariana also speaks about personal and professional empowerment, the importance of continued education, and her dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Quotes

“It has always been my goal to work in the payment industry because inside of the payment industry, the finance department is not a back office. So you’re not talking about the accounting department, you’re talking about the department that’s going to be really together with the business, delivering the product. So with SumUp or Square, any of those fintechs, finance is really the front of the show, together with the product and engineering team. So every time the FinTech launches a product, if you’re talking about lending, if you’re talking about estate pay out, or buy now pay later, any of those products, you have to have a source of findings in those products, in the background. The finance business partner will come in and really help the product to develop and that’s something that I have passion for.”

“Something that most of the CFOS will need to invest in is how do you put inside of the accounting team, finance squads and finance tribes to help you to give this step forward into the technology of the team as a whole.”

“I think we need to realize and be patient. Every time you implement a new technology or you work with a new squad, there is the moment the team gets used to that you’re able to explain what needs to be done. The product starts to work and then really you’re able to take advantage and take the step up. It takes a little bit of time. So you need to be patient.”

“When we put a squad to be working inside of finance, they need to have a tech lead. They need to have somebody because a finance person should be giving guidance, purely guidance and leave the technical part to an engineer. That’s not something that energizes them. So for sure, create a structure where the squad inside of finance there’s a tech lead, somebody that will be able to be their mentor and follow this person closely.”

“I didn’t impose on anybody that they needed to be a hundred percent here in the office. But, for me, to build this synergy among the team it is essential that we’ve been to the office at least two or three times a week. So now as a  rule, not a fixed rule because some of it is very nimble when, and I think we definitely cater to our employees, we’re usually once to twice a week in the office and when we are launching something, a product, and then we will come probably every day because we need to be reading the contract, talking to the banks and talking to the engineering team.”

“Sometimes the market makes over emotional decisions sometimes. But at the end of the day, the company should look within to see if what they have as products is something that’s durable, something that will bring value to the company, not just for show but has a sense to it that this is a good product and you can back it up by engineers and by the process. I think these are the type of companies that will make it.”

“Come out as more of an outspoken, especially towards women in leadership. It makes a difference when you see a woman occupying, especially a finance role, where they are having a leadership position to inspire others, and you literally can see even when you’re in a room, if there are other women, see another woman, they will speak more, they will, they feel more empowered. So to me, I think for sure study. But if you’re a woman besides studying, you have almost the obligation of spying on other women to grow.”

“Essentially a joke which I give to my boss every day is, every time when you’re in a meeting and you see only men around you, you should stop the meeting and say at least one person, at least one woman needs to be here. Because if there’s only men in that table, something is wrong. You can have only one point of view. You are not getting a diverse point of view. You’re not enriching the opinion there. You’re not getting the other backgrounds.”

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Timestamp Topics:

01:30 Path to CFO and Love for Finance

06:24 Perception of Finance’s Role

08:18 Rethinking Future Finance Principles and Roles 

11:30 Solving Finance Problems

15:30 Trials, Tribulations, and Tools of Technology Implementation

19:30 Remote Working and Team Collaboration 

23:30 Finance Functions in Different Countries

26:13 Finance Team Setup

29:10 Future Finance Challenges and Initiatives

35:30 Advice for Being a Successful and Effective CFO

39:00 Promoting Opportunities for Women and Creating Diverse Teams

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Sponsor:

This show is brought to you by Soldo, the brighter way to manage business spending and expenses. With Soldo, you can control every expense, track spend in real time, automate financial reporting, and then use those insights to fuel growth. Learn more at Soldo.com

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Links 

Connect with Ross on LinkedIn

Connect with Mariana on LinkedIn

The CFO Playbook Listener Survey

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Mariana’s Playbook: Tackling Technology Trends and the Importance of Innovation

Mariana Lazaro, CFO Latin America at SumUp, has extensive experience in driving continuous financial and operational improvement, designing and implementing accounting processes and systems, developing and implementing strategic plans, and evaluating and executing mergers and acquisitions. From early in life, Mariana knew that she wanted to work in finance because it was important to her as a woman from an immigrant family to show she knew how to be an independent thinker that was able to own and manage finances. She thinks it is important for any CFO to be creative and nimble, building a finance tribe that invests in technology to be successful.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Mariana talks about the importance of innovation in financing for companies and customers, and the traits required of a CFO to build a team and lead it to success through the use of technology. She also provides insight on integrating engineering teams to help accomplish goals and develop a harmonious ecosystem. As well, Mariana speaks about personal and professional empowerment, the importance of continued education, and her dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Be Involved in Innovation

Be open to having your finance team break from the way things have always been done before. Consider bringing in new types of people with varying areas of expertise across finance and accounting. Be innovative by building a more creative team that embraces technology and has different points of view and experiences. 

“Something that most CFOs will need to do is to invest in the type of people you put inside of the accounting team. Build finance squads or finance tribes to help provide you the opportunity to take a step forward. Use technology and ensure your team moves ahead as a whole unit.”

Expand Engineering’s Access

Think about integrating engineering teams into your finance work, and find common ground and understanding between your expertise. A little bit of an adjustment in this area can go a long way to avoid difficulties and frustrations, while improving the learning curve of technology. All of this can help serve an effort to create a better ecosystem between teams in your company.

“When we put together a squad that will be working inside of finance, they need to have a tech lead. They need to have somebody in finance that can give guidance on the technical part to an engineer. Create a structure where the squad inside of finance has that tech lead to help decipher what you’re planning that will be able to mentor and follow this engineering person closely.” 

Be Nimble and Nurture your Team

As a fixed rule, you need to be very nimble and cater to your employees. Give them choices to provide the best opportunities for them to collaborate and work on their own. When they are able to do tasks on their own, consider allowing them to work remotely. But, also encourage them to come together when launching a new product or creating something new, so that they can be in the best environment for cooperation and collaboration. 

“I think it is important to have everybody sitting in their office, to create this trigger, is essential for us to get to the next step. Obviously, I didn’t impose on anybody that they needed to be a hundred percent here in the office. But, for me, to build this synergy among the team it is essential that we are in the office at least two or three times a week.”

Dedicated to Diversity

Be willing to come out as more outspoken towards having women in leadership. It makes a difference when you see a woman, especially in a finance role, having a leadership position to inspire others. If women see other women in the room they may be more willing to speak up and feel more empowered. Be willing to study and learn from women and their perspectives. This will help you and other women to grow as people and in business. 

“A joke I give to my boss every time we are in a meeting and you see only men around is that he should stop the meeting. At least one woman needs to be there. Because if there’s only men at that table, something is wrong; you’re only going to have one point of view. You are not going to get a diverse point of view. You’re not enriching the opinion there. You’re not getting the other backgrounds.”

58 Becoming an Accidental CFO with Navpreet Randhawa, CFO at Minna

5 May 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 58: Minna | Navpreet Randhawa, CFO

With 7 years of leadership experience, Navpreet Randhawa has a passion for Enterprise SaaS businesses with focus on the financial technology sector. He found himself on the path to being a self-described “accidental CFO” by having a drive to help build companies and be successful. Navpreet has leaned into prioritizing what is best for his business through the help of using technical tools and outsourcing many traditional aspects of a company’s finance department. As CFO at Minna, he strives to be as efficient and effective as possible by being a strategic finance leader that is open to any options that may help the bottom line.

To be a successful CFO, Navpreet feels you need to be practical and honest with your time and responsibilities. If you are stretching yourself too thin, then you need to reassess how your role is functioning. He thinks it is important to be open to using outside resources to make your job easier and better supported, searching out the best specialists to handle tasks. This means you need to admit to what you are and are not good at to help you face and solve problems to ensure growth at your company and in your role.

Navpreet believes it is important to be willing to rediscover and reinvent the wheel for how finance functions have been run in the past. He thinks you need to try avoiding feeling insecure. If you work hard and continue to educate yourself then you won’t ever fail, you will just be able to learn new things and apply those to new opportunities.

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Navpreet talks about why it is important to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. He provides insight on his path from accounting to founding a company, and ultimately taking the learnings he gained from those experiences to be a forward thinking and open minded CFO. Navpreet explains the importance of prioritization, outsourcing, and why always being driven to achieve success are keys to being a great financial leader.

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Navpreet Randhawa

What he does: Navpreet Randhawa, CFO at Minna, has 7 years of leadership experience and a passion for Enterprise SaaS businesses with focus in the financial technology sector. His drive to help build companies and be successful lead him to become a self-described accidental CFO at Minna Technologies, a Swedish tech company on a mission to help retail banks and subscription businesses deliver powerful digital experiences within subscription management. Navpreet has leaned into prioritizing what is best for his business through the help of using technical tools and outsourcing many traditional aspects of a company’s finance department. As a CFO he strives to be as efficient and effective as possible by being a strategic finance leader that is open to any options that may help the bottom line.

Key Quote: “In my department I am accountable for everything. I have a vision of how it should run and where my time and energy should be. But I’m always listening and talking to vendors because they are the subject matter experts.”

