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English, Finance, 1 seasons, 875 episodes, 5 days 1 hour 10 minutes
CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations. We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.
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FP&A: The Silo Buster - A Planning Aces Episode

01/12/202348 minutes 56 seconds
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955: When It’s Time to Raise Your Hand | Lauren StClair, CFO, NerdWallet

It was back in 2016 when Lauren St. Clair realized that it was time to raise her hand. Online marketplace giant eBay had just completed a deal to acquire the Spanish online ticket platform Ticketbis, and St. Clair, a 9-year eBay veteran, was itching to get overseas. eBay had entered the online ticket business in 2007 with its acquisition of StubHub, and the addition of Ticketbis now promised to fatten StubHub’s international revenues, a development that St. Clair realized would likely require eBay’s finance function to beef up its leadership overseas. “People knew that I wanted to live overseas, and it was just good timing with regard to me leaving the group to which I had been assigned,” explains St. Clair, who arrived in Bilbao, Spain, in early 2017 eager to open a career chapter as CFO of StubHub International.   Of course, St. Clair had already spent some time overseas as a student and a finance adjunct on various international FP&A assignments. Howev
29/11/202341 minutes 57 seconds
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954: The Job Became His For the Asking | Peter Benevides, CFO, Olo

26/11/202343 minutes 44 seconds
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BONUS REPLAY: Armed and Sheltered From the Storm | Tom Fennimore, CFO, Luminar Technologies

The Goldman Sachs “anti-raid” team was between conference calls with an embattled client company when word came that a senior member of the target company’s management team had unexpectedly died. Looking back, Tom Fennimore says that the next few months of his early career years at Goldman then became a transition point—or period of accelerated learning. “It was a very sad situation—they were in the process of being raided,” explains Fennimore, who lists the anti-raid transaction as one of two times when Goldman ultimately offered Fennimore an opportunity to “step up.” The second example came after the resignation of a managing director responsible for the bank’s automotive sector. “I got a battlefield promotion when they said, ‘Hey, we want you to do this, and—depending how you do—we may not replace you,” recalls Fennimore, who notes that while he savored the opportunit
24/11/202351 minutes 2 seconds
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953: Lessons From the Mobile Era | Rodrigo Brumana, CFO, Poshmark

21/11/202332 minutes 54 seconds
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952: Solving the Almond World's People Equation | Mark Lampe, CFO, Monte Vista Farming Co.

The episode features Mark Lampe, CFO of Monte Vista Farming Co., discussing the significance of understanding labor and its impact on business success. CFO Lampe discusses the significance of labor and the challenges faced in managing a workforce of over 140 individuals engaged in almond production, emphasizing the importance of a cohesive and hardworking team in a challenging industry.
19/11/202342 minutes 30 seconds
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951: Tomorrow’s Lessons Today | Frank Teruel, CFO, Arkose Labs

15/11/202356 minutes 22 seconds
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950: Championing the Customer Transformation | Mark McCaffrey, CFO, Go Daddy

12/11/202351 minutes 17 seconds
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949: Achieving a Learning Mind-Set | Davinder Athwal, CFO, Phenom

Phenom CFO Davinder Athwal tells us that he has a personal connection to his company’s mission. Near the beginning of our talk, he shares a touching story about his father, a highly skilled individual who struggled to find a job in the UK. This personal experience fuels his passion for Phenom’s mission: to help a billion people to discover the right work. It’s not just about finding a job; it’s about finding the right job that matches skills with aspirations, as Athwal is eager to explain. The Phenom platform is not just another job-matching site, he points out. Using pattern recognition technology to match candidates with jobs, Phenom’s approach goes beyond what’s written on a resume to recognize all of the essential skills needed for a particular job—even those not listed on an application. Athwal joined Phenom during a challenging time in the industry, one that led to a strategic moment when he had to make the decision to prepare the company for cash flow break-even
08/11/202349 minutes 8 seconds
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948: Anticipating the Talent Headwinds | Christopher Crawley, CFO, Hofman Hospitality Group

The podcast episode features CFO Christopher Crawley of Hoffman Hospitality Group, discussing challenges related to managing labor in the restaurant industry. Hoffman Hospitality Group, a family-owned restaurant company, adapted to the pandemic by introducing food trucks and online kitchens, enhancing their financial processes. Crawley shares his career journey, including experiences in audit, finance, and operations, emphasizing the importance of adapting to change and understanding business metrics. He highlights the complexity of managing operations in the restaurant industry, involving regulatory compliance, financial intricacies, and shifting consumer preferences. Crawley discusses the challenges of fluctuating profit margins, labor management, and adapting to market changes, emphasizing the role of technology in addressing these issues.
05/11/202348 minutes 8 seconds
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947: Finding Pathways to Innovation | Teresa Chia, CFO, Vertafore

The Three Phases of Teresa Chia’s Career: Teresa Chia’s journey to becoming a CFO is divided into three distinct phases. The first saw her honing her skills in investment banking and private equity at Credit Suisse in NYC. The second found her in the insurance industry, where she discovered her passion for the field and learned about its complexity and regulatory aspects. The most recent phase has seen her also serving on the boards of various companies, a testament to her industry connections and expertise. The Shift in Focus: After two decades of focusing on strategy and capital deployment, Chia felt a shift in her interests. She wanted to be more involved in the execution of growth plans and building the infrastructure for such growth. This led her to the role of a CFO, where she could leverage her finance knowledge while also contributing to strategic execution.
01/11/202350 minutes 53 seconds
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946: All of the Influence at Your Command | Natalie Laackman, CFO, Medspeed

CFO Natalie Laackman discusses the importance of empowering and enabling operational teams to identify ways to add value to clients, especially in the face of escalating costs, and how this approach helps in building client relationships. She shares her experience of being involved in 75 to 100 M&A deals during her career and highlights the intellectual stimulation and strategic thinking involved in such transactions. CFO Laackman emphasizes the significance of building credibility, gaining the trust of peers, and providing leadership not only in finance but also in running the business effectively. The conversation touches on the evolution of technology in finance, including the application of AI and big data analytics, as well as the importance of focusing on inventory management and supply chain optimization amidst challenges like the pandemic and supply chain issues.
29/10/202344 minutes 11 seconds
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How Planning Aces Are Made - A Planning Aces Episode

27/10/202340 minutes 23 seconds
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945: Achieving a Management Rapport | Doug Lindroth, CFO, Tealium

Doug Lindroth discusses the changing landscape of software company valuation, emphasizing the need for balanced growth, operational efficiency, free cash flow, and positive earnings to attract investors. He shares his experiences, including the challenges faced during the dot-com crash, navigating the complexities of public accounting rules, and his transition to the role of CFO. The discussion highlights the importance of clear role definitions, specialized finance teams, and leveraging data to drive strategic decisions within the organization.
25/10/202356 minutes 46 seconds
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944: Building Your Network | Ana M. Chadwick, CFO, Pitney Bowes

22/10/202359 minutes 42 seconds
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943: Finding The Path Forward | Donald McClure, CFO, Identity Digital

Back in 2017, Donald McClure had only recently been appointed vice president of FP&A at Brinks Home Security when the company’s CFO at the time decided that it was the right time for retirement. Unbeknownst to McClure—and perhaps even to the firm’s subsequent new CFO hire—a transformative chapter was about to get under way at the security firm that involved a massive restructuring and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. For McClure, a 6-year Brinks veteran who had already had a hand in multiple debt refinancings, the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process proved to be yet one more experience that would advance him down the CFO path. “We ended up negotiating a prepackaged restructuring, whereby we utilized the Chapter 11 process but at the same time sort of did all of the work in advance,” recalls McClu
18/10/202338 minutes 59 seconds
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942: Building a Profitability Mindset | Sarah Spoja, CFO, Tipalti

It’s a question rooted in surprise headlines that has now become one of 2023’s favorite conversation starters for finance executives inside the tech realm: “Where were you when you heard the news about Silicon Valley Bank [SVB]?” For Tipalti CFO Sarah Spoja, the query instantly summons memories of being seated between two of Tipalti’s financing partners: JP Morgan and Hercules Capital, Inc. Or perhaps we should say two of its "future" financing partners. Spoja, along with Tipalti’s attorneys, had gathered in a conference room with prospective partners to finalize the terms of a deal designed to secure a $150 million debt-raise for the growing business. Looking back, Spoja tells us that the date of the gathering will forever be etched in her mind: Thursday, March 9, 2023. Within th
15/10/202340 minutes 9 seconds
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941: Mobilizing Your Team | Melissa Howatson, CFO, Vena

The corporate headquarters of Bend All Automotive may have been a mere 30-minute drive from KPMG’s offices in Waterloo, Ontario—but Melissa Howatson had to put in a 6-year career investment at the accounting house before she came to realize that it was time to go the distance. Not unlike those of many of her peers, Howatson’s years in public accounting were laden with mentorship generously supplied by a partner (and a number of senior managers). KPMG was an enviable launchpad populated by many professionals who remain in Howatson’s life today, as she explains when we make inquiries to better understand the motivations and choices made by this future CFO.  When Howatson arrived inside Bend All’s corporate offices in late 1999, she used the preferred door-of-entry for accountants far and wide: controllership. She would have a lengthy tenure there (10 years), which leads us to prod her in hope of better exposing what she perceives to be the return on this career-years inv
11/10/202338 minutes 6 seconds
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940: All the Moving Parts | Michael Linford, CFO, Affirm

For those executives residing inside the private equity and investment banking realm that aspire to someday occupy the CFO office, it’s not uncommon to seek out an “operator’s role” – one that allows recruiters “to check the box” and confidently present a leadership candidate (operations credentials intact) to a company’s management team or board members.  “Inspect your chute carefully and jump smart,” might be the abbreviated advice for those looking to land inside an operations role.  Once inside, the goal is to canvas the corridors and collaborate with the company functional areas and managers the banking world seldom sees.  Sometimes such operations stints are little more than a year long, while others last several years and incorporate roles at multiple companies.   For Michael Linford, whose chute opened wide, the operations tour of duty was at Hewlett-Packard, and the multiyear stint would arguably afford him more operational insights than any aspiring CFO could
08/10/20231 hour 13 seconds
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939: Creating a Narrative for Growth | Ralph Leung, CFO, Achieve

When Ralph Leung relocated to Hong Kong from Morgan Stanley’s New York offices, he was a newlywed eager to energize the financial world as one of the bank’s senior deal makers for the Asia Pacific region. Four years later, when he accepted a call from a U. S. recruiter, he had been credited with having helped led numerous transactions (mostly IPOs) from the region, including Alibaba Group’s historic $25 billion IPO. What’s more, Leung had become the father of two. “It was time to go back home,” recalls Leung, who would relocate to San Francisco’s Bay Area after accepting a finance leadership role for an online video and entertainment company.  Looking back on his Hong Kong years, Leung tells us that the experience was a departure from his previous Morgan experience because it involved advising more early-stage founders and entrepreneurs.    “I learned what Series A, Series B, and Series C meant and how to grow a business from different capital perspective
04/10/202348 minutes 36 seconds
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938: The Art of the Possible | Jason Leet, CFO, Zylo

Of the different acquisitions with which Jason Leet became involved at ExactTarget of Indianapolis, Indiana, there’s little question that the seventh was the most impactful on his finance career. As it turned out, this would also be his last acquisition—or perhaps we should say his last ExactTarget acquisition, given that this time it was ExactTarget itself that was being acquired. In 2013, ExactTarget became not only the largest company that tech wunderkind Salesforce had ever acquired but also the first publicly traded one. Over the next 9 years, Leet would work on more than 40 acquisitions for Salesforce, including an additional four publicly traded firms. What’s more, over this period he would lead the finance team that took charge of what he calls Salesforce’s “best-in-class M&A machine.” However, turn back the clock to his ExactTarget days, and it’s easy to see that for a number of months, Salesforce did indeed flip Leet’s world upside down
01/10/202359 minutes 13 seconds
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How Finance Leaders Are Adapting Their Teams - A Planning Aces Episode

Brett and Jack draw parallels between the challenges faced by our three featured Planning Aces as they seek to optimize the talent resources and processes in their different organizations. The pressure to align strategy and execution is increasing, and all three CFOs share their responses to these external pressures. Brett also touches on the adoption of AI in finance. With AI, the depth of analysis and speed of feedback are significantly enhanced, leading to faster decision-making and more innovative ideas as revealed by CFO Steven Cirulis of Potbelly The episode features planning insights and commentary from Tony Boor, CFO of Blackbaud, Michelle, Hook, CFO, Portillo’s and Steven Cirulis, CFO Potbelly. OUR COHO
29/09/202337 minutes 39 seconds
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937: Driving Decisions That Have Conviction | Neha Krishnamohan, CFO, Kinnate Biopharma

Roughly 20 years ago, Neha Krishnamohan arrived as a college freshman on Duke University’s Durham, N.C., campus, intent on pursuing a career that would someday grant her the agency to develop a product or therapy capable of solving a healthcare problem. Having grown up among family members with different careers in the medical field, Krishnamohan had inherited a deep interest in medicine—although she felt that her tendency to want to be more “hands-on” might make engineering a more suitable field of study. “As far as I was concerned, I was going to go to work for a Medtronic or a Pfizer, where I would come up with a great new product,” reports Krishnamohan, who after enrolling in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering chose biomedical engineering as her major. As Krishnamohan was ratcheting up her engineering studies, one of her professors made a lasting impression on her by enlivening their discussions with tales of past experiences as a Wall Street banker.
27/09/202344 minutes 34 seconds
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936: Where the Puck Is Headed | Michelle Hook, CFO, Portillo’s

It was late 2020 when Michelle Hook ended 17 years of fruitful career-building at Domino’s to accept a CFO appointment at fast casual restaurant chain Portillo’s.   “The two things that I was looking for were to be passionate about a new brand and to feel a culture fit,” recalls Hook, who adds that she had long imagined someday leaving Domino’s to join a smaller company that she could help to grow. “I just didn’t care about going to a bigger company or ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ or ‘Z,’” continues Hook, who tells us that she ultimately took a leap of faith with regard to there being a culture fit at Portillo’s. “I actually never stepped into our headquarters until my first day on the job and had met in person only with the CEO, since this was during COVID times and the rest of the hiring process had been done on Zoom,” comments Hook. Fast-forward 15 months to when the Omicron variant was still grabbing headlines and inflation had begun to rattle the economy—and Hook could
24/09/202357 minutes 49 seconds
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935: How People Became Finance's X-Factor | Derrek Gafford, CFO, TrueBlue

22/09/202338 minutes 31 seconds
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934: You’ll Figure It Out | Svai Sanford, CFO, Rani Therapeutics

We are near the end of our discussion with CFO Svai Sanford when he permits us to unlock one last door to his past. Unbeknownst to us, 20 minutes earlier, Sanford had handed us the key to its lock in the form of a short story. The story had begun with Sanford receiving a job offer, to which he had replied, “Are you sure? I do not have any experience in this sector.” His future boss had replied: “You will figure it out.” At first, we were left wondering whether there had been something more that the future boss had known about Sanford—perhaps a piece of contributing evidence that had made him feel confident that Sanford could acclimate and succeed. “There’s something in me that has always allowed me to figure things out,” Sanford had confided. Sanford’s choice of words—“something in me”—had been interesting. Certainly, there is no shortage of problem-solving exercises along any CFO’s path, but he had already told us that his career track had
20/09/202357 minutes 29 seconds
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933: When Transparency Drives Profits | Charly Kevers, CFO, Carta

When Charly Kevers took his mentor’s advice and swapped a corporate development role at Hewlett-Packard for a tour of duty as a director of HP’s investor relations arm, he looked forward to tackling a variety of IR requisites, including crafting the messaging that follows a change at the top. Two years and four HP CEOs later, Kevers exited HP knowing that his IR term (with its extra helping of CEO turnover) had afforded him a stint unlike any before it at HP. “It’s a highly stressful role when you are standing in front of the Fidelitys of the world and they’re asking you a lot of questions beginning with ‘What does it mean for the business and what does it mean for my stock,’” explains Kevers, who subsequently stepped into a corporate development role at Salesforce.  “That experience has since helped me by allowing me in many cases to rationalize things by saying, ‘Well, this is not as bad as what I dealt with there,’” comments Kevers, who these days, as CFO of
17/09/202353 minutes 26 seconds
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932: The Finance Leadership Paradox | Jeff Coulter, CFO, Cognite

Looking back, Jeff Coulter is not exactly certain how he landed a spot on a team tasked with designing and implementing the first-ever budgeting and reporting processes responsible for tracking Procter & Gamble’s marketing dollars on a single worldwide system. “P&G had hundreds of disparate setups that we had to bring into one system globally,” explains Coulter, recalling the effort behind the information systems upgrade with SAP software that many at the time (the year 2000) deemed to be a historic milestone not only for the packaged goods company but also for industry at large. Coulter had been plucked out of Procter & Gamble’s Iowa City office, where he had been working as a cost analyst for such products as Pantene and Scope. The new assignment required Coulter to relocate to Cincinnati, where for the next 2 years he became involved in multiple aspects of the implementation, including the rollout of SAP end-user training across P&G globally. “At the time, an
13/09/202352 minutes 17 seconds
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931: Changing Swim Lanes | Jeff Laborde, CFO, JAGGAER

The year was 2015, but for Jeff Laborde, a seasoned finance leader kicking off his second C-suite tour of duty, it seemed as though the conference room that he had just entered had transported him back to 2005—or was it 1995? Across the way, an executive who had noticed Laborde’s presence stopped the meeting and queried: “Jeff, what are you doing here? Why are you in my meeting?” Caught by surprise and somewhat tongue-tied, Laborde recalls, he registered a less than articulate response to the question that had quickly swallowed up the room’s attention.   Having only recently joined the company as CFO, Laborde was seeking to sit in on a number of meetings in order to better understand how the company operated. Given that this particular gathering had been expected to discuss go-to-market priorities for the upcoming quarter, Laborde had made it his business to attend. “I was only following my instincts, and it came as a shock to me to find their swim lanes
10/09/20231 hour 1 minute 43 seconds
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930: Where Leaders Are Made | Tony Boor, CFO, Blackbaud

While the leadership journeys of many of our CFO guests began on an upper floor of a glass-and-steel skyscraper affording a wide-angle view of a cosmopolitan metropolis, that of Blackbaud CFO Tony Boor started at street level in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Less than an hour’s drive north of El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces is home not only to the main campus of New Mexico State University but also to a crowded schedule of holiday festivals and a varied collection of retailers—including motorcycle shops such as the one that Boor first visited in the mid-1970s. “When I was 13 or 14 years old, I walked into a motorcycle shop to buy my first bike and they ended up hiring me to sweep floors and haul trash,” recalls Boor, who over the next 10 years segued from maintenance to the service department, to parts management, to sales management, to being general manager of the store. “Thinking back now on being that young and running a business,
06/09/202359 minutes 50 seconds
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Holiday Replay: The People, the Mission & the Innovation | Evan Goldstein, CFO, Seismic

Evan Goldstein tells us that it was at the end of another long day—after a week of long days—as he was walking to the parking lot adjacent to Genentech’s offices that he received a “gut punch.” Becoming more self-aware of others is something that many finance leaders have told us that they have needed to lean into during their career, but few have shared with us the pivot to self-reflection as vividly as Goldstein, whose multi-decade finance career boasts an unusual dual-chamber architecture centered on 10 years at Genentech and another 11 at Salesforce. “I refer to myself as a serial monogamist when it comes to my professional career and the longevity that I’ve experienced at both of these companies,” explains Goldstein, who credits his extended stay at both firms to the power of three: the people, the mission, and the innovation. Still, Goldberg wants us to know about the long day that ended in Genentech’s parking lot. For young finance career builders,
03/09/202359 minutes 43 seconds
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Quest for the Golden KR - A Planning Aces Episode

31/08/202340 minutes 9 seconds
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929: Counting the Journey's Rewards | Marco Torrente, CFO, WebBeds

Marco Torrente kicked off his finance career inside the Milan, Italy, offices of SC Johnson, the household cleaning products giant headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin. All told, he would end up spending 7 years in various finance roles at Johnson—including that of controller—while relocating first to London and then eventually to Geneva. Looking back, Torrente tells us that the family-owned company created a “flexible culture” that valued autonomy and direct communication—two qualities that have been instrumental in shaping his approach to finance leadership.
30/08/202324 minutes
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928: Strategy Between the Slices | Steven Cirulis, CFO, Potbelly

Perhaps it would be fair to speculate that were it not for the changing dietary habits of Americans and surprise arrival of a global pandemic, Steven Cirulis would likely not be occupying the CFO office at Potbelly Sandwich Shop. The pursuit of new alternative proteins inside the land of agtech has in recent years led more than few venture capital firms to seek out the advice of strategy executives familiar with the mathematics behind the evolving menus of fast dining establishments. Having held a succession of top strategy roles with the likes of McDonald’s and Panera, Steven Cirulis found his budding popularity within the VC community to be little more than a rewarding satisfaction—that is, until late 2019, when he decided to put some of his VC-related activities aside to accommodate an advisory gig with publicly-held sandwich shop Potbelly.   “They had been looking for a CFO at the time, but I was really enjoying my work on the venture capital side of things,
27/08/202358 minutes 45 seconds
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927: A Phone Call From One Who Mattered | Matt Gustke, CFO, WooCommerce

No matter how many phone calls Matt Gustke receives during the span of his finance career, none will likely be more memorable or important than one he received nearly 22 years ago. At the time, Gustke, a research analyst for a major bank, was spending his days assessing the carnage piling up in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble burst. “The times were really weird, and uncertainty was everywhere,” comments Gustke, who despite the tech sector’s dotcom bust chapter assures us that he thoroughly enjoyed his research days—and in fact he may well have remained in research if not for a fateful phone call. “He was without a doubt my favorite executive at my favorite company,” comments Gustke, recalling the late Rajiv Dutta, who as the CFO of eBay at the time called Gustke to invite him t
23/08/202354 minutes 10 seconds
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126: Distinguishing “The What” From “The How” | Dallas Clement, CFO & President, Cox Enterprises

20/08/20231 hour 28 seconds
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925: A.I. and the Hands of Time | Scott Bennion, CFO, Paystand

If Paystand CFO Scott Bennion were to break his three-decade-long finance career into different chapters, the software finance leader would likely agree that he and many of his peers have recently opened a new one. As a starting—or concluding—point, the chapter that has just ended might simply be titled "The Data Set," in order to focus our attention on the means by which Bennion and others of his ilk have over the past decade extended their lines of sight into the business well beyond those of any previous generation of CFOs.    For Bennion—who remembers tracking CD shipping costs during the desktop computing era—the latest marker or evidence that a new page has been turned has been made visible by Paystand’s product engineering and development team. “After having deployed AI too
16/08/202352 minutes 33 seconds
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924: Getting to "Yes" | Rob Goldenberg, CFO, 6sense

