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.”

59 Get Everything You Can Out of Technology with Ben Chrnelich, CFO at Symphony.com

19 May 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Ben Chrnelich, CFO at Symphony.com. Ben has a passion for Capital Markets Technology. He has spent his career focused on enabling trading organizations to utilize technology that drives efficiency and productivity. Always aspiring to become a CFO, Ben sees technology as a tool that can empower financial leaders to have an impact at organizations that previously was not possible because the volume of work was too much and too manual. 

Over the past two decades Ben has held financial and management leadership positions at Charles Schwab, Lehman Brothers, NYSE and IPC where he drove business strategy to adapt to the constantly evolving trading landscape. When not working, Ben is on the pitch, coaching soccer for NJ ODP and his daughter’s teams.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Ben talks about his appreciation for the rate of change that technology is bringing both to capital markets and the finance profession. He feels adapting to the new wave of technology applications is paramount to success, giving companies the tools needed to gather the information and data they need. Ben sees these self-serving tools as a way to create a far more dynamic, explorative, and effective type of collaboration within companies that can bring down information barriers and remove friction from daily finance functions. He also discusses his path to becoming a CFO, the importance of being a passionate and excited leader, and other traits he sees as important to being a partner and guiding finances within any organization. 

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:

00:10 Career Path to CFO and Technology’s Pace of Change

05:00 Technology in Finance and Capital Markets

06:00 Technology’s Impact on Workflows and Software

07:00 Development and Accessibility of Finance Systems

09:00 Self-serving Technology Tools Bringing Down Information Barriers

11:00 Real-Time and Relevant Insights

13:45 Listening, Learning and Effort

16:30 Being Effective and the Evolving Role of the CFO

23:00 CFO Rules of Thumb for Leading

27:00 Building the Best Team and Leadership Development

30:30 Being a Reliable and Encouraging Leader

33:30 Liberating Teams from Administrative Work

36:30 Technologies for the Future

40:00 Tips for Being a Successful CFO

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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 Ben on LinkedIn

The CFO Playbook Listener Survey

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Ben’s Playbook: Technology Triumphs for Finance Functions

Ben Chrnelich, CFO at Symphony.com, has a passion for Capital Markets Technology and has spent his career focused on enabling trading organizations to utilize technology that drives efficiency and productivity. Always aspiring to become a CFO, Ben sees technology as a tool that can empower financial leaders to have an impact at organizations that previously were not possible because the volume of work was too much and too manual. 

In the latest episode of the CFO Playbook, Ben talks about his appreciation for the rate of change that technology is bringing both to capital markets and the finance profession. He discusses the importance of why adapting to new wave of technology applications is paramount to success and empowers companies with the tools to get the information and data they need. Ben details how these self-serving tools provide an opportunity to create a far more dynamic, explorative, and effective type of collaboration within the companies that can bring down information barriers and remove friction from daily finance functions. 

Information and Insight is Gained through Technology

Using technology can allow you to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get information on financials and business performance, providing faster and more accurate data. Information is so valuable that you need to be able to look at numbers in real-time and reduce close cycles. The best way to do that is with a thoughtful technology platform behind it.

“Without a high level of technology, access, and development in financial applications, it’d be very difficult to provide the information to a wide group of people. At the same time, you, as a CFO, would spend all your time just talking about numbers, as opposed to creating the environment that you can distribute that information out to all the interested parties.”

Narratives are Necessary for Numbers

You have to dig deep to understand the economics of business. Don’t just look at the surface level numbers, find what are the drivers underneath. You have to be able to translate numbers to a business story or outcome and tie them back to the real world. It is important for a CFO to be able to traverse across the whole business environment, seamlessly weaving in numbers, operating metrics, product results, and customer impact. This is part of putting together a comprehensive narrative of the business to explain what matters and why to non-financial or sophisticated business people.

“Your intellectual curiosity is paramount. Eventually the numbers tell you everything, but they don’t tell you everything if you don’t spend time understanding how they’re built, how they’re generated, and what themes are coming out of the numbers. So, you really need to have that intellectual curiosity.”

Communication is Key

CFO’s need to have compassion and excitement for the business and industry that they work in, being able to communicate effectively and concisely to a wide variety of constituents. As a CFO you need to be able to communicate and understand the audiences you deal with in their own language, while also having a deep understanding of your own business, as well as the customers’ products and needs. 

“You have to be viewed as a proxy for the CEO and you have to be, in the CEO’s mind and understand their strategy of how they’re looking to run the company, what they’re being measured on, what are the stress areas that are consuming their time, what are the success areas that they’re looking to drive, and making sure that there’s a really strong connection between the strategic and operating decisions that get made, that ultimately, the CEO makes and the financial outcomes that the CFO is looking to drive.” 

Lead by Example

If you don’t have leadership ability across the organization and the team then it will be difficult to drive a strategy that you want to implement. As a leader you have to be an individual contributor, being able to do your own work and your own analysis. Be an example to your team. If you’re willing to do the work that anyone else on your team does, that’s a good way to teach others what you’re looking for and how to structure a message and communicate it.

“Part of being a leader is you have to expose yourself. And, it’s a little bit of a cliche, but you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to put yourself out there a little bit. You have to know that if you put your head out, it might get knocked around a little. But, as long as you can keep doing that over time, you’re going to be able to figure out how to lead. And people will look at that as someone that’s comfortable taking a risk and pushing them forward.

57 Tapping into Technology with Bijan Moallemi, Co-Founder and CEO of Mosaic

28 April 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 57: Mosaic | Bijan Moallemi, Co-Founder and CEO

Bijan Moallemi has nearly a decade of experience building and leading finance functions at companies like Qualcomm and Palantir. He knew CFOs deserved access to better tools, so he co-founded Mosaic Finance to build the next generation of finance software for CFOs and their teams. Born out of their own experiences in finance, Bijan and his co-founders have built the Mosaic platform as a resource that combines big data and machine learning to provide powerful predictive reporting capabilities.

To be a successful CFO, Bijan feels you need the tools and basic technical skills to support your business now and to plan for the future, while reducing the effort required by your team to achieve your goals. He thinks CFOs have historically been underserved, and financial professionals deserve accessible tools that save time and money, while providing key insights and analytics to better your business.

Bijan believes that improving workflows that are self-serving, rather than adding to your list of responsibilities, will free up your time and provide more information to make more educated decisions. He feels it is important to have an application like Mosaic that can accomplish that by providing real-time analysis and reporting, giving you perspective on your company’s past, present, and future. Adding automation to data ingestion and processing can help focus your business forecasting and scenario planning to be ready for anything that may come up.

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Bijan explains why it is more important than ever to understand the financial ins and outs of a business to make sure you know exactly what’s going on within your organization. He talks about how Mosaic offers a tool that can help financial professionals as they process through pain points with data and analytics, allowing for a faster and more focused financial team that can make a bigger impact on the business. Bijan also explains why he thinks communication, collaboration and culture building are keys to success, and talks about the benefits of opening up your company to a remote workforce as a way to ensure you have access to the best talent pool.