Where to find Navpreet: https://www.linkedin.com/in/navpreet-randhawa-17651744/

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From Navpreet’s Playbook

Take note of your mental health

One of the biggest tests is not always the work hours, but is more about the mental stress that can come from a job. Whether you are a founder or the financial leader of a company you are responsible whenever things are good or bad. You don’t need to take on challenges alone and don’t want your frustrations trickling down to others on the team. Take time to prioritize your work, your life, who you work with, and how you take on responsibilities. Be open and willing to collaborate and partner with others, both inside and outside your organization, utilizing the insight from those that may have been in your shoes before. 

Be open to outsourcing 

No matter how small or large your company is, be open to external resources and tools that can help your company’s finance function be successful. Instead of putting the stress on you, your team, and a multitude of internal programs and systems, take the opportunity to help your company by employing the newest and most innovative external resources that are built to empower you to be a better leader. Outsourcing as a way to remove as much as the manual process as possible will free up your time to focus on what is most important.

Only take on what you can manage

Don’t let yourself be spread too thin by taking on too much. The bottom line of your company being profitable should be a main focus of your efforts as a financial leader. Don’t be afraid to stand back and take a look at what works, what doesn’t, and where you need help to be prosperous. Spending too much time in one area, or using the wrong manual tools to do your job, may keep you stuck in the present or even the past. Doing everything you can to promote preparation and having a vision for the future are essential to seeing and taking advantage of potential opportunities.  

Be proud of who you are

Take pride in who you are, what you know, and how hard you’ve worked in your career. Surround yourself with the right people who can help raise you up and provide insight and guidance to better yourself. Part of being a smart leader is being willing to work with others and put in the extra effort to succeed. Take chances and be secure in who you are. Continuously educate yourself and you will never truly fail, only gaining insight and tools to take on whatever comes next.

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Episode Highlights

Practice prioritization

“I don’t take any pride in working a lot of hours. Especially, a couple of years back, I became a father. So I realized that I need to have a more balanced life and working all the time is not the best thing. I need to be more efficient with my time with where prioritization comes in. So, there’s an acceptance that I’m okay that I will miss out on certain things, but what I can’t miss out on are the important things.”

Outsourcing is a resource

“I had one condition to take this job, which is that I don’t want to build an in-house finance function. I will outsource everything. My view of the finance function going forward for any company I work for and build would be that we outsource. There are specialist companies that exist to do the job. The job of the CFO is to manage that CFO suite and to have the right companies and partners to provide information. My job is to analyze and look at those numbers and take a critical look at the business. That is what I always focus on.”

Fuel forward thinking

“Especially in a leadership role, you need to contribute to the top line. You need to contribute strategically to the business side and grow it forward. And that’s how I see myself. My value comes in making sure that Minna moves forward commercially and making sure there’s enough food to move Minna forward. Then there is fuel in the system in terms of capital and money. And, if I’m spending my time away from those two things, then that’s not the best use of my time. So, if I’m doing anything other than those two, I start looking at if I should really be doing that and how we can change it.” 

Be principled in your process

“I’d encourage people to have a rule of thumb. A lot of people call it principles. Some people call it rule of thumb. For me, the more variables you have in the equation, the harder the equation gets. So, I try to eliminate variables. One thing that I’ve accepted is that I need to try new things. Unless I try it, I won’t know.”

Top quotes:

The biggest test for me was not the work hours. Right? I can work. It was more about the mental stress that comes with the job. Most often people were calling me a lot. It was very rare that somebody would call me and say hey, we secured a client. It was most often that, hey, this client did not sign or some of the bad news, or things that they could not handle themselves. It started coming to me, and rightfully so because I was the CEO of the company, I’m supposed to solve the matters or when bad things happen. I’m the one who should cover up when it piles on. And that’s when I felt a bit lonely. I was the one who was building the tech, the one who was taking care of administration, the one who was taking care of the money and the finances. So, everything piled on my plate. 

I think if we would have done that at a much smaller scale (building his company), like first having 30 people in place to train and place. The whole journey, the ecosystem, we would have learned a lot more like the challenges on training, the challenges on mobilizing the challenges on placing and even post-placement support. 

I had one condition to take this job, which is that I don’t want to build an in-house finance function. I will outsource everything. My view of the finance function going forward for any company I work for and build would be that we outsource. There are specialist companies that exist to do the job. The job of the CFO is to manage that CFO suite and to have the right companies and partners to provide information. My job is to analyze and look at those numbers and take a critical look at the business. That is what I always focus on. 

We had a bookkeeping system, and then we had an expense management system. We have an equity management system. We have a board reporting system. So I got vendors and partners who are best in class, new age companies, helping CFOs to build a finance function in. And I have an in-house person to manage those relationships. So, the future for me, and another way I see it for any other company scaling, whether from 1 to 3 million, 1 to 5 million, or 5 to 50 million, I would still see outsourcing as a resource.

In my department I am accountable for everything. I have a vision of how it should run and where my time and energy should be. But, I’m always listening and talking to vendors because they are the subject matter experts.

When somebody says outsource, typically, historically, what we’ve seen is about finding a low cost and a cheaper solution. When I say outsourcing in finance for us, it’s basically getting softwares to do the job so we don’t have to manually do it. 

Especially in a leadership role, you need to contribute to the top line. You need to contribute strategically to the business side and grow it forward. And that’s how I see myself. My value comes in making sure that Minna moves forward commercially and making sure there’s enough food to move Minna forward. Then there is fuel in the system in terms of capital and money. And, if I’m spending my time away from those two things, then that’s not the best use of my time. So, if I’m doing anything other than those two, I start looking at if I should really be doing that and how we can change it. 

I don’t take any pride in working a lot of hours. Especially, a couple of years back, I became a father. So I realized that I need to have a more balanced life and working all the time is not the best thing. I need to be more efficient with my time with where prioritization comes in. So, there’s an acceptance that I’m okay that I will miss out on certain things, but what I can’t miss out on are the important things.

I’d encourage people to have a rule of thumb. A lot of people call it principles. Some people call it rule of thumbs, like I do. It’s about the more variables you have in the equation, the harder the equation gets. So I try to eliminate variables. And one thing that I’ve accepted is that I need to try new things. Unless I try it, I won’t know. And, I take a lot of pride in saying that I’m a smart person. I was willing to work hard and I’ll figure it out. And I want to surround myself with the right people.

My message to others is be secured, right? Nothing is going to change as long as you work hard. If you’re working hard and you’re you know educating yourself. If you’re a smart person and continuously educating yourself and willing to work hard, even if whatever you’re doing fails, you will still find something else.

56 How to be Successful, Happy, and Satisfied in your Role with Anthony Rawlinson, CFO at Papier

21 April 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 56: Papier | With Anthony Rawlinson, CFO

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 starting 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.

To be a successful CFO, Anthony feels you need to challenge yourself to take a holistic approach to business and be as forward thinking as possible. In business it is important to not just think about if you can do things faster, but what are the best ways to accomplish your goals and make sure you’re spending your time efficiently. He stresses that however you solve challenges today, they need to also be done in an effort to help you achieve whatever is being planned for the future. 

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. 

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 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.

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Anthony Rawlinson

What he does: Anthony Rawlinson is CFO at Papier, an online company that is building a category-defining stationery brand for paper people all over the world. Alongside in-house collections, Papier collaborates with upcoming artists, iconic brands and inspiring fashion labels to curate its emporium of notebooks, notecards, diaries and more. Anthony has more than 12 years of experience working in finance. He joined Papier as CFO four years ago. Previously, he served as a consultant for the brand and worked in investment banking providing generalist corporate finance advice. Not only does Anthony lead the finance operations at Papier, but he also oversees Data at the company. 

Key Quote: “If I’m doing my job right, we’ve created a machine, and a system, and a team that’s capable of delivering. And, frankly, they can. It’s become a lot more holistic and a lot more forward-looking as a result and challenged me in different ways as I’ve developed through the role.”

Where to find Anthony: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-rawlinson-69885139/

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From Anthony’s Playbook

Highlight hiring

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. 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 hired before. It’s about the way you do things as much about the raw numbers. 

Details in the data

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. 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. 

Learn through flexibility

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. 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.

Capitalize on opportunities

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

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Episode Highlights

Culture and possibilities

“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 really drive a lot of employee satisfaction.” 

Promote people’s progress

“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.” 

Be flexible and humble

“When it comes to actually 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 really have to affect your approach in ways that you haven’t ever before.”

Always aspire to align

“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 really 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.”

Top quotes:

03:59

“As I was leaving university, I’d have said in the end, I wanted to be part of building something and making something happen. I think in the course of my career, I sort of got distracted by a combination of what other people around me were doing and also, frankly, the huge bubbles around investment banking. And I suppose, when it comes to what happened, I think actually it took me back to why I really went into all of that, which was to ultimately be responsible for a business, make it successful. At the end of it all I’ll be able to say I did that. I think that’s ultimately what motivates a lot of us that certainly what motivates me.”

05:32

“Certainly when I talk to people who are looking to join my team, or when I talk to other people who are thinking about leaving that world (traditional finance), and what their motivation is, often it boils down to autonomy. It also is about this feeling that they want to be the person who makes decisions and achieve their full potential where the buck stops with them. Ultimately that’s what we look for when we’re trying to hire in terms of our team, particularly senior level.”