Of all of the career experiences that Robert Goldenberg has acquired on his way to the CFO office, you would think that his stint with a bankrupt landscaping company would not be apt to make his list of all-time opportunity door-openers. Still, when we asked Goldenberg to look back to share the experiences that first propelled him into the C-suite, the landscaping business came to his mind. To wit: It was back in 2015, when software developer 6sense was interviewing to hire its first full-time CFO, that Goldenberg—a career investment banker—nabbed an interview spot with the firm’s part-time finance leader. “He told me that my investment banking background was great, but that 6sense needed someone who could start at Ground Zero and had more tactical accounting experience,” recalls Goldenberg, who assured the executive that he completely understood—before suggesting that they dedicate the interview
13/08/20231 hour 25 seconds
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923: From Inside a Remote Address | Jim Caci, CFO, AvePoint

The big-city addresses that frequently prettify the office locations of esteemed accounting houses have continued to be a reliable draw for 20-something-year-old accounting grads eager to be counted among urban professionals.      Thus we would not have been surprised to learn that back in the late 1980s, when recent grad Jim Caci was assigned to Arthur Andersen’s Roseland, New Jersey, office, he experienced what might have been called a “ho-hum” moment. Not so! Unlike the real estate occupied by his big-city peers, Caci notes, “Roseland” afforded him more access to Andersen partners, who were arguably more approachable outside the accounting house’s big-city confines. What’s more, the New Jersey site tended to operate in a more independent fashion than AA’s marquee offices, a cultural attribute that perhaps made it an ideal location from which to spearhead a pilot program to provide a unique menu of services to small technology companies. “The idea was that fro
09/08/202352 minutes 11 seconds
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922: The Lessons We Learn | Dev Ahuja, CFO, Novelis

06/08/202354 minutes 35 seconds
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921: The Work Comes First | Niki Heim, CFO, LogicSource

It’s perhaps no secret that this podcast can be rather rigid when it comes to our policy for welcoming guests: Invitations are reserved for CFOs and CFOs alone. In fact, we regularly turn away book authors, consultants, and even CEOs. Such was the case for David Pennino, CEO of LogicSource, who recently was “pitched” to us as a potential guest. As always, we issued a templated email reply specially crafted to politely inform a dutiful communication professional of our “CFOs-only” mantra. This being said, LogicSource’s CEO has arguably nabbed a plus-size supporting role on our latest episode without having recorded a single word. Although unexpected, this was perhaps an eminently understandable development, given the central role that Pennino has played in the career of Niki Heim, LogicSource’s CFO, who easily met our necessary criteria and subsequently accepted our invitation. Still, when it comes to Pennino, CFO Heim does not serve up the familiar cadence of CEO kudos
02/08/202343 minutes 10 seconds
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920: When Leadership Called | Erin Colgan, CFO, Sensei Bio

For many professionals, the period stretching roughly from March 2020 to December 2022 will forever be known simply as “COVID,” as in “I changed jobs during COVID.” Thus it was for Erin Colgan, who in July 2020—after having invested 9 years within the finance rank-and-file of pharma giant Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and 8 years with PwC—opted to become the 20th employee of a promising biotech start-up. Still, Colgan’s game change was prompted not by COVID’s well-earned reputation for employment displacement nor by the allure of start-up dreams but by what recruiters have long referred to as “the call to leadership.” For Colgan, this meant joining Boston-based Sensei Bio as senior vice president of finance, a title that guaranteed her the status of being the firm’s senior most finance executive. At the time of her appointment, the pandemic had already begun to be recognized as having certain accelerant qualities for business, which were perhaps nowhere on display mor
30/07/202330 minutes 39 seconds
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Impact of Organization Design on FP&A | A Planning Aces Episode

This episode of Planning Aces features the FP&A insights and commentary of  CFO Dev Ahuja of Novelis, CFO Alex Triplett of Appfire and CFO Rick Rosenthal of Clara Analytics. One of the key topics co host Brett Knowles drills down on is the difference between complicated and complex problems. Brett uses the examples of manufacturing a car, which is complicated, and raising a child, which is complex. The distinction is crucial in understanding how to approach problem-solving in an organization. While complicated problems can be solved with the right formulas or spreadsheets, complex problems require more. They demand strong interpersonal relationships and effective communication. It’s not just about having the right tools or processes, but also about having the right people who can use these tools effectively. Planning Ace CFO Dev Ahuja brings some perspective on the role of people in fi
29/07/202334 minutes 25 seconds
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919: Adopting a Broader View | Chris Kramer, CFO, Axonius

Among the different career highlights that Chris Kramer shares with us, perhaps none is as memorable as what might be called his “Indiana Jones moment.” Having distinguished himself as a “technical accountant” during the first half of his career, Kramer was often dispatched to observe and scrutinize the accounting practices of prospective acquisition targets in foreign lands—a succession of deployments that led him to frequently encounter unexpected circumstances. Such was the case one time in the mid-2000s, when he entered the UK corporate offices of an acquisition prospect and found himself casting his eyes upon something that he “had never seen before.” Somehow, in doing his due diligence, Kramer had found a big bound book: a company ledger.  Given that few details populate this ledger tale, we’ll assume that he may have been engaged in some polite conversation with the UK office’s accounting team when it occurred to him that he needed a network login
26/07/202337 minutes 19 seconds
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918: A Uniform Beginning | Ken Bowles, CFO, WilsonHCG

23/07/202347 minutes 23 seconds
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917: Build Your Own Personal Balance Sheet | Joel Campbell, CFO, TreviPay

While the 2008 financial crash turned out to be a reliable source of career lessons for many of our finance leader guests, Joel Campbell may be the first CFO to share with us a customer support lesson learned from the crisis. Back in 2006, Campbell, a seasoned treasury executive, had been recruited to help to build a robust treasury function for Ameriprise Financial, the recently spun-off financial planning division of American Express. “Those first 2 years were really about finishing this spin-off process, but the day that’s burned infamously into my mind is September 16, 2008,” remembers Campbell, who reports that this was the day when a money market fund widely used by Ameriprise customers “broke the buck.” “It became the first money market fund in investing history to let its net asset value drop below a dollar—and this had just never happened before,” continues Campbell, who adds that the fund served more than 300,000 Ameriprise customers who had routinely
19/07/202341 minutes 13 seconds
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916: Maximizing M&A Speed to Value | Michael Cox, CFO, IRIS Software Group

CFO Michael Cox says that it was near the end of 2022 when the IRIS Software Group began to realize that the guiding philosophy that had motivated and incentivized the UK-based software company to complete 30 acquisitions within 6 years needed an upgrade.   Cox tells us that the IRIS management team was discussing the business cases for yet more acquisitions when the group began to banter about the same deal-making “multiples” that had successfully guided the company prior to the pandemic. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘Hang on a minute! These multiples would have us potentially spending as much on these businesses as we did pre-COVID—but in fact the cost of debt has doubled,’” recalls Cox, who adds that while IRIS management was certainly aware of the various factors (inflation, a sudden rotation of UK prime ministers, Russia’s war on Ukraine) that had contributed to the UK’s tepid business climate, there was not yet consensus around how to incorporate them and the r
16/07/202349 minutes 14 seconds
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915: Where Finance Always Comes First | David Parsons, CFO, Zuto

When David Parsons tells us that he remains concerned about the whereabouts of his 20-something-year-old self, we realize that our talk with Zuto’s CFO is going to be different from most of those that we undertake with today’s finance leaders. According to him, “Thirty-nine-year-old Dave is looking at mid-20s Dave and asking, ‘What are you thinking?!‘” Some further probing on our part reveals that “mid-20s Dave” was roaming the English countryside on weekends as part of a wedding band, as well as a member of other assembles—including a popular Michael Jackson tribute act.    “I just went down this rabbit hole where I was working weekends as a musician and doing studio work in the evenings,” explains Parsons, who adds that his weekend music tours would often book-end 70-hour workweeks in corporate finance. “I don’t mind working the hours, if I get to do what I love doing,” continues Parsons, who began serving in a succession of FP&A roles
12/07/202352 minutes 9 seconds
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914: My Side of the Valley | Michael Bannon, CFO & President, Typeform

When OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, recently announced that it would be opening its first office outside the U.S., few who were roaming the tech corridors of Silicon Valley likely were surprised that the generative AI company chose London for its new outpost. As a backdrop to the decision, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been energetically pitching the UK as the intellectual and geographical “home” of AI, at the same time that UK executive recruiters have been busy compiling evidence to convince tech prospects that the UK is on the verge of becoming the next Silicon Valley. Such claims are bold moves indeed, but ones for which a resume such as that of American Michael Bannon might serve the recruiting community as “Exhibit A.”   A quick glance at Bannon’s bio reveals a familiar professional trajectory, from his 11 years as an investor with TPG Global of San Francisco to the operations side, where to date he has occupied the CFO office at three different
09/07/202344 minutes 33 seconds
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913: The Rewards of “Ruthless Transparency” | Jeff Noto, CFO, Zayo

When Jeff Noto is asked to reflect back on his 35 years with Verizon, he tells us that his earliest years with the company were spent scoring quick returns on investments that Verizon had made inside its fledgling wireless business. “I always have to chuckle when I think back to how certain people thought that wireless would not be a product for very long,” comments Noto, who notes that being able to demonstrate speedy returns on investments became critical to securing future investments and for building the business case that wireless would someday soon be a viable alternative to “wire line” services.   “Now, look at things from where we sit today, when everything has been reversed and wireless now provides the main means for communication—that is, at least from the perspective of from the handset to the tower,” observes Noto, who would climb the ranks at Verizon as an FP&A executive to eventually serve in steady succession of business unit CFO ro
05/07/202346 minutes 43 seconds
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912: Designing Your Operating Profile | Sapna Kapur, CFO, Sensor Tower

Among global management consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group—long recognized as one of the world’s top three “strategy houses” (along with McKinsey and Bain)—has remained an attractive early career chapter for many executives who wish to accelerate their learning by consulting to senior corporate leaders.    Such was the path taken by Sapna Kapur, who in 2007—after 4 years with Kurt Salmon and then 4 with BCG—exited management consulting in search of a corporate operations role that would allow her to apply the expertise that she had gleaned from years of serving a variety of corporate clients. At the time, Kapur could not have known that she was about to make what will more than likely be her professional life’s biggest investment of career years with a single company—nor could she have realized that upon completion of this 12-year stint, she would in short order become a CFO. Kapur’s sizable investment of career years with a single company is not unlike s
02/07/20231 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds
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Staying Small While Growing Big - A Planning Aces Episode

30/06/202342 minutes 27 seconds
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911: Moving the Needle | Chuck Fisher, CFO, Turo

The meeting that Chuck Fisher brings to our attention began not unlike hundreds, if not thousands, of other meetings that he has sat in on during his 25-year business career. However, it was at one particular gathering that he witnessed the thinking that would trigger one of the last decade’s greatest strategic bets. Back in 2013, Fisher had only recently joined the business development team at Charter Communications when he found himself in a meeting that included Charter’s then-CEO, Tom Rutledge. The meeting had begun, like many others, with Rutledge highlighting a number of Charter’s recent “wins”—before his message became far more nuanced.  Fisher recalls Rutledge saying, “The thing that we need to understand as a company is that we can be the best operators in the business—which I think that we are—but as long as we’re subscale, we’re always going to be playing the game by someone else’s rules and we will never have a seat at the table to define the
28/06/20231 hour 5 minutes 12 seconds
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910: Getting in Close | Alex Triplett, CFO, Appfire

When Alex Triplett is asked to explain where and how he began acquiring his operations knowledge, he tells us that his ops focus began to sharpen as more and more roles demanded greater “specificity” of him. Back in 2006, Triplett had just completed a stint as an investment banker with Citigroup when he was hired by private equity firm TA Associates as an associate inside the firm’s enterprise software and fintech realms. “Fintech forced me to get closer to the product itself because I couldn’t be credible otherwise,” recalls Triplett, who notes that very often the company founders across from whom he sat at meetings had other options when it came to sourcing investors, so the ability to demonstrate some depth when it came to product knowledge became essential.   “I got used to it being about product, product, product,” continues Triplett, who tells us that even today, his TA years bring to mind volumes of product literature and a steady stream of software demon
25/06/202348 minutes 38 seconds
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909: Get It Done | Rex Jackson, CFO, ChargePoint

We often like to ask our CFO guests if they remember the first time that they presented to a board of directors. For many, this happened earlier than you might expect—but few of our interviewees have exposed the benefits of “early access” for us better than Rex Jackson. “I grew up in boardrooms,” comments Jackson, who recalls being invited to his first board meeting when he was about 28. Jackson had spent 3 years at a Los Angeles law firm before signing on as a corporate attorney for a local real estate management company whose board had a budding appetite for M&A.   “For any deal that they wanted to do, I became the ‘Get It Done Guy,’” explains Jackson, who notes that his moniker in the boardroom soon began to apply to more than just M&A. “When an opportunity to land on a clear track northward within an organization presents itself, you just jump all over it,” remarks Jackson, whose early career endeavors swung open the door to a succession of general co
21/06/202352 minutes 19 seconds
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908: Back to School | John Rex, Former CFO, Microsoft Corp. NA

As John Rex tells it, when he first arrived inside the finance function at Microsoft Corp. in 2007, one executive greeted him with “Hey, welcome to Microsoft—if you’re still here a year from now, let’s reconnect.” A senior finance hire with experience in manufacturing and consumer products at such companies as Novartis (3 years) and Kodak (14), Rex was to find the message behind the conditional invitation particularly prescient only 12 months later, when he “very nearly got the boot.”     Seated across from his boss, Rex was “read the riot act” for having absorbed what the boss deemed to be only “superficial knowledge” of the developer’s plus-size menu of products and services.    “I knew that he was right, and I realized that what had gotten me ‘here’ wasn’t going to be enough to take me ‘there’—and that basically I had to go back to college,” explains Rex, who adds that during the months that followed, he spent nights and weekends learning everything that he c
18/06/20231 hour 10 minutes 15 seconds
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ON LOCATION: IMA 2023 with IMA CEO Mike DePrisco

Mike DePrisco is the new CEO of the IMA, taking over from Jeff Thompson who led the organization for nearly 15 years. The IMA recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and aims to support and optimize the accounting profession while helping individuals achieve their career aspirations. Mike DePrisco has a background in higher education and previously worked at the Project Management Institute before joining the IMA. The IMA has over 140,000 members globally and focuses on providing competency, knowledge, and skills to drive business value in the finance and accounting field. AI is expected to have a significant impact on the accounting department, and the IMA aims to help its members navigate and leverage new technologies to create positive outcomes for organizations and society.
16/06/202327 minutes 14 seconds
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907: Leaning In to Operations | Rick Rosenthal, CFO, CLARA Analytics

Rick Rosenthal had been working as an investment analyst at Bear Stearns for some 3 years when the bank became a casualty of the subprime mortgage crisis. He remembers sitting in front of his Bloomberg terminal in March 2008 and watching a news conference at which a Wall Street expert was assuring viewers that Bear Stearns was a solid company—just as the bank’s stock began to plummet.   In a deal reached a few days later, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a mere $2 a share to buy all of Bear. “While our fund had been performing well, JPMorgan had its own, so the question became, ‘What is going to happen to our fund?,’” recalls Rosenthal, who became part of a team of Bear veterans who ultimately were spun out by JPMorgan to manage the fund independently. Reports Rosenthal: “Relative to traditional asset management funds, we actually performed pretty well, but I did come to understand much more clearly how integrated the financial system is into the greater econ
14/06/202347 minutes 31 seconds
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906: When Strategy and Profits Meet | Taryn Aronson, CFO, Tovala

Back in 2011, the buzz surrounding the launch of Redbox’s Blu-ray disc rental business was getting increasingly dour. For Taryn Aronson, who had been hired to help to execute the firm’s digital content strategy, the performance woes of physical discs were not anything to lose sleep over. However, the negative notions surrounding Blu-ray’s lackluster performance drew Aronson’s curiosity. According to the buzz, the root cause of Blu-ray’s performance blues at Redbox was that Blu-ray was “a low-margin business.” “This just didn’t make sense to me because as a rental business, the driver of your profit is inventory turns,” explains Aronson, who notes that data showing robust turns of Blu-ray discs by Redbox competitors had exposed that demand was not the issue.      Meanwhile, a senior content leader at Redbox had recently broadened Aronson’s role, allowing her to troubleshoot for both digital and physical content. Having started her career as a financ
11/06/202342 minutes 4 seconds
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905: The Future CFO Among Us | Sruthi Lanka, CFO,

Sruthi Lanka is clearly not the only CFO who began her professional career at blue chip investment house Goldman Sachs. However, she may be one of the only CFOs—if not the only one—who can trace her career roots to Goldman’s technology engineering team. Back in 2009, as the economic downturn dispatched a daily dose of bad news, Lanka was tasked with separating Goldman’s nervous bankers from their long-tenured messaging device of choice:  the BlackBerry.   “Most banks would not even entertain the idea of switching because the BlackBerry was so locked down and considered to be ironclad,” explains Lanka, who notes that while Apple’s iPhone had become a popular alternative to the BlackBerry inside a number of different industries, bankers were known for clutching their BlackBerrys—and Goldman was no exception. According to her, “We found that most Goldman employees were already living on the iPhone, but meanwhile they would still carry this clunky Bl
07/06/202345 minutes 14 seconds
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904: Becoming a Catalyst for Growth | Dayton Kellenberger, CFO, Vendavo

Even today, Dayton Kellenberger marvels at his good fortune in having landed inside the corporate finance department of The Coleman Company, Inc.. Of course, like a lot of career success stories, this tale had timing as a large contributor, especially inasmuch as and a little more than 10 years ago, Coleman was experiencing declining gross margins across its business. To Kellenberger, a recently hired business analyst, Coleman’s shrinking gross margins seemed to present not only a problem-solving challenge but also an opportunity to help to rewire a renowned brand’s customer best practices.    “When you’re part of a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company, you basically have one shot at the beginning of the year to do an annual line review with a customer,’” explains Kellenberger, who adds that at the time, the process might have involved having a “seller” from, for example, Cabela’s freely thumbing through different Coleman catalogs while casually signaling to a
04/06/202346 minutes 54 seconds
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Leading Cross-Functional Teams - A Planning Aces Episode

01/06/202339 minutes 58 seconds
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903: Making the Data Matter | Ryan Lockwood, CFO,

While April 2020 may forever bring to mind corporate corridors newly silenced by COVID 19’s arrival in the United States, CFO Ryan Lockwood will likely always remember it as the month when opportunity knocked. Having spent the previous 10 years in investment management, Lockwood, a portfolio manager for a Southern California investment house, was looking to move to more of an operational role when he got a call from David Meniane and Lev Peker of the management team at U.S. Auto Parts, the car parts retailer that was about to rename itself “They said, ‘Why don’t you come out to our offices, and we’ll talk?,’ which I was a little nervous about because COVID had arrived only maybe 4 weeks earlier,” remembers Lockwood, who notes that in the past he had offered the business leaders friendly advice as a “capital markets buy-side professional.
31/05/202347 minutes 57 seconds
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902: Finding Your Fire | Celeste Ackert, CFO, Fairmarkit

28/05/202345 minutes 54 seconds
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901: The Welcome Box | Scott Healy, CFO, Fortera

It’s perhaps appropriate that Scott Healy’s finance career began at an airport. With recently displayed boarding pass in hand, Healy thought that he was ready for takeoff—only to have his new boss board with a mystery box under one arm. “He was carrying a package that I thought was some sort of welcome gift for me because from the outside you could see some cookies and things to eat,” recalls Healy, who upon closer inspection discovered that while the package did indeed contain a few treats, it also held 15 prospectuses.    “He expected me to read and analyze each of them during our 6-hour flight from San Francisco to Boston,” continues Healy, who uses the story to illustrate the first of multiple lessons that he believes became invaluable to his career. “First, I learned how to critically process large amounts of information, regardless of whether it was communicated verbally or in writing,” reports Healy, who tells us that in the years ahead, the processing pa
24/05/202351 minutes 47 seconds
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900: The Rewards of Rulemaking | Alison Staloch, CFO, Fundrise

While chief accountant for the SEC’s investment management division, Alison Staloch reports, she found herself being greeted by a degree of inclusive enthusiasm that she had seldom encountered before. “People would say, ‘Great, the accountants are here!,’” recalls Staloch, who tells us that accountants at divisional meetings were sometimes sparse in comparison to the number of agency attorneys seated at the table. “Coming from a place where everyone was an accountant, this was new to me,” continues Staloch, who tells us that the commission’s high regard for her expertise and the accounting discipline in general helped to make her 5-1/2-year tenure there a satisfying career chapter. Having joined the organization as part of the SEC Fellows Program, Staloch found that her experience there seemed to grant her a healthy dose of professional activation—something that she admits that her early career had not always provided in large supply.   “I wavered a lot e
21/05/202343 minutes 11 seconds
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899: Democratizing Workforce Opportunities | Simone Nardi, CFO, Globalization Partners

Gray-haired late-night fans may remember when David Letterman sought to ingratiate himself with his network’s new owner, General Electric Corp., by hand-delivering a bowl of fruit to GE’s executive brass. Nearly 20 years later, Simone Nardi became a benefactor of GE’s media aspirations when he traded a senior manager position on GE’s audit team for a unit CFO role inside GE’s plus-size media holdings enterprise, NBCUniversal.   “While a member of GE’s audit team, I had had the opportunity to work with the head of GE’s audit staff, so when she was named CFO of NBCUniversal, she called me when she had an opening there," recalls Nardi, while referring to GE colleague Lynn Calpeter, who stepped into the CFO role at NBCUniversal in 2003 and then later returned to GE in 2011 upon the sale of the company to Comcast.
17/05/202353 minutes 52 seconds
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898: Making Finance Proactively Persuasive | Russell Lester, CFO, Versapay

By the time Russell Lester landed inside Intuit’s department of analysis in 2009, the unremarkable career path on which he had first set out nearly 10 years earlier had become brimming with possibilities. Back in the early 2000s, Lester tells us, he was hired by the company Harland Clarke (now Vericast) as an analyst specializing in customer information and insights. “This was not traditional finance, and I was sort of tiptoeing around what we would broadly call ‘analytics’ today,” remembers Lester, who notes that his adeptness with data analysis eventually resulted in his assignment to a role responsible for pioneering the company’s performance management discipline, which subsequently helped to open the door to Hyland’s financial planning and analysis function. At the time when a recruiter for Intuit called, Lester was responsible for overseeing Hyland’s FP&A discipline. It seemed that one of Intuit’s divisional presidents was seeking to hire a senior finance
14/05/202349 minutes 49 seconds
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ON LOCATION Perform 23 with Planful CEO Grant Halloran

For business leaders these days, a thoughtful response to customer queries concerning AI is indispensable. As CEO Planful Grant Halloran demonstrated this week at Planful's Perform23 customer conference. CEO Halloran emphasizes the need for caution and thoughtfulness when it comes to AI, noting that while it presents an exciting opportunity, there is still a lot of uncertainty and potential legal and security implications that need to be addressed. He also discusses the speed of change that comes with AI, which he believes will ultimately create more opportunities for better lifestyles, but will require adaptation from society.  
12/05/202328 minutes 11 seconds
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897: Satisfying a Growth Appetite | Bobby Leibrock, CFO, Red Hat Software