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: Bijan Moallemi

What he does: Bijan Moallemi, Co-Founder and CEO of Mosaic, a company building the next generation of finance software for CFOs and their teams. Born out of their own experiences in finance, Bijan and his co-founders have designed the Mosaic platform as a tool that combines big data and machine learning to provide powerful predictive reporting capabilities. With nearly a decade of experience building and leading finance functions at companies like Qualcomm and Palantir, Bijan feels it is more important than ever to understand the financial ins and outs of a business to make sure you know exactly what’s going on within your organization. He sees Mosaic as a tool that can help financial professionals as they process through pain points with data and analytics, allowing for a faster and more focused financial team that can make a bigger impact on the business.  

Key Quote: “I think it all starts with the data. If you do not understand the data, if you’re not pulling in many different data sets that the business is using, and you can’t make sense of that, then you can’t really do much. So I would say for us, the secret sauce behind mosaic is pulling in data and then normalizing it, cleaning it, and building the solid foundation to work off of.”

Where to find Bijan: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bijanmoallemi/

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From Bijan’s Playbook

Lead by example

Today’s CFO has to wear many hats, including being an operator, an executive, a technologist, and an adviser to become a trusted decision-maker in their business. It is important to get everyone in your organization aligned on data. As a finance leader and partner within your organization you need to go above and beyond, not just understanding the data itself, but understanding things from the perspective of your partners throughout the business. This will allow you to advocate for them and empower them to utilize the data to run the organization better. 

Open your aperture

A strategic CFO should prioritize collaboration throughout their business so they can become a central and connective resource for the entire organization. Building cohesion, trust, communication, collaboration, and culture within your organization is paramount. In this day in age, it is important to open your aperture when building out your company and team. Being open to remote workers will open your talent pool. What separates good organizations from the great, are the people. So, being able to tap into a global talent pool is an incredible opportunity. 

Fight for finance’s future

Finance is often at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to technology updates, but CFOs today are under more pressure than ever to be fast, accurate, and agile. Finance leaders can earn their seat at the table by proactively taking a more strategic role in their business. To do that, the modern CFO needs to evolve beyond the traditional record-keeping identity. A good CFO will get their people the information they need before they even ask for it. Strategic CFOs should work to rise above back-office reporting to be forward-looking strategic partners to the rest of the business. 

Tout the technology

A key to success for today’s CFO is to be forward-thinking, being armed with the information to form the best strategies. They need to be able to plug into all the different data sources that the business is using. Doing things manually can be labour intensive and error prone. Utilizing different technologies and tools to help automate processes can free up your time, allow you to focus, make your operation more tactical, and propel the business forward. Strategic CFOs prioritize deep collaboration with business leaders so they can become the connective tissue for the entire organization. 

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Episode Highlights

Keep your options open

“You can’t just have one view of the world, especially in this day and age. Things are unpredictable and we’ve seen that with the markets over the last six months. We’ve seen that with the pandemic over the last couple of years. So, how do you make scenario planning and having different views of the world and different paths that your business can go on as easy as possible? That’s a feature set that we’ve spent a lot of time building from day one, to ensure that it is very easy to have multiple scenarios, compare them, and really keep all options open.”

Keep sight of the culture

“I’d say very early you need to realize that you have to be proactive, and you have to be intentional, and you have to really drive things forward with a lot of inertia. If you don’t pay attention to things like culture, they’re going to happen one way or another. You can either be intentional about culture or you can be hands-off and let it manifest the way that it’s going to manifest. For areas like that, you never want to be doing surgery to your culture and having to weed things out. So, I think from our perspective, we would rather be more intentional, knowing it’s going to take more time, more focus, because it’s that important for us here at Mosaic.”

Deliver digestible data

“When you think about the role of the CFO and folks inside of the office of the CFO, it is a highly technical function these days. You have to make sense of all the different data sets across the business, pull them together real-time, massage the data, and present it back to the business. You need to present it back in a way that the business can understand, and it has to be digestible. That does not mean a balance sheet or a statement of cash flow. It has to be something that is consumable and then keep in mind the speed at which you’re pushing it back out to the business. It can’t be late.”

Save time with technology

“When I think about technology in the office of the CFO, as a former practitioner myself, I’m disappointed to be honest. I feel like we’ve really been overpromised and under delivered to when it comes to great finance tech over the last 20 years. So, we thought there might be this resistance or reluctance to want to try something new. I’d say in practice that hasn’t necessarily been the case. I think what you’re seeing is folks across the finance world who see their peers in sales and marketing, HR, legal, design, and engineering who have amazing SaaS-based tooling that gives them leverage. It saves them time. It makes them more powerful in their roles. So, I think on the finance side of the practice, what we’ve actually seen is folks are willing to try something new.”

Top quotes:

3:40

We had this kind of notion in the back of our heads that if we didn’t take this a step further and try to solve this problem for other peers, other finance leaders, it might be something that we would regret for the rest of our lives. And so that’s really where the idea behind Mosaic came from. It was really born out of our own experiences. We didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start the company. It felt like the next natural step for us.

4:15

You think about the role of CFO and it’s so dynamic these days to be strategic. You really need to be able to plug into all the different data sources that the business is using. So, when we say technical, what that means is a finance team that is technical enough to set up a database, set up an ETL pipeline, write code; to hook into the APIs of all the different business systems that we were using. Of course, at a hyper-growth company you’re using a new SAS based tool, it feels like every day, every week. Then a lot of the work that typically a finance organization might be doing in Excel or Google sheets, we’re actually doing that through code. And the great thing is it’s real-time and it is always up to date.

5:38

We think about what does it mean to be strategic on the finance side. If you’re spending 80% of your time pulling down data from NetSuite, from Salesforce, cleaning that data, copy-pasting it into your model and rolling forward the formulas, that’s painful. That’s manual. That’s labour-intensive and it’s error-prone. It’s not strategic in any way. The strategic part comes when you can take a step back, you’ve done that work and you can convey what the numbers say and partner with folks across the business to use that data to propel the business forward. From our perspective, by automating away the 80% of operational-tactical work, it allows you to be more strategic and focus on really propelling the business forward.

8:36

When you think about the role of the CFO and folks inside of the office of the CFO, it is a highly technical function these days. You have to make sense of all the different data sets across the business, pull them together real time, massage the data, and present it back to the business. You need to present it back in a way that the business can understand, and it has to be digestible. That does not mean a balance sheet or a statement of cash flow. It has to be something that is consumable and then keep in mind the speed at which you’re pushing it back out to the business. It can’t be late.

9:52

Finance is typically at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to getting resources and time from the data team. Yes, you can use a database. You can use a looker. You can use a Tableau. It is going to take you at a minimum 9 to12 months to stand up that stack. And you still need to be able to be proficient with how these systems work, to be able to tell the data team exactly what they need. You need to be able to get those outputs. From our perspective, finance really deserves a tool that is accessible to them. It doesn’t take a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up and that’s really one of the main drivers behind mosaic.

11:49

When I think about technology in the office of the CFO, as a former practitioner myself, I’m disappointed to be honest. I feel like we’ve really been over promised and under-delivered to when it comes to great finance tech over the last 20 years. So, we thought there might be this resistance or reluctance to want to try something new. I’d say in practice that hasn’t necessarily been the case. I think what you’re seeing is folks across the finance world who see their peers in sales and marketing, HR, legal, design, and engineering who have amazing SaaS based tooling that gives them leverage. It saves them time. It makes them more powerful at their roles. So, I think on the finance side of the practice, what we’ve actually seen is folks are willing to try something new.