07:19

“The nature of the challenges (from Covid) that shifted the resources of the organization has also increased. And I suppose the number of entirely new processes and systems and ways of doing things that we need effectively started from the beginning. They have reduced the number of things that we’re optimizing or evolving as the business changes are increasing. Just by virtue of that, I have the luxury of being able to spend more time looking to the future and looking at the bigger picture and less time focusing on the here and now. If I’m doing my job right, we’ve created a machine, and a system, and a team that’s capable of delivering. And, frankly, they can. It’s become a lot more holistic and a lot more forward-looking as a result and challenged me in different ways as I’ve developed through the role over the last four years as well.”

08:46

“Someone once mentioned to me that if you’re spending more than 20% of your time on any particular thing, then you need to resource it in a different way. And I think that’s actually a pretty good rule of thumb overall for me.”

10:30

“Hiring is part of our reflex. I suppose at larger organizations perhaps they don’t have that or may struggle to have that flexibility to kind of continually reevaluate and respond to what’s happening in terms of team structure and team resourcing. To be honest, it’s something that I have definitely had to try to learn since I joined here. I mean, I was involved in recruiting before. But, not at a team planning level and certainly not at the pace at which it’s required here. So, that’s all part of the fun.”

11:37

“The first thing that we’ve done is we’ve hired a full-time people team, which is definitely beneficial. That was an argument from an organizational perspective that’s definitely proven to be a good investment because in the past we’ve perhaps over relied on recruiters and placement agencies. We’ve certainly seen benefits there in terms of not just the pure economics of it, because that can obviously make sense from a finance team perspective, but also from a differentiation in the market. You can only tell your story. It makes a big difference if you’re telling the story yourself to candidates even at the top of the funnel, rather than having someone else tell that story for you. So I definitely think having a great team is fundamental to that.”

12:19

“Staff retention and the way that we measure it is really important for us is having specific data and making sure that we’re tracking employee satisfaction. Otherwise our drivers are off. And I think that’s really helped us a lot in terms of overall staff retention. So our retention is extraordinarily high.”

12:56

“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 really drive a lot of employee satisfaction.” 

14:33

“When I think about the organization, we need to make sure we have a representative workforce that reflects our demographics and our entire customer base. But also not skew so heavily towards the people we’ve already hired before. I think that’s something that we as an organization are definitely working on as a team.”

16:09

“There was a certain amount of energy and creativity that just came out of that (trying to deal with covid). As people try to figure out what and how you can possibly maintain employee engagement in such adverse circumstances, I think as a reflex, we definitely continued to try and experiment as a team with things. I’d say that experimentation can also be a bit of a blessing and a curse, and you can become a bit hyperactive and try to launch too many trials. And then you have to be a bit cautious. I think if anything, we’ve been a bit over creative at times. I think as we’ve reverted back to hybrid ways of working, things have kind of normalized. We found a little bit of our kind of natural level in terms of hybrid work and how we give people the right balance and so on.”

21:29

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. Because, ultimately, there is no single way that really works the best. Then you kind of got to find your level.”

22:45

“Having a central source of truth for data in the form of a BI platform, having a central team that’s responsible for standing reporting; clearly that that’s sort of baseline competence that a finance team can play in an organization. But, if you have BI and a BI platform you do then also create that baseline across the organization for any meetings. So there is as much less of – ‘oh, is that number right? Or can I just check that?’ It does also come down to not just meeting practices or data across the entire organization, but how you set the organization up for success. So we look at what we can take out of the equation, so that means meetings can focus a little bit more on insight and action, as they should do.”

32:10

“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 really 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.”

32:57

“I think if you’re trying to make a transition, and that’s what I did effectively from adviser to management, I definitely think there’s a bit of a case of be careful what you wish for. Either lots of people who are advisers say that they want to go and walk the road of being a principal, and be a part of a journey and it’s hard. And, you have to really believe it. And, you have to live it. And, you have to be ready for the fact that it’s as much work, if not more, but it’s a different kind of work. It’s satisfaction and autonomy, the things that if that’s what you’re looking for, they come to you in spades.” 

33:32

“When it comes to actually 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 really have to affect your approach in ways that you haven’t ever before.”

34:38

“I at least found a benefit from my experience was the ability to try before you buy. In my case, partly because of personal circumstances, I took time out to experiment with something else. And that proved to be a good option. Hence, here I am today. Clearly it’s easy for me to say, but if you can do something where it’s a bit more flexible and kind of experiment with a few different ways of working in different formats, a few different roles, that can only be beneficial.”

35:53

“Going into a small company you may have a sense where you feel like you know it all. And when it comes to operational experience that you have, you’ve got some strengths and those are the reasons that you’d been hired. But, also having the humility to take it back to basics and educate yourself more. You need that fundamental base of knowledge and almost trying to bluff your way through it is very dangerous.” 

55 Promote Partnerships with Huw Slater, COO at TravelPerk

7 April 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 55: TravelPerk | With Huw Slater, COO

Huw Slater is hugely passionate about technology that facilitates innovation and enhances both people’s work and personal lives. Currently, he is COO at TravelPerk, a next-generation travel booking and management platform that is pioneering the future of corporate travel. Previously, Huw served as CFO at TravelPerk and Typeform, with a long career in finance, business, and technology. Huw has helped lead his company through the pandemic and into the new world of corporate collaboration and business travel. Through the use of strategic partnerships, TravelPerk is ensuring the future of travel is successfully supported by top-level technology. 

To be a successful CFO, Huw feels you need to do whatever you can to remove friction and extra effort when driving towards success. This requires that you bring in modern tools to help free up your team and employ people that can be creative and don’t just follow standard processes. You need to be someone who over-indexes on being a leader, focusing on the company’s goals first, and finding ways for your finance team to be as supportive as possible. 

Huw believes the job of any leader, and specifically the CFO, needs to be focused on gaining a return on investments. He says you need to run towards the flames and not stand back in the face of adversity. You should always strive to raise the bar, help set the direction, and ensure speed and efficiency. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Huw talks about how over-communicating and transparency have benefited him as a leader. He explains why taking on hard tasks and surrounding yourself with great people will help you to be successful. In addition, he provides insight on his career path, navigating a company focused on travel when that was limited due to the pandemic, and how partnerships make companies strong and provide better services to customers. 

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Huw Slater

What he does: Huw Slater, COO at TravelPerk is hugely passionate about technology that innovates and enhances both people’s work and personal lives. Previously serving as CFO, he is now COO at TravelPerk, a next-generation travel booking and management platform that is pioneering the future of corporate travel. Huw has helped lead his company through the pandemic and into the new world of corporate collaboration and return to business travel. He believes over-indexing as a leader and focusing on what is best for the company are important as a CFO needs to raise the bar, help set the direction, and ensure speed and efficiency to garner a return on investment. Through the use of strategic partnerships TravelPerk is ensuring the future of travel is successfully supported by top level technology. 

Key Quote: “I believe this overall in finance, whether you’re in crisis or not, it’s never just a finance strategy. It’s never just a people strategy. It’s a company strategy and then, how do you do that? There’s a finance part, and a people part, and a product part.”

Where to find Huw: https://www.linkedin.com/in/huw-slater/

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From Huw’s Playbook

Be determined to deliver

The journey from strategy to tactics starts with asking how you are going to deliver it? While there may be thousands of options, try to narrow it down to the three best. Then, just keep asking how until you get down to a tactic that you can actually deliver that isn’t so complicated. Assess the actions required and how much work someone will have to put into a task. Also consider the “why.” If you don’t have a good reason for a task, then you’re never going to connect your action to the strategy. 

Remove friction from your work

COVID has accelerated hybrid work and globalization of the workforce that was already happening. This acceleration has driven CFOs to look at their tools and their ecosystem to assess if they’re giving the best solutions to their distributed workforce. Look at ways to make your job and your team’s job easier with tools and partnerships. You don’t want to inundate people with multiple outlets when you can find one that bundles solutions together. Look at the market and find ways to use resources that will help take friction from employees so you’re positioned to do the most for you, your team, your company, and your clients. 

Company comes first

Always make company goals your most important task, even if team goals come second. Too often people believe that to be successful you need to go head to head against other companies and defend your corner. However, that is a recipe for disaster in which you won’t survive and won’t add value. Come together to work out what your company is doing and where it is going. Determine how the finance team can support the company delivering on those goals. Sometimes it is part of the job to say no. So don’t be afraid to say no if it is in an effort to reach your ultimate goals. It is much easier to have the tough conversations where you are open, honest, and clear on what success means for the company then deal with issues that pop up later. 

Dedicate yourself to success

Survival is your first goal in business and as a CFO. Solve for the customer and do whatever is necessary to gain a return on investment. ​​It is not just about the company, your focus, and how you execute your job, it’s also about what’s good for the customer. Communication is also hugely important and a learned behavior, so create habits that force you to do it and don’t be afraid if people don’t engage with you at first. Speed can equal success. While it is important to pick a direction and focus, how fast you can get there will keep the team focused on the ultimate goals.

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Episode Highlights

Keep it simple

“Definitely ambitious leaders or ambitious people take on more than they can deliver. Asking yourself “how” and “why” questions takes you on a path that doesn’t achieve your goals for the year or for the next three years. So, bringing that simple framework in, allows you to focus on the entire organization.”

