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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.”