14:28

I think it all starts with the data. If you do not understand the data, if you’re not pulling in many different data sets that the business is using, and you can’t make sense of that, then you can’t really do much. So I would say for us, the secret sauce behind mosaic is pulling in data and then normalizing it, cleaning it, and really building a solid foundation to work off of.

17:44

You can’t just have one view of the world, especially in this day and age. Things are unpredictable and we’ve seen that with the markets over the last six months. We’ve seen that with the pandemic over the last couple of years. So, how do you make scenario planning and having different views of the world and different paths that your business can go on as easy as possible? That’s a feature set that we’ve spent a lot of time building from day one, to ensure that it is very easy to have multiple scenarios, and compare them, and really keep all options open.

20:20

The big learning for me is getting everyone aligned on the data. And as a finance business partner, really going above and beyond, not just understanding the data, but really trying to understand things from the business partners’ side and try to be an advocate for them, making sure that you’re empowering them with the data that they need to run their organization better.

23:00

I think this day and age you’re really closing the aperture by saying, ‘hey, I’m only going to build a company in the city.’ The talent pool is going to be significantly smaller. And there are amazing people all across the us all across the world. I think what separates good organizations from great, is the people. So, being able to tap into that global talent pool has been incredible. But, remote-first also causes challenges. It’s very easy to miss out on those water cooler conversations and things that happen just kind of happenstance when you’re around folks in the office.

23:44

I’d say cohesion, trust, communication, collaboration, culture, building, all of those things are at least in my opinion, an order of magnitude, harder to do in a remote-first environment than they are in an in-person environment. I’d say very early you need to realize that you have to be proactive, and you have to be intentional, and you have to really drive things forward with a lot of inertia. If you don’t pay attention to things like culture, they’re going to happen one way or another. You can either be intentional about culture or you can be hands-off and let it manifest the way that it’s going to manifest. For areas like that, you never want to be doing surgery to your culture and having to weed things out. So, I think from our perspective, we would rather be more intentional, knowing it’s going to take more time, more focus, because it’s that important for us here at Mosaic.

31:04

For us, one of the big learnings has been as we started to push a little bit upmarket, get customer traction, moving from a founder first product mindset to more of a facilitator role, where we want to amplify the voice of the customer. We want to hear what our CS reps are hearing out in the field. We want to hear what sales and marketing are seeing in the pipeline. So, it’s definitely something that has been an interesting shift for me and my co-founders. I’d say for us success is really understanding what our customers like and don’t like about the product and trying to understand where it needs to improve. Ultimately I think the way we win is by understanding our customer needs and delivering a solution that’s 10 times better than anything that exists today. 

34:16

You have to carve out time to really embed yourself with the different business owners that you’re working with, whether that’s folks on parts of GNA engineering, product sales, really take a step back and try to understand how they’re seeing the world and how you can best empower them with the data that you’re responsible for.

51 Taking Risks Brings Big Rewards with Charly Kevers, CFO at Carta

10 March 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 51: Carta | With Charly Kevers, CFO

Charly Kevers, CFO at Carta, has more than 20 years of experience holding various roles in finance and strategy, including investor relations and corporate development in multiple countries across North America, Europe, and Asia. While he didn’t take a straight path to his current role, his breadth of experience in consulting and the financial world has given him great exposure to different businesses and executives to help prepare him to be a leader at Carta. 

To be a successful CFO, Charly strongly believes in trying out different roles and opportunities, including learning about mergers and acquisitions and investor relations. This will help you as a CFO to gain an understanding of how investors approach their investments, and how to better communicate with them. Carta takes a unique and transparent approach to their business, being open with employees and investors. While at first, this was a bit jarring for Charly, he has embraced how being open and honest about the business can greatly improve a company’s culture and be a driver for growth. 

Charly believes that being a good CFO requires you to be as objective as possible and try to not be defensive, no matter if you’re dealing with good or bad situations. It is important to be very clear in explaining your thoughts and processes, reinforcing that you’re trying things in an effort to grow and prosper. He feels that if you aren’t constantly trying new things, then you won’t be able to properly build and expand your business.  

In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Charly Kevers, CFO at Carta shares his thoughts on how transparency can build trust and confidence with your employees and investors. He explains why it is important to take risks and try new things. Charly also talks about the importance of embracing technology and how he approaches recruiting and retention for his team.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Charly Kevers

What he does: Charly Kevers is CFO at Carta, an organization on a mission to create more owners, by building a global ownership management platform that aims to change how companies, investors, law firms, and employees manage equity. While he didn’t take a straight path to his current role, Charly’s breadth of experience in consulting and across the financial world has given him great exposure to different businesses and executives to prepare him to be a leader at Carta. He embraces the drive for transparency at Carta as an important tool for building the company’s culture and investor confidence.

Key Quote: “Building trust and confidence is really important. The relationships with investors are of course looking at them as an asset that will appreciate, but a big part of it is I also do believe in the team running the company. The trust only comes if they can believe what you’re saying; if they can trust that you will share enough information for them to make the right decision.”               

Where to find Charly: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlykevers/

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From Charly’s Playbook

Provide more visibility

Giving investors more insight can help you as a business. Charly has found it to be very beneficial to his company to be as open with the investor base as possible, because they’ve received a lot of help from it. Being transparent helps build productive relationships with your board and broader investor base. This doesn’t mean you have to give all the details or exact figures, but shows investors what is being done to build the company, establish the strength of the business, and how you’re optimizing projects for prosperity. Investors are partners in your business, so building trust in transparency drives them to want to help more.

Be inclusive with your employees

As a CFO, treat your employees like they’re equal stakeholders in the company to everyone else. Help build a culture where everybody is expected to care and understand what the company is doing. As a CFO, it’s your and your team’s job to make sure what your department is doing is easy to understand for all employees. Help the company to understand the big metrics and why they matter to the employees, leadership, board, investors, and company as a whole. 

Empower your employees

Give your employees the best opportunity to shine. Make sure that people understand they may be given hard problems to solve, but allow them the autonomy to do so. Be continuously engaged with your team. Don’t dismiss any variables that may go into their or your work. Make sure you are regularly giving your team feedback and getting it back from them in return. In the end, you know you have the best people for the job if you put them in front of hard problems and they’re able to solve them. 

Tap into technology

While it is important to make sure your team is ready to handle any challenge, so too do you need to have the right software and technology that can help get the job done. When deciding on new hires, take a moment to think about how technology can make you more efficient or complete any task at hand. When you look at your plans for each year, challenge yourself to think if you need to add another person to the team, or if there is a technology that can manage a process. As your company changes, don’t be hesitant to turn to technology as a solution.

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Episode Highlights

Truth in transparency

“Something I’ve learned from mentors and from my jobs is there is no point in trying to hide things. You just need to be as transparent as you can. It doesn’t mean you have to talk about everything, but be as transparent as you can so people understand your thought process and understand what you’re going through and lay out your plan.”

You must try to innovate

“In my experience, part of it is just explaining the process you go through. And, so being very clear that we’re always going to be trying things. Part of being in a company that is built on innovation, if you’re not trying, things are not going to continue to grow. That’s what we all get paid to do by our investors is continue to grow this business by finding new ways to do so, and change how certain things are done now.”