Promote partnerships

“We don’t want to build everything. We want to partner with the world’s best expense tools, corporate card tools, whatever it might be. Because I think that’s how you win. Winning for us is the customer being happy. It’s that seven star service that we always talk about. Right? We can’t deliver a seven star service in travel and expense, and ERP…that’s just not what we want to do. We want to focus on that travel in the real life segment. And then partner with the world’s best platforms for the other bits.”

Go above and beyond as a leader

“Your job is to give better coaching on accounting or make sure the technical side is done. But much, much higher value is sharing that context. It’s inspiring people, telling them where you’re going as a company, telling them where you’re going as a team. So over-index on leadership because the technical stuff actually can be found elsewhere.”

Head straight into challenges

“Run towards the flames. You just have to get stuck in and don’t stand back. Whether that’s in your current company, go and find the hardest problem that exists in the company. Just go and help somebody get it done. And if it doesn’t exist in your company, then go and find another company. It’s flames everywhere, but that’s how you grow. That’s how you attract great talent. Surround yourself with great people. It’s by doing hard things, not by doing easy things.”

Top quotes:

06:42

“The journey from strategy to tactics is just asking how, right? You start with a strategy and say, how are we going to deliver that? Well, there’s a thousand options, but what are the three best ones? Okay, well, how are we going to deliver those three things? And just keep asking how, until you get down to a tactic that you can actually deliver an action that goes on. So, it’s not that complicated. You just keep asking either how on the way down or why on the way back up, if somebody is doing a bit of work, or why are you doing that? If you don’t have a good “why” to it, you’re never going to connect your action to the strategy.”

07:45

“Definitely ambitious leaders or ambitious people take on more than they can deliver. Right? And breaking that down into simplicity and asking those how and why questions you often find actually, this is a great and really good idea. But, when you say why, it takes you on a path that doesn’t at all achieve our goals for the year or for the next three years. Right? So, bringing that simple framework in allows you to focus the entire organization. So whether it’s company strategy and therefore OKR, so as a consequence or whether it’s your team structure and what’s important for the team, just that kind of one or two tools really help you focus.”

08:38

“It’s speed plus direction, which we say speed plus focus. So, we all have to be going in the same direction and just keep repeating that back to the organization. And it just makes people stop when thinking, ‘I actually am I moving in this?’ I might be going really fast, but it might be going really fast in the wrong direction and that’s not velocity. So we talk a lot about velocity. So it’s just another tool. It’s a very simple tool to help people move forward in the right direction, as fast as possible.” 

16:50

“it’s being honest, I think is the first thing. So it’s over-communicating and that’s something that I could never communicate enough. I keep doing more on what’s interesting. I’m still not communicating enough. I need to share more, share more context, get other people to share what they’re doing between themselves. It’s not always up and down. It should be left and right as well. And I think once you get everyone on the same page, there’s none of this finger pointing.”

22:46

“I believe this overall in finance, whether you’re in crisis or not, it’s never just a finance strategy. It’s never just a people strategy. It’s a company strategy and then, how. How do you do that? And then there’s a finance part, and a people part, and a product part.”

30:26 

“Travel was always about bringing people together, whether it’s more traditional, a salesperson with a customer or consultant with a customer, but it was also this internal travel and we’ve seen that increase as people have gone more hybrid, or left and moved to the suburbs. And now they’re sort of coordinating, coming back together once a week or for two days every two weeks, or maybe it’s an offsite at the end of the quarter. So we’re seeing much more of this, you know, the globalization of the workforce as facilitated by zoom. Internet connection is actually driving a very different type of business travel. That’s not just point to point. It’s not just salespeople traveling to see customers. So it’s an incredibly exciting time.” 

31:34 

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for us. The foundations are still the same, and a lot of the inventories are the same. You still need trains. You still need cars, flights, and hotels. The fundamentals are the same so that deep moat, that huge investment we’ve made in that technology is extremely valuable and will remain so. It was exciting to see how the world is not just travel, it’s beyond that, it’s in real life connection is evolving. It’s very exciting.” 

32:49

“Fundamentally, we want to be an open platform. So companies like Soldo to partner with just being able to partner at an API level, an infrastructure level, is great for everyone, particularly in the SMB space. Because what probably Soldo don’t want to do, and certainly what we don’t want to do is go and sell our solution and say, oh, by the way, take us but you can have to rip out all these four other things at the same time to jam in what is the best travel tool. But if we did cards or expenses, it wouldn’t be best of breed, right? So we don’t want to do that. We want to be an open platform. We want to have great partners like Soldo, where we can go into the customer and say, you know what? You’ve got two innovation centers here coming to you, selling together and building the best of breed.”

33:33

“I think that the acceleration really is from COVID because hybrid work was happening. The globalization of the workforce was already happening, but it’s accelerated massively. It has accelerated and that sort of driven people like me, CFOs to look at their tools, to look at their ecosystem and say, you know what – Am I giving the best solution to my distributed workforce now? Because I don’t want to be sending them a corporate Amex card and going through all the rigmarole, if I fill in this paper form and then like it’s just, nobody wants that anymore. Even the traditional companies are sort of finding themselves, tackling this for the first time, looking around the market and they’re seeing solutions like Soldo, like Travelperk. It just takes all the friction away from them. And that’s where we want to be positioned. We want to be the best in real life platform that exists out there.”

34:20

“We don’t want to build everything. We want to partner with the world’s best expense tools, corporate card tools, whatever it might be. Because I think that’s how you win. Winning for us is the customer being happy. It’s that seven star service that we always talk about. Right? We can’t deliver a seven star service in travel and expense, and ERP… and that’s just not what we want to do. We want to focus on that travel in the real life segment. And then partner with the world’s best platforms for the other bits.”

35:20

“I​it’s not just about us, although a lot of it is our execution ability. As in you can execute better if you focus. It’s also about what’s good for the customer. You don’t want to have to rip out three different things at the same time. That change management cost is massive for a CFO and for what, for a marginal gain on two of the solutions, or maybe even a marginal loss on the solutions to get a gain on one. That’s not how SMB mid-market companies work, incentives are different at an enterprise level. I appreciate that. So, we’re not so focused on the enterprise scale. We are much more focused on bringing enterprise grade travel solutions down to the mid market.”

40:53 

“Your job is to give better coaching on accounting or make sure the technical side is done. But much, much higher value is sharing that context. It’s inspiring people telling them where you’re going as a company, telling them where you’re going as a team. So over-index on leadership because the technical stuff actually can be found elsewhere.”

41:12

“Over index on company goals first, and team goals second. I think it warrants saying, and too often, you see people believe that actually, to be successful, it’s head to heads. Right. You know, the company is over here. And do you have to defend your corner or it has to be about cost or cash. Well, no, that’s just a recipe for disaster. You won’t survive, you won’t add value. So come together. Work out what is the company goal? How can the finance team support a company delivering it? And sometimes you do have to say no, of course. And that’s part of the job. But, saying no when understanding the goal, the ultimate goal of the company is just a much easier, easier conversation.”

41:58

“Run towards the flames. You just have to get stuck in and don’t stand back. Whether that’s in your current company, go and find the hardest problem that exists in the company. Just go and help somebody get it done. And if it doesn’t exist in your company, then go and find another company. It’s flames everywhere, but that’s how you grow. That’s how you attract great talent. Surround yourself with great people. It’s by doing hard things, not by doing easy things.”

54 Driving for Diversity with Tiziana Figliolia, CFO at Hootsuite

31 March 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 54: Hootsuite | With Tiziana Figliolia, CFO

Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education. 

To be a successful CFO, Tiziana believes you need to focus on having a growth mindset. To do this she feels you need to be customer obsessed, provide the best employee experience, and always build for the long term financial sustainability of the company. Tiziana feels strongly that you need to look at the opportunities that you have in front of you and double down on the investments you have with your customers and partners. 

To help your organization become world-class as a CFO, you need to get your processes, policies, and systems right. You can help achieve this by supporting your employees, whether it be through building relationships, paying attention to health and wellness, ensuring equality, or providing opportunities for them to improve and grow. It’s also important that you as a CFO have a strong relationship with the CEO, with a cooperative commitment to each other to support long term financial success and create equity opportunities for your company. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Tiziana talks about her experience working internationally in China and how it has prepared her to take on the tasks of running finance at Hootsuite which impacts people and companies across the globe. She discusses the importance of relationships and partnerships within your company and with your customers, as well as the importance of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices to any corporate environment. Tiziana also speaks about digital transformation and why it is important to push yourself to take on new challenges throughout your career.

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Tiziana Figliolia

What she does: Tiziana Figliolia has more than 25 years experience in the technology industry leading a wide range of strategic, financial, and operational functions at billion-dollar global publicly traded companies. Currently, she is CFO at Hootsuite, the global leader in social media management. Having a passion for advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and in the community, she is also the co-founder of Full STEAM Forward, a non-profit whose mission is to tackle inequalities in education. Tiziana focuses on a growth mindset in her work to be successful as a CFO. To do this she feels you need to be customer obsessed, provide the best employee experience, and always build for the long term financial sustainability of the company. 

Key Quote: “I don’t think it’s really a surprise, but I think one of the things that becomes more and more important as CFO is how you impact people. How you lead and how you show up is ever more important in this role. Not just leading the CF organization, but also being a leader for the entire company. And, not a surprise, but that is something that is different from being in a functional role.”            