Last October, when it was announced that Bobby Leibrock would become the next CFO of IBM subsidiary Red Hat, finance team members no doubt understood that the open-source developer was coronating not just any IBM veteran but a strategic finance executive who for years had been entrenched along the front lines of IBM’s software acquisition activities. Leibrock’s M&A resume began around 2006, when IBM acquired content management software developer FileNet for $1.6 billion.    “They asked me to be what was known as a ‘product pricer,’ a role that involved figuring out how to merge FileNet’s portfolio into ours from a pricing standpoint,” explains Leibrock, who notes that along the way he would frequently find himself seated across the table from the acquired company’s management while he stared down at a list of pricing-related questions. Fast-forward to IBM’s acquisition of security intelligence software developer Q1 Labs in 2011 and Leibrock’s appointment as CFO
10/05/202343 minutes 44 seconds
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896: When Context Trumps Playbooks | Aneal Vallurupalli, CFO, Airbase

Back in 2010, when the flow of hiring by investment banks had been reduced to a meager trickle of new faces in the wake of the economic downturn, Aneal Vallurupalli walked through the doors of San Francisco’s Union Square Advisors.     For Vallurupalli—a recent graduate of a Bay Area college not necessarily known as a feeder school for investment banks—the job offer from Union Square seemed to validate the notion that banking was meant to be his career lane. Still, Vallurupalli tells us that from his early banking days forward, he always viewed investment banking as a place to learn but not necessarily his ultimate career destination: “Investment banking, to me, was kind of like a physician’s residency—it put the foundation in place.”   At the same time, the firm’s unmitigated drive to serve its clients provided him with many “learning moments,” including one client assignment that remains particularly salient. According to Vallurupalli, a private equity
07/05/202349 minutes 26 seconds
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895: Learning to Manage Upward | Paul Sheriff, CFO, NewDay

Back in 2006, when Paul Sheriff had only recently been named group financial director for a midsize banking business based in the United Kingdom, his team noticed that the profit margins of a certain banking product were experiencing a steady decline. What’s more, the customers being drawn to the product were deemed to be at “higher risk” than the bank’s other customers.   While Sheriff tells us that he helped to put an end to the product’s life, he also wants us to know that the numbers behind the problematic product appeared to be hidden in the bank’s overall financial statements. “The numbers from the backward-looking book of customers were dwarfing those of new customers such that everything looked okay,” explains Sheriff, who notes that an effort to study the bank’s new customer data separately was what suddenly flagged the troubling trend. Sheriff relates that once the numbers made clear that the product was not sustainable for the business in the l
03/05/202349 minutes 27 seconds
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894: The Opportunity That Everyone Must See | Julie Swinney, CFO, Zendesk

By the time the general manager of Intel’s data center chipset business parted ways with the company, Julie Swinney had already advanced into one of their coveted business unit CFO positions. To Swinney—who had already served in a series of senior finance roles—the GM’s departure seemed to leave a startling void in a business that served as a key enabler for Intel’s server business at large. The unexpected opening prompted Swinney to raise her hand and issue what perhaps was a bold proposal to be coming from an executive who had thus far resided within Intel’s career ropes—the functional restraints that gingerly guide the chip maker’s finance career builders.   To jump beyond finance, Swinney tells us, with little hesitation she put forth her solution to the challenge at hand: “We absolutely need a GM. We don’t have one, and I want to step in and run this business.”  It perhaps goes without saying that Intel management accepted Swinney’s bid, allowing her
30/04/202356 minutes 24 seconds
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893: Smart Mobility’s Fast Lane | Craig Conti, CFO, Verra Mobility

Among the keepsakes that Craig Conti collected during the more than two decades of his finance career, the item to which he refers simply as “the list” remains one of his most prized career souvenirs. Having graduated from General Electric’s Financial Management program in 2001, the 20-something Conti had only recently been assigned to GE’s corporate audit staff when he was dispatched overseas for a 5-year tour of duty. It was during the first 12 months of Conti’s years abroad that he received a job review from a manager who asked him to create a list of the skills and experiences that he expected to accrue during his years abroad. Recalls Conti: “The manager was literally my own age, but he was very forward-looking.” For the next 5 years, Conti’s geography was in regular rotation from Brazil to Mexico to Eastern Europe, and, as his location changed, he would add to his list of experiences. “All of the skills that I had originally put down were def
26/04/202350 minutes 44 seconds
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892: Understanding Your Customer From the Inside Out | Jason Quinn, CFO, Vendr

When Jason Quinn landed in Europe back in 2008, he was the youngest of five American expats being deployed by digital disrupter SMB printer Vistaprint of Boston, Mass. For the next 5 years, Quinn would be involved in a string of business acquisitions that would grow the digital printer’s European revenues from nothing to more than $500 million annually. Based in Barcelona, Quinn spent roughly 3 weeks of every month traveling to other parts of Europe to evaluate the operations of different businesses as he and other executives sought to determine whether there was a solid business case for acquiring a company. “I had the luxury of seeing into firms at both the executive and middle management levels, so I was able to acquire an understanding of how the executive team was operating and how the decisions that they would make would trickle down within the operation,” explains Quinn, who adds that as deal activity grew, Vistaprint ended up deploying a corporate develo
23/04/202351 minutes 3 seconds
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The Power of GPT in Planning - A Planning Aces Episode

Planning Aces Guest Host Brett Knowles, an expert in FP&A and planning realm, suggests that GPT can be used as an extra member at the planning table, providing a catalyst for exploring ideas and expanding horizons. By generating scenarios and validating strategies against them, planners can identify environmental and situational factors that need to be true for a strategy to work. But the true power of GPT lies in its ability to test a plan through the eyes of different stakeholders, such as investors, regulators, competitors, and employees, before presenting it to the executive committee. This allows planners to pretest their plan against a vast knowledge base, beyond the limited experience of the leadership team.
21/04/202347 minutes 10 seconds
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891: Climbing the Multi-Product Ladder | Jim Cox, CFO, Clearwater Analytics

Back in 2008, when Jim Cox was controller for investment management software company Advent Software, he was invited by that firm's founder and CEO, Stephanie DiMarco, to accompany her to an investor meeting. “I just sat there smiling and hoped that nobody would ask me a question,” comments Cox, recalling one of a number of experiences that he credits with helping him to step beyond his accounting career roots. The meeting’s biggest take-away, Cox tells us, was about repetition. He explains: “Guess what? All 20 investors asked six of the same questions and two questions that were unique to them.” Looking back, Cox believes that DiMarco was providing him with an opportunity to not only develop a rapport with investors but a
19/04/202357 minutes 13 seconds
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890: Driving the Internet Sharetaker | Christopher Halpin, CFO, IAC

16/04/202359 minutes 25 seconds
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889: Whetting Wall Street’s Tech Appetite | Ben Chrnelich, CFO, Symphony — Scheduled

12/04/202353 minutes 7 seconds
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888: Accelerating Inside the Controlled Growth Lane | Paolo Poma, CFO, Lamborghini

Paolo Poma is uncertain how many times he met with bankers and investors during the first 6 months of 2009. The steady string of phone calls and conference rooms that once demanded the management of Ducati Motors Holding’s rapt attention, Poma tells us, have now blurred into a single, heart-pumping conversation. “I had to go in front of them and calculate for how long we were going be able to service the debt and comply with covenants without breaking any rules—despite the plummeting markets,” explains Poma, who had joined Ducati 2 years earlier as finance director.   An Italian motorcycle manufacturer, the firm had been acquired by a private equity investor in 2008 as part of a leveraged buyout on the eve of the banking sector’s 2008 financial crisis. Reports Poma: “The debt had been negotiated before Lehman’s collapse and now had to be serviced during this very challenging time.” On one side of the table, Ducati’s investors were expressing their
09/04/202347 minutes 18 seconds
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887: Enjoying Today's Journey | Galit Yaakobovitz, CFO, AmyriAD

After Galit Yaakobovitz relocated from Israel to the United States back in the mid-2000s, there was little question that the move had given her career a boost. Still, it was the next relocation—the one that would move her and her husband from New Jersey to California—that ultimately allowed her to place both feet on a finance career path. Back in 2006, Yaakobovitz was a technology implementation consultant living in Israel when she was hired by M-Systems to oversee the implementation of an ERP system for its finance function around the world. However, within 12 months, M-Systems was sold to its flash memory rival SanDisk—which left Yaakobovitz to wonder whether she would have a future at the newly merged firm. In short order, the management of SanDisk eased her concerns by offering her a spot on the global implementation team for the company’s finance organization, an appointment that required her to relocate to SanDisk’s New Jersey offices. “At the time,
05/04/202355 minutes 44 seconds
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886: When SaaS Became the Destination | Alka Tandan, CFO, Gainsight

One key takeaway from Gainsight CFO Alka Tandan’s career journey is the importance of being open to new opportunities and pivoting when necessary. Tandan started in investment banking, transitioned to media, and then vectored again to the SaaS industry. Looking back on the first move of her career, Tandan says that she “came to a decision” and quickly became focused on the best way to execute it. “Investment banking gave me incredible exposure to a range of business models and industries, but after 5 years, I realized that I really wanted to be on a company’s journey, so business school became the tool that I used to transition to industry,” Tandan reports. To better highlight her industry career-building years, Tandan discusses with us the 4.5 years that she spent with IGN Entertainment, an Internet media company that at the time was operating as a division of News Corp. “I came in as they were separating IGN’s finance organization from News Corp., which requir
02/04/202349 minutes 30 seconds
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When Sales is at the Table - A Planning Aces Episode

In this Planning Aces episode, host Jack Sweeney and guest host Ben Murray discuss the collaborative organizational effort behind generating business intelligence (BI) and the different places BI resources may reside within a business, with reference to an episode featuring Gary Zyla, CFO of AssetMark. The hosts also discuss the role of finance in enabling sales, the challenges faced by sales teams, and the importance of financial discipline and visibility in a company’s financials, regardless of market conditions. The episode features insights from other finance leaders, including Teodora Gouneva, CFO of Next Insurance, and Wailun Chan, CFO of Grafana Labs.
31/03/202329 minutes 30 seconds
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885: Landing Your Career’s “Pivot Position” | Robert Mitchell, CFO, Zepz

Robert Mitchell had been sizing up new venture opportunities for PayPal for roughly 3 years when the door to an operations role swung open. Impressed by his financial modeling know-how, Mitchell tells us, PayPal’s credit bosses “handpicked” him to create a framework for launching and monitoring new credit offerings. For Mitchell, there was no turning back. “They just told me that I was a smart guy and that I could figure things out,” recalls Mitchell, who adds that the fact that the new position was in Brussels didn’t even give him pause. From the start, Mitchell viewed the position as a critical career rung that would allow him to climb above his financial modeling stints. “I was the guy who could whiteboard an idea or financial model, present it, size it, and do anything that you wanted to it,” continues Mitchell, who observes that prior to the Brussels post he had mostly been an “individual contributor” and not someone who empowered teams. <
29/03/202350 minutes 5 seconds
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884: Understanding Your Business Thesis | Betsy Ward, CFO, MassMutual

Finance leader Betsy Ward wants you to know that she doesn’t have an itchy trigger finger—but she does have an inner trigger and knows when it’s been set off. There’s no doubt that few professional colleagues would ever think to associate the time-tested gunslinger trope with the exponentially mild-mannered Ward, who has led insurance giant MassMutual through a string of strategic transactions since her arrival in its CFO office in 2016. Still, as Ward seeks to help us to better understand the unique mix of skills that distinguishes her from her CFO peers, her words alert us to a confidence that comes from experience not found on a more traditional corporate finance resume.   “I have a trigger that lets me know when I need to look into something and ask myself ‘Do we keep that? Do I need to manage it? Do I need to sell?,’” explains Ward, who spent 10 years in asset management b
26/03/202347 minutes 37 seconds
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Why Hiring Could Be GPT's Sweet Spot - Workplace Champions Episode

24/03/202343 minutes 4 seconds
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883: The Confidence That Only Experience Brings | Javier Echave, CFO, Heathrow

When Heathrow CFO Javier Echave tells us that one of his greatest career lessons was learned from being passed over for the airport’s CFO position, we wonder whether we misunderstood him.   He continues: “It was then that I learned in the most painful way that securing my own succession to the CFO office was dependent on me making myself redundant.” It was a little more than 8 years ago, when a sudden CFO departure, prompted Heathrow's CEO and executive board to appoint one of Echave’s colleagues as “Interim CFO.” For Echave, who had held a succession of senior finance and operations roles, the appointment was an undeniable slight.    “I took it badly,” recalls Echave, who adds that for some time he had perceived himself to be “number two” within Heathrow’s senior finance executive ranks.    According to Echave, after having been passed over, he received some critical advice from the chairman of the airport’s executive board. “He said to me,
22/03/202358 minutes 40 seconds
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882: A Search for Answers | Brianna Gerber, CFO, ChromaDex

When Brianna Gerber tells us that during earnings season at Mattel, Inc., she was once known as the investor relations person most likely to be “knocking on doors,” we can’t help but want to learn more about her IR tour of duty for the toy giant.   “I’d be calling on the marketing team and the commercial team, talking to treasury and tax, and asking them all ‘What’s really going on?’ because I would need to understand the numbers before I could explain them,” recalls Gerber, who occupied Mattel’s corridors for nearly five years, after having spent 10 years as an equity research executive. There’s little doubt here that Gerber is sharing a fond memory that exposes the somewhat immediate satisfaction that she experienced upon landing inside a corporate entity. The glass wall through which she had once peered as an equity analyst had vanished, and she was now able to engage one-on-one with the senior leaders best able to explain the complexities of the business. It
19/03/202347 minutes 40 seconds
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881: One CFO's Career of Plenty | Keith Taylor, CFO, Equinix

As our finance leader guests well know, we seldom hesitate to ask where they spent their career-building years. Moreover, if we learn that a CFO spent more than 5 years with any one company, we’re apt to ask, “Why? What kept you there?”  On the other hand—and somewhat oddly—finance career investments spanning a decade or more are likely to lead us to leapfrog more perfunctory queries in order to let the grilling begin.    Such was the case with CFO Keith Taylor of Equinix, the $7.2 billion data infrastructure giant with 248 data centers in 27 countries. For Taylor, who is logging his 24th year with the firm, the investment of career decades inside a single company led us to imagine a string of experiences somewhat uniform from one chapter to the next.
15/03/202355 minutes 16 seconds
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880: When Success & Risk Are One | Teodora Gouneva, CFO, NEXT Insurance

Teodora Gouneva was enjoying one of the more satisfying chapters of a 25-year finance career when she began hearing voices again. She tells us that although for most of her work trajectory she had been able to ignore them, on this occasion the contentment that she had so carefully guarded began to give way. The year was 2013, and the role offered to Gouneva was to serve as CFO of PayPal’s Braintree Venmo operations, the enterprise resulting from PayPal’s recent acquisition of Braintree. “For me, it wasn’t an immediate or obvious ‘yes,’” recalls Gouneva, who already occupied a senior finance role overseeing a big slice of the company’s business after having adroitly climbed PayPal's finance career ladder for the previous 9 years. <
12/03/202345 minutes 47 seconds
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879: Where SaaS Roots Run Deep | Bas Brukx, CFO, Allego

With regard to finance leaders who are counted among the ranks of today’s SaaS CFOs, it goes without saying that 20 years ago, most were somewhere other than at SaaS companies. In fact, many of them have no doubt arrived inside the SaaS realm only within the past 10 years or so as part of the software industry’s great migration from the model of perpetually selling software to the SaaS subscription model. However, for CFO Bas Brukx, the SaaS world has been home for more than 20 years, a fact that allows him to take a seat alongside other CFOs who can boast of pioneer roots inside SaaS-dom. “We had the benefit of not knowing what we didn’t know,” recalls Brukx, who notes that back in 2002, such a widely used metric as Customer Acquisition Cost was only then just being defined. At the time, Brukx was head of FP&A for Vocus, a SaaS software company specializing in solutions for the public relations and communication industries. “We did a lot of educat
08/03/202344 minutes 55 seconds
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878: When the Path Rises to Meet You | Don Bassell, CFO, ARKO Corp. —

As we have been interviewing CFOs from different industries, many finance leaders have told us that they had bracketed the CFO office as their preferred career destination beginning from Day One of their professional lives. Still others have reported that it was only due to the intervention of a determined mentor that they were able to muster the resolve to aim ever higher and ultimately arrive in the C-suite. As it turns out, neither of these profiles depicts the experience of Don Bassell, CFO of ARKO Corp., a Fortune 500 company that is one of the largest operators of convenience stores and wholesalers of fuel in the United States. For Bassell, the CFO office would become “the destination” only after he received a particular job offer when he was in his early 40s. “Something didn’t feel right,” he recalls, reflecting back on the opportunity to fill a senior co
05/03/202357 minutes 53 seconds
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877: One Career’s Transaction Milestones | Gary Zyla, CFO, AssetMark

It was the type of CFO position that Gary Zyla probably would not have been able to find outside of Genworth Financial, a financial services company that he had first joined in 2004. Not that his resume didn’t already have some solid CFO prerequisites, but the leadership challenge that Zyla was about to take on was less about capital management and more about establishing the business functions required to run a business day by day. “Genworth said, ‘Look, this is a very broad role—we’re going to take a leap of faith with you,’” recalls Zyla, whose appointment as CFO of Genworth’s newly formed California-based subsidiary came 7 years after he had first joined the company.   Still, what happened next was arguably the most pivotal moment of Zyla’s career, as in 2013—2 years after he had relocated to California to better fulfill his CFO duties—Genworth announced plans to sell his division to a private equity firm. “Once it was sold, I was the CFO of this 350-
01/03/202349 minutes 14 seconds
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876: Exposing Where Business Value Resides | Jim Young, CFO, Coalition

Looking back on their career-building years, few finance leaders ever forget the first time that they presented to a board of directors. For many, the stares of the individual directors around the table remain locked in time, forever evergreen. For Jim Young, the gazes that stay ever-present are some that were cast not from across a boardroom but instead by a room populated by hundreds of employees attending an offsite management gathering. “My job was to communicate some of the important trends—with a little bit of perspective on the investment community—and to highlight different aspects of what was going on with our business,” explains Young, who adds that his primary intent was to bring the company’s customer value proposition into sharper focus and better expose how it translated into customer retention. What happened next, Young tells us, left a lasting impression.   “There were a lot of questions, and I could see this high engagement as I sc
26/02/202337 minutes 9 seconds
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Planning's New Math: PLG + Product Usage - A Planning Aces Episode

Featuring Special Guest Co Host Ben Murray As more businesses track customer product usage ever more closely, finance leaders are busy fine tuning the collaborative approaches that allow their organizations to identify and pursue expansion opportunities.   Ben and Jack discuss the collaborative organizational teams that are putting their companies on the path to greater net dollar retention as they seek to glean more customer insights and better expose customer intent. This episode features the FP&A insights and commentary of CFO Jonathan Carr of Armis, CFO Kevin Rubin of Alteryx,  and CFO Patrick McClymont of Hagerty.   About Ben Murray Over the course of his finance career Ben Murray has occupied the CFO office at a number of different companies. In addition to having a multichapter CFO career, he is today known as “The SaaS CFO,” a brand he established while creating and hosting the popular SaaS CFO podcast. Wha
24/02/202337 minutes 11 seconds
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875: Connecting People and Processes | Eliran Glazer, CFO,

Eliran Glazer’s finance career journey began in the late 1990s at the Tel Aviv office of KPMG, where as a 20-something he spent 3 years auditing a portfolio of fast-growing software companies.    As the year 2000 approached, Glazer was suddenly being recruited by an Israeli-American CFO who was seeking to fill a controller position—and the gray-haired CFO left little doubt that the role that he had in mind could potentially offer much more.   Glazer tells us the that CFO’s pitch was expressed this way: “Look, I’m pretty certain that you know accounting well, but I can help you to develop a business view.” When a formal job offer arrived from the publicly traded BackWeb Technologies, Glazer didn’t hesitate to accept—and it wasn’t long before he saw evidence of what the CFO had promised. Comments Glazer: “He began taking me to meetings with internal and external stakeholders by simply saying, ‘Come along and join me.’”     In short order, Glazer rece
22/02/202359 minutes 48 seconds
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874: Completing Your Visibility to Predictability Framework | Wailun Chan, CFO, Grafana Labs

No matter how many chapters Wailun Chan’s finance career ultimately spans, the decade that he spent at LinkedIn will always stand out. It perhaps goes without saying that as a finance career investment, a 10-year resume stint is increasingly rare today, and it’s not uncommon for a “decade investor” looking back on his or her lengthy tenure to launch one or two “If onlys,” as in “If only I had left 3 years sooner.”         Such is not the case for Wailun Chan, though, whose LinkedIn career spanned from 2010 to 2020 and overlapped a period during which the social media company’s workforce grew from 400 to 16,000 employees as its annual revenues grew from roughly $100 million (pre-IPO) to nearly $10 billion. Chan’s investment of career years at LinkedIn arguably represents a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right outcome, which eventually resulted in a CFO job offer that led the seasoned FP&A leader to exit the social media company. <
19/02/202349 minutes 29 seconds
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The Year of HR Slogans - A Workplace Champions Episode

17/02/202352 minutes 47 seconds
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873: Pages from a Silver Linings Playbook | Michael Kopelman, CFO, Meow Wolf

Back in 2022, having decided to leave the entertainment business only 3 years after closing on its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T announced plans to relinquish its ownership of the giant media company and merge it with Discovery, Inc., to form a new, publicly traded entity called Warner Bros. Discovery. Just like many of his peers, Michael Kopelman has found that the business headlines of the past have everything and nothing to do with the ups and downs of his finance leadership career. Seven years earlier, he had been residing at the top of Time Warner’s investor relations function, collaborating daily with its senior leaders to carefully execute the company’s earnings communication process. Kopelman tells us that things were pretty much business as usual until there came a knock on the door from an interested buyer. “At that moment, the plan to stand alone was a better one that would result in a better outcome than pursuing a sale, as it was felt that
15/02/202359 minutes
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872: Opportunities Along the xP&A Frontier | Dan Fletcher, CFO, Planful

During the early years of his finance career, Dan Fletcher was accustomed to being the executive from somewhere else. When he first joined the asset management team at Allstate Investments, he was “the auditor from Price Waterhouse,” and when he landed in an interim management role as a private equity advisor, he was a former investor now turned operator. Fletcher’s early career journey stands out not just for its navigation of the financial triad of auditor–investor–operator but also for the speed at which he was able to leap from one to the next. “I did not look like everyone else,” recalls Fletcher, who doesn’t try to cloak the burdens of his first pivot. He continues: “These are two totally different disciplines. Whereas from an auditor’s perspective you’re viewing the business from the outside in and mainly trying to validate financial statements, from the investor’s perspective you’re mainly concerned with returns.” Meanwhile, Fletcher makes
12/02/202354 minutes 20 seconds
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871: Keeping in Stride in a High-Pressure Economy | Jared Poff, CFO, Designer Brands