Efficiency is everything

“It’s not necessarily as much about efficiency for me in my company, but how fast we can move. Like our, our lens is generally, does this allow us to move? Does this allow us to do more? Can I do it with two instead of four people? If so, then I’m absolutely going to go do that. It’s more like, I have this process that I can actually go solve this other problem, and I can create this new product, and I can create a new revenue stream. So, we think about it a little differently by optimizing certain things. Now we can spend our time doing more things and growing the company.”

Rise to risks early in your career

“I would strongly recommend folks take a little more risk earlier in their career. There’s one thing I think people forget, is that careers are long and you can always go do other things. You can always go back to a bigger company. What’s great about a big company is you learn a lot, but also everything is already done, and you’re not going to innovate a ton on the process. With smaller companies, you’re going to figure out a lot of things. And, then you have the opportunity to really think through deeply what makes sense for a business versus, well, this is how we’ve done it for 10 years. You have to actually go back to the basics. And, so I strongly encourage everybody to go get that exposure.”

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Top quotes:

“Part of it is in my experience, explaining just the process you go through. And so being very clear that we’re always trying, and partly being in a company that is built on innovation – if you’re not trying, things are not going to continue to grow. That’s what we all get paid to do by our investors is continue to grow this business by finding new ways to grow it and, and change how certain things are done now.”

“I think it’s really about explaining your process, explaining how you approach company building. It doesn’t mean you need to give all the details of like this project didn’t work and we’re investing these exact number of dollars here, but more like here’s how we’re going to build. We’re going to have these established businesses and we’re going to continue to build, and frankly, start to focus on optimizing and here are a few projects. We don’t know yet if they’re going to work, here’s why we think they’re worth investing in and we’re going to keep you updated on the progress and just like overall broad stroke levels of progress, so people don’t feel like there are any surprises. I think it’s just, everybody knows certain things work, others don’t work. I think it’s unrealistic to say no, everything’s perfect. Like everything we do is a great investment. And so I think it’s also part of just building that trust that people know. Once they’re investors, they’re partners with you and just treat them as such, and make sure they also can help you.”

“The mistake I made early in my career is always thinking the investor are kind of like the teacher. I realized definitely at Carta that they know that things things will go wrong and they want to be here to help. And if you give them that visibility, they can’t help you. And, so that’s been super interesting. And, and frankly, I have to say it’s been very beneficial to us to be as open as we can with our investor base, because we’ve gotten a ton of a ton of help from it.”

“It’s getting tough for companies to just say, nope, no liquidity until we go public because employees are starting to expect it. I think a lot of people are realizing now over the last few years, capital was plentiful. It’s still plenty of capital in the private markets. I don’t want to say it’s drying up at all, but the dynamics have changed with the public markets being what they are. And, everybody’s raised a lot of money, which is great, which means everybody has runways for a long time. But now with all the funds that people raised in the last couple of years, and oftentimes did secondaries related to these funding rounds because they had so much investor interest. Now, what are you doing when employees come back and say, ‘Hey, can we do this again? This was great. Can we do it again?’ And I think it will force a lot of companies to think about it. So I think it’s a term change, but we believe that this is the path it’s taking and that the best employees will want to work for companies that have some form of liquidity. And, that war for talent is what’s going to shift behavior.”

“We want to treat everybody for what they are, which are not only employees, but also owners of the company. And so I think it’s to build a great culture from the standpoint of like, everybody’s expected to care about it and everybody’s expected to understand it. And it’s my job and my team’s job to make sure it’s easy enough to understand for all our employees. It doesn’t matter where. We should make sure to at least all the big metrics, everything we talk about, make sure you understand what it is and why it matters. And then over time, of course, my job is to make sure my peers and all their teams understand how they impact all these metrics and kind of tie everything back together. But that’s why we want to be quite transparent and talk about this regularly.”

“Really make sure that people understand they’ll be given hard problems to solve, and they’ll be given autonomy to do that. And of course, we want to make sure we look at all the aspects of engagement. And so I, I don’t want to dismiss all these other aspects that are really key to making sure that you also get continuous feedback from your team. But what I’ve found is in the end, this is one of the top things that matters. And of course, compensation has got to be right. A lot of these basics have to be taken care of, but if you put people in front of hard problems, the best people want to go solve hard problems.”

“Every time somebody wants to hire a person, ‘my first question is like, have we thought about any type of software we can use to do this?’ And it doesn’t mean it solves everything just to be clear. We’ve grown the team quite a bit, but, but that’s always the question. When we look at our plans every year, every quarter, let’s really challenge ourselves. Do we need to add in another person to do this role? Do we need to add another person to go manage this process? And so it’s an ongoing process. I don’t think you’ve ever done because when the company changes the needs change.”

“Generally, I would strongly recommend folks take a little more risk earlier in their career because there’s the one thing people I think forget also is like careers are long and you can always go do other things. You can always go back to a bigger company. But trying a little bit the scaling and the environment we got, you have to figure things out.”

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.”

47 Leading a Transformation with Nick Rose, CFO at Enable

10 February 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 47: Enable | With Nick Rose, CFO

In his role of CFO at Enable, Nick Rose is carrying forward what he enjoyed most working on business transformation projects at Travis Perkins, and is driven by the change he’s able to make happen at a small but quickly growing company.

When Nick first joined Enable, he went from having 24,000 colleagues to 70. But headcount is rising fast, and Nick describes the company’s evolution as “a constant state of change” as Enable has gone through two rounds of funding and expanded to three different countries since he arrived. Nick credits his experience in business transformation to help him to shift to a fast moving environment; in fact, he embraces the change that’s necessary to achieve Enable’s ambitious goals.

Whether evaluating automation opportunities to layer on top of Enable’s ERP system, or assessing whether a prospective hire is the right fit for his team, Nick takes a forward thinking approach to his decision making. To help guide these decisions in the present, he and his team rely on measuring objectives and key results (OKRs) on a quarterly basis. As a result, Nick is confident that the finance department and beyond are aligned on the overarching goals of the company and how they’ll work together to achieve them.

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, Nick Rose, CFO at Enable, shares how he brings a transformation mindset to his role, describes the ways in which he’s building a team that runs towards business challenges, and illustrates why adaptability is such an important quality in a CFO.

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Guest Analysis

Name: Nick Rose

What he does: Nick is the CFO at Enable, a cloud-based rebate management solution to help distributors, manufacturers, and retailers manage rebates. He’s carrying forward his experiences with transformation to help steward big changes at Enable as the VC-backed venture triples its headcount and puts growth on hyper drive.

Key Quote:  “What do I actually do? Day-to-day, most times it’s working with people, influencing them, making things happen, and you’ve got to have good people around you to achieve that. It’s simple to me.”       

Where to find Nick: LinkedIn

From Nick’s Playbook

Leading a transformation necessitates being comfortable with change

Since Nick joined Enable, they’ve raised two rounds of funding, expanded to three countries (soon to be four), and made a pivot to building their own product and selling it at scale. Nick calls it “a constant state of change,” which is his preferred state after leading business transformation in house at Travis Perkins. Nick’s invigorated by the impact he can have on a smaller but quickly growing company, which helps his team get on board, too. 