Where to find Tiziana: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tizianafigliolia/

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From Tiziana’s Playbook

Build for future success

To be successful as an executive for a company you always have to build for the long term, even when you’re executing for the short term and during times of crisis. You need to stay focused on building a financially sustainable company at all times. As a CFO you’re a key stakeholder in driving solutions to create value. One way is through digital transformation. The value that can be created through embedding digital solutions can be of great help to your company. It allows automation and removing friction for your employees and your customers, helping to ensure smoother and more efficient business processes.

Be customer obsessed

No matter what role you are in, be commercially minded and be customer obsessed. You can learn so much from meeting customers and help them in any role that you have. From a front office perspective, think about what kind of important role you can play to help your organization succeed. Part of that is being a great business partner. To achieve that you need to gain the trust of others, be someone that is able to listen, and have conversations about challenging tasks. Through constructive conversation with your leaders, employees, and customers, you can get to better outcomes. You can be an effective business partner if you build personal and professional relationships, listen, guide, and become a trusted advisor.

Create an environment of growth and engagement

You want to help improve the experience for your employees by doing whatever you can to remove friction from their daily working environment. This will help your employees in their interactions externally with customers to ensure they have a delightful experience. As a CFO you are a partner with the rest of the organization in driving that agenda. Make sure you provide staff with the best tools to do their jobs, and opportunities to learn new digital skills and competencies. By doing so, you will help employees to be competitive and relevant in the future market, by acquiring skill sets that revolve around technology. It is also critical to have a real connection with the community internally and around your company. You should be one of the main stakeholders helping to ensure an opportunity for growth, learning, and engagement.

Always be a continuous learner

Any type of career progression, whether in finance or not, really stands on the basis of continuous learning. Education is one of the major catalysts of success. But, it doesn’t have to be done necessarily through institutional education, you can just be a continuous learner in all aspects of your life. Don’t be afraid to take on chances and new roles, no matter if it is in your core competencies, traditional verticals, or even the same country. Part of learning is finding mentors and building your network, creating allies and relationships that will help your career journey. 

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Episode Highlights

Be a strategic solution solver

“If you think about digital transformation and digital businesses, how do we create value through the use of technology in our product, in our services? How do we partner? How do we collaborate? How do we execute for work? And so asking the right questions around what problems are we trying to solve? How do we implement technology to solve those problems, but do it in a strategic way, right? So we’re not going in and just solving for the low hanging fruit, we’re going in with a more strategic approach.”

The customer comes first

“Step up, be customer obsessed, go fast, be a giant, play to win – these are all things that play to that growth mindset. So I’m very lucky that I joined a team that already has that culture. And so it’s continuing to reinforce that and take on new challenges. And continuing to understand the customers and the customer’s wants and needs. Being customer obsessed will continue to drive that mindset and change. I believe that every single employee of the company and also everyone that works in finance is a business partner to the rest of the organization. So with that, you always have to think about how you can make things better.” 

Encourage an environment for everyone

“It goes back to creating the best employee experience. We want to make sure that everyone feels that they’re valued, there’s inclusiveness in how we manage our business. And that’s really important, I think in a competitive labor market to see what kind of company you’re going to work for and what guiding principle, and putting actions should be a decision factor on joining a company. And new generations value these more and more I think.”

Chase the challenges

“Be curious and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, even when you feel fear that you might not have everything you need to be successful at their role. We all should take different roles when we’re not a hundred percent ready. Why take a new role if you feel like you can master that job, right? But, just have that confidence. That allows you to then go in and learn and learn and perform and exceed expectations over time.”

Top quotes:

6:06

“I don’t think it’s really a surprise, but I think one of the things that becomes more and more important as CFO is how you impact people. And, how you lead and how you show up is ever more important in this role. Not just leading you know the CF organization, but also being a leader for the entire company. And, not a surprise, but that is something that is different I think from being in a functional role.”

07:11 

“The way I see the relationship between CEO and CFO, it’s really to be equal open partnership, you know, where we establish a trusted partnership, but open and one in which we are able to really talk to each other, with no sacred cows, hidden agendas, and challenge each other as well. But at the same time, be very united on how we communicate. There’s a storytelling aspect for both CEO and CFO, that comes into place when we’re talking to all our stakeholders and that united front that consistency, it’s extremely important. But, also compensating each other. Right? When we’ll say the CEO is the glass half full, the CFO is the glass half empty sometimes. So really make sure that there is that partnership and balancing act between the two roles.”

8:39

“To be successful as an executive for a company, CEO or CFO, you always have to build for the long term even when you’re executing for the short term. And so, even during a time of crisis, I think it’s always very important to not lose sight of the long term and see what opportunities you have in the short term, working with the card you’re dealt with. But, most importantly is really to stay focused in building a financially sustainable company.”

14:25

“One of the ways that I think about digital transformation for me is always how does it create value? So it’s not digital transformation for the sake of, you know, using that buzzword really, but how do we transform our business to a digital business?”

15:00

“If you think about digital transformation and digital businesses, how do we create value through the use of technology in our product, in our services? How do we partner? How do we collaborate? How do we execute for work? And so asking the right questions around what problems are we trying to solve? How do we implement technology to solve those problems, but do it in a strategic way, right? So we’re not going in and just solving for the low hanging fruit, we’re going in with a more strategic approach. But then the delivery is bite-sized so no more of those horror stories of the past decades of ERP implementations. Although I still hear they’re happening somewhere. I think that delivering through sprints and having that mindset, it’s what I think will drive the pace of transformation.”

16:15

“I feel like I’m a key stakeholder, and as a CFO and a driver of this transformation that entails a digital transformation, because I think the value creation that it’s embedded with such activity is really great. It allows automation and removing customer friction. When I say customer, I mean internal customers. So improving the employee experience. When people come into work every morning they turn on their computer and they use their tools to do their job and they experience friction, doesn’t make it a really great place to work for them. So, and then externally as well for our customer to ensure they have a delightful experience, a lot of that is driven by our own digital set up in architecture. And so I see myself as a partner with the rest of the organization in driving that agenda.”

18:47

“It’s a tough market for recruiting and retaining quite frankly. And providing our employees with the best tools is paramount, but also providing them with the opportunity to learn new skills. And, if we think about the finance of the future, digital skills and digital competencies is one of the highest rated…I do think even from an employee perspective to be competitive and relevant in the future market, you have to acquire some of those skill sets that revolve around technology.”

20:27

“Step up, be customer obsessed, go fast, be a giant, play to win – these are all things that play to that growth mindset. So I’m very lucky that I joined a team that already has that culture. And so it’s continuing to reinforce that and take on new challenges. And continuing to understand the customers and the customer’s wants and needs. Being customer obsessed will continue to drive that mindset and change. I believe that every single employee of the company and also everyone that works in finance is a business partner to the rest of the organization. So with that, you always have to think about how you can make things better.” 

21:33

“A great business partner is someone that gains the trust, someone that is able to listen, but also that is able to have that conversation about challenging the status. I mentioned earlier around the CEO and CFO relationship, almost being like an equally open partnership where, you know, there are no hidden agendas and anything can be brought to the table. And so I see it exactly the same way at any level of business partnership. Through that constructive conversation, you can get to better outcomes. And so listening, guiding, and becoming really a trusted advisor is how I think you can be a really effective business partner. Building personal relationships is key as well. It’s just human nature, right? We spend almost more time with each other at work than we actually do with our family, if you count the number of hours. So it’s very important to have those personal relationships as well embedded into that professional relationship.”

22:42 

“As you grow in your career and continue to become a trusted advisor, I think it’s very important to do that more and more through storytelling and alignment around that. So if I think about my relationship with the CEO and how I become and I strive to become a better partner for him is to really tell the story through numbers, bring the numbers to life, and really get to the why of things. And then if you get to the why of things, that’s the point where you support value creation. And value creation is yes, it could be financial value creation, it could be human capital value creations, it could be how do we really end up building a best place to work at the end of the day.” 

25:47

“I think the real connection starts with community. It’s really critical that people connect with their communities, and companies connect with their communities. Community should be one of the main stakeholders for companies by the way, not just employee, customer, and partners, communities as well. And, there is opportunity for growth, and learning, and so on when you engage with your community.”

32:53

“It goes back to creating the best employee experience. We want to make sure that everyone feels that they’re valued, there’s inclusiveness in how we manage our business. And that’s really important, I think in a competitive labor market to see what kind of company you’re going to work for and what guiding principle, and putting actions should be a decision factor on joining a company. And new generations value these more and more I think.”

34:06

“Be a continuous learner always. Any type of career progressions, whether in finance or not, really stands on the basis of continuous learning. Education, it’s one of the major catalysts of success. But, it doesn’t have to be done necessarily through institutional education, you can just be a continuous learner.”

34:21

“Be curious and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, even when you feel fear that you might not have everything you need to be successful at their role. We all should take different roles when we’re not a hundred percent ready. Why take a new role if you feel like you can master that job, right? But, just have that confidence. That allows you to then go in and learn and learn and perform and exceed expectations over time.”

