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Craig Foster not only has over 25 years of management experience in finance, he’s also worked on 35 different IPOs over the course of his career. He brings that expertise and more to his role today as CFO at Picsart.
Early in his career, Craig was working in an advisory role at a Big 4 public accounting firm when he was approached by one of their rapid-scale clients, LoudCloud, to come in house. The leaders of the company, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, were key players in the dot com boom and took a hands-on approach to leadership training. The “school” of LoudCloud was formative to how Craig would approach his management positions going forward.
Both being a mentor and pursuing mentors himself is important to Craig. Whether working in-house or during his time as an adviser, he’s built a network to help increase his learning. When Craig made the decision to transition to CFO for his first tenure at Ubiquiti Networks in 2013, that network helped him stay supported. And today at Picsart, Craig mentors his finance team with a forward-thinking approach and is always looking for ways to maximize their potential through technology.
On this episode of The CFO Playbook, Craig Foster, CFO at Picsart, talks about coming up under Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz during the dot com boom, shares his philosophy on mentoring future CFOs, and outlines how he is always on the lookout for the right technology to execute finance goals.
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Name: Craig Foster
What he does: Craig is the CFO at Picsart, a suite of online photo and video editing applications with a social creative community. With over 25 years of management experience and having worked on 35 IPOs, Craig is carrying those accomplishments and relationships forward to create value for his team and the company.
Key Quote: “A big part of being a CFO is creating influence and I’m going to teach them how to be an influencer.”
Where to find Craig: LinkedIn
Build a network from day one
From Craig’s early days at LoudCloud to his years working in investment banking, he stresses how necessary it is to be intentional about building an ecosystem of people to bond with and ask questions of. As Craig’s career has shifted between corporate finance and investment banking, he hasn’t left his connections behind. Instead, he’s benefited from a network that has grown and strengthened over time.
Hire finance leaders as well as future leaders
As CFO at Picsart, Craig makes sure his team is filled with finance experts that complement his skillset. But he also underlines the importance of hiring candidates who will benefit from the mentorship of those experienced team members. A balance of both is key on a growing team.
Capitalize on the worldwide talent market
While Picsart is a California-based company, Craig shares that as a product company they’re investing in research and development around the world. With operations in Russia, Armenia, and a new office in India (to name just a few locations), Craig is keen to tap into the talent base around the world to help drive their platform forward.
The right technology creates efficiencies and opportunities
Craig says that it’s part of his DNA as a CFO to automate absolutely everything that can be automated. And he’s backing up this statement with investment in technology because he has seen time and time again that it pays off in the long run. Craig also encourages his team to look for tasks and processes to automate as part of their yearly KPIs. While accounting has a reputation of being mundane, Craig is leveraging technology to unlock exciting opportunities for the finance team and beyond.
“I mean, he was the CFO of a company and he’s taking his time to actually teach people how to be better at their jobs. I think I’ve built that into my DNA. You have to have a hands-on approach in terms of the way you’re going to lead people.”
“As a banker, you’re not living with the execution risk and you’re not living with the downside of the people management, EPS. You don’t have to live with a lot of decisions. A lot of times we were being very cavalier in terms of the ideas and the things that we were, I don’t want to say pushing, but the ideas that we would come up with. I’ve had a complete change in terms of how I value decisions that we make and the magnitude of how important the decisions are and how they affect, not just myself or the company but the thousands of people that we have working for the companies as well.”
“I’m working with a really great controller right now and he aspires to be a CFO. I know I can’t keep him here forever, but I’m going to teach him how the IRR works and I’m going to teach them about some of the capital allocation. I’m going to teach them about how a big part of being a CFO is creating influence and I’m going to teach them how to be an influencer.”
“I think a lot of business intelligence is about pattern recognition. I’ve worked on probably 35 IPOs and I’ve worked with maybe 50, 60 different companies with varying different business lines. Is there something that I can take out of those and apply to our current company’s problems or issues or areas that we’re going to invest into and try to use that and try to help the company?”
“What we’ve been very focused on is getting people to raise their hand. And educating that we, as a finance team or a business services team or whatever you want to call it, can automate parts of these jobs. And it’s not because you have to fear losing your job, it’s because we’re going to make your job more important.”
“You need to be coming up with ideas. You need to be creative. You need to figure out how to make your job more tenable. And create more efficiency inside of whatever you’re doing and the tools are what’s going to actually support this. So we’re here to make your job life easier, but also it’s going to make my life easier because I don’t have to spend as much money.”
“I think your career is built with a little component of luck and a little bit of determination.”
“When you work in a growing company, you just have all these great opportunities to try different things as long as the management team is supportive.”
“After a number of years, you really start to build a really nice ecosystem of people to interact with. And actually that served me really well. As I transitioned into a CFO, I had a mentorship of people that I built relationships over the last 10 or 15 years that I could call on. And they [would say] call me anytime and we would sit down and have lunch. I have like three or four mentors that I’ve actually worked with over the years and they’ve been fantastic because I created those relationships early on in my career.”