If you want to scale, prioritization is key

To support Enable’s hyper-growth strategy, Nick stresses the importance of being able to make decisions quickly and for the betterment of the business. In order to do this, the leadership team sets objectives and key results (OKRs) quarterly rather than on a yearly basis on a company, team, and individual level. That way goals are made transparent and everyone is aligned on what they’re working towards and how to get there.

Hire those who run towards a business challenge

Nick emphasizes that at a scaling company, you need to build a finance team that is able to rise to the challenge. For that reason, during the hiring process he susses out whether the candidate has experience with transformation projects. He asks probing questions to ensure new hires run towards business improvement challenges versus just having been in the right place at the right time. 

Great CFOs stay true to themselves

Though Nick’s surrounded by growth and change, he makes it a priority to stay grounded in himself, his values, and his belief in what Enable is going to achieve. He genuinely cares about his team and doesn’t shy away from sharing that with them. In return, they join him for the hyper-growth journey.

Episode Highlights

The perks of driving change

“Some of the bits I most enjoyed in Travis Perkins were where you work as a small team and really create real change and make things really happen. And you can do that in a small business that’s got big ambition, far more than you ever can in a great big oil tanker type business that’s got its own process and hurdles that you have to get over to make change.”

From being a customer to going in-house

“Having been a customer, I’ve bought the product implemented…I’ve first-hand felt the pain points that our actual prospective customers feel. So I can get involved in understanding how we’re prospecting to them, how we’re doing our pitches and also talking to them about the benefits that I’ve seen first-hand. So that does help me create more influence.”

Being an empathetic leader

“I’ve learned I’m hugely adaptable. I can throw my mind to lots of different things. I have a real deep care for our team and making sure people are comfortable and supported, and then in that sort of way, they actually not only know what’s expected of them and how they’re getting on and where they stand, but actually that people care about them as well.”

What Nick looks for in a hire

“What I look for is real energy, real forward thinking, and real willingness to look for different solutions and try something new. I have my litmus test when they get into an interview scenario: how much do they already know about us? How much are they bothered to find out? And how much energy can they bring to the role?”

Top quotes:

“We are deliberately burning cash. That’s the pattern that we have to follow. And so as a result of doing that, we’re able to grow sales teams, customer success teams, implementation and the whole engineering team, as well as the support functions, in such a way that it’s supporting what we call hyper growth.”

“The scale and pace of what we’re trying to achieve, it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced or seen before. And it’s engaging and rewarding being part of that. I love changing things. I love making things work more smoothly, work better, and working with good people to make that happen.”

“I’ve learned I’ve got a lot of energy to try and keep balls in the air and when they’ve got challenges on many different fronts, keeping things moving is just the most important thing and trying to be an inspiring leader to the rest of the business. And I’ve learned that in some small way, I can help do that.”

“I suppose what makes it work is our ability to make decisions really quickly. We set ourselves objectives and key results, OKRs, every quarter. Most businesses I’ve ever seen set them every year and that drives the pace of change. I need to know what are my real priorities this quarter? We set them at the company level first and then we set them by team and then we rolled them down to the individual. So if anyone ever wants to know what they should be doing, they should be looking at their team and their individual OKRs, which we know roll up to support what the company is trying to do, whether it’s that every quarter, the next quarter or a longer term thing.  So for every three months we’re trying to do so much, but it is quite controlled and quite visible what each team’s trying to do.”

“I just be myself. How would I be anything else? And if I can bring people along with me through showing the amount I care about our success and what we need to do to get there and the amount of care about our people and supporting them, then people generally will follow that if they actually believe what you’re saying.”

“You have to show a strong track record. We’re about to launch our third all employee survey. We did one last February, one in August, and we’ve really taken those seriously, so anonymous feedback, and we’ve corralled that feedback into certain themes and where it’s showing the company every month for our all hands meetings and, and more regular communication outside of that, what we’re doing about it.”

“You can always look at what people have on a CV. Okay. You know, if they’ve got financial accountant on their CV, then they’re probably qualified. They’ve probably done a number of years of posting journals and doing management accounts and working all that stuff. So I always ask them what change projects they’ve been in. How did they go? What did they do? What have they learned about themselves from that? That can tell you a lot. And business improvement projects in the same vein. And you can begin to piece away about whether they are people who run towards a business improvement challenge, or have just kind of been put on this project just because they were on the right chair at the right time.”

46 Laying the Groundwork for Growth with Ross Tennenbaum, CFO at Avalara

3 February 2022   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 46: Avalara | With Ross Tennenbaum, CFO

Ross Tennenbaum loved working in investment banking, so it took the right opportunity for him to make the jump into his first role as CFO at Avalara, a SAAS company building cloud-based tax compliance solutions to handle every transaction in the world.

While in investment banking, Ross learned not only about capital markets and mergers and acquisitions, but about the strategy of the companies he advised on. Ross brought that mindset to Avalara, asking all kinds of questions to drive Avalara’s business forward.

Ross is laying the groundwork at Avalara to help match the fast growth of today, as well as tomorrow. He’s doing this by investing in the right technology to help optimize finance operations, and hiring finance team members who have experience implementing automation. As he builds out the finance team in a competitive environment, he’s intentional about facilitating a fulfilling work environment with clear paths of success for the company as well as individual team members. 

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, Ross Tennenbaum, CFO at Avalara, describes why he left investment banking for the lure of CFO, outlines the key components of a high performing finance team, and shares the automation priorities he’s focused on for the year ahead.

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: Ross Tennenbaum

What he does: Ross is the CFO at Avalara, a SAAS company building cloud-based tax compliance solutions to handle every transaction in the world. Two years into his first tenure as CFO, he’s applied what he learned from years in investment banking to understand the business, invest in technology, and build an engaged finance team.

Key Quote:  “My biggest advice to people if they’re building a company is don’t under-invest in the back office technology. It’s easy to do because you put all your money in sales and marketing, but you end up paying more later.”      

Where to find Ross: LinkedIn

From Ross’s Playbook

You don’t necessarily need to make changes right out of the gate 

When Ross made the jump from investment banking to his first time role as CFO at Avalara in 2020, he didn’t come in and make bold moves just to make a statement. Instead, he helped finance operations grow with the company as its international reach expanded and served the company’s needs as he deepened his own knowledge of all aspects of the business.

Understand your company (and ask the right questions)

Ross emphasizes that understanding the business is his number one priority as a CFO. Coming from banking, he learned not only about capital markets and mergers and acquisitions, but about the strategy of the companies he advised on. Ross brought that mindset to Avalara, asking all kinds of questions to drive Avalara’s business forward.

In a competitive job market, create a clear career path and team culture

While Ross says Avalara benefits from being able to tap into an international talent pool, he also underlines the importance of creating a clear career path for prospective and current employees. He stresses that team members should all feel valued, crystal clear on where the department and company is headed, and aligned on the goals that are going to get you there.

Hire finance professionals with a tech background

Avalara is a tax automation company, so the value of automation and technology is baked into the company’s purpose. When it comes to the finance operations, Ross knows they have room to improve so he is intentional about hiring finance team members who have experience in implementing automation. That way, they don’t need to be reliant on a Center of Excellence. Instead, the knowledge base is right within finance.