35:00

“Find a sponsor, that building networks, and sponsorship, and ally-ship will help people in their career journey for sure. So be mindful of those things.”

35:14

“No matter what role you are in, be commercially minded, be customer obsessed. That is something I also learned throughout my journey. You can learn so much from meeting customers and in any role that you have, you can help your customers, even if you’re an accounts receivable person, right, in finance, you can help your customers, even more so than other roles. So be really the front office and think about what kind of important role you can play to help your organization succeed.” 

53 The Road to Success is Always Under Construction with Chris Roling, CFO at Coinme

24 March 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 53: Coinme | With Chris Roling, CFO

Chris Roling has 35 years of commercial and private equity experience, having served in board, CEO, COO, and CFO positions with a number of global public and private companies. Currently he is CFO at Coinme, a crypto financial services and blockchain technology company that is dedicated to helping the world gain access to virtual currency. A self proclaimed, ‘global nomad,’ Chris has worked across the world for many different companies and verticals. His vast experience in nearly every functional area of finance, and mindset of taking the path less traveled, has allowed Chris to successfully guide and help Coinme prosper as it scales quickly in an expanding industry.

To be a successful CFO, Chris believes you need to take chances and get out of your comfort zone. At the same time, he encourages a philosophy of keeping it simple and not over-complicating things. He sees the role of a CFO as someone who provides a common sense approach to their company. 

Chris feels strongly that variety, networking, and international experiences are keys to learning and success for CFOs. He also views the CEO and CFO partnership as absolutely instrumental to a company’s success, requiring collaboration to focus on the success of the customer, investors, and overall company strategy. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Chris talks about his vast experiences working with companies around the world. He provides insight into the state of the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, and how the technology is connecting people and companies throughout the world. As Coinme quickly scales as the crypto industry grows, Chris discusses his approach to working as a CFO with a startup and how to ensure success through a new and emerging market. 

Take The CFO Playbook Listener Survey to help us improve the show. You’ll also be entered to win your choice of the latest iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

##

Guest Analysis

Name: Chris Roling

What he does: Chris Roling has 35 years of commercial and private equity experience, having served in board, CEO, COO, and CFO positions with a number of global public and private companies. Currently he is CFO at Coinme, a crypto financial services and blockchain technology company that is dedicated to helping the world gain access to virtual currency. A self proclaimed, ‘global nomad,’ Chris has worked across the world for many different companies and verticals. He has vast experience in nearly every functional area of finance and the mindset of taking the path less traveled. Chris believes you need to take chances and get out of your comfort zone, and feels strongly that variety, networking, and international experiences are keys to learning and success for CFOs.

Key Quote: “I’ve worked for very large companies, very small companies, and I love the small startup or small company environment, just because it’s much easier to make an influence and much easier to kind of pivot and make changes. And I really enjoy being able to see the before and after of your hard work. I think it’s much easier in a small company environment to see that and measure, as opposed to a major multi-national.”

Where to find Chris: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisroling/

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From Chris’ Playbook

Take a leap of faith

Chris thinks that to become a successful CFO you need to “take the leap of faith, jump off the bridge, and hope the rope holds.” There are many ways to do this. Learn about new areas of finance. Work in different industries and with companies of all sizes. Go international to learn about different cultures, people, and places. If you have a chance to move out of your comfort zone, take it. In the finance function it is often the same no matter where you are in the world. The language might be a bit different, but the biggest difference comes in the size of a company. If you or your team are having trouble taking on a risk, take a step back to take two steps forward. Exploring the unknown and taking chances is fundamental.

Variety and insight are essential to learning and success

Become as commercial as you can. Step out and go into other areas. Raise your hand for projects out of your comfort zone. Pick your battles and fight them accordingly, but don’t take on any that you have no chance of winning. Always be measured in whatever you do, understanding what are the facts available, and decipher what is the best return you can get with what you’re working on. A value-added piece of business or finance function is in the financial analysis and reporting space. Focus on business partnering, embedding yourself and your team in different parts of the business, being the eyes and ears of organization. The partnership with other functions and financial analysis brings a lot of added value and will assist decision making.

Funding is about finding the delicate balance

You want to ensure that you’ve got enough cash runway, but you don’t necessarily want to raise more than you need at lower valuations. You don’t want to risk ending up diluting your ownership, particularly if you’re a private company. A CFO needs to ensure accuracy in terms of cash burn and cash runway. While you don’t want to raise more than you necessarily need, you’ve got to make sure you have an adequate runway in case the markets turn, or you’re not able to raise money when you need it later. Research and focus on customer value and the cost of customer acquisition. As long as you have the technology and data analytics, you will be in a much better place to situate your company and help it grow.

Networking is fundamental

The people you meet and work with along your career are hugely important. Don’t ever burn bridges, because you never know when you might need the insight or assistance from someone in your network. In the end, the world is actually a small place and you never know who you may run across again. Maintain and cultivate relationships you gain over the years. They could help in so many areas, like recruiting, fundraising, and mentorship. People will become your greatest asset down the road.

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Episode Highlights

Figuring out financing is an art

“There is no science to company valuation. You can triangulate, and I faced this as a private equity professional where I had the money. Quite frankly, that’s an easier side of the table to be on. Now, I find myself on the other side of the table where I’m looking for money, trying to raise money, and it becomes a negotiation. It’s more of an art rather than a science in terms of the valuation.”

Finding the time for tech

“It’s a natural trend I think for technology to, let’s just say, supplant to some extent the human resource side of things. But I’ve seen it go wrong. I’m a firm believer in the circle of life. And if I think what we need to do is serve the customer either externally or internally and use the technology to do that in the best way we can. And, where technology won’t allow, we do it the old fashioned way; You know, blood, sweat, and tears.”

Take comfort in construction

“Somebody once said the road to success is always under construction. And I can’t tell you how many detours I’ve taken, how many U-Turns I’ve taken. I’ve run off the road, but you know, I’ve climbed back on when I’ve broken down. Basically, there is no one way. I think exploring the unknown, taking chances, is fundamental.”

Venture towards variety

“My greatest asset is the fact that I’ve worked in so many different companies, so many different countries, so many different functions, that I’ve built and maintained a network of colleagues, peers, and customers. It’s funny how the world is actually a very small place and you run across people that you dealt with 10 or 15 years ago. And fortunately I’ve maintained and I’ve cultivated that network and it’s paid off a thousand fold.”

Top quotes:

05:00

“I’ve worked for very large companies, very small companies, and I love the small startup or small company environment, just because it’s much easier to make an influence and much easier to kind of pivot and make changes. And I really enjoy being able to see the before and after of your hard work. I think it’s much easier in a small company environment to see that and measure, as opposed to a major multi-national.”

08:54

“There is no science to company valuation. You can triangulate, and I faced this as a private equity professional where I had the money. Quite frankly, that’s an easier side of the table to be on. Now, I find myself on the other side of the table where I’m looking for money, trying to raise money, and it becomes a negotiation. It’s more of an art rather than a science in terms of the valuation.”

10:29

“Overall, I think for the industry, for the startup community, for certainly some of these cryptocurrency firms or blockchain firms, I think it is healthy that some of the air comes out of the bubble, so to speak. These are very difficult businesses to value, the cost of customer acquisition, et cetera, et cetera. And quite frankly, as long as we have the data and we can capture that data using new technologies and new data analytics, we stand in a much better place to be able to negotiate with these venture capitalists and these private equity firms, and these private investors to justify the valuation that we’re going out for.”

12:28

“You want to ensure that you’ve got enough cash runway but you don’t necessarily want to raise more than you need at lower valuations. Therefore you end up diluting your ownership, particularly if you’re a private company. And so it’s a very delicate balance for me or for any CFO in a similar position in terms of, we need accuracy in cash burn and cash runway. We don’t want to raise more than we necessarily need because of dilution reasons. Yet you want to raise enough that you’ve got an adequate runway in case the markets turn, or you’re not able to raise money.”

22:39

“The reality is I’ve actually had a harder time or a more challenging time, big company versus small company. And that transition I think is much more challenging than picking up and moving from Germany to Switzerland or to Italy or whatever. And obviously there’s challenges with that, you know, cultural challenges, language challenges, but as a finance guy, that was relatively an easy transition. The challenge of moving to a small company or a startup is you need to build that platform. The team becomes much more important and basically hiring ahead of where you are at the moment. So hiring big.”

29:06

“In terms of crypto, it’s a highly transactional accounting type system. We need to know for every customer when did they buy the crypto? What was the price? We have to calculate the fees. We have to calculate what state they were in because of state reporting, on and on and on. We have ‘KYC’ which is – know your customer data, which could be potentially valuable from a marketing perspective. And I think the challenge that we’re facing is we have a tremendous amount of data. How do we sift through it? How do we throw out the outliers? How do we come up with meaningful statistics? And that’s something that we’re kind of learning as we go, particularly from a cryptocurrency and blockchain perspective.”

30:07

“It’s a natural trend I think for technology to let’s just say supplant to some extent the human resource side of things, but I’ve seen it go wrong. I’m a firm believer in the circle of life. And if I think what we need to do is serve the customer either externally or internally and use the technology to do that in the best way we can. And, where technology won’t allow, we do it through the old fashioned way; You know blood, sweat, and tears.”