One of the unspoken truths about interim CFO roles is that they sometimes don’t lead to an actual CFO role—a fact that has turned more than a few seasoned finance executives into chronic nail-biters.   For Jared Poff, who ultimately cleared all hurdles as an interim chief to land inside the CFO office at Designer Brands (formerly DSW), the job title ended up leaving a lasting impression.  “I sat in the interim role for nearly 6 months, and they were absolutely the most grueling 6 months of my career—outside of COVID, maybe,” recalls Poff, who was recruited to Designer Brands back in 2015 with the expectation that he was going to be groomed by the company’s then-CFO to take over her role within the next few years. For Poff, a former Cardinal Health finance director and more recently treasurer at retailer Big Lots, the plan was to join Designer Brands as treasurer and take a year or two to beef up his accounting and controllership exper
08/02/20231 hour 2 minutes 50 seconds
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870: Amped Up at the Deep End | John McCauley, CFO, Calendly

John McCauley is the first finance leader to tell us that his path to the CFO office began in a pool. Back in high school, McCauley relates, he was a rebellious student with less than impressive grades when a stubborn and no-excuses-allowed water polo coach knocked him from his wayward track. According to McCauley, the coach’s philosophy was rooted not so much in winning or losing but in whether the team had done everything in its power to succeed. Recalls McCauley: “This meant 4:30 a.m. practices before school began and 3-hour practices after class, 300 days a year—and if you were sick, you were allowed to skip practice, but you still had to sit on the pool deck and watch.”    These experiences wed McCauley to a lifetime mantra that has forever filled his tank with the power of preparation. McCauley’s next pivotal career moment arrived a decade deep into his finance career, when he joined one-time start-up ServiceNow in 2011—the same year that saw
05/02/202356 minutes 50 seconds
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869: Sharpening the Customer Focus | Ravi Narula, CFO, FinancialForce

Looking back, CFO Ravi Narula tells us that he wishes that he had become a “servant leader” sooner, as he references the familiar leadership tag signaling a mind-set focused on serving others. “If you asked me 15 years ago, ‘Do you have a servant leader mind-set?,’ unfortunately, I would have said ‘No,’” comments Narula, who credits a graduate executive program at Stanford University for helping to raise his acumen when it comes to the role that servant leaders can play in successful businesses. “I began thinking more broadly as a CFO and seeing servant leadership and company culture as being foundational to the success of firms, as well as to my own future success as a CFO,” remarks Narula, who—in addition to servant leadership—identifies the customer-probing Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a primary contributor to the culture of his current company, FinancialForce. Asked if FinancialForce’s NPS rating is the most widely known measure across the company’s workforce
01/02/202359 minutes 20 seconds
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868: Armed and Sheltered From the Storm | Tom Fennimore, CFO, Luminar Technologies

The Goldman Sachs “anti-raid” team was between conference calls with an embattled client company when word came that a senior member of the target company’s management team had unexpectedly died. Looking back, Tom Fennimore says that the next few months of his early career years at Goldman then became a transition point—or period of accelerated learning. “It was a very sad situation—they were in the process of being raided,” explains Fennimore, who lists the anti-raid transaction as one of two times when Goldman ultimately offered Fennimore an opportunity to “step up.” The second example came after the resignation of a managing director responsible for the bank’s automotive sector. “I got a battlefield promotion when they said, ‘Hey, we want you to do this, and—depending how you do—we may not replace you,” recalls Fennimore, who notes that while he savored the opportunity and enjoyed success in the role, certain parts of it had little to do with his skill
29/01/202357 minutes 3 seconds
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Why FP&A Designs the Questions - A Planning Aces Episode

It’s no secret, professionals from various departments must work together to correctly calculate Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), Customer acquisition cost (CAC) or Lead-to-customer ratios. This episode we explore how collaboration and communication is always essential to ensure these calculations and others take into account all relevant factors. This episode features the FP&A insights and commentary of CFO Thomas Fennimore of Luminar Technologies, CFO Jared Poff of Designer Brands, and CFO John McCauley of Calendly. About our Guest Host: Soufyan Hamid FP&A troubleshooter Soufyan Hamid helps finance teams primarily in two ways: First, he works as an FP&A project leader or team member on mid to long term assignments <!
27/01/202330 minutes 37 seconds
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867: Energizing Your Data Relations | Donald Alvarez, CFO, Cyngn

Back in 1993, Don Alvarez was an auditor with Deloitte’s San Francisco office when specialty retailer and coveted client company West Marine went public. For Alvarez, the day began with WM’s management explicating the novel steps behind pricing its offering, which was followed by the requisite trip to a Bay Area printer. The long day turned into a long night, so there was little hesitation on Alvarez’s part when West Marine’s CFO offered him a lift back to the accounting house’s office.  Still, the night would turn out to have even more to offer the young auditor. Alvarez remembers that as they were arriving in downtown San Francisco at about 2:00 a.m., WM’s CFO suddenly pulled his car over to the curb and turned to him.    Recalls Alvarez: “He looked at me and said, ‘I am now the CFO of a public company and I have no talent in my organization with public company experience—will you come and work for me?’”  Looking back, Alvarez reports that he did
25/01/202354 minutes 16 seconds
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866: Metrics for the Masses | Jeremy Klaperman, CFO, Rho

Not unlike many of his CFO peers, Jeremy Klaperman spent the early years of his finance career in trying to rectify the damage brought on by the irrational market behaviors of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Unlike most, though, he found that his repair duties frequently involved visits to a remote Japanese fishing village. “A lot of the work in investment banking during that 2001 to 2003 time frame involved picking up the pieces of all of these different failed businesses,” recalls Klaperman, who shortly after joining Goldman Sachs as an analyst in 2001 was bequeathed a lengthy “to do” list related to the 2002 bankruptcy of telecom giant Global Crossing. As Internet traffic projections in the late 1990s had continued to spike, Global Crossing’s undersea cable business had helped to boost the firm’s value to $47 billion by 1999. Still, the business had never had a profitable year, and as headwinds from the dotcom bust bore down, staggering losses and an accounting scan
22/01/202349 minutes 2 seconds
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The Chatbot Chill: Why Business Will Be Anything But Usual - A Workplace Champions Episode

Our resident thought leader Brett Knowles explains how artificial intelligence is already being used to predict employee turnover, job satisfaction, and other key metrics, allowing managers to take proactive steps to improve employee engagement and retention. Brett & Jack discuss how AI-powered performance management systems are already tracking employee performance and are providing feedback and guidance to help employees improve. This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Tom Fennimore of Luminar Technologies, CFO Steven Mitchell of Redgate Software  and CFO Jared Poff of Designer brands.
20/01/202349 minutes 56 seconds
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865: Achieving a Strategic Alignment | Anup Singh, CFO, Illumio

It’s perhaps no surprise that the late 1990s came to mind for Anup Singh when we recently asked him to share with us a finance career lesson or insight from his past. It seems that our CFO guests have become ever more reflective on the period of years preceding the dotcom implosion as they seek to help their companies navigate the murky economics of the post-COVID age. “This was a time when many firms ignored the core fundamentals of a successful business model,” recalls Singh, who at the time headed up FP&A for Excite@Home, an new entity formed following the $6.7 billion acquisition of Internet portal Excite by @Home networks. Not unlike its acquisitive parent company, Excite@Home had an appetite for growth.   “We spent $1 billion to buy a company called Blue Mountain Arts, which had zero dollars in revenue, but the idea was to buy “eyeballs”—and the fundamentals just got away from us,” continues Singh, who in part was responsible for supplying analysts
18/01/202348 minutes 10 seconds
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864: Advancing Beyond Your Comfort Zone | Steven Mitchell, CFO, Redgate Software

Steve Mitchell had not been working for Irish telecom giant Eircom for even half a year before he decided that it was time to explore other opportunities. For the previous 4 months, the seasoned operations executive had been commuting weekly to Dublin, Ireland, from his home in the United Kingdom as he sought to nurture Eircom’s waning mobile customer relationships.   However, Eircom’s CFO upended Mitchell’s plans by offering him the position of corporate finance director. “I went over there for a few months and ended up staying for 4-1/2 years,” recalls Mitchell, who still seems surprised by the CFO’s job offer. “I hadn’t even worked in finance during the previous 8 years.” Over the next 18 months, Mitchell’s responsibilities would expand to include investor relations, treasury, M&A, and running Eircom’s cap ex committee. Besides regularly delivering investor presentations, at one point Mitchell found himself before the European Commission, defend
15/01/20231 hour 8 minutes 36 seconds
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863: A Continental Career Span | Keith Stauffer, CFO, TerrAscend

When Keith Stauffer’s youngest son learned in grade school that his family would be moving to Singapore, he likely breathed a sigh of relief.   After all, his older brothers had already lived in Spain and the United Kingdom, and it would have been only natural for the youngest Stauffer to feel that he had some catching up to do. “Although a lot of people hesitate on opportunities abroad because their kids are a certain age or are going into a certain grade, we have always taken sort of the opposite view,” comments dad Keith, whose finance resume is distinctive as much for its wealth of geographies as for its marquee brands.     A quick glance down his resume reveals both: Singapore (Hershey); Spain, the United Kingdom (Dell); San Juan, Puerto Rico (Procter & Gamble). Stauffer reports that it was back in the early to mid-1990s, when he was a treasury analyst at P&G, that his hand shot up for the first time. “I was at the tail end of my first assignm
11/01/20231 hour 8 minutes 58 seconds
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862: The Numbers Don't Lie | Patrick McClymont, CFO, Hagerty

August might be Patrick McClymont’s preferred month when it comes to entering the CFO office.  “September is great, but you may want to show up a little before in order to get your feet wet,” comments McClymont, who last September became CFO of Hagerty, a once–stand-alone insurance agency for classic automobiles that has now morphed into an automotive enthusiast brand that in addition to insurance products also serves up to its car-minded customers a menu of “membership” programs and experiences. It should perhaps serve as no surprise that McClymont’s timing preference has everything to do with the industry’s annual planning process and the opportunity that it affords newly appointed CFOs to convert the fall rite into a learning process Observes McClymont: “You must ask not only ‘How do I learn from this?’ but also ‘What are my intuitions?’ and ‘What do we need to change?’” To better highlight the rewards of CFO timing, McClymont tells us about an earlier
08/01/20231 hour 20 minutes 29 seconds
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861: Putting Your Plan in Motion | David Quinn, CFO, Bluevine

Things were going downhill for David Quinn when he met his future wife—or such might be the obvious punchline to punctuate Quinn’s disclosure that he met his wife on a ski vacation. Still, Quinn lets us know that the timing of his match being made was in sync with the escalating financial crisis of the late 2000s—a grim environment that quickly fogged over the career trajectories of many banking executives.   Quinn, who was then head of FP&A for Citigroup’s UK retail banking operations, found that the timing of the growing crisis was to exact a stiff price. Along with five other “handpicked” Citigroup executives, he had recently completed an executive MBA program specially designed by Citigroup to springboard the bank’s next generation of leaders into upper management roles. However, regardless of the degree status of its targets, Citigroup’s leadership development effort suddenly lost its spring. “For me, the promised leadership role turned out to be CFO of Norway, wh
04/01/20231 hour 15 minutes 4 seconds
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Holiday Replay: The Return to Earth | Tom Fitzgerald, CFO, Planet Fitness

Back in the mid-1990s, before email became widely used across corporate America, the executives of Frito-Lay’s northern California region suddenly found their mailboxes full. “We were getting all of these letters from people asking, ‘What did you do? What’s going on in northern California?,’” explains Tom Fitzgerald, who at the time was finance director for the region, a geography known to be a sales laggard among Pepsico’s 24 business units, within which Frito-Lay itself was a particularly heavy bottom dweller. Thus, as Fitzgerald relates, there was no shortage of intrigue concerning a sudden and steady sales climb inside Frito-Lay’s northern California business. Looking back, he observes that the explanation of the phenomenon was not necessarily pleasing to neighboring regions, which were known to be on a constant lookout for cunning new sales promotions or incentives. “Northern California, oddly enough, was the only unionized market for Frito-Lay in the count
01/01/202357 minutes 15 seconds
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Dragon Slayer of the Budgeting World - A Planning Ace's Tribute to Steve Player

When consultant Steve Player died last month at the age of 64, the business function that he had tormented, ridiculed, and war-hammered for more than two decades stood quivering in the shadows. Still breathing, the beast of a business process known as budgetary control had withstood its most notorious assailant’s heaviest blows—in itself a resounding tribute to those industry high priests who had given the process life in the first half of the 20th century. However, many agree that it’s only a matter of time before budgetary control succumbs to its many injuries and a proper warrant is issued certifying the death of a business function that may have served all of industry better had it lived only half as long. It’s just such an acknowledgment that makes Steve Player and others of his ilk appear to be as worthy of our acclaim as those who helped to institutionalize this business function in the first place. Perhaps it’s no surprise that both
30/12/202228 minutes 32 seconds
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Holiday Replay: The Levers of Long-Term Value | Brandon Maultasch, CFO, MOLOCO

The following is a Holiday Replay of a popular 2022 episode. Last October, shortly after being named CFO of machine learning start-up MOLOCO, Brandon Maultasch decided to forgo yet another welcome coffee to instead engage with a wide flock of MOLOCO employees on the virtues of discounted cash analysis. “The last thing you want a new people leader talking to the entire company about!,” confesses Maultasch, before launching a stirring defense of the fall discussion that he refers to as a “teach-in.”   “We have 65 data scientists and machine learning engineers at the company. If they can build the things that they build, they are smart enough to understand finance, which isn’t all that complicated,” remarks Maultasch, whose approach is notable as much for what it does focus on as for what it doesn’t. By exploring a framework for discounted cash analysis, Maultasch rejected the more traditional point of engagement for incoming CFOs: the company’s fut
28/12/202256 minutes 47 seconds
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Holiday Replay: Beyond the Boardroom with Herald Chen, CFO, AppLovin

The following is a bonus replay of one of 2022's popular episodes. When Herald Chen was growing up in a town not far from Pittsburg, he dreamed of someday running the small town’s steel mill. Years later when he was graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, the steel mill no longer occupied Chen’s maturing career aspirations. “My two job offers were to either go make soap for Procter & Gamble at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore or go to Wall Street,“ remembers Chen, who adds that the offers for the seemingly different jobs came as a result of having graduated from UPenn’s Management and Technology program—a curriculum that offered a dual degree in engineering and finance. Chen chose Wall Street and in 1995 landed at KKR, the private equity firm that had feasted on leveraged buyouts in 1970s and 1980s. Recalls Chen: “I had a front row seat for meeting many CEOs and CFOs and invested behind a couple dozen of them, so I learned a lot about what the g
25/12/202242 minutes 17 seconds
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Managers admit to “quiet firing” - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss what might be a popular response to employees "quiet quitting" or what among managers has been dubbed "quiet firing" - the withdrawal of coaching, support and career development to an employee, which results in pushing the employee out of an organization. This episode’s featured Workplace Champions share their different perspectives on how to manage their organization’s talent as a collective unit. Brett believes that human capital pain points are challenging finance leaders to carefully reconsider how to best manage employees and forfeit dated models that may have treated employees as just another asset that can depreciate overtime. This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Brian Gladden of Zelis, CFO Razzak Zallow of Floqast, CFO Kevin Rubin of Alteryx  and CFO James Moylan of Ciena.
23/12/202243 minutes 53 seconds
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860: Opportunities From Life's Cauldron | Kevin Rubin, CFO, Alteryx

Back in the year 2000, as Arthur Andersen saw a stream of young accountants exit the firm to join dotcom start-ups, Kevin Rubin’s workload continued to escalate as the public accounting firm felt the pinch of a constricting workforce. Nevertheless, Rubin’s career ambitions remained in lockstep with the public accounting house. In fact, even today he believes that he may have stuck with Andersen had the accounting house not collapsed in the aftermath of the Enron scandal. Andersen’s fate, the implosion of the dotcom bubble, and the September 11 terror attacks each in its own way contributed to the future trajectory of Rubin’s career—a convergence of events and circumstances that Rubin still finds difficult to untangle. “Somehow, the circumstances opened up an incredible opportunity for me,” recalls Rubin, when we ask about MRV Communications, a client company of his that ultimately appointed him vice president of finance before 3 years later naming him CFO. <
21/12/20221 hour 21 minutes 17 seconds
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859: The Everyday, Conscious Effort to Add Value | Rajat Bahri, CFO, Icertis

It was nearly 18 years ago that Icertis CFO Rajat Bahri stepped into the CFO office for the first time.   Thus began a stretch of time that Bahri, not unlike many of his CFO peers, has populated with various distinguished CFO career chapters ranging from 3 to 5 to 8 years in duration.    Still, for Bahri, "18 years" means more than this, as it also represents the amount of time he invested prior to receiving a CFO appointment, making it a worthy touchstone with regard to which we can seek out some thoughtful CFO reflection. Icertis’s CFO doesn’t disappoint us. It seems that back in 2004, after Bahri had turned the corner on 17 years with Kraft Foods, Inc., he found himself handicapping his CFO prospects for the top job. Certainly, such aspirations were in no way foolhardy on the p
18/12/20221 hour 11 minutes 25 seconds
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858: Finding the Middle Ground | Brian Gladden, CFO, Zelis

If you had told Brian Gladden in 2006 that he would shortly be working for a Saudi crown prince, the 14-year GE finance veteran may have replied using a shorthand equivalent to “when pigs fly.” As a GE finance executive, Gladden had served in a string of senior roles, including a number in which he reported directly to GE CEO Jeff Immelt. Nevertheless, when GE announced in 2007 that it had signed a definitive agreement to sell GE Plastics to Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) in a deal valued at $11.6 billion in cash, flying pigs no doubt appeared before Gladden’s eyes. “Brian and his world-class team now have the right resources to truly transform this industry globally,” reads a comment from a GE press release announcing the deal that subsequently relocated Gladden for 12-month stint in Saudi Arabia, where his new boss—a crown prince—was waiting. “I had to stay for a year to lead the business through the integration, and this was a challenging t
14/12/202248 minutes 40 seconds
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857: The Other Tech Stack | Razzak Jallow, CFO FloQast

Back in 2009, as businesses navigated the repercussions of Wall Street’s collapse, Razzak Jallow found himself standing at a departure gate with a boarding pass that read simply “SaaS.” To be clear, Jallow had just nabbed a spot on Adobe Inc.’s Creative Suite finance team, and the journey on which he and his colleagues were about to embark was the software company’s migration from a perpetual, boxed software model to one based on SaaS subscriptions. While Adobe was not alone, and the path to SaaS was crowded with many software firms, few were faced with exiting a legacy model that operated at the scale and robustness of Adobe’s, in which 27 products were clustered under the banner of the developer’s “master collection.” “This meant that 27 R&D teams had to ship their product on the same exact day,” recalls Jallow, whose comment seems to expose both the madness as well as the un
11/12/202251 minutes 40 seconds
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856: Understanding What's In Your Control and What's Not | Céline Dufétel, CFO,

When CFO Céline Dufétel tells us that her career decision-making has been driven not so much by titles or status but by an inner push to acquire the next level of skills or types of skills, we can’t help but note a mysterious coincidence. It seems that a former McKinsey & Company partner had just shared the exact same thought with us almost word for word. Moreover, so, too, had a former CFO of T. Rowe Price. Of course, there’s a sound explanation for this concurrence, and—much like with the solution to an Agatha Christie mystery—the answer is perhaps best read out loud: “The former McKinseyite, the former T. Rowe CFO, and’s CFO are the same person.” For Dufétel, the path to the CFO office at began at McKinsey, where 10 years ago she was the leader of the consulting firm’s North American Asset Management practice. Two years earlier, Dufétel had be
07/12/202229 minutes 39 seconds
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855: Your Company’s Value Proposition | James Moylan, CFO, Ciena

Jim Moylan is perhaps our first CFO guest to list the leasing of oil rigs as one of the experiences that best prepared him for a CFO role. Of course, he makes it clear that the experience is worthy of mention not so much because of what he was selling but because he was selling at all. “The best way to learn what a company does and understand its value proposition is to be a salesperson, and I have told this to people everywhere that I’ve been,” comments Moylan, whose stint as a salesman helped to kick off a 22-year career climb inside the ever-evolving world of energy company Sonat, Inc. Sonat would provide Moylan with an expansive and varied career narrative. Having become known inside the company for his FP&A savvy, Moylan had a tenure that spanned a variety of leadership roles and included overseeing corporate strategy during a period of time when the company executed four acquisitions and two divestitures. He would also serve as president of one
04/12/20221 hour 2 minutes 4 seconds
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Legibility & Levers - A Planning Aces Episode

To grow efficiently businesses must have legibility across the organization, explains Airtable CFO Ambereen Toubassy, who tells us legibility can only be achieved by having everyone throughout the business using the same metrics. Along the way, Toubassy says finance leaders must ensure their organization’s data capture is being conducted correctly and consistently.   It may sound easy, but as this episode’s three Planning Aces reveal achieving legibility is a growing business presents daily challenges to those residing inside the  FP&A realm.   With Guest Host Glenn Hopper This episode features the FP&A insights and commentary of CFO Anat Ashkenazi of Eli Lilly, CFO Ambereen Toubassy of Airtable, and CFO Evan Goldstein of Seismic. GUEST HOST: Glenn Hopper, CFO, Sandline Global, Author of Deep Finance <p cl
02/12/202240 minutes 33 seconds
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854: Expecting the Unexpected | Shana Veale, CFO, PharmChem

Shana Veale had been working in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, office of Arthur Andersen for only about 8 months when the 88-year-old stalwart accounting house collapsed.   Being a recent college graduate at the time, Veale tells us, she really didn’t grasp all of what the news headlines attempted to convey as the turn of events surrounding the Enron scandal unfolded.     “We began having these weekly calls internally to discuss the circumstances, but then the cuts came in May and I no longer had a job,” recalls Veale, who as a newbie accountant had little to lose when compared to those colleagues with households to support and decades of equity about to vanish. Still, having been an eyewitness to the collapse of a firm that had once populated corporate parks and urban centers across the country, Veale found that her first career chapter would administer a lesson that many finance and accounting professionals often learn much later in their careers. “When i
30/11/202236 minutes 39 seconds
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853: When the Fire Burns Brightest | Chip Zint, CFO, Deluxe

After Chip Zint jumped two levels in NCR Corp.’s retail division finance hierarchy, he couldn’t help but savor the moment while reflecting on the fact that his career years thus far—including nights and weekends studying for an MBA—had all been put to good use. Still, while altitude matters when it comes to career leaps, where you land in an organization—and when—sometimes matters more. In Zint’s case, his arrival as sales finance head for NCR’s retail division coincided with the completion of one of the largest acquisitions ever undertaken by that group. “The moment I raised my hand, I was jumping into the fire,” recalls Zint, who reports that NCR faced multiple challenges when it came to assimilating the newly acquired business, not least of which were the newly merged organization’s revenue expectations.   Says Zint: “It was about grinding it out every single day and going to bed at 2:00 a.m., o
27/11/20221 hour 6 minutes 44 seconds
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The Friday Elon Slept Late | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss the workforce rantings of Elon Musk and the new Twitter owner's November 16th deadline for employees to decide whether to leave or stay. Is Musk's leadership style solely responsible for the turmoil at Twitter or are there other contributing factors? This episode's featured Workplace Champions expose how leaders seek to optimize work environments to empower people to do their best work. While Jack views the talent mind set of each of the three featured finance leaders as the upshot of extensive leadership experience, Brett points out there may be a method behind the Musk "madness." This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Anat Ashkenazi of Eli Lilly, CFO Ambereen Toubassy of Airtable, and CFO Evan Goldstein of Seismic.
23/11/202247 minutes 58 seconds
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852: Thriving in the Deep End | Jonathan Carr, CFO, Armis