Episode Highlights

The benefits of an advisory background

“I learned a ton about not only the capital markets and M&A, but really the strategy of a company. How do you think about strategy? How do you think about what your competitors are doing? How do you think about moves you should be making or not making? And it got me some really great exposure to boards and executive management teams.”

Creating a team for automation within the finance department

“We hired some people that come from doing automation in finance departments at other companies and said, ‘let’s go tackle this.’ So I think that that is money really, really well spent because they will start to automate routine functions and make you more optimized, make you better, make you faster and also free up your people to do other things.”

The payoff of a thoughtful transition

“At Avalara, our CEO and our former CFO were very thoughtful in this transition…I remember [our CEO] saying ‘I like my CFOs to be really deep in the business, really understand how operations work, work across the Isles from finance, understand how finance works from the other side and everything else.’ And so the good news was I sat right next to our former CFO. And I sat on his staff and we spent quality time together after hours and during business hours.”

The learning curve of a first-time CFO

“You’ve got to become really good at being resourceful and finding networks and being able to ask the right questions and learn. You jump into a CFO role and you don’t have someone above you to ask you, all right, what do I do next? You gotta go figure it out.” 

Advice for aspiring CFOs

“The number one thing to me is you’ve got to really understand the business, how it works, what are the drivers, what are the levers, so that you can really be in a position to help optimize it and drive it and grow it, and not just be the person that’s handling the purse strings.”

Top quotes:

“And I remember thinking that there’s not so many times in your career where people reach out to you and ask you to do a job that you’re not necessarily qualified to do. You’re taking a leap into venture capital or operations role you haven’t yet done and it’s because it always comes back to: ‘your next job won’t be from your resume, it’ll be from your network.’”

“To me a career is about putting together many different disparate experiences, you know? And so you’re continuing to, it’s not just moving up, but it’s continuing to build the areas of knowledge set, and experiences that come together to give you a unique set of skills and experiences.”

“You understand how the businesses work, you understand how the different functions work. You understand how the functions need to work together. And I think you understand how to be more empathetic, which is a really important word in my career to how other functions and leaders, what they need to do, what their mission is, how it all works and how to work across the aisles with them and really understand the levers that you can pull to drive the business.”

“I’m pretty knowledgeable in accounting. I’ve always liked accounting. I spent time in the weeds of it. I’m not a technical accountant. I didn’t come up from that realm, not a CPA to be fair. And so there’s different ways to come up and be CFO. I didn’t come from that area. So we have a really strong Chief Accounting Officer that’s been at the company since prior to going public.”

“I think by expanding the aperture of where you’re willing to hire, I think by being willing to say, okay, there’s some senior leaders that aren’t on the ground here and that’s okay. It’s opened more opportunities.”

“I think bankers always have to go figure out really hard problems with limited information, and overnight, and that’s a really good skill. And then you go into a company and you’ve got all the information. How do you synthesize a lot of information? How do you make it compact? How do you make it simple? And how do you communicate it effectively? I think that those are all important to hire great people that can do that.’

“Empathetic culture and career paths are really important. How do we create the vacuum where you can actually pull people up and people can see, ‘Hey, things are moving. I can put my hand up. I can get a career path going. I don’t have to go look outside the company.’”

41 Investing in Automation with Francis Trudeau, CFO at BrainBox AI

16 December 2021   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 41: BrainBox AI | With Francis Trudeau, CFO

Francis Trudeau recently took on the honor and challenge of being the first CFO at BrainBox AI, a tech startup that’s helping to fight climate change by making buildings smarter and more efficient. Coming off of a recognition at COP26 as the winner of the “Tech for Our Planet Challenge,” BrainBox is a leader in leveraging technology at scale for the greater good. 

Francis came to BrainBox after his first tenure as CFO at a more mature company, Logibec. For this new venture, Francis is tasked with building the operational and technical foundation for the finance department, while also acting as a strategic partner to the CEO and other areas of the business. Francis has jumped into the opportunity with passion for the mission of the company and an entrepreneurial mindset, both of which he looks for in hiring new recruits for the finance department.

With valuations for tech companies at an all time high, Francis takes a measured approach as a CFO to ensure he’s able to deliver value to investors over time. With years of experience in corporate development and M&A, Francis brings this expertise to his role as CFO. For him, an integral part of sustainable growth is investing in the right technology and talent upfront.

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, Francis Trudeau, CFO at BrainBox AI, talks about estimating company value in today’s hyped up market, outlines how BrainBox are fighting climate change through intelligent heating systems, and emphasizes why automation was a key mandate when starting his latest CFO role.

Guest Analysis

Name: Francis Trudeau

What he does: Francis is the CFO at BrainBox AI, a tech scale-up fighting climate change by bringing artificial intelligence to the built environment, making buildings smarter and greener. As the first CFO, Francis is focused on building the finance team, prioritizing automation, and feeling optimistic about 2022. 

Key Quote:  “The mindset of management is, ‘we’re building the plane as we’re flying it’…We know we’re not perfect even in finance areas but we want to improve and we need to demonstrate that we’re improving and we’re getting better. That’s our goal right now.”         

Where to find Francis: LinkedIn

From Francis’s Playbook

Trust the market

Because investors are flooding the market with capital and high valuations for tech companies at current, Francis shares that it’s normal to feel wary but that ultimately you need to trust that the market is doing its job. That said, he stresses staying true to your business goals. Some investors are taking a high risk portfolio approach and accepting great losses, which means there’s more cash out there to feed growth. But great CFOs stay disciplined.

Prioritize sustainable growth

Francis recognizes the importance of keeping a long eye on growth. In a competitive and very high valuation market, there’s a lot of pressure to make short-term strategic decisions that make investors happy, but Francis stresses that it’s the CFO’s job to make sure you’re ensuring sustainable growth that won’t burst. He also says that most investors accept cash burn so long as the long view projects growth. It’s up to the CFO to strike the right balance.

Build the finance department with automation in mind

As the first CFO at BrainBox AI, Francis is charged with building the foundation for the finance department. He says that the link between finance and Information Services (IS) in implementing automation is key. So in hiring, Francis looks for recruits who have experience working with IS and interacting with other departments.

Let go of perfectionism if you want to scale

Coming from being the CFO at a large, established company to BrainBox AI, Francis appreciates the flexible mindset of management. When you’re “building the plane as you’re flying it,” Francis says that it’s ok to make mistakes so long as everyone is focused and working towards the same direction. In their case, that’s customer success, technology success, and building a foundation for finance. 

Episode Highlights

Accept costs early on

“You need to first demonstrate your value proposition to the market. And even if it leads to losses, it’s rare for a company to break even…So you need to accept this phase. And as a CFO we’re risk averse and we’re having a hard time understanding that period. It’s our role we’re pushing on management, on the CEO trying to find that balance. But I think from what I’ve seen, this period of growth is critical for future success and you should try to sell your future to your investor for them to understand your value proposition.”

Focus on building a strong technology foundation for finance 

“You want to create strategic value but you need to establish your base…That is the key. And again, I’ve worked with more established companies, it’s all rolling and you realize that there’s been a lot of people before you that built those and you don’t realize how much work it was when it’s a mature system and mature tools and you press a button and you get your report and your dashboard.”