31:10

“Three and a half years ago it was a massive challenge (hiring people at Coinme). And what I had to do is say, ‘Hey, look, I’m a normal guy, look at my background. If I’m willing to take this plunge then you ride with me. I mean we’re both wearing the ankle braces for the bungee jump and I’m going with you. I’m not completely crazy.’ So it was very much trying to portray the strategy, the vision that we’re in this together. And it worked in some cases and it didn’t work in other cases where people just said, no, not for us. If you fast forward to the current day I’m beating people away. All of a sudden we’ve become the cool kid. Everybody wants to work in cryptocurrency. It’s become much more main street. The financial institutions are starting to get involved.”

32:24

“I felt very much as if I was the CFO of a leper colony/ Three and a half years ago I couldn’t find a bank willing to open up operating accounts. I couldn’t find an auditor to do audits. Never before have I pleaded for an audit. And, we were trying to hire people, and it was all quite challenging. And now all of a sudden, hiring is not an issue. Banking is not an issue.”

34:10

“We view it (cryptocurrency) very much as a new technology and a much more efficient and effective way of remitting money of payments and then obviously we have a lot of customers that view it as an investment. They trade it, but all three of those markets are you know, trillion dollar markets, be it the remittance market, the payment market, and the crypto trading market. And fortunately Coinme spans all three of those.”

36:07

“We think from a technology perspective, it makes the world much more efficient. There are a lot of developments in terms of central bank coinage, stable coins – which willl take some of the volatility out of it. And that quite frankly has been the hardest thing for me as a CFO is we don’t necessarily know, speculate, or trade in whether Bitcoin is up or down. So we essentially collect a transaction fee regardless of whether somebody buys or sells the currency. And quite frankly, volatility actually is correlated with trading volatility. And so as there’s volatility, there’s more trades, which means there’s more transaction fees for us. And that’s what we’re driven by is how do we increase customer retention? How do we increase customer transactions?”

40:49

“Somebody once said the road to success is always under construction. And I can’t tell you how many detours I’ve taken, how many U turns I’ve taken. I’ve run off the road, but you know, I’ve climbed back on when I’ve broken down. Basically, there is no one way. I think exploring the unknown, taking chances, is fundamental.”

42:35

“My greatest asset is the fact that I’ve worked in so many different companies, so many different countries, so many different functions, that I’ve built and maintained a network of colleagues, peers, and customers. It’s funny how the world is actually a very small place and you run across people that you dealt with 10 or 15 years ago. And fortunately I’ve maintained and I’ve cultivated that network and it’s paid off a thousand fold – in terms of me being able to go out and recruit, being able to fundraise, being able to mentor or be mentored. And so I would say fundamentally maintain the network, don’t burn bridges. It will become your greatest asset down the road.”

50 Be Humble and Hungry with Nitesh Sharan, CFO at SoundHound

3 March 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 50: SoundHound | With Nitesh Sharan, CFO

Nitesh Sharan, CFO at SoundHound, is a strategic finance executive with experience fueling growth and profitability in firms across the consumer, technology and industrial sectors. His diverse background working in many different verticals across multiple industries allows Nitesh to be a great fit for the evolving and expanding role of CFO in today’s business world. He also has a passion for development, diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability for his company and team. 

Anchored by a variety of experiences in industries throughout the world, Nitesh’s desire to grow and try new things is an asset to SoundHound; an organization that believes every brand should have a voice and every person should be able to interact naturally with the products around them, by simply talking. 

Nitesh sees the role of a CFO as one that is constantly changing and adapting to a new world of business. He thinks today’s CFO needs to be in tune and involved with many parts of their company. That includes as an advisor to the CEO, encouraging stakeholder success, having a vision for the company’s long term success and near term sustainability, as well as being open to innovation, and helping to set a strong culture within the organization. An important part of supporting that is building a diverse, agile, and innovative team with a range of knowledge and diverse perspectives that have a drive to continually learn and grow. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Nitesh Sharan, CFO at SoundHound, shares why you can’t stay stale and need to continually innovate and update the way your company does business. This ranges in everything from organizational goals and a willingness to utilize new technologies, to being open to who your workforce is, how to encourage their success, and to allow for flexibility in where they accomplish their work. 

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Guest Analysis

Name: Nitesh Sharan

What he does: Nitesh Sharan is CFO at SoundHound, an organization that believes every brand should have a voice and every person should be able to interact naturally with the products around them, by simply talking. Nitesh didn’t take the traditional route to being CFO, starting out with a career in consulting, eventually going back to school for a business degree. He brings diverse experience to SoundHound, working across many different types of industries throughout the world, armed with a desire to grow, try new things, and build a versatile team ready for any challenge. 

Key Quote:  “If you have this attitude of optimism, then you can persevere through a lot. And I think that has benefited me in my career. I love the saying, ‘keep your face always towards the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you. Because, I really believe there’s always going to be challenging times. And if you can sort of try to find that silver lining or at least persevere through,you’ll–if nothing else–learn a ton through the experiences. And then hopefully that in itself is a real reward.”

Where to find Nitesh: LinkedIn

From Nitesh’s Playbook

Growth is king

Priority number one as a CFO is figuring out how you enable and fuel growth. Part of that is being aware of parts of the company that are growing versus those that are already established. You need to be thoughtful on where to place your bets and invest in resources. While it is important to appreciate and value what has made the company successful, you need to be open to how things can work differently to continually grow the company to be prosperous. 

Technology in tandem with your team

Leveraging technology and scaling with the right insights at the right time is key to growth. With that, keep in mind the best intersection between human capabilities and technology. It’s not one or the other; you need great technology and people who can harness that great technology to be able to navigate uncertainty and make decisions in a timely and effective manner.

Don’t shy away from challenges

Have an attitude of running to the fire and running at challenges. Never compromise on integrity and character in yourself or your team. You need to have agility to capitalize on opportunities  when they come, and you need the tenacity to take it to fruition, no matter what the deliverable is. Hunger and humility are key traits for you and your team, having a willingness and ability to expand your function and promote growth and prosperity for the business.

Promote diversity and varying perspectives for your team

Continuously hire with the angle of ‘what is it that serves the greater good of the company?’. Make sure that the talent coming in is fully aligned and in service to what you’re all trying to do together. Be open to having a remote team, that way you are also opening up your hiring pool to any and all talent, no matter where they are. Be open to going deeper with your team, finding out what motivates them and what matters to their career development. By having a more diverse team with different perspectives you as a CFO can lean on their experiences and knowledge. 

Episode Highlights

The CFO’s role is continually expanding

“The expectations and what a CFO can bring to the table also have evolved and can evolve because in a lot of ways it is maybe one of the very few, if not the only one on sort of a C-suite that can agnostically look across all the disciplines and say, ‘okay here’s an accountable way, a measurable way, to look at trade-offs, to navigate a world of uncertainty, and make the right choices that we can try to objectively as objectively as we possibly can make a decision.”

Be open to adaptation and change

“When you’re a mature company, you actually have to incubate those hypergrowth elements, because the future is constantly evolving, right? You can’t stay stale. We see too many companies who try to hang on the innovator’s dilemma, try to hang on to their old profit pools for too long, and ultimately the world works against them…So you’re always kind of trying to channel the growth, but within an infrastructure where you have to manage the cash flow pools of the past.”

People and technology need to work in tandem

“I always look at it as what’s the best intersection between human capability and technology. And how do you intersect those so you can scale most meaningfully in the most efficient matter and most diligent matter. But it’s not one or the other, you really need great technology, and then you need people who can harness that great technology to find the coveted insights. And not necessarily people who have to tick and tie every number before we can make decisions. We all have to be able to navigate uncertainty and make decisions in a timely and effective manner.”

Encourage teams that are humble and hungry

“When I look for teammates to add in, I want them to be hungry and want to grow in their careers, want to expand the function, want to expand the business, but have all the humility in the world to understand there’s a lot of challenges on the way. You can’t do it yourself. You need to ask the questions. We need to have a safe environment where we can grow and prosper together. So those tenants are really important.”

Top quotes:

“I think the two tenants of financial management that have probably always been true are we need to be stewards of capital allocation and risk management. And I think that’s probably been true for a long time in terms of what’s important to the CFO function or the finance function at large. And I think that continues to be really important.”

“I understand shareholder value and know that growth is imperative. And so anything I can do from the capital allocation risk management standpoint that helps shepherd that growth journey or catalyze it is priority number one. And, I think that’s just one of many examples of how you could envision more and more of this function expanding to its mandate.”

“You have to be very thoughtful about where to place your bets and where to invest your resources. But then again, there’s a lot of clarity because the value is going to create from growth. And, so whatever we need to do to fuel growth is the imperative that matters most.”

“I think what we’re living through just even socially, culturally, whether it’s a great resignation or whatnot, people living through the pandemic and just sort of identifying what matters most to them. There’s a lot of change going on. And I think we’re just in the very early days of realizing what structurally that’ll be for the long term. And I also think in traditional environments, they’re generally is a slow reaction to that, a slow reaction to understanding what that means. And I think there’s a great opportunity at SoundHound as we’re building not just the finance function, we’re more broadly of being very people-centric and saying, what really is it that our employees value and how do we build a structure  that supports and helps people thrive in their careers and personal lives. And so I think we’re taking a very diligent way of understanding that.”