When Jonathan Carr first walked through the doors of the Stryker Inc. plant in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, the boyish newbie accountant no doubt turned the heads of a few managers.   Having finished college only about 18 months earlier, Carr was now the accounting and finance “lead” for a major software implementation under way at the medical device manufacturer’s Puerto Rican plant. To succeed in his new role, Carr would need to have local managers as well as senior IT executives walk him through the manufacturing plant’s transaction processes so that he could understand how the software’s promise of automation could be leveraged to streamline the plant’s accounting close cycle. Looking back, Carr can see that it was his inexperience at the time that made the assignment so enriching to his early career. “You have to find things that you have absolutely no idea how to do because it’s those things that will help you to grow exponentially,” remarks Carr, who credi
20/11/202249 minutes 2 seconds
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851: The Rudiments of Scale | Tony Tiscornia, CFO, Coupa

Few finance leaders have better revealed to us the career-transforming powers of IPOs than CFO Tony Tiscornia. Turn back the clock to 2015, and Tiscornia is the accounting-minded VP of finance for spend management software company Coupa. “I was really a controller—a business controller, but still a controller,” explains Tiscornia, who notes that his world began to change following the appointment of Todd Ford as CFO. Read More   Ford, a finance leader with a rich IPO resume, would join Coupa as CFO in June of 2015 and quickly begin to assemble an IPO-ready team. “When Todd first came to Coupa, he asked me what I wanted to do with my career, and I told him, ‘I want to be a CFO,’” recalls Tiscornia, who adds that Ford quickly tagged him for
16/11/202247 minutes 9 seconds
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850: A CFO’s Ultimate Covid Test | Anat Ashkenazi, CFO, Eli Lilly

In March 2020, when Eli Lilly announced that it would begin providing drive-through COVID testing services to the state of Indiana’s healthcare workers, more than a few hospital administrators likely scratched their heads. After all, the giant pharma company was not in the business of providing healthcare services, any more than it was a medical device manufacturer.   Still, drive-through testing turned out to be just the most recent offshoot of an effort under way inside a specialized facility at Lilly Research Laboratories. As months turned to years, as much as 40 to 50 percent of all samples being tested within Indiana were to end up being processed by the Lilly facility.    “A CFO may look at this and rightly ask, ‘What are the costs that are going to be required to establish this? What are the sets of risks associated with deciding to move forward with something like this?,’” observes Anat Ashkenazi, who at the time served as head of strategy and transforma
13/11/20221 hour 5 minutes 58 seconds
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849: Adding Value to an Academic City | Brett Powell, CFO, Baylor University

When Brett Powell is asked what distinguishes his day-to-day role as a finance leader inside the world of academia from that of his CFO peers residing within industry, Powell without hesitation says, “Complexity.” Aware that such a one-word answer would likely summon only more questions, Powell continues: “Essentially, when you think about it, we’re running a city … we house people, we feed people, we provide them with utilities. Everything that’s required to run your hometown needs to be replicated on a university campus.” Still, Powell points out that one of the fundamental differences has to do with an organizational mind-set when it comes to cost allocation and subsidization.  “Corporations will look at each of their product lines and try to understand the profitability of the product, and if one is losing money, then they just end that product line and move on to something else—but we don’t think about academic programs in the same way,” comments Powell, wh
09/11/20221 hour 5 minutes 20 seconds
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848: The People, the Mission & the Innovation | Evan Goldstein, CFO, Seismic

Evan Goldstein tells us that it was at the end of another long day—after a week of long days—as he was walking to the parking lot adjacent to Genentech’s offices that he received a “gut punch.” Becoming more self-aware of others is something that many finance leaders have told us that they have needed to lean into during their career, but few have shared with us the pivot to self-reflection as vividly as Goldstein, whose multi-decade finance career boasts an unusual dual-chamber architecture centered on 10 years at Genentech and another 11 at Salesforce. “I refer to myself as a serial monogamist when it comes to my professional career and the longevity that I’ve experienced at both of these companies,” explains Goldstein, who credits his extended stay at both firms to the power of three: the people, the mission, and the innovation. Still, Goldberg wants us to know about the long day that ended in Genentech’s parking lot. For young finance career builders,
06/11/20221 hour 5 minutes
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When FP&A Takes Rosaline's View - A Planning Aces Episode

04/11/202243 minutes 38 seconds
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847: When Minding the Business is a Cultural Mandate | Jim Morgan, CFO, CallRail

We can’t help but cringe when a finance leader tells us that they don’t want to be known as “the CFO of ‘No’”—that shopworn characterization of CFOs who seem to enjoy giving thumbs down verdicts.    So, we were pleased when CFO Jim Morgan of CallRail steered clear of the trite trope when he recently joined us as a return guest. Nonetheless, we were still curious as to what has replaced the iconic “thumbs down” when it comes to finance leaders projecting their diligence onto the monitoring of risk and governance practices. “I probably have it a little bit easier than most CFOs because one of our five culture statements is Mind the business—which is music to a CFO’s ears,” comments Morgan, who adds that the simple phrase is best voiced in a question. “’Are we minding the business?’ is what I ask our team every day,” reports Morgan, as if prescribing for the CallRail corporate culture a regimen of essential vitamins and minerals. Notes Morgan
02/11/202231 minutes 49 seconds
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846: Influencing Your Operating Inputs | Ambereen Toubassy, CFO, Airtable

When Ambereen Toubassy decided that it was time to start up her own hedge fund, it's likely that no one cast doubt on the experienced investor’s grand plan. That is, no one except Toubassy herself.   After 7years as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and a dozen running hedge funds, Toubassy says, she told herself, “Okay, this is a moment, I have a track record, I should start my own hedge fund.” Thus with some freshly drafted marketing collateral in hand, she initiated the early round of discussions that would allow her to begin raising capital.   “When I started doing this, I realized my that heart wasn’t in it—I told myself, ‘Okay, if your heart isn’t in this, you have no business asking other people to entrust you with their capital,’” recalls Toubassy, who notes that her
30/10/202245 minutes 50 seconds
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845: Levers of Growth, Doors of Opportunity | Darren Cooper, CFO, Reveal Group

When Darren Cooper was named CFO of Reveal Group of Melbourne, Australia, in 2019, there was no friendly board member or executive recruiter seeking kudos for having completed a successful a CFO search. Instead, Cooper says, his twist of fate was due to a personal relationship that he had established with Reveal management after his prior company, Adcorp Holdings, had hired Reveal to provide it with services inside the intelligent automation realm. Originally from South Africa, Cooper had been counted among the finance rank-and-file of a Johannesburg staffing company only 5 years earlier. Turn back the clock to those times, and you would find Cooper spearheading a number of the staffing company’s strategic IT projects when Adcorp entered talks to acquire the company. The resulting deal swung open a number of new doors for Cooper, who became a key player in the restructuring of the staffing company’s South African operations. Adcorp, in turn,
26/10/202249 minutes 38 seconds
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844: To Achieve All That Matters | Gillian Sheeran, CFO, Pricefx

Gillian Sheeran’s was perhaps 17 years into an illustrious finance career and on her second CFO tour of duty when she finally met the limits of her CFO superpowers. These powers had first guided her into a CFO role at the tender age of 32, where during her tenure she would help to turn a 200-employee IT consulting firm into a global business with 850 workers and eight offices in six countries. Next, she added a turnaround chapter to her CFO resume when she helped to design and implement new processes allowing a company to return to profitability within only 9 months.   It was such stirring feats and results-oriented outcomes that led a mentor impressed by her resume to comment, “You’re going to have to take half of this stuff out because nobody is going to believe that you did all of this in such a short period of time.” To help us better understand the career mind-set that once guided her thinking, Sheeran issues a mock impression of herself: “I work incredibly
23/10/20221 hour 12 minutes 44 seconds
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843: Making Finance Part of Your Business’s Operating Fabric | Adil Syed, CFO, Rippling

If, as the old maxim suggests, “life” is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans, Adil Syed’s other plans most likely did not include Snap Inc—or at least they didn’t when he first headed east to attend business school. Having spent the previous 3 years at Redpoint Ventures helping to raise capital for such tech gladiators as Stripe and Zendesk and 5 more at Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst, Syed was ready to have a typical business school experience in which he’d spend his days going to class and nights attending gatherings with classmates. Sure enough, this was how Year 1 of Syed’s business school experience unfolded. It was during his second year, that he stepped into a role that would arguably become the most consequential of his finance career. “I was the first summer intern at Snapchat, which at the time had only about 100 or so engineers and appeared to me to be such unique place that eventually I decided to join them full-time,” recal
19/10/20221 hour 4 minutes 24 seconds
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842: Realizing the Potential of Data at Scale | Ross Muken, CFO, Sophia Genetics

It was after Ross Muken had been gainfully roaming the corridors of equity research for more than a dozen years that the acquisition of his firm administered a dose of operations insight that began to feed his aspirations to become a CFO.   At the time, Muken was a top research analyst for ISI Group, an independent, research-driven trading firm that had begun to attract the attention of a number of the investment banking world’s largest banks—including Evercore, which in August 2014 acquired ISI and its 28 research analysts covering 345 companies in 10 major industry sectors. “It was through this process that I saw what needs to happen when you integrate two businesses and need to drive cost synergies and margin expansion,” recalls Muken, who that point was helping to spearhead the firm’s healthcare and life sciences realm, an area of research that was enjoying some added luster due to a recent boom in biotech.   Along the way, Muken says, it became apparent tha
16/10/20221 hour 59 seconds
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Hires, Fires and a Stable Economy | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss how hiring challenges have led certain organizations to be more tolerant of poor employee behaviors – a development that could be putting growing numbers of businesses at risk. Meanwhile, Brett points out that new hires continue to fetch bigger salaries creating an imbalance with existing employee salaries. Also, performance is not driven by talent alone. Brett says product issues are sometimes thought to be talent issues leading management to put in motion a string of misguided remedies. This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Asil Syed of Rippling, CFO Ambereen Toubassy of Airtable, CFO Bryan Morris of Demandbase.
14/10/202240 minutes 20 seconds
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841: When Every Member Counts | Ilana Esterrich, CFO, American Coatings Association

Inside the world of trade associations, the135-year-old American Coatings Association’s has never wavered in its dedication to advancing the needs of professionals inside the paints and coatings industry. However, ACA members—like those of many associations these days—are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to the value that they receive in exchange for their dues. “In the old days, belonging to an industry association was a badge of prestige, and it was something that people felt that they just had to do if they were part of an industry,” comments Ilana Esterrich, who was named ACA’s CFO in 2019 after having served as chief administrative officer for a Washington think tank and spent the previous decade among the financial planning rank-and-file of Thomson Reuters and General Mills Corp. Upon her arrival, Esterrich was told that to better address the escalating demands of ACA’s membership, she needed to clean house—beginning with the accounting depart
12/10/202256 minutes 21 seconds
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840: Putting a Spin on Your Talent Pinwheel| Bryan Morris, CFO, Demandbase

Among the recruitment milestones that populate Bryan Morris’s CFO resume, few can match the 6-month talent acquisition binge that he launched during the first quarter of 2015. “In terms of key hires, I never hired faster than I did then,” comments Morris, as he begins to lay out the circumstances that led to his need to speedily attract and hire talent. At the time, Morris was the newly appointed CFO of Xamarin, a creator of software tools used for mobile apps development.   This firm, then led by cofounder and CEO Nat Freidman, had doubled its revenue annually for the previous few years yet had theretofore focused its talent recruitment efforts mainly on nabbing software engineers and intrepid salespeople. “When it came to people, sales, marketing, and R&D were way out ahead of G&A, so I knew that my first few months would be dedicated to recruiting,” recalls Morris, who notes that until his arrival, the developer had outsourced its accounting function w
09/10/20221 hour 4 minutes 40 seconds
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839: Landing on Both Feet | JJ Pace, CFO, Service Pros Installation Group

When JJ Pace tells us that he was hired in 2002 to build and eventually lead a finance team that would create and implement monthly budgets for a four-location building materials company located within Charlotte, North Carolina’s greater metro area, the sense of accomplishment that he exudes never falters even when he eventually confides: “In the end, I was the last employee there.” It turns out that Pace’s 5-year stint as a controller (2002–2007) for Build It With Brick of Greater Charlotte was transformational not necessarily for the company but certainly for Pace, who first joined the company as an operations-minded executive but soon found himself knee deep in Excel spreadsheets and month-end reporting tasks. “My job was to basically build the finance team from scratch for what was at the time an expanding business,” explains Pace, who grew into a finance leader as he contributed to the management insight that made Build It With Brick a
05/10/202238 minutes 33 seconds
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838: The Unseen Levers of Customer Impact | Mike Taylor, CFO, Gusto

When Mike Taylor mentions the customer experience during our talk, his intent—unlike that of many of his CFOs peers—is not to boast of some vast reservoir of data from which customer insights are routinely being gleaned. Instead, he brings this up to let us know that there are some things that finance still struggles to see and measure. This is a startling admission from a finance leader who has already drawn our attention to his sharp lines of sight into the CFO role with the comment “Making certain that I am grounded in data is what has helped me to be a better CFO.” Still, Taylor seems to distance himself from this bit of data wisdom for the moment in order to make a broader point about the customer experience and financial analysis. Having served in several CFO roles over the past two decades, Taylor has a rich career portfolio from which to extract CFO lessons. Nevertheless, he quickly turns our attention to his nearly decade-long tenure at electric
02/10/20221 hour 13 minutes 21 seconds
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Let the Data do the Talking - A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss the data tsunami that many organizations are now facing and what steps finance executives can take to replace their historical, backward-looking, "batch mode" thinking with more proactive approaches that will allow finance teams to achieve more predictive outcomes. This episode's distinguished Planning Aces reveal the leadership mindsets and approaches now driving the shift away from batch mode. Featuring FP&A insights and commentary from CFO Claire Bramley of Teradata,  CFO Sandra Rowland of Xylem, CFO Anna King of Mesh Payments and CFO Pat Dillon of Flock Freight.
30/09/202240 minutes 19 seconds
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837: The Hand in the Air | Rob Young, CFO, National Geographic Society

Rob Young remembers that back in 2001, when he joined the incoming class of newbie accountants at KPMG’s Short Hills, New Jersey, office, there was a 5- to 6-year age difference between his KPMG classmates and himself. “It was a situation where a 23-year-old was telling me what to do, but at the same time, they had more experience than I then did,” comments Young, whose arrival inside the public accounting realm stands as a professional milestone rarely found on the resume of our CFO guests.    Turn back the clock, and Young, a high school graduate, is proudly receiving an apprenticeship qualification to work as a construction journeyman. Over the next 4 years, he would join a union and oversee a variety projects, while at the same time learning to manage people and the expectations of others. Having started a family and enjoyed some early career success, Young found that a growing sense of purpose led him to enroll in night school for a 2-year college program—w
28/09/20221 hour 9 minutes 47 seconds
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836: Building Consensus to Go Real-Time | Anna King, CFO, Mesh Payments

Several years ago, when CFO Anna King first began to champion the benefits of real-time data, she recalls a sudden clamor around new customer activity afforded her the consensus-building moment for which she’d been waiting. At the time, King worked for Transactis, a payment processing company that she had first joined in 2011 as a controller. A year later, after having helped to raise the company’s Series C financing, she found herself being appointed CFO. “I was completely shocked—but I was grateful for the board’s confidence in me,” recollects King, who would occupy the CFO office until 2019, when Transactis was acquired by Mastercard. Along the way, King got to work alongside seasoned entrepreneurial CEO Joe Proto, who counted Transactis as his third start-up and had a “playbook” when it came to scaling a business. While King’s C-level appointment gave her new stature within the company, the move to leverage real-time data cross-functionally within the firm d
25/09/202243 minutes 3 seconds
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835: Understanding Your Business | Andrew Gehrlein, CFO, Park Place Technologies

When Andrew Gehrlein is asked about experiences that prepared him for a finance leadership role, one week from his 25-year career climb quickly comes to mind.   Back in 2008, Gehrlein was a controller with ERICO International Corp., a manufacturer of specialized electrical components engineered to better foster a building’s safety. “Construction companies used us to ensure the safety and integrity of their buildings, and, as a result, we commanded premium margins in the manufacturing industry,” reports Gehrlein, who recalls that as the economic downturn began to grab headlines, he found himself sequestered in a conference room for at least a week with his CFO, poring over ERICO’s different budgets. “The overall lesson for me was that when you have the data and understand the business, you can then apply it to whatever situation may face you,” remarks Gehrlein, who notes that during the sequestered week, the company’s FP&A was deployed to execute and analyze alte
21/09/202249 minutes 50 seconds
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834: Where Paths Converge and Leaders Emerge | Tracy Curley, CFO, iSpecimen, Inc.

We are nearly at the end of our talk with CFO Tracy Curley when she mentions her two adult children. “I’m really blessed that they knew how important my career was to me when I was raising them,” remarks Curley, who recalls that during their younger years, it was not unusual for the children to find their mother in bed late at night answering emails on her laptop. Suddenly, the questions populating the margins of our handwritten notes no longer seem to nag at us. Why did she work for KPMG as long as she did (6 years)? Why did she move to Honolulu? Why did she not arrive in the CFO office sooner? Certainly, Curley is not the only finance leader and parent who has confessed to us a woeful email habit. However, she may be the first to allow us to witness the habit through the eyes of children.  With one stray comment, the career path that we’ve been discussing for 40 minutes comes more sharply into view. Like many of the women finance leaders with who
18/09/20221 hour 16 minutes 7 seconds
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833: Keeping the House in Order | Aaron Hartwig, CFO, Edgewood Companies

Turn back the clock to the mid-1990s, and Aaron Hartwig is standing behind the front desk of a Las Vegas hotel, checking in guests and welcoming them to the always spirited city. “I always loved hospitality—I love the idea of having people come to your property to enjoy themselves,” reports Hartwig, who first landed in “guest services” as a recent college graduate with a degree in hotel administration. Still, at the time, he remained uncertain with regard to within which functional area in hospitality he should try to build his career. Then came word that MGM Grand Hotel & Casino was looking to hire a number of accountants—or, rather, a number of accounting interns. Hartwig signed on, envisioning that the program could lead to something more permanent with MGM’s accounting department—a notion that soon became a reality. “I did accounts receivable at $8.65 an hour, and from there I worked for a number of different people—some of whom became my mentors—which allow
14/09/202257 minutes 49 seconds
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832: Achieving a Holistic View | Kate Bueker, CFO, HubSpot

When Kate Bueker first left the world of investment banking for a corporate finance role, she was ready to savor the fabled congruity that a business finance career often offers. “I felt that what would be more interesting and motivating to me would be more consistent,” recalls Bueker, who shortly after joining Akamai Technologies in 2007 became the first business finance executive to become “embedded” with the technology company’s network team. “At the time, Akamai’s cost of goods sold—which was mostly their network costs—was growing faster than revenue, so the CFO at the time asked me if I could like figure out what was going on, or ‘what was driving this,’” explains Bueker, who reports that she and her team quickly zeroed-in on the company’s spiraling co-location costs, the fees being paid to operate the physical facilities that housed the company’s network servers. “We worked together on an operational change that would basically rebuild the existing co-loca
11/09/202257 minutes 13 seconds
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The Employee Value Proposition | a Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss why organizations must have a value proposition for their employees.  This episode each of our featured Workplace Champions gives us different perspectives on what they've done to help attract human capital to their organizations. Again, the question management teams need to be asking:  What's the value proposition that will help us attract the best talent? This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Claire Bramley of Teradata, CFO Rajesh Gupta of OakNorth Bank, and CFO Mark George of Norfolk Southern.
09/09/202244 minutes 59 seconds
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831: Building Your Credibility | Chuck Triano, CFO, Xalud Therapeutics

Unlike many CFOs who tell us that their finance career paths did not intersect with the investor relations (IR) function until shortly before their arrival in the CFO office, Chuck Triano relates that his actually began inside the IR function. In fact, most of the experiences that he credits with shaping his finance leadership portfolio were gleaned during a multi-chapter IR leadership career. Still, Triano’s expansive IR resume is not unusual among life sciences CFOs, who say that high-calorie IR/communication skills have long distinguished the sector’s finance leadership.    For Triano, whose resume includes a 13-year IR leadership tour with Pfizer and 8 years with Forest Laboratories, the IR path provided an uncompromising view of CFO leadership—one that other members of the finance rank-and-file are unlikely to experience. According to Triano, it’s not unusual for IR executives to find themselves seated alongside their CFOs and at times actively assisting th
07/09/20221 hour 36 minutes 2 seconds
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830: Riding the Technology Convergence Winds | Sandra Rowland, CFO, Xylem

When Samsung acquired Stamford, Connecticut-based Harman International for $8 billion in cash in 2017, it was not the first time that the South Korean company’s appetite for convergence IP had intersected with the career path of Harman CFO Sandra Rowland. A little more than 7 years earlier, Samsung executives had sat across the table from Rowland when she was head of corporate FP&A for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. At the time, Kodak was busily negotiating IP licensing deals with several smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, that were eager to leverage what Kodak had amassed—an inventory of more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents. “Kodak was the inventor of the digital camera, and there was a real opportunity there to leverage the intellectual property and create a key funding source,” reports Rowland, who left Kodak in 2012 after a Harman board member recommended her for a top IR role. She would enter Harman’s CFO office 2 years later. “There’s a
06/09/20221 hour 42 seconds
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829: All Aboard for Accelerated Learning | Jamie Britton, CFO, Texas Security Bank

The expression “accelerated learning” has been used by a number of our recent CFO guests to distinguish periods within their careers when circumstances demanded a hastened pace of knowledge gain. For Jamie Britton, this period of time began when an economist at SunTrust Bank pulled him into a conference room and offered him a position on a newly formulated team being tasked with supporting the bank’s senior management in the midst of the economic downturn. “All eyes were on capital adequacy due to the massive losses that banks were having to recognize, and I had to come up to speed very quickly to learn how to calculate regulatory capital for the bank,” explains Britton, who was first hired by SunTrust in 2006 to help develop to a scenario analysis process for the bank’s operations. The new role, which Britton eagerly accepted, involved the creation of tools and metrics capable of serving senior management as it sought to maneuver away from the economic calamity
31/08/202244 minutes 21 seconds
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828: When Finance Talks to the Business | Claire Bramley, CFO, Teradata