Advice for CFOs at larger companies moving to scale-ups

“Align the company interests with finance interests and be open to that. Your goal should be to propel those divisions and those internal clients and bring them value so that they go to you and they utilize you and they see that it’s fun to work with finance. And it’s great because they help me in my day to day.”

Managing a global launch during period of uncertainty

“Cash forecast is more frequent, but we also make sure our communications with all our parties, like our stakeholders, whether it’s our employees, our business partners, our clients, are as good as possible. But in terms of financial success or financial impact, we’re very optimistic and we’re looking forward for next year.”

Top quotes:

“The mission and the purpose of the company from a greater good, standpoint – it’s very appealing and it’s fun. And I want to make sure my people, my team, they feel part of this and that mission and they find a way to contribute. And that they feel like a shared service function that cannot bring value to the greater good, which we all do in a sense. So that’s also very important for me in terms of engaging the new people that are joining us.”

“I would encourage the CFO to try to understand the value proposition, understand how we could go to market and how we could generate value with the business more than thinking cashflow and managing cashflow accordingly and communicating that we might need an other financing round at that stage. And that’s, to me, more important than making sure we’re breaking even.”

“I loved my previous company. I could have stayed there a very long time. but it was more mature. It was established. And the BrainBox CFO opportunity was for me the first time to jump into a more startup mindset, international growth. So that was very attractive.”

“Be open because it’s intellectually very stimulating. You have a lot of decisions to make on a daily basis, from finance operations to strategic one. So try to use all your areas of expertise and make sure that you’re not trying to protect or prevent the company from going for example, or stop projects. Sometimes you have to stop projects, but try to understand why people are doing it and try to be in solution mode.”

40 Think Like an Adviser with David Harutian, VP of Finance @ Qualified

9 December 2021   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 40: Qualified | With David Harutian, VP of Finance

David Harutian started working at Qualified just after they secured their Series A financing, and helped close a $51M Series B in May of this year. His background as an adviser in investment banking and corporate development helped David contribute to the diligence process and puts him in a unique position to nurture investor relationships.

Like a lot of tech companies, Qualified hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. Instead, David’s been there as they’ve tripled and quadrupled their growth. But as he’s forecasting for investors and the board, he emphasizes taking a conservative approach and making sure you’re analyzing the company’s potential while keeping in mind the macroeconomic environment. Heading into 2022, David foresees more growth for Qualified, and consolidation and marketing spend for the industry at large.

David structured the finance team with proximity to data as a top priority. He stresses investing in data and analytics, technology, and data scientists early on for a hypergrowth company so you are able to accurately forecast and drive insights. Part of this investment is hiring the right talent that will be able to transform the data to move the business forward. David underlines recruiting for an entrepreneurial mindset and seeks out future employees who are problem-solvers who want to work as part of a team towards common goals.

While David shares that he doesn’t see spreadsheets going away anytime soon, the technology his finance team looks to is best built on a strong foundation of understanding – which spreadsheets can help cultivate. Right now, the main focus at Qualified is spend management and ERP.

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, David Harutian, VP of Finance @ Qualified, talks about taking the leap from the advisory side to working in-house, shares lessons from Qualified’s latest financing round, and  discloses the technology his team has prioritized to help scale finance on pace with the business. 

Guest Analysis

Name: David Harutian

What he does: David Harutian is the VP of Finance at Qualified, a conversational sales and marketing platform. David brings his experiences as an adviser in investment banking and corporate development in-house leading the finance team of the hypergrowth tech startup.   

Key Quote:  “My biggest advice that I’ve always given to others is just make sure that your numbers are accurate and that you account for them in an industry standard way. Be more on the conservative side to leave room for upside.”         

Where to find David: LinkedIn

From David’s Playbook

Great finance team leaders think like an adviser 

In joining Qualified, David made the leap from working in an adviser role in investment banking and corporate development to working in-house on the finance team. In his advisory capacity, David didn’t get access to the day-to-day infrastructure of a company, so as VP of Finance at Qualified he has a higher impact on the business and its trajectory. That said, his advisory experience has been invaluable to financing rounds, developing relationships with investors, and understanding the market.

Choose investors who provide more than a high valuation

Qualified raised a Series B round in May 2021, buffeted by a favorable market for tech companies. David stresses that the most important aspect of the raise was ensuring that the investors would be willing to develop strategic partnerships with the leaders at Qualified. He says that when you find the right investor who understands your business, they’re able to give you the right valuation as well. And they will help steer the company in a favorable direction during the uncertainty of the pandemic.  

Invest in data and technology early, but make sure you build it on a solid foundation 

Before your company hits a hypergrowth stage, like Qualified has reached, David underlines that it’s imperative that you invest in operations so that everyone is communicating accurately and the data is flowing to the right locations. If not, you won’t be able to extract it and analyze it. He says that it’s a lot of investment upfront, but it’s worth it because you can rely on the insights and forecasts that come out of it.

Hire candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset

While David says that they make sure salaries are competitive when hiring, in the tech startup space, companies need to provide more to entice the right talent. When growing his finance team, David appeals to candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset who enjoy the challenge of working together to achieve a daring goal.

Episode Highlights

David’s 2022 market prediction for tech companies

“A lot of marketing spend, a lot of consolidation. Barring any macroeconomic conditions, the IPO’s will most likely continue, especially with the rise of new ways that you could IPO like using SPACs, et cetera. So, we’re keeping that macroeconomic world in mind to understand what our growth needs will be and how we’re going to hit our company goals.”

Organize your finance and ops team structure around data

“We try to have a centralized structure where anything that has to do with data is living within the finance and business operations team. Because…we are touching every department. We understand their specific nuanced operational needs. And we want to make sure that we have the right data that we’re collecting, not just from their department, but from other departments to  give them the proper holistic, strategic advice to hit their departmental targets.” 

How to get insights from investors on the board

“I think a lot of it comes from also asking the right questions. We don’t necessarily go in and say, ‘what should we do a week?’ Come in with multiple strategies or multiple scenarios, and we try to get their perspective because they’re so close to the market. They understand what has been working with other portfolio companies that they have invested in. So we are in a way also positioning our questions in a way to get the best answers that would really help us run our business.” 

Why invest in spend management software? 

“At a certain point within a company’s trajectory evolution, you begin looking at bottom line metrics like your cash flow and your spend efficiency, and [begin] to establish more what we call hard budgets versus soft budgets. We don’t want to restrict departments by giving them hard numbers right away because it’s less efficient at our stage, but we do want to begin introducing the concept of letting them know that we’re monitoring your spend.”

Advice for aspiring finance leaders

“What I found to be the most helpful is really get to know your executives, learn how to communicate in a concise manner, understand what the specific problem sets are and the targets are and try to solve them as it pertains to the unique situation of the company…There is a lot of advice out there and there are a lot of great case studies that should be read and understood of how some successful companies scaled and how other VPs and CFOs were able to assist in that scaling process, but ultimately there’s always unique nuances to every company. It’s much better to get in the habit of understanding how to solve a problem that is unique to the company, and be able to build on that skill set to understand exactly what needs to be done while using some of the extra case studies, and historical data as a backup.”