“I think it starts with saying what matters to people, what matters to their lives, this intersection it’s blurrier than ever between work life and home life. And how do we make sure we set up the right boundaries and still deliver what’s needed. But I do think it starts with what matters to people.”

“I see a lot of companies who are just punting decisions every three months, like, okay, here’s what’s going on with virus. And I think it’s important to keep agility there that the answers we’re not going to know for sure. So just as long as we can stay flexible and keep listening and communicating with each other. I think that’s really important.”

“Because we’re able to operate effectively in a virtual world as it opens the aperture of the number of candidates out there now. I have really no idea where you are. I don’t know if you have any idea where I am. It doesn’t really matter, we’re having a great conversation. And so, I think in terms of the pool of candidates that we can look at and identify and consider, I think that has just opened up much more widely. And frankly, now that I think more people than ever are opening their minds to different opportunities that also I think increases the pool. Now to close and get people or to maintain people, it really I think is important to try to go a little deeper on what inspires people, what motivates them, what matters. And, I also think then from how we think about organizational development, career management, talent management, all needs to intersect and evolve with this.”

“I think absolutely being in a diverse cities alone, not talking about gender or race, I think gives diversity, which is another dimension. In fact, in my humble opinion, we talk very superficially around diversity. Now I believe we’re at a stage where we do need to increase the measures. We need more females in Silicon valley leadership roles. We need more underrepresented groups in all positions at all leadership levels. But, we also need diversity of experiences, diversity of personalities, diversity of perspectives. All those things are so powerful.”

“The other thing I’ve come to appreciate, and what makes great companies is you need the agility to capitalize on opportunities when they come and you need the tenacity to take it to its complete thought or its fruition of whatever that deliverable is. And I think similarly underneath that you need talent that can do that. And at a smaller company, you need more of that. Meaning you need the tenacity to solve the issues of today. Because when you’re in this phase of a company, there’s always issues that are coming up that are top priorities and you need to have this lens of now and later together. Which is we’re trying to stabilize and build an infrastructure that hopefully a year from now, the issues that we’re chasing down will be automated or improved process-wise. And so somebody who’s got that agility to do both at the same time, it’s not easy to find quite openly. And that’s one of the things I emphasize a lot.”

“I think having a real strong foundation, cross disciplinary, across multiple things, with an intersection with technology – that’s where success will lie. Not necessarily continue to fragment in our own little silos, which is what everybody does. They really only understand their silos because everybody then has their own agenda and their objectives of what successes. It’s then how do you intersect that altogether? I think that thesis, ‘Hey, technology will solve that is inaccurate. It really has to be the compounding between humans and technology.”

49 Create Options in Everything You Do, with Dynshaw Italia, CFO at Soldo

24 February 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 49: Soldo | With Dynshaw Italia, CFO

Dynshaw Italia, CFO at Soldo, brings 20 years of experience working and developing fast growing consumer brands to navigate change and growth. At Soldo, he is using his ability as an adaptable leader to help their mission of lighting a brighter way for businesses to pay for advertising, software, travel expenses, online procurement, and more. Soldo believes businesses deserve better than painful, slow, and costly spending, and is providing a solution that is smarter, faster, and more connected to build an entirely new financial architecture for them.

When Dynshaw joined Soldo, he brought with him years of experience working in various disciplines and companies of all sizes. He is using that experience as an asset to help drive financial stability and success for the company. He believes that a CFO should never stand still to be successful – need to have a desire to improve and a willingness to adapt to whatever situations come about. A key to that is pushing for more efficiency and encouraging a mindset of betterment towards profitability within the organization. 

Attracted to companies with a common thread of entrepreneurial goals, Dynshaw has brought his strategic agility, desire to continually improve, love of technology, and emphasis on building trust amongst his leadership team and employees to provide a vision and roadmap to continued financial success and growth. 

Dynshaw believes being successful requires a CFO to be involved and understand all areas of the business, serving as a visionary that helps prepare the company for varying competitive environments. He says, “if you fail, fail fast, and move on.” That way, you can quickly define success up front and move on towards improvement. 

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Dynshaw Italia, CFO at Soldo, shares that trust and accountability is the most important mindset to start with when developing a cohesive, supportive, and successful culture. Flexibility and openness to financial transformations and a willingness to adopt new tools is inherent to improving oneself and the company as a whole.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Dynshaw Italia

What he does: Dynshaw Italia is CFO at Soldo, an organization that believes businesses deserve better than painful, slow, and costly spending, and is providing a solution that is smarter, faster, and more connected to build an entirely new financial architecture for to pay for advertising, software, travel expenses, online procurement, and more. Dynshaw brings 20 years of experience working and developing fast growing consumer brands to help Soldo be prepared and successful in the face of any change. 

Key Quote:  “I keep saying we should be an enabler, not an obstacle. It’s very, very important. You can never stand still. You have to adapt. You have to change to survive. You have to change to grow. You’ve got to change to be successful. That’s important. And then the culture piece is driven from leadership. So you set the tone as a leader, you set the example, you create the environment and people will follow what you do if you lead by example.”                

Where to find Dynshaw: LinkedIn

From Dynshaw’s Playbook

A CFO’s job is to be a visionary that lays out the risk, benefits, and costs

Dynshaw feels it is his job as CFO to lay out the risks of what a project would entail. It’s important for a team to have collective buy-in to make it work, understanding the risks and still be willing to take that next step. A big lesson he has learned is that you’re not always going to agree with decisions that are made, but you need to ensure they’re done in a fully educated way. As long as everyone is fully informed of all possibilities then Dynshaw thinks you’ll  eventually get the reward for it. 

It is important to always create options and not be stuck with one approach

Success requires flexibility. From yourself, to your leadership, to your support team, you want people around you that are able to accept continuous change and not shy away from responsibilities. There is always constant change in fast growing businesses, so having an adaptable mindset not only helps you to gain experience, but will allow you to succeed.

Trust and accountability is key to creating transparency, provide expectations, and build structures

Building trust with your leadership and your colleagues helps bind everyone together towards a shared vision to build a company. Dynshaw believes that trust helps everything fall into place. Being able to communicate, no matter if it’s when things are going well or going badly is a core element to gaining trust. With that, you need to understand that time is a resource to be respected and provided to others when brainstorming and guiding the strategic direction of a company.

Don’t call it a mistake, call it an experience

Dynshaw thinks, “if you fail, fail fast and move on.” It is okay to try multiple things, just make sure you define what is success. If something is too complicated, shut it down and try the next thing. In an effort to become more efficient, be open to learning from missteps and see them as teaching moments and experiences. Allow yourself to try new things and integrate ideas from others and new technologies to garner improvement. 

Episode Highlights

Being flexible is a key to success

“In a fast-growing business change is a constant because it’s just happening on a daily basis. I use this term, “you adapt or you die.” It’s as simple as that. You have to have the mindset that you can adapt to change. If you can accept change, you can work in a fast-growing environment. Because you’re working in a fast-paced environment, you continuously learn, getting experience.”

Encourage a culture of self-starters

“It comes to mindset and culture. Everything that you do is about how you set up the culture within your teams or within your organization. So you want self-starters. You want people to take responsibility. You want people to accept continuous change. So it starts with the recruitment process. You’re looking for people with the right attitude. You’re looking for people who will take on responsibility and not shy away from it.” 

Don’t get in the way

“I keep saying we should be an enabler, not an obstacle. It’s very, very important. You can never stand still. You have to adapt. You have to change to survive. You have to change to grow. You’ve got to change to be successful. That’s important. And then the culture piece is driven from leadership. So you set the tone as a leader, you set the example, you create the environment and people will follow what you do if you lead by example.”

Lead by example

“A lot is driven by leaders themselves. So what you do is really important, how you operate is really important. You set the example, you set the benchmarks, you show that it’s okay to do something wrong, as long as you don’t do it again. You know, all those sort of things you create. And a lot of it is creating structure. So people know what is expected of them. They know what good looks like, what bad looks like.”

Top quotes:

“It comes to mindset and culture. Everything that you do is about how you set up the culture within your teams or within your organization. So you want self-starters. You want people to take responsibility. You want people to accept continuous change. So it starts with the recruitment process. You’re looking for people with the right attitude. You’re looking for people who will take on responsibility and not shy away from it.” 

“A lot is driven by leaders themselves. So what you do is really important, how you operate is really important. You set the example, you set the benchmarks, you show that it’s okay to do something wrong, as long as you don’t do it again. You know, all those sort of things you create. And a lot of it is creating structure. So people know what is expected of them. They know what good looks like, what bad looks like.”

“In a fast-growing business change is a constant because it’s just happening on a daily basis. I use this term, “you adapt or you die.” It’s as simple as that. You have to have the mindset that you can adapt to change. If you can accept change, you can work in a fast-growing environment. Because you’re working in a fast-paced environment, you continuously learn, getting experience.”

“I keep saying we should be an enabler, not an obstacle. It’s very, very important. You can never stand still. You have to adapt. You have to change to survive. You have to change to grow. You’ve got to change to be successful. That’s important. And then the culture piece is driven from leadership. So you set the tone as a leader, you set the example, you create the environment and people will follow what you do if you lead by example.”