From the very start of our talk with CFO Claire Bramley, she let us know that she has long been part of the bigger conversation represented by the everyday back-and-forth discourse that punctuates decision-making inside a business. “I’m always saying that If you can’t explain it to the business, if you can’t explain it to a customer, it doesn’t matter how great your insight or idea is—if they don’t get it and you can’t communicate it, then it’s wasted,” explains Bramley, whose June 2021 appointment as CFO of Teradata had been preceded by a 15-year multi-continental climb up Hewlett-Packard’s finance career ladder—an impressive stint that ended with Bramley serving as the tech giant’s global controller. Turn back the clock on her HP years, and we see Bramley being recruited as a technical accountant in the UK before shortly thereafter being dispatched to the FP&A trenches of HP’s EMEA headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.        “It was intense learning for me at
28/08/202254 minutes 56 seconds
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Let RPA Lead Rather Than Replace - A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how FP&A is becoming a world beyond finance - where data expertise and insights are becoming as widely sought after as traditional accounting skills. Meanwhile, Steve urges finance professionals to take an enlightened view of robotic process automation (RPA).  Rather than replace the work of humans, the adoption of RPA offers finance professionals the opportunity to pursue new roles and opportunities ideal for developing future leaders, explains Steve. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Glenn Hopper of Sandline Global, CFO Adam Swiecicki of Brex, CFO Peter Walker of Sterling and CFO David Bedell of Lendio.
26/08/202248 minutes 17 seconds
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827: The Leap Beyond Tax | Debbie Schleicher, CFO, EasyKnock

When Debbie Schleicher tells us that a football game between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Clemson Tigers became her door-opener to the CFO office, we can’t help but want to listen. Back in 2014, she and her family were invited by a former client and serial CEO to one of the most anticipated games of the season. “Unfortunately, Georgia Tech beat Clemson 28 to 6,” remembers Schleicher, whose husband is a proud Clemson alum.    As the game unfolded, Schleicher recalls, her one-time client asked her if she would consider joining his start-up company as finance leader. “I was really surprised, and I remember taking a really long pause before saying anything,” comments Schleicher, who can still hear the question “Am I ready to be a CFO?” echoing through her head. “He looked at me, and said: ‘Is there anything about this role that you don’t think you can do?,’” explains Schleicher, who says that she immediately replied, “No.” To add more sub
24/08/20221 hour 14 minutes 59 seconds
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826: Along the CFO Continuum | Pat Dillon, CFO, Flock Freight

When Flock Freight CFO Pat Dillon thinks back to his investment banking days at Morgan Stanley and considers the variety of CFOs from whom he once sat across, the banking veteran is struck by how at times the CFOs seem to have had little in common with one another. “What I saw was that their roles could be very different from one to the next,” explains Dillon, who notes that he came to view the CFO position as not one but many roles along a continuum across which that finance leaders migrate as their companies mature. “It wasn’t like a split, where this person was an accounting CFO and that person was a strategic CFO, but really more about the mix of responsibilities and where the CFO was allocating their time,” recalls Dillon, who observes that it was during conversations with CFOs that he would seek to make the finance leaders aware of where along the continuum they would need to begin allocating more of their time. Reports Dillon: “It’s no longer just about a
21/08/202258 minutes 37 seconds
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825: The Leader's Intent: Helping Others | Bona Allen, CFO, KBD Group

Bona Allen was never a country doctor—but he recollects feeling like one at one point in his finance career. Or, rather, being paid like one.      By the early 2000s, Allen had served in multiple CFO/controller roles, a series of consecutive appointments that from time to time had led different Georgia business owners to seek out his financial advice.      These discussions—which frequently focused on raising debt—opened his eyes to opportunities in the realm of financial consulting. “Often, I’d be engaged to raise debt for specific deals—a couple of clients were in the renewable energy sector, and then there were other deals involving big equipment,” recalls Allen, who notes that it was not uncommon to have his consulting fees structured as a “success fee” or a fee contingent on the success of the deal. Still, the owner was always expected to pay a small fee up front to cover some expenses, explains Allen, whose portfolio of clients would geographically
17/08/20221 hour 15 minutes 52 seconds
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824: An Appetite for Change | Rajesh Gupta, CFO, OakNorth Bank

When Rajesh Gupta tells us that he likes change and fixing things that are broken, we can’t help but wonder how a finance career that has encompassed more than 20 years with General Electric has come to satisfy that appetite. Certainly, we reason, this number of years with a single company is more likely to accent the resume of a change-averse executive than that of someone who actively pursues it. However, as we quickly learn, Gupta’s GE years were spent across three continents, and 15 of them involved ever-acquisitive GE Capital. “Because GE Capital grew from a lot of different acquisitions, each of its new companies would in effect have its own culture—and rather than try to force their own culture on it, GE would instead introduce its leadership training and financial management approaches,” explains Gupta, whose career with GE began in India after he was first hired by a GE joint venture that was shortly thereafter acquired by GE Capital. “I was aske
14/08/20221 hour 9 minutes 49 seconds
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823: Courtside with a CFO All-Star | Larry Angelilli, CFO, MoneyGram

Looking back to the mid-1980s, Larry Angelilli knows now that he was at the time witnessing something that others would not see for decades. Before Jack Welch declared war on “green eyeshade” auditors or Indra Nooyi endowed Pepsico with a strategic finance function or conference promoters added the edgy words “The Changing Role of the CFO” to their event agendas, Angelilli was sitting courtside, observing the game-changing moves of Chrysler Corp. CFO Steve Miller. Angelilli—a banker then in his late 20s—had joined Chrysler Financial Corp. shortly after CFO Miller had arranged for loans from hundreds of banks under a government-insured loan program that would permit Chrysler to avoid bankruptcy—a feat that helped Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca to later achieve icon status. “At the time, Miller wanted to populate the finance team with bankers and people who knew credit risk and understood what could go wrong in the type of cyclical business that Chrysler was in,” explains Ange
10/08/20221 hour 3 minutes 45 seconds
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822: CFO Trifecta: Finance, Strategy & Leadership | Peter Walker CFO, Sterling

When Peter Walker looks back on his career, he never hesitates to highlight “the big asks,” or those times when he asked a boss to “take a chance” on him. One such instance occurred when he asked his CEO to sponsor his studies as he pursued an executive MBA on nights and weekends at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “He said ‘Yes,’ and the degree really flipped my brain from being that of an accountant to that of a big picture finance partner,” comments Walker, who was working for Assurant, a provider of risk management products and services. Still, an even bigger “ask” followed—one that engendered a response that even today seems to surprise Walker. “It was only a couple of months later that I found myself on a plane to Atlanta, about to step into the CFO role at a $2 billion business unit,” explains Walker, who recalls that this divisional CFO role opened up shortly after he completed his MBA—which allowed him to make the pitch, “Hey, you made th
07/08/202244 minutes 28 seconds
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821: When Leaders Want More | Michael Sumruld, CFO, Parker Wellbore

Michael Sumruld recalls that after investing 10 of his finance career–building years in oil field services giant Baker Hughes, he found a deep fog settling on the career path before him. Unlike the case with BH engineers—who could always be confident of being able to place a foot on the next rung of an ever-present career ladder—the climb upward for finance executives was becoming less and less visible. Or at least such was the case for any of BH’s finance rank-and-file who aspired to advance beyond the ranks of middle management. Rather than land a more senior finance position at another company, Sumruld set out to leverage some of what his 10-year BH investment had afforded him.   “In a decade’s time, I had developed relationships with different senior leaders, so I spent time with them and interviewed them to try to get a sense of what it would take to become CFO of Baker Hughes,” comments Sumruld, who adds that a research document highlighting his discussion
03/08/20221 hour 6 minutes 11 seconds
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Keeping Leadership in Step with Workforce Priorities | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss how the economy's is sending the hiring environment mixed signals and how the inefficiencies of the recruitment function continue to be a drag on industry aspirations for building a more productive workforce. This episode features the workforce insights and commentary of CFO Adam Swiecicki of Brex, CFO Manish Sarin of Sprinklr, CFO Jason Keen of Mills Nebraska, and CFO Komal Misra of Starry
31/07/202237 minutes 15 seconds
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820: Establishing Milestones for the Stakeholder Ecosystem | Adam Swiecicki, CFO, Brex

As the 32-year-old CFO of Brex, Adam Swiecicki has a professional narrative unpopulated by the tales of economic and business hijinks that many of our CFO guests share. Instead, Swiecicki’s forward-looking delivery seems intent on making a clean break from the CFOs of the past, whose career lessons frequently have involved the same one or two finance constituencies.   “I just realized that there is a broad ecosystem of people whom Brex touches,” he observes, “and it’s really important that we keep all of them in mind.”    To Swiecicki, the phrase “stakeholder capitalism” has become much more than a buzzword du jour and indeed a guiding principle for the kickoff of his CFO career. Having entered the CFO office from stints with investment banks and hedge funds, he realized quickly that he needed to make a “big change” when it came to his management mindset.    “I had heard about stakeholder capitalism, but I hadn’t really given it much thoug
27/07/202254 minutes
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819: Set Your Data Free | Glenn Hopper, CFO, Sandline Global

Just where and how Glenn Hopper came to acquire his finance skillset exposes an organizational dysfunction to which no small number of finance leaders have likely contributed. As a product manager for a small telecommunications firm, Hopper was asked by the vice president of marketing to begin giving presentations at a recurring management meeting regarding the allocation of marketing dollars and their impact on his specific product’s P&L.    “I was basically doing shadow FP&A for the marketing team,” explains Hopper, who adds that his presentations caught the eye of the company’s chief operating officer, who subsequently “poached” Hopper and tasked him with producing a similar financial analysis for the company’s operations at large. “The COO was tired of having to battle the CFO for the resources that he needed,” remarks Hopper, who went on to lead a department of 32 employees that was principally tasked with managing a $150 million annual operations budget, i
24/07/20221 hour 26 minutes
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From Euphoria to ‘Uh-oh!' | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how pricing strategy has increasingly become top of mind for finance leaders as businesses become more responsive to customer behaviors, and Steve reflects on the virtues of time travel and how by asking finance leaders to reflect on their past experiences we enjoy a front row seat to view those experiences as they happen. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Mike Milotich of Marqeta, CFO Jeff Shepherd of Advance Auto Parts and CFO Mark George of Norfolk Southern.
20/07/202241 minutes 8 seconds
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818: Breaking Finance’s "Glass Wall" | David Bedell, CFO, Lendio

Looking back at the early years of his finance career, David Bedell recalls being frustrated when a business unit leader remained leery about the merits of a potential deal. “I had done all of the analysis and was convinced that it would make a lot of money for the company, but I just couldn’t figure out how to convince him,” explains Bedell, who spent the balance of his early career years at software developer Intuit, where he advanced from running the gauntlet of FP&A projects to serving in multiple CFO business unit roles. “Finally, I bet my entire bonus for the year on it—I told the leader that if the deal failed, he could keep it, but if it was a win, I would appreciate my bonus being doubled,” explains Bedell, who notes that his confidence in his own analysis of the deal compelled him to break what he refers to as the “glass wall.” Says Bedell: “If we in finance limit ourselves to only making recommendations and choose to keep that wall between us, it’s ju
17/07/202258 minutes 37 seconds
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817: Fit to Compete, Fit to Grow | Kabir Ahmed Shakir, CFO, Tata Communications

When Kabir Ahmed Shakir first arrived inside the CFO office at Tata Communications, the former Microsoft India CFO quickly determined that there was one person above all others who held sway over the company’s maturing transformation plans. “The person who is actually giving pricing to our customers needs to know how much cash we make on Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3,” explains Shakir, whose 2-year CFO tenure has spanned a period in which the company’s free cash flow has grown twentyfold.    “We had to bring our ‘cash thinking’ down to the deal profitability level,” reports Shakir, whose choice of words at first makes it sound as though his finance team had become tasked with running an errand. However, Shakir quickly clarifies the magnitude of what he was looking to achieve: “I wanted there to be an undying focus on cash. It’s not the most profitable companies that survive—it’s the liquid ones.” While this is certainly an organizational mind-set that many C
13/07/20221 hour 25 minutes 11 seconds
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816: Moving to a Multiyear Mind-set | Mike Milotich, CFO, Marqeta

It was the type of assignment that Mike Milotich had been awaiting for most of his career. An innovative product team at American Express had just launched a promising new offering, and Milotich had been assigned to the group to help “optimize its day-to-day decision making”. “I arrived when it had been live for only maybe 4 to 6 weeks, and all of the traditional metrics indicated that it was a runaway success,” explains Milotich, who adds that the early consensus among team members and even the company at large was, “Wow! It looks like we may really have something here” As it turned out, the assignment provided Milotich with a singular perch from which to study the high-flying opportunity. “My job was to determine what was driving this success and what we were seeing with regard
10/07/20221 hour 7 minutes 53 seconds
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815: Out Front Inside the Auto Aftermarket | Jeff Shepherd, CFO, Advance Auto Parts

Last winter, when China ordered tens of millions of people back into a pandemic lockdown, executives inside the $170 billion automotive aftermarket parts industry took a deep breath. Jeff Shepherd, CFO of aftermarket giant Advance Auto Parts, says that the possibility of another China shutdown had just not been part of Advance’s procurement calculus. Still, parts “in stock” at Advance stores during 2022 have dropped only a few percentage points from their usual inventory level in the “mid-90th” percentile, according to Shepherd, who credits the anticipation of yet another China-related event as further evidence of Advance’s astute procurement practices.   “The last time China hosted the Olympics, they shut the power down and they shut the factories down. So, during the Games, you can’t get product out and it’s not being manufactured,” explains Shepherd, who notes that Advance’s procurement team anticipated a China shutdown in February due to the Beijing Olympic Games.<
06/07/20221 hour 1 minute 3 seconds
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Bonus Replay: Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah, CFO, Analog Devices, Inc.

It was nightly business conversations at his parents’ dinner table that first led Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah to consider alternatives to business when it came to building a career. “As most small business owners do, my parents worked all the time—and as with most small businesses, things could at times be financially challenging,” explains Mahendra-Rajah, who vividly recalls business rent increases, outstanding receivables, and the dynamics behind supply and demand that pervaded his parents’ dinner conversations. Nevertheless, it was this same scrutiny of supply-and-demand dynamics that Mahendra-Rajah credits with helping him to “come full circle” and ultimately led him to business school. At the time, Mahendra-Rajah was working full-time as a senior process engineer for chemical giant FMC Corp., a career-building stint that afforded him the real-world insights required to enrich a master’s thesis that he needed in order to complete a chemical engineering degree f
03/07/202246 minutes 5 seconds
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It's About the Team - A Workplace Champions Episode

30/06/202250 minutes 50 seconds
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814: Why Swim Lanes No Longer Matter | Manish Sarin, CFO, Sprinklr

Even after serving in multiple CFO roles and spending 10 years on Wall Street, Manish Sarin still marvels at the plus-size experience that he acquired in the mid-1990s when he worked for Price Waterhouse as a financial advisor in its Nairobi office in Kenya, East Africa. At the time, Sarin recalls, an abundance of available funding from the World Bank and IMF was enticing growing numbers of state-owned business in the region to privatize their operations as a prelude to jump-starting their capital market strategies. “These were businesses like steel mills, aluminum plants, car dealerships, and commercial banks—for me, it was just an amazing introduction to how businesses work, what makes them successful or not successful, and how to actually evaluate businesses from a capitalistic perspective,” explains Sarin, who reports that he was the most junior member of the
28/06/202256 minutes 53 seconds
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813: A Mandate to Improve | Mark George, CFO, Norfolk Southern Corporation

When Mark George first joined Otis Elevator’s accounting team back in the late 1980s, he found fixed asset accounting to be different from what he expected. Says George: ”We had to run around the company and put barcodes on any new piece of furniture that the company had purchased.” What’s more, George tells us, he roamed the corridors as a deputy in the accounts payable department, “punching A/P vouchers” and acquiring any necessary signatures. “I was always thinking, ‘How do I get away from doing this?,’” comments George, who notes that as a 20-something-year-old he sometimes felt like a “fish out of water” at Otis, which back then—as it is now—was part of the larger conglomerate patchwork that is United Technologies Corp. “I understood accounting to a certain degree, but I was definitely not an accountant,” recalls George. Less than enamored with the Otis accounting career ladder and potentially facing years of manual work, George began to speak up as
26/06/202259 minutes 38 seconds
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812: When Leadership Came Calling | Angela Pierce, CFO, Anaconda

Looking back on her career as a corporate finance executive, Angela Pierce says that the call of leadership arrived at a moment of unvarnished frustration. Sixteen years ago, when the management of Level 3 Communications was expressing a keen interest in acquiring Pierce’s then-company, Broadwing Corporation, it was not the first time that Pierce found herself sitting across from Level 3 corporate development executives.    In fact, as Broadwing’s vice president of finance, Pierce had been involved in two earlier engagements when Level 3 executives had expressed similar sentiments—only to have nothing come out of the exercises in M&A due diligence. For Pierce, the third engagement necessitated a more direct approach—one that signaled to Level 3 that Broadwing management was confident that further negotiation was not necessary. “At some point, you have acquired the required competence from your past experiences, so I said to the executive, ‘Look, I don’t w
22/06/20221 hour 4 minutes 18 seconds
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811: Satisfying a Cultural Itch With Smart Growth | Jason Keen, CFO, Mills & Nebraska

Among the career milestones that CFOs prefer to highlight for us during our discussions, there’s little question that examples of driving business growth are an ongoing favorite. However, for Jason Keen, who built his finance career inside midsize construction firms, management’s growth goals have always needed to be mindful of a company’s organizational culture. Inside the construction realm, where multigenerational, family-owned businesses survive and thrive, growth goals are often tempered by enduring organizational cultures that are apt to cast a cautious eye upon those who choose to champion change. As just such a champion, Jason Keen has had few milestones for driving growth that have resembled the double-digit feats commonly recounted to us by CFOs from other sectors. Instead, Keen tells us of the unique challenges that finance leaders sometimes face within multigenerational firms.   “Part of what I do is to get a foundation in place—which is what
19/06/20221 hour 11 minutes 6 seconds
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Achieving a More Agile Finance Function | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how growing concerns about a possible economic recession are helping fuel CFO aspirations for creating a more agile finance function, and Steve reflects on how different career experiences and backgrounds influence how CFOs lead and make business decisions. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO David Barnes of Trimble, CFO Komal Misra of Starry, Inc. and CFO Jason Keen of Mills Nebraska.
17/06/202246 minutes 56 seconds
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810: Following the Data Trail | David Barnes, CFO, Trimble

Generally, when legendary CEO Roger Enrico wasn’t happy, just about every PepsiCo executive from junior grades on up knew about it. So it was that when David Barnes was told he would be presenting to Enrico on a subject known to inflame the CEO’s ire, he knew that his presentation—one way or the other—would be career-defining. “Enrico was known to be very impatient with those who would present a bunch of facts but offer no insights,” remembers Barnes, whose tryst with destiny surfaced via the guidance of none other than Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s future CEO, who Barnes tells us was his “great mentor and sponsor” during his Pepsi years. “Pepsi had hired a big consulting firm and they had dumped a lot of data on us, but they couldn’t find any insights, so Indra asked me to work with the consultants and actually get the insights out of the data,” continues Barnes, who had been hired in the mid-1990s to be part of a strategy group within PepsiCo that had been tasked with integ
15/06/202257 minutes 12 seconds
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809: Leading Inside a Remote World | Danielle Murcray, CFO, AttackIQ

Among the many strategic changes that finance leader Danielle Murcray has helped to put in motion during her multi-chapter CFO career, perhaps none better reveals her mantle as a strategic leader than the move by cybersecurity firm AttackIQ to adopt a 100 percent–remote U.S. workforce.   With the arrival of the pandemic, Murcray—like many of her CFO peers—became laser-focused on the company’s finance liquidity and operational efficiencies. At the same time, though, she felt compelled to communicate the health and well-being of the company more broadly. “I really sought to promote stability across the organization and looked to instill trust with employees and investors,” comments Murcray, who credits the same aspects of her leadership outreach with helping AttackIQ to leverage the advantages of a remote workforce. “I spend quite a bit of my time making certain that we are overcommunicating and collaborating in different ways so that people feel that we are toget
12/06/202245 minutes 13 seconds
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808: Trading Up to a Macro-Driven Career | Komal Misra, CFO, Starry, Inc.

When Komal Misra, a software engineer turned asset manager, decided that it was time once again to make a career change, she found herself staring at a computer screen filled with stocks from various portfolios that were being traded based not on business fundamentals but larger macro-driven trends. “It got me to thinking: Here I had invested so much time in understanding these businesses and why they were good or great investments, but none of it mattered in that place in time when things were just selling up,” recalls Komal, who adds that she began thinking about her career as if it were a company stock that over time would be propelled or impeded due to macro-driven trends. According to Misra, “I started with a top-down approach to consider what my options were within business—in just the same way that I would’ve analyzed any stock investment. This led me to the conclusion that in the long run, if I wanted another 10- or 15-year career, I really should be thinking a
08/06/20221 hour 1 minute 38 seconds
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807: All Things in Common | Ryan Gwillim, CFO, Brunswick Corporation

A dozen years ago, if you had told Ryan Gwillim that within the next decade he would be named CFO of the Brunswick Corporation, he may have laughed. At the time, he was an associate with law firm Baker & McKenzie who was spending his days traveling the globe to advise legal clients as an M&A transaction guru. However, over the next decade, Gwillim and Brunswick would together find a common groove as each embarked on a journey of transformation. For Brunswick—a 155-year-old conglomerate—the evolutionary arc would trigger a flurry of historic M&A activity that included the sale of its marquee bowling center business (2014) while at the same time advancing its steady stroke into marine products. For Gwillim, the transformation chapter would put an end to his vagabond existence while landing the seasoned M&A attorney inside Brunswick’s corporate counsel office in 2012. It would be little more than 5 years later, after a steady progression of internal M&A projects, that Gwi
05/06/20221 hour 22 minutes 30 seconds
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806: Being Ready for the Unexpected | Marc Levine, CFO, Tanium

Among the many acquisitions with which Marc Levine became involved during his 25 years at Hewlett-Packard Co., it may surprise few of his former colleagues that he counts HP’s purchase of Compaq Computer as one of the tech giant’s most unusual marriages.     However, Levine doesn’t single out HP’s purchase of Compaq due to the lively behind-the-scenes drama that accompanied it after Walter Hewlett, son of one of the HP founders, loudly voiced his opposition to the deal or the two books that a subsequent proxy battle helped to fatten. Instead, Levine tells us that from his perspective, the unusual aspect of the Compaq acquisition had more to do with the integration of certain pieces of the business. “On my particular team, I was the only person from HP, which was unlike in any of the other HP integrations I had previously been involved with, where there had always been more HP people,” explains Levine, who recalls spending many a night in Houston, Texas, hotel ro
01/06/202245 minutes 24 seconds
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805: When the Flywheel Begins to Spin | Chris Greiner, CFO, Zeta Global

It was not long after Chris Greiner became CFO of IBM’s fast-growing Analytics Division that the gravitational pull that IBM had maintained on Greiner’s finance career-building began to give way. While his new divisional CFO title more than validated his 7-year career investment with the company, Greiner—like many divisional finance chiefs—discovered the next rung of the company’s finance career ladder becoming increasingly obscured from view.   Meanwhile, his divisional CFO role afforded him a wider view into IBM’s business development as he sat across the table from different owners of middle-market companies.    “What I saw was companies that were 200 to 400 employees in size, with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, that were being successful at disrupting markets, and I knew then that I wanted to be on the other side of the table one day,” recalls Greiner, who notes that the experience of dealing with business leaders intent on disrupting the market
29/05/20221 hour 30 seconds
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804: Optimizing the Returns on a Business Asset | Al Farrell, CFO, Transaction Data Systems

When Al Farrell tells us that finance leaders must never lose sight of the value of a business asset, as well as acquire a strong understanding of how to optimize the returns on it, we sense his frustration. This is not because he’s relating a situation in which management failed both to properly value an asset (which, Farrell tells us, was worth nearly $650 million) and to optimize the asset’s returns (which ended up being increased by 12 percent). Instead, Farrell’s angst was due to the fact that management’s asset utilization improvement feat was achieved on the eve of COVID-19’s arrival in the U.S., and the asset that was so adroitly leveraged to pump up returns was none other than a fleet of rental cars some 35,000 vehicles strong. Certainly, few industries were hit harder by COVID’s arrival than car rentals, and as car rental businesses go, few suffered a more direct hit than Advantage Rent A Car, where Farrell occupied the CFO office from 2016 to early 20
25/05/202256 minutes 43 seconds
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803: Sharing in a Moment That Mattered | Efrain Rivera, CFO, Paychex

Back in April of 2020, as the consequences of COVID’s arrival in the U.S. sent financial markets reeling, Paychex CFO Efrain Rivera had the temptation “to say nothing.” As the company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts quickly approached, Rivera explains, a number of executive team members had gathered in conference to debate the idea of halting any future guidance in light of things being just so uncertain. “The problem was that we did have data!,” explains Rivera, referring to Paychex’s unique lines of sight into the payroll practices of thousands of middle-market businesses. The subsequent earnings call was unusual for its length (2 hours) as well as the general nature of the discussion, recalls Rivera.    “Half of the analyst questions were really about the general economy and what we were seeing because they knew that we had unique
22/05/20221 hour 5 minutes 6 seconds
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Getting a Read on the World's New Realities | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack talk about the volatile business environment and what it means for business planning professionals. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Will Johnson of Iterable, CFO Adam Ante of Paycor, CFO Ryan Van Hatten of Prophix and CFO Steve Vintz of Tenable.
20/05/202257 minutes 59 seconds
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802: Making an Industry Lane Change | Mike Catelani, CFO, Anixa Biosciences, Inc.