Top quotes:

“Being remote–obviously technology has really helped. Being able to do Zoom meetings and have a regular check-in cadence has certainly helped us out. We are investing more and planning more into team culture activities….what I try to do at least within my department is make sure that there is a regular cadence of meetings, and transparency. We want to make sure that everyone understands what they’re doing, how what they’re doing is helping the company and the organization. And I try to always have check-ins on conversations with my team about their personal career growth and where they’d like to see themselves grow in within the company as well.”

“Strategic partnerships with our investors was probably the most important aspect that we were going for rather than the highest valuation number. When you find the right investor who understands your business, they are able to also give you the right valuation as well. It kind of falls in place. For a growing company that is showing a tripling and quadrupling of historical performance and is forecasting tripling and quadrupling again, there is always the question of showing evidence for product market fit and then how to craft your go-to-market strategy in order to actually achieve that. And that is when really good key investors, strategic investors would be quite helpful.”

“What I’ve seen previously is that if you are going to market and shopping around a deal to investors and those numbers aren’t concrete and there isn’t enough proof behind it, or showing how you got your numbers, then investors sort of lose confidence a little in the quality of the rest of the numbers. So that is my biggest advice that I’ve always given to others as well, is just make sure that your numbers are accurate and that you account for them in an industry standard way. Be more on the conservative side to leave room for upside.”

“We’re very transparent in letting [candidates] know what problems we’re facing and how their effort would be able to assist us in achieving these solutions and get us to the next level of growth. And we find that when we’re recruiting at the tier one top universities for that kind of talent, there’s a lot of curiosity there and they do want to put their skills to use, to solve problems that have an impact versus in a zone where their scope of work is limited.”

39 Leveraging Real-Time Data with Christian Lee, CFO of Transfix

2 December 2021   |   13 Minute Read

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Episode 39: Transfix | With Christian Lee, CFO

Christian Lee has had the unique position of CFO in two industries that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic: real estate and supply chain. Christian left WeWork in early 2021 for Transfix, a hypergrowth startup and leading freight marketplace connecting shippers to carriers. His proximity to these industries has underscored the need for CFOs to pay attention to the problems the pandemic has surfaced.

While 2022 is indeed a new year, Christian stresses that finance professionals shouldn’t overlook challenges in hopes of a ‘new normal.’ At Transfix, he’s taking a data-forward approach to solving the business problem of inefficiencies in the supply chain as well as leveraging automation on the finance side of the business. 

Christian emphasizes the importance of finance partnering with the data science team in order to best optimize and drive insights from the data gathered. He says the whole team should be on the same page by having equal access to real-time data, but it’s not enough to simply be in the know: you have to use it as a jumping off point for asking the right questions to move the business forward.

On this episode of The CFO Playbook, Christian talks about disrupting the supply chain industry in the midst of a pandemic, describes why automation is in his top three priorities for 2022, and underlines why Transfix places real-time data at the center of every decision they make.

Guest Analysis

Name: Christian Lee

What he does: Christian Lee is the CFO at Transfix, a leading freight marketplace connecting shippers to a national network of reliable carriers. Having worked at Time Warner Cable and WeWork in various capacities, one constant in his career in finance has been blending the physical with the technological to help solve human problems.

Key Quote:  “My own personal observation and sense is that the most dangerous thing is analyzing things for months at a time, because by the time you’ve made the decision, things have moved on and changed.”       

Where to find Christian: LinkedIn

From Christian’s Playbook

As the CFO of a hypergrowth company, prioritization is key

Having launched his career at a large, established company, Christian later transitioned to hypergrowth startups, where he learned firsthand the importance of prioritization. He stresses the need to distinguish between the “urgent versus the important.” It’s easy to get distracted by tasks at hand, but if you have a long term vision in place, you’ll be better able to redirect once inevitable fires are put out.  

Don’t underestimate the value of the physical when investing in technology

Christian has worked in telecommunications, real estate, and now transportation in his current role at Transfix. One constant has been the combination between physical goods and technology. While much of his energy is devoted to setting up systems and optimizing data, he says that you can’t overlook the human elements of a business that depends on tech. As much as automation is helpful, there will always be humans interpreting the data and depending on the services it provides.

Pay attention to the trends COVID highlighted

The past two years have both created problems for businesses to solve and also brought existing problems to the surface. Working in the transportation industry, Christian has faced new challenges as a CFO during COVID, but also saw it as a big opportunity to showcase to people that the way they’ve done supply chain for the last 40 years isn’t going to cut it going forward. The key is to be proactive and plan for a “new normal” versus hoping these trends will fade.

The best CFOs act, then course correct

While Christian emphasizes the need to set priorities in a startup, he equally flags the danger of over analyzing when making decisions. When your company is growing quickly and you take too long to act, the window for opportunity can pass you by. He recommends getting 60-70% of the information you need to make a decision. If it ends up being the wrong decision, change it later.

Episode Highlights

Don’t let analysis slow you down

“The most dangerous thing is analyzing things for months at a time because by the time you’ve made the decision, things have moved on and changed. Not to say that you shouldn’t be very thoughtful and deliberate, but sometimes the answer’s not going to be obvious and you probably won’t get an obvious answer until three to six months in, and by that point, it’s too late.

The importance of data hygiene

“Data hygiene is probably as important of an exercise that exists in the world right now as anything because we’re only going to get more and more data. There are only more sources and that’s great, but if you don’t have a very structured approach to data warehousing, to definitions, to all of these things, then it can be more confusing than it is helpful.” 

Why real-time data is just the starting point for problem solving

“It doesn’t solve any problems for you. It just makes the problems much easier to talk about and solve because you have a baseline there and then you apply all of the judgment and the ‘okay, what does this mean? Why are we seeing this?’ That’s what the dashboards can’t really tell you, and that’s what you need to spend the time on. And then what does that mean for investments and where the opportunities are?”

Finance should partner with the data science team

“You can start to run AB tests, see what works, what doesn’t, and you can really partner between data science, the operations team, and the finance team to say, ‘this is what we’re seeing.’ If we do this we think it’ll have this impact…partnering finance with operations, with the data science team, and then ultimately the engineering team of how to build it, is the most fun part of what I get to do every day.” 

Jump in feet first  

“I would tell anyone who’s looking for some sort of change and growth opportunity: that opportunity to go build something at a small company that was experiencing a lot of growth was invaluable in my career.”

Top quotes:

“​​COVID was, for any issue, an existential threat. But it also was a huge opportunity to showcase to people that the way you’ve done supply chain for the past 30, 40 years isn’t going to work in the future. You don’t really have transparency. There’s too much inefficiency. We don’t know where things are. We need better data, we need better analytics.”

“What we do is sit through and say, ‘where are the inefficiencies? What are the costs? What should we prioritize? And where are we putting dollars to go solve them?’ …That is what I really like to do is that sort of capital allocation, you know, where do we invest? What are the new businesses? Because there’s so many opportunities, but you’ve got to figure out which are the ones that are going to be most impactful and how you invest.”

“People talk a lot about the urgent versus the important. There’s some really important things you need to get done, but they can get sidetracked by stuff that’s less important, but it’s really urgent. And how do you set priorities? How do you align a group of stakeholders? ‘This is where we’re going. So this needs to be our roadmap and we’ll leave some time to deal with the urgent, critical stuff.’ But you know, it’s really about just understanding where we’re going and then what is there and what’s not there and what it takes to build. All those things, you can kind of deconstruct them down into a series of steps that have to get taken.”