When Mike Catelani seeks to identify the objectives and career milestones that have helped to advance him into the ranks of Bay Area biotech CFOs, he mentions that although he had a deep interest in biology during his high school years, upon entering college he decided to swap out a biology curriculum for an accounting one. More than a decade later, Catelani decided to make a career “lane change” to accept a CFO role for a manufacturer of instruments and tools used in drug discovery. While the company, whose stock was traded on the ASX (Australian Securities Exchange), was not directly involved in drug discovery, Catelani believed that the CFO stint would put him one step closer to opportunities inside the biotech realm. Still, he can’t help but marvel at the randomness of the circumstances that ultimately opened the biotech door. “It was complete dumb luck: A recruiter was looking for a CFO who had Australian Securities Exchange experience for a biotech
18/05/20221 hour 11 minutes 27 seconds
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801: The Founder & The Future | Ryan Van Hatten, CFO, Prophix

Perhaps few CFO career paths better reveal the advantages a founder-led firm may offer career-minded executives than that of Prophix CFO Ryan Van Hatten. Back in 2016—when the firm’s previous CFO exited the company—Prophix’s founder and CEO, the late Paul Barber, asked Van Hatten, an 11-year company veteran, to step into the CFO office until a CFO hire could be made. Recalls Van Hatten: “I knew all of the people on the finance team, and they knew me, and we respected each other, so it was like, ‘Calm the troops, assess where we’re at, and while this may take a few months, you can then go home to operations.’”     However, Van Hatten never did return to operations, and his ascension into the CFO role was finally set after Barber sold the software company to Canadian private equity firm HG Capital in early 2021.   Comments Van Hatten: “I was suddenly thrust into a different world. It was very different from having Paul and a bunch of friendly managers askin
15/05/202250 minutes 46 seconds
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The Hard Truth About Retention | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss how growing numbers of businesses are facing an employee retention crisis as they battle escalating workforce attrition and struggle to fill job vacancies. As the crisis grows in certain industries, more finance leaders are sounding the alarm on escalating business risk and dedicating more time to solving the current talent equation. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Efrain Rivera of Paychex, CFO Anisha Sood of First Choice Health, CFO Will Johnson of Iterable, and CFO Adriana Carpenter of Emburse.
13/05/202250 minutes 33 seconds
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800: When the Road Rises to Meet You | John Herman, CFO, Movable Ink

Had the opportunity to work in the treasury department at American Express arrived 6 months earlier, there’s a chance that John Herman may never have landed in a CFO office. “Treasury was an area that I was fascinated by,” remembers Herman, who—after having spent a decade at American Express—was given a “package” in 2009 when the financial crisis mercilessly bore down on the card services giant. However, in April of 2010, Herman punted the Amex treasury opportunity in order to accept an FP&A position at Yodle, an online marketing company that was generating roughly $50 million in annual revenue. “I decided that I wanted to work in an organization where I could make an impact, and I felt that it was time to take a risk in my career,” recalls Herman, who would report directly to Yodle’s CFO and for the next several months be “a department of one.” “There was this opportunity to build out my team and take on new roles and learn really quickly,” recounts Herm
11/05/20221 hour 9 minutes 26 seconds
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799: When Metrics Do the Talking | Adam Ante, CFO, Paycor

  When Adam Ante first arrived at Paycor in 2017, the seasoned finance executive was tasked with prodding Paycor management to begin monitoring daily performance metrics. “At first, it was about building the relationship with the executive team so that they understood how important it was to understand how the company was performing on a daily basis,” explains Ante, who equates his task with shortening the distance between management and the company’s data. “At the time, we were just piling a set of numbers and metrics into Excel spreadsheets daily and distributing them,” continues Ante, who upon his arrival was given the title of vice president of analytics. “We didn’t know where all of the data was, and we didn’t know always what it meant,” reports Ant
08/05/20221 hour 7 minutes 29 seconds
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798: A CFO Links Past to Present | April Downing, CFO, Khoros

It was in the late 1990s when public accountant, savvy networker and future CFO April Downing decided that it was time to leave Dallas. “I had cultivated my network there really early—there was a group of friends from PwC whom I regularly attended a book club with, and later we would all go on to different tech firms,” remembers Downing. However, unlike those of some of her tech-minded PwC colleagues, Downing’s future plans did not include Dallas or Silicon Valley.    “It used to be that I had to say Austin, Texas—but everyone knows where Austin is now,” comments Downing, who accepted an assistant controller role at Motive Communications, an Austin tech firm—only to lose it upon her return from maternity leave. “I thought that my life was going to be as an accountant, but they said: ‘You can be the finance person,’” recalls Downing, who credits the early job pivot with opening the door to a succession of senior finance roles that included the pos
04/05/202259 minutes 25 seconds
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797: Achieving a More Perfect Exit | Melinda Smith, CFO, ChaosSearch

Back in early 2014, the management of Paydiant, a 4-year-old mobile payments start-up, believed that it was still several years away from engaging with acquisition-minded bankers. Nevertheless, when PayPal came calling, the Paydiant team decided that they were worth a listen.        “Even though it was still an early stage for us to be in to be thinking about exiting the business, it was just a super interesting opportunity,” remembers Melinda Smith, whose CFO resume today lists the 2015 sale of Paydiant to PayPal as her third early-stage exit. “If you had asked me when we first got acquired whether I was likely to stay inside a big, publicly traded firm like PayPal for long, I would have said ‘No,’” continues Smith, whose postmerger career with PayPal lasted more than 5 years and opened doors for Smith in surprising ways. “What we determined was that our team, with all of its early-stage experience, could be really helpful in-house,” remarks Smith, who n
01/05/20221 hour 19 minutes 22 seconds
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Getting In Deeper | a Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how successful financial planning teams are always looking to "get in deeper" and bring new insights to the surface. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Adriana Carpenter of Emburse, CFO Kent Kelley of Unanet and CFO Brandon Maultasch of Moloco.
29/04/202238 minutes 54 seconds
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796: Gene Editing's Next Frontier | Elaine Sun, CFO, Mammoth Biosciences

Having grown accustomed to charting the careers of our finance leader guests from their early professional days up through their entry into the CFO office, we did not change course for Elaine Sun, an accomplished investment banker turned finance leader who last month stepped into her third successive finance chief position at Mammoth Biosciences of Brisbane, California.   For Sun, the third time is undoubtedly the charm, for it would be difficult to imagine a more compelling start-up for a CFO of any pedigree to have joined than Mammoth, the celebrated unicorn cofounded by Jennifer Doudna, the University of California professor who shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for pioneering work on CRISPR-Cas9, a method of editing DNA. No matter what the tenor of Mammoth’s future achievements may be, the intersection of Sun’s professional life with Doudna’s will likely come to dominate Su
27/04/20221 hour 8 minutes 50 seconds
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795: The Canary in the Coal Mine | Anisha Sood, CFO, First Choice Health

Back in 2001, as the dotcom bubble imploded and the U.S. economy took a downward spiral, Anisha Sood, a recently hired consultant for Accenture, felt fortunate. “There were rounds of layoffs happening and Accenture was trying to manage it well, but I got lucky because I was in healthcare,” explains Sood, who reports that other practice areas such as technology and media were not so fortunate. Seven years later, just as Sood had finished logging her first 48 hours as an investment banker with Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers collapsed—but once more, Sood felt fortunate. “Here again, I could credit healthcare as being the stabilizing factor, although there were no deals happening, no IPOs or M&A, for about 12 months after I started,” recalls Sood, who in the years that followed would lead a variety of health sector transactions for the bank before moving back to hometown Seattle to begin a multichapter career as a venture investor in healthcare.   “When I lef
24/04/202247 minutes 38 seconds
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Employers Dropping Degree Demands - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss why a 4-year degree isn’t quite the job requirement it used to be and how finance leaders are reworking their company’s talent equation. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Brandon Maultasch of Moloco, CFO Steve Vintz of Tenable and CFO Kent Kelley of Unanet.    
22/04/202239 minutes 14 seconds
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794: The Customer’s Many Experiences | Will Johnson, CFO, Iterable

Will Johnson can still hear the question that momentarily muted a management dinner and prodded the gathering’s executive diners to thoughtfully dispatch an answer.    “’If you weren’t in your current role, which one—held by a peer at this table—would you assume?,’” recalls Johnson, echoing the inquisitor’s words. “There were some really surprising answers,” he continues, noting that the head of sales expressed a desire to lead HR. Still, no answer was perhaps more surprising to Johnson than his own.   “I actually did cite the CFO role,” comments Johnson, who even now—after having subsequently held three consecutive CFO positions—seems to be a bit surprised at his willingness to supply such an answer that evening. At the time, Johnson was a senior corporate development executive—albeit with future CFO aspirations but until that night they had been left unspoken, at least in gatherings. Johnson reports that there was a period in his career wh
20/04/20221 hour 11 minutes 45 seconds
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793: When Timing Matters | Adriana Carpenter, CFO, Emburse

As we seek to highlight the milestones that mark the path to the CFO office, one of our favorite queries is to ask finance leaders to recall from their career-building years the first time they presented to their company’s board.     For Adriana Carpenter, memories of that board gathering will forever call to mind ASC 606, the mazelike revenue standard that only a few years ago upended the placid temperament of many an accounting organization.    “Make no mistake—this was really my first time, and I was delivering bad news,” recalls Adriana, who perhaps not unlike many of her CFO peers received her first “invitation” to address the board regarding a sticky issue, rather than to highlight the anatomy of a strategic win. “A majority of our revenue came from on-premises software subscriptions, and 606 dramatically changed the timing of revenue for these types of subscriptions,” continues Carpenter, who for 8 years served as chief accounting officer for Ping Identit
17/04/20221 hour 9 minutes 41 seconds
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792: Blazing the Cash-to-Crypto Path| Chris Roling, CFO, Coinme

Reflecting on a finance career that has spanned nine different countries and three decades, Chris Roling says that he may have received his most valuable career lesson at a plant in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. As a newly minted MBA, Roling was hired by Armstrong Industries in the late 1980s to augment the finance executive ranks of its growing European operations. However, prior to dispatching its new hires abroad, the giant building materials manufacturer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, made certain that its executives got a generous helping of local operations. “It was reverse culture shock,” comments Roling, who served as controller of an Armstrong plant in Marietta, Pennsylvania, for 24 months before garnering a European assignment.   Growing up, Roling—the son of a navy doctor—had had an aptitude for learning foreign languages, a talent that had led him to set his sights on a career in international business. Now, the Marietta plant was all that stood i
13/04/20221 hour 5 minutes 39 seconds
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791: Collaborating With Parts Unknown | Kent Kelley, CFO, Unanet

We have spent many hours in discussion with finance leaders about the intersection of finance and sales as we try to better understand the professional collaboration required to achieve successful outcomes in these domains. Still, few of our talks have pushed us to ponder the human elements and relationships that point to such success more than that with finance leader Kent Kelley. From the very start of our discussion, we quickly typecast Kelley and brashly concluded that here was a mild-mannered voice of reason that had sat across the table from some of the software industry’s most energetic sales titans. To be clear: Kelley—a 15-year Oracle veteran whose finance career had spanned operations, sales, and marketing—had never been a bookkeeper, and his consistent willingness to assume career risks along the way set him apart even more from his more traditional finance peers. It was just such a risk attached to a challenging new role that finally led Kelley to mo
10/04/20221 hour 1 minute 27 seconds
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790: The Correct Order of Things | Sarah Blanchard, CFO, Udemy

Back in 2014, when Sarah Blanchard became committed to landing her first CFO position, she kept a key criterion in mind: Her future company had to be mission-driven. “I ended up in digital health before anyone really knew what digital health was,” explains Blanchard, who received her first CFO appointment from Omada Health, an early-stage health tech firm whose flagship product at the time was a diabetes prevention offering.   “When you talk about a mission that can have a huge impact on the world and a huge impact on humanity and our economy, this was something that I felt lucky to be a part of,” comments Blanchard, who admits to having had limited experience prior to Omada when it came to raising capital and being face-to-face with investors. “I had two choices: I could raise money from life sciences investors or I could raise money from tech investors, a
06/04/202257 minutes 40 seconds
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789: Always Be Hiring | Jonathan Sides, CFO, Fleetio

Among the many SaaS CFOs with whom we have spoken, few have listed their finance leader priorities for us as simply and concisely as did Jonathan Sides, CFO of Fleetio, a Birmingham, Alabama, software company that helps companies to track and manage their fleet operations. “My personal defect is always wanting to take on more—without realizing that I should actually be giving away my LEGOs and finding people who can do things better and faster than I can,” explains Sides, who labels his first CFO priority as “Always be hiring.” According to Sides, between 60% and 80% of Fleetio’s workforce lived in the Birmingham area prior to the pandemic—but now the percentage of local employees has dropped to less than 50% as the company has actively recruited more remote workers. Next, he advises CFOs to work closely with the company’s investors to help them to understand the challenges that a company may be facing.   “The only way that they can help you is if they ha
03/04/20221 hour 2 minutes 10 seconds
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Hiring for Hypergrowth | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss how finance leaders of high growth firm’s are becoming increasingly focused on the ebb and flow of their firm’s talent pipelines. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Gina Mastantuono of ServiceNow, CFO Josh Siegel of CyberArk and CFO Sarah Spoja of Tipalti.
31/03/202247 minutes 59 seconds
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788: When the Road Rises to Meet You | Emily Villatte, CFO, Acast

Emily Villatte’s finance career first got rolling along dusty country roads in the Australian bush. With a dual-track master’s degree in engineering and finance, she had been hired by British multinational JLT Group to provide risk management and insurance services to a cluster of accounts residing in Australia’s outback. Along the way, Villatte says, she was frequently greeted by the question, “What the heck brings you here?”  It’s a greeting that Villatte is just as apt to hear today as she was back then. However, this time the road has taken Villatte into the world of podcasting, where today she is the CFO of Acast, a Swedish-founded company that provides hosting services for both podcast creators and advertisers. “Experience is what you get when you do something that you haven’t done before,” reports Villatte, who within 2 years of her arrival in Acast’s CFO office took the company public on the NASDAQ Stockholm exchange. According to Villatte, the fi
30/03/202246 minutes 30 seconds
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787: Listening to Your Inner Self | Steve Vintz, CFO, Tenable

Looking back on his first CFO role, Steve Vintz recalls waking up one morning and thinking that he might not have a job.   The night before, Vintz had told his company’s CEO that he was having second thoughts about a deck of slides highlighting the virtues of a proposed acquisition. “It just hit me: This is a deal we can’t do—this is not our deal,” recalls Vintz, recollecting the moment of insight that he experienced and the subsequent butterflies set free. The company’s board was expecting to meet later in the week, and the “board deck” was the anticipated precursor to a presentation that Vintz and his CEO were preparing to give about a promising acquisition target. Vintz continues: “Good news travels fast and bad news travels faster, but I caught this a little late in the process. I wish I had felt this way earlier on, but it was a reality. CFOs must have conviction, and conviction is all about doing the right thing.” The courage of Vintz’s convi
27/03/20221 hour 5 minutes 28 seconds
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Expecting the Unexpected | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how finance professionals must give more thought to how they communicate “the news” inside their organizations in order to avoid being cast by other functional teams as “the bearer of bad news.” Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Russ Porter, CFO, IMA, CFO Nipun Soni of BillionToOne and CFO Gina Mastanuono of ServiceNow.
25/03/202240 minutes 57 seconds
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786: The Purpose-Driven CFO | Hilary Maxson, CFO, Schneider Electric

Hilary Maxson’s path to the CFO office of French multinational and energy automation behemoth Schneider Electric began at a kitchen table in upstate New York. Or at least that’s what comes to mind for us when she tells us about her “purpose-driven” parents, including a father who is a professor of agronomy at Cornell University. “We didn’t live internationally, but my parents are very tied to what can be achieved internationally and I think that this is how I got that mind-set,” reports Maxson, as we search for answers that might better expose how within a span of 12 years she pursued and realized gainful career experiences in places as far-flung as Douala, Cameroon (3 years), the Philippines (3), Hong Kong (2), and Paris (4). Says Maxson: “I really believe that doing good business is the key to changing the world, and by ‘good’ business I mean that you can still make profits, still do right by your employees, and still do right by your country—this is how we can bring
23/03/20221 hour 15 minutes 14 seconds
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785: Let Learning Blaze the Path | Vanessa Kanu, CFO, Telus International

When Vanessa Kanu is asked to provide some professional advice to her younger self she responds quickly and without hesitation: “Be more patient.” It’s advice Kanu says she summons even today as she passes the 18th month mark of her CFO tour of duty with technology services company Telus International. “I’m perpetually impatient and I drive myself bananas,” says Kanu, who stepped into her first CFO role at Mitel Networks Corporation, after a steady 15-year climb inside the company she first joined as a financial reporting manager.    “As the company grew, it gave me an opportunity to learn and stretch myself through various roles. Whether it was external reporting, complex technical accounting, FP&A, or M&A and other planning functions, all these things combined kept me with the organization,” says Kanu, whose career climb at Mitel spanned a period during which the company grew from $400 million to $1.3 billion. “I had a great mentor at Mitel, who was the
20/03/20221 hour 2 minutes 41 seconds
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784: The Levers of Long-Term Value | Brandon Maultasch, CFO, MOLOCO

Last October, shortly after being named CFO of machine learning start-up MOLOCO, Brandon Maultasch decided to forgo yet another welcome coffee to instead engage with a wide flock of MOLOCO employees on the virtues of discounted cash analysis. “The last thing you want a new people leader talking to the entire company about!,” confesses Maultasch, before launching a stirring defense of the fall discussion that he refers to as a “teach-in.”   “We have 65 data scientists and machine learning engineers at the company. If they can build the things that they build, they are smart enough to understand finance, which isn’t all that complicated,” remarks Maultasch, whose approach is notable as much for what it does focus on as for what it doesn’t. By exploring a framework for discounted cash analysis, Maultasch rejected the more traditional point of engagement for incoming CFOs: the company’s future IPO. “The IPO is an important milestone, but it’s not the
16/03/20221 hour 7 minutes 33 seconds
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783: Making a Career Investment | Sarah Spoja, CFO, Tipalti

It was 2018, and shortly after payables start-up Tipalti had raised its Series C funding round, Sara Spoja recalls, she sat down with Tipalti CEO and cofounder Chen Amit. Having spent the previous 8 years as a senior operating executive for private equity firm KKR Capstone, Spoja was known for asking C-suite management tough questions, and she was no less probing when it came time to reviewing Tipalti’s Series C model. “I tore that thing apart and asked questions about every assumption,” comments Spoja, who recollects a 4-hour-long meeting with Amit, who encouraged her to grill him on every aspect of the business. During the meeting, Spoja no doubt turned over as many rocks as any of Tipalti’s Series C investors had, but Amit wasn’t looking for an investment from KKR. Indeed, he wanted an investment from Spoja—but not in dollars. Tipalti had achieved the requisite number of start-up milestones that normally precipitate the hiring of a chief financial offi
13/03/20221 hour 19 minutes 54 seconds
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782: When Operations Came First | Lou Arcudi, CFO, Amolyt Pharma

To those well familiar with the career milestones that typically mark the path to the CFO office, Lou Arcudi’s resume at first may appear to be upside down. Or at least it could be said that the same operational projects and roles that frequently populate the tops of the resumes of aspiring CFOs are instead found at the bottom of Arcudi’s. To put it another way: Arcudi acquired his operations experience early. Arcudi spent his college summers working at a General Motors chemical plant in Framingham, Mass., where he was encouraged to apply to a training program offered by the General Motors Institute of Technology (now Kettering University). The school accepted Arcudi’s application, and after 6 months of training, the young recruit was offered a position at one GM’s many plants.      “It was kind of like the military, where you usually get to choose your posting and specialty, so I picked the Framingham plant and manufacturing accounting and inventory cont
09/03/20221 hour 20 minutes 38 seconds
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781: The Frequent Flyer | Josh Siegel, CFO, CyberArk

If you were to casually meet CyberArk CFO Josh Siegel for the first time at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), you might quickly assume that he has spent the balance of his career-building years in nearby Silicon Valley. Certainly, on paper his resume lists the requisite number of finance job titles and entrepreneurial milestones that you might expect the bio of an accomplished Silicon Valley CFO to itemize. Later, as you reflect on the mild-mannered “Cyber CFO” whom you briefly encountered, you make one last entry in your mental manifest: CFO Siegel was queuing up for a flight to Tel Aviv. In the end, it’s this entry that’s most telling. Or at least it’s the mental note that perhaps exposes the most about Siegel’s present as well as his past. The fact is that Siegel first began frequenting Tel Aviv departure and arrival gates back in the mid-1990s, when he felt compelled to divert his finance career-building into a more entrepreneurial lane. However, in
06/03/20221 hour 19 minutes 32 seconds
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780: Punching Above Your Weight Class with ESG | Gina Mastantuono, ServiceNow

Back in early 2020, Gina Mastantuono had only recently stepped into the CFO role at ServiceNow when the subject of intangible assets surfaced during a company board meeting. For months, growing numbers of the company’s investors had been signaling their advocacy for the company to amplify its collective conscientiousness when it came to social and environmental concerns. Traditionally, the company had relied on its marketing and communications teams to project its corporate mind-set when it came to such issues, but a number of events during the previous 12 months had led investors and board members—as well as company CEO Bill McDermott—to conclude that a more codified approach had now become necessary. “This was a pretty significant change for both me and the organization,” explains Mastantuono, who notes that her list of priorities for her first 12 months as CFO suddenly began to shift in real time as the magnitude of adopting ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governanc
02/03/20221 hour 6 minutes 48 seconds
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779: The Graduate | Casey Woo, CFO, Landing

Back in 2017, Casey Woo decided it was time to graduate from early-stage companies. “What I like to tell people is that as an operator you will be characterized and judged by the age of your businesses,” remarks Woo, who from 2011 to 2017 had served in a succession of finance leadership roles at a number of early-stage “A-B-C series”–funded companies. “At that point, I had three A-B-Cs under my belt, and for me, the concern was that if I took a fourth, I’d be labeled a ‘Van Wilder,’” recalls Woo, naming the Ryan Reynolds character whose seventh year of college served as the backdrop for a National Lampoon movie. “I understood what hypergrowth and product market fit were, but I was not able to say that I had seen ‘scale,’” Woo reports, as he explains what led him to nab the position that he now credits with having opened his next CFO chapter—and enabled him to add “scale” to the list of descriptors in his professional portfolio. The role to which Woo refer
27/02/20221 hour 16 minutes 5 seconds
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Employee Engagement & the Less Social World - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett & Jack discuss how learning and development is one of five key elements of employee engagement – and explore reasons why L&D too often gets overlooked. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Dave Bernhardt of SentinelOne, CFO Joan Hilson of Signet Jewelers and CFO Herald Chen of Applovin.
25/02/202243 minutes
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778: Finance: Not a Function but a Profession | Russ Porter, CFO, IMA

Looking back on the 28 years that he spent inside IBM’s finance function, Russ Porter notes that his career climb paralleled the evolution of FP&A inside the giant technology provider. Turn back the clock to the early to mid-1990s and, Porter tells us, many of IBM’s FP&A professionals were more or less serving as budget managers for the company’s many business units. However, in the years that followed, they began being tasked with broader, more operational duties.  “FP&A became the gearbox for the financial and operational management of each division,” explains Porter, who describes the role of IBM’s FP&A professionals as becoming more “navigational” over time. “Each week, I sat down with my general managers—we would go through all of our sales performance numbers and review which contracts were coming on and which ones were coming off,” reports Porter, recalling the routine. Along the way, Porter recalls, FP&A professionals seeking advancement wi
23/02/20221 hour 14 minutes 24 seconds
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777: A CFO's Unfinished Business | Isaac Ro, CFO, Sema4

After spending 16 years as an equity analyst (the last nine of which at Goldman Sachs), Isaac Ro could not escape the fact that he was busy and bored. The same work that had once challenged his every faculty had become more or less an exercise in pattern recognition. “Good management teams are good, and bad ones are bad,” observes Ro, recalling the cynical mind-set that had been stalking his professional life inside the medical technology sector for nearly 2 years. Still, Ro didn’t leave. “I loved working at Goldman, and I believed that if ever I were going to leave, I wanted to be running to something and not from something,” explains Ro, who admits that he had a self-imposed “high hurdle” to jump if he were to consider future opportunities. To Ro, the classic equity analyst segue to corporate investor relations chief would be “just a different version of the same gig.” “I needed to spread my wings wider and do something s
20/02/20221 hour 1 minute 4 seconds
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The Move to Better - A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how the goal of planning teams and organizations should always be moving beyond the accepted practices or tools to something better. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Bill Zerella of ACV Auctions , CFO Scott Walker of Clarity Software & CFO Michael High of Deep Water Gulf of Mexico, Shell
18/02/202248 minutes 5 seconds
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776: Assessing Risks Beyond the Numbers | Nipun Soni, CFO, BillionToONe

When Nipun Soni tells us that he spent 5 years at Oracle Corp., during which time he helped to perform due diligence on some 40-plus M&A transactions, we can’t resist asking about the “big” deals that grabbed business headlines—such as Oracle’s 2009 acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc. Although Soni no doubt understands our curiosity, he can’t help but tamp down our expectations a bit after we ask: “Do you recall ‘the visit’ to Sun’s campus?” His reply? “With high-profile public company mergers, you actually don’t visit. You try to keep it under the covers. You don’t want people to know about it before it happens.” Still, our curiosity lingers around “the visit” because this is when the ice is broken and where finance is frequently represented more than any other functional group within the acquiring company.     Soni is happy to expand: “Well, as soon as the transaction was announced, we were actually at the Sun campuses. We met with Sun’s broader team,
16/02/20221 hour 3 minutes
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775: Back to the Future | Joan Hilson, CFO, Signet Jewelers Limited

Of all the CFO career routes that our finance leader guests have shared with us, very few have have rendered a path as circuitous as the one blazed by Joan Hilson, CFO of Signet Jewelers Limited, the world’s largest specialty jewelry company. When Hilson assumed the CFO role at gem giant Signet in 2019, she was entering a business that had charted several evolutionary chapters—including an early one that she knew only too well. Back in the mid-1980s, Hilson had left public accounting to become controller of a 100-store chain of jewelry stores known as Sterling Jewelers. The regional chain would soon thereafter complete an IPO that put it on a path to grow to more than 1,000 stores, a feat that it would accomplish in part through the acquisition of several chains, including Kay Jewelers. Later, the business would be rebranded as the Signet Group. In 1992, when Hilson left the jewelry retailer to accept a vice president of finance position with Limited Brands, she
13/02/20221 hour 10 minutes 23 seconds
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774: When How You Tell It Matters | Heather Dixon, CFO, Everside Health

It was a moment of insight that Heather Dixon remembers having not once but twice during the untold number of hours she has spent in examining how divisional numbers were being “rolled up” to be reported. In the process of rolling up certain numbers, Dixon noted that parts of a division’s business would be exhibiting outstanding performance, but when the division reported its results, the parts were frequently hidden.     Observes Dixon: “These divisions were really doing a lot better than how things appeared on the page.” For Dixon, whose resume includes chief accounting officer stints at both Aetna and Walgreens, the reported numbers were frequently not the problem—instead, it was how the companies were accustomed to explaining their results. As Dixon explains it, a moment of divisional insight at each company prompted finance to mobilize a company-wide effort “to tell the story better.” Says Dixon: “We went through a recalibration internally whe
09/02/202247 minutes 49 seconds
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773: Serving an Organization of Proactive Decision Makers | Darrell Cox, CFO, Vena

For many organizations, capturing real-time data is no longer a goal but now a reality. However, for those firms determined to accumulate these real-time bits and digital details, the old adage about house guests and fish seems to apply: After 3 days, the former begin to smell like the latter. This is an aroma that has become particularly unsettling to CFOs who find themselves increasingly being tasked with untangling the organizational snags that frequently stall business meetings and curtail the flow of real-time data insights to key decision-makers within the organization. To help us to better understand the efforts afoot to liberate the flow of data and remove this foul scent, we were pleased to once more catch up with Darrell Cox, CFO of Vena, who never hesitates to expose the complexity of the organizational collaboration required for Vena to empower its decision-makers with the data on which they rely to scale correctly and look beyond the next quarter. –Jac
06/02/202240 minutes 58 seconds
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772: Inside the M&A Quarry | Andy Watts, CFO, Brown & Brown

Asked to highlight his experience in mergers and acquisitions, Andy Watts doesn’t need to weigh and measure the many deals that he has helped to execute over his three-decade-long finance career. Instead, Watts quickly points to the 2000s, when, as CFO of a division of Thomson Reuters, he sold off businesses responsible for nearly half of his division’s $120 million in annual revenues—a respectable feat that is perhaps even more impressive in light of the four new businesses that his division acquired during this same 12-month period. “I got a really good frontline view of how to do M&As, and while I stubbed my toe on a number of them in the process, in the end we had them running like a Swiss watch and knew exactly how we were going to get the value out of them,” remembers Watts, whose 12-year career at Thomson included something of a surprise chapter that he now credits with having helped to open the door to an operations role.    “I was sitting in a business review,
02/02/202252 minutes 30 seconds
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771: Embracing Change | Brian Kinion, CFO, MX

Twenty-four hours after Brian Kinion’s first earnings call as a CFO of a publicly-traded frim, his aspirations as a finance chief quickly became deflated as Vista Equity Partners made clear its intent to buy the company, a developer of marketing automation software known as Marketo. “Mine became a very different role than what I had anticipated—almost all of the executives with whom I had worked left, but I stuck around for another 6 months to help the team take it from public to private,” remembers Kinion, who nevertheless views his Marketo career chapter as one of the most formative steps along his vocational path. To Kinion, who had joined the company several years earlier as vice president of finance, his Marketo sojourn was important because it allowed him to check the “CFO” box, thus guaranteeing him a coveted edge when it came to future CFO appointments. What’s more, Kinion says, Marketo was where the full breadth of his past experiences could finally be
30/01/20221 hour 37 seconds
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When HR Becomes a Borderless Function - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett and Jack discuss how the leadership narrative benefits hiring, and why department hiring budgets may someday soon be replaced. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Cassandra Hudson of EngageSmart, CFO Nitesh Sharan of Soundhound and CFO Michael High of Shell’s Deep Water Gulf of Mexico.
28/01/202244 minutes 27 seconds
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770: When Founders Make a Difference | Nitesh Sharan, CFO, SoundHound, Inc.

When Nitesh Sharan exited Hewlett-Packard after 15 years of diligent career-building, he assumed—like many seasoned finance executives have done—that his finance skill set would be applicable to just about any industry or company. However, Sharan recalls that when he stepped into a senior IR and treasury role at athletic footwear titan Nike, Inc., this assumption was sorely tested. “I had to relearn finance in a way because it was not just about the science or about your gross margins, profits, and cash—it was about the art and the science together,” observes Sharan. “At Nike, the IR function was a very strong partner with communications and the brand, which was a wholly different element of IR that I came to appreciate,” comments Sharan, who back in 2016 executed the intrepid career segue from HP, a company known for its engineering and maniacal focus on product, to Nike, a company known for its marketing and maniacal focus on brand. Still, Sharan says,
26/01/20221 hour 10 minutes 59 seconds
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769: Beyond the Boardroom | Herald Chen, CFO, AppLovin

When Herald Chen was growing up in a town not far from Pittsburg, he dreamed of someday running the small town’s steel mill. Years later when he was graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, the steel mill no longer occupied Chen’s maturing career aspirations. “My two job offers were to either go make soap for Procter & Gamble at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore or go to Wall Street,“ remembers Chen, who adds that the offers for the seemingly different jobs came as a result of having graduated from UPenn’s Management and Technology program—a curriculum that offered a dual degree in engineering and finance. Chen chose Wall Street and in 1995 landed at KKR, the private equity firm that had feasted on leveraged buyouts in 1970s and 1980s. Recalls Chen: “I had a front row seat for meeting many CEOs and CFOs and invested behind a couple dozen of them, so I learned a lot about what the good, the bad, and the ugly look like in these companies.”   Twenty-
23/01/202257 minutes 6 seconds
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Increasing the Velocity of Your Flywheel - A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack are joined by friend of Planning Aces Bryan Lapidus, who is today director of FP&A for the Association for Financial Professionals. Bryan discusses 2022 planning priorities, while offering guidance to FP&A teams tasked with helping their organization advance into the new year’s uncertain environment. This episode features commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Jason Child of Splunk and CFO Cassandra Hudson, of EngageSmart.
21/01/202257 minutes 58 seconds
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768: How Real-Time Data Is Changing the Performance Conversation | Michael High, CFO, Deep Water Gulf of Mexico, Shell

Back in 2012, when Michael High was heading up corporate planning across 30 countries for Shell, the energy company’s CFO made it known that it was time for Shell’s business leaders to reconsider their ritual of renegotiating annual business targets. To that end, Shell’s finance leader let it be known that the business units could skip the company’s corporate planning process in the coming year, as an affirmation of their commitment to the targets they had agreed to the year before. “I actually think that this was the right insight at the time, but it generated a ton of knock-on consequences over time,” explains High, who commends the finance leader’s willingness to take head on what’s recognized in business at large as the budgeting process’s greatest vulnerability: target renegotiation. Still, the consequences were real. “When we went to turn on the planning system in 2014, most people didn’t remember how it wor
19/01/20221 hour 22 minutes 5 seconds
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767: On the Path to Being a $1 Billion Company | Bill Zerella, CFO, ACV Auctions

Bill Zerella’s path to the CFO office began at a company whose customers largely belonged to a bygone era. At the time, Simplicity Patterns was the largest pattern company in the world, and its most devout customers were sewing machine owners across the United States and Canada who enjoyed making clothes for themselves and their families.   For Zerella, a 20-something-year-old auditor, the critical career decision to join Simplicity was a no-brainer not because of the business opportunity being presented or the position being offered but because of the source of the proffer. The company had recently hired a former Fortune 500 finance leader by the name of Bill Lewis, who was looking to throttle up the company’s business model. Zerella was ready to climb on board.   “I probably learned more from him during the 5 years I was with that company than I’ve learned in the past 25 years,” comments Zerella, who today is a seasoned tech finance leader who has served in
16/01/20221 hour 17 minutes 59 seconds
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766: Making Decisions with the Customer in Mind | Cassandra Hudson, CFO, EngageSmart

Back in 2008, Cassandra Hudson was interviewing for a senior accounting role at a small tech firm in Boston when the CFO casually shared some “insight” into the company’s future. “The CEO really wants to take this company public, this is probably never going to happen—we’ll likely sell in the next couple of years,” Hudson recalls the CFO remarking, before he added: “Usually, finance people don’t stay in the event that a company is sold—we just leave and go on to the next one.” At the time, Hudson says, she didn’t know what to make of the CFO’s comments, especially when they accompanied a job offer. One IPO and multiple CFOs later, the Boston tech firm was sold to developer OpenText in late 2019 for $1.4 billion. “It was a much longer journey, but we did end up there,” reports Hudson, who in 2020 stepped into her first CFO role as the culmination to a remarkably linear 15-year career path at the Boston tech firm, which itself grew from less than $10 millio
12/01/202246 minutes 5 seconds
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765: Never Waste a Crisis | Jean Laviqueur, CFO, Coveo

Unlike many of his finance leader peers, Jean Lavigueur has little difficulty in identifying where and when his path to the CFO office began.   It was back in the early to mid-1990s, he recalls, when—after he had spent nearly 10 years with PwC—a charismatic entrepreneur client named Louis Têtu convinced him to join his supply chain start-up. Although this company was soon thereafter sold to Baan, Têtu and Lavigueur found that they had unmistakable chemistry—or at least this is what we must assume, given that 25 years later, the two Canadian entrepreneurs have built not one but two other successful companies together. The first was Taleo, a talent management company that the two men cofounded in 1999 and took public in 2007 (In 2012, Teleo was sold to Oracle for $1.9 billion). Their present firm is AI-powered ecommerce company Coveo, which recently raised $215 million when it went public on the Toronto stock exchange. Today, as a seasoned CFO, Lavigueur im
09/01/202259 minutes 8 seconds
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764: When Growth Is the Only Constant | Jen Herdler, CFO, Impact Health

When it came time for Jen Herdler to get back into the workforce, she signed up for a refresher course in financial modeling through a weeklong classroom experience in lower Manhattan. There she would become reacquainted with an old friend: Excel. However, her fellow classmates were another matter. “I’ll never forget that first day when I walked into the classroom and discovered that everyone was at least 20 years younger than me—I felt so uncomfortable and out of my element,” recalls Herdler, a seasoned finance leader who had put her career on hold roughly a decade earlier to raise a family. Herdler says that her weeklong immersion among 20-somethings grew only more unsettling when the class was asked to individually tackle different modeling tasks, an exercise designed to stress-test the spreadsheet’s latest functionalities. Says Herdler: “Their speed always surpassed mine.” However, the discussions that routinely followed the Excel exercises beg
05/01/20221 hour 8 minutes 25 seconds
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763: Of All the Nerve | Pete Mariani, CFO, Axogen

Like many of his finance leader peers, Pete Mariani credits a senior operational role with helping him to plant both feet on the path to CFO office. However, unlike many of his peers, Mariani found his transformational role to be in Japan. Back in 1998, he was a director of finance for Guidant, a maker of cardiovascular medical products that was looking to grow its footprint in a number of markets offshore—including Japan, where it had recently acquired one of its distributor partners.   However, unlike many of his peers, Mariani found his transformational role to be in Japan. Back in 1998, he was a director of finance for Guidant, a maker of cardiovascular medical products that was looking to grow its footprint in a number of markets offshore—including Japan, where it had recently acquired one of its distributor partners. “I gave an immediate, ‘Yes!,’” recalls Mariani, when asked whether there was a
02/01/20221 hour 23 minutes 8 seconds
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Bonus Replay: The Courage of Your Convictions | Joe Wolk, CFO, Johnson & Johnson

  About Episodes 
31/12/202136 minutes 1 second
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The Speed of Trust | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss how building trust may be an FP&A professional’s greatest skillset. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Puneet Pamnani of KORE Wireless, CFO Robert Alvarez of BigCommerce & CFO Dave Bernhardt of SentinelOne.
29/12/202140 minutes 37 seconds
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Bonus Replay: Driving Future Performance | Harmit Singh, CFO, Levi Strauss & Co

Holiday Replay: When it comes time for Harmit Singh to brief Levi Strauss & Co.’s management team regarding the latest performance results, Levi’s CFO will often share a briefing document that features a front page bearing the heading “What’s Working and What’s Not.” “It’s more difficult to understand what’s not working, and it’s the ‘What’s not’ that helps us to determine the areas on which we have to focus to take the business to the next level,” explains Singh, who notes that the “front page” is carefully rendered by Levi’s Financial Planning  & Analysis (FP&A) crew – a team of forward-looking financial professionals whose past feats of analytic derring-do have included helping the jeans maker to foresee the leap from “skinny Jeans” to the baggie look among young consumers. It’s here among Levi’s crack team of number crunchers that the “what’s not” often becomes exposed, and it’s here where a new mind-set – one that keeps consumers top-of-mi
26/12/202134 minutes 3 seconds
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762: In Step With the Digital Beat | Tania Secor, CFO, R/GA

When CFO Tania Secor looks back at the early years of her finance career, she can’t help but revisit her decision to accept a position with the McGraw-Hill Companies. For a half-dozen years, Secor had been entrenched in the private equity world, advising portfolio companies on different growth strategies and helping to complete the acquisition of a string of middle-market firms. Her new role at McGraw-Hill would not only leverage her M&A experience but also situate her within the corporate finance rank-and-file, where she grew accustomed to the cadence of tasks performed by the finance function. “I had never done a forecast myself, and I had never been through a rigorous budgeting and planning process at a $10 billion company,” explains Secor, who over the next 8 years would advance into a number of different FP&A roles before being named CFO of the magazine Businessweek, a role that would lead her to become part of a future transaction. “I came back fr
22/12/20211 hour 2 minutes 29 seconds
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761: Finding Your Operational Cadence | Scott Walker, CFO Clarity Software Solutions, Inc.

When CFO Scott Walker has considered new career opportunities in the past, only a small subset of growth businesses have been able to meet all of his desired criteria. Very often the firms had achieved product market fit and successfully raised a number of rounds of funding, but to Walker they were just still too young. Perhaps the management was being reshuffled or the operations were too fragmented, and it would become clear to Walker that the company was not yet ready to find its “cadence.” This would be of no little import, as helping companies to find their cadence is what Scott Walker does best, or so he explains as he reflects back on the different career choices on his path to becoming an “operational CFO.”      Says Walker: “My sweet spot is stepping into a business that’s doing well but has to professionalize. It has to grow up. It has to mature. It has to add discipl
19/12/20211 hour 1 minute 58 seconds
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Hiring is the Beginning of Your Go-To-Market Funnel | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett and Jack weigh-in on Zoom firing squads, the move to hybrid workplaces and hiring’s enormous impact on your company’s funnel. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Jim Morgan of CallRail, CFO Amol Chaubal of Waters Corporation and CFO Justin Judd of BanbooHR.
16/12/202137 minutes 12 seconds
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760: Transitioning from Platform-Led to Product-Driven | David Brolsma, CFO, WP Engine

When it comes to FP&A data, WP Engine CFO David Brolsma is an open book. “We make a data visualization tool called ‘Looker’ available to all of our employees,” reports the veteran tech executive. “We’re an open book company, so all employees can see almost all of the same performance data points that I see.” At the Austin-based start-up that provides developer-centric WordPress products for companies and agencies of all sizes, Brolsma and his extended team keep their eyes on the crucial metric of market share growth, as well as on customer retention, churn, daily active users, and other software-as-a service (SaaS) measures. Brolsma helped used a Dutch auction to take Rackspace public in 2008, just before the global economic crisis hit. The fanatical customer support he learned at that cloud computing pioneer proved valuable in helping WP Engine’s customers to nav
15/12/20211 hour 1 minute 13 seconds
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759: The Making of a Milestone Year | Dave Bernhardt, CFO, SentinelOne

How should a textbook rental company respond when it discovers that Amazon has just introduced offerings that will make the giant retailer its newest and biggest competitor?   If it’s 2013 and the company is Chegg, Inc., management found a conference room and locked itself inside not for hours but for days and weeks, according to Dave Bernhardt, who sat alongside the company’s CFO and other operations leaders as they together considered some of the grim realities of having Amazon as a competitor. “When Amazon entered the market, pricing on textbooks fell about 40%, so the profit in the business disappeared immediately,” explains Bernhardt, who first joined Chegg as a corporate controller and soon advanced into the vice president of finance role as Chegg tapped into more of Bernhardt’s FP&A acumen. “We needed to find a way to make our business ‘capital light,’ and the question became: ‘How do we get out of where we are and take our money and put it back into some
12/12/20211 hour 2 minutes 31 seconds
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758: Leveraging Momentum to Drive Growth | Amol Chaubal, CFO, Waters Corporation

Waters Corporation CFO Amol Chaubal has cracked the code on the strategic CFO role, and he’s willing to share a snapshot of his formula for success. “A lot of companies focus on data and the insights coming out of that data,” reveals Chaubal, who amassed finance leadership experience in consumer products, pharma, and energy before joining Waters Corporation—a publicly listed analytical Laboratory instrument and software company—earlier this year. “Our focus is a few steps ahead. We say that data and insights are table stakes. You have to go one step further to take these insights and create action options for the business leaders. And you have to then use these options to come up with decision support and recommendations on what actions to pursue.” After helping to execute a tricky COVID pivot at his previous company, Chaubal now tries to apply his laserlike focus to commercial operations at Waters in order to drive recurring revenue gains and help to enhance the vital
08/12/202147 minutes 52 seconds
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757: The Workforce is Rising | Justin Judd, CFO, BambooHR

Ten years ago, when Adobe management finally made up its mind to enter the software-as-a-service (SaaS) realm and become part of the mass migration from selling boxed software to selling its software offerings via subscription, Adobe’s migratory undertaking might well have been compared to that of the arctic tern. With by far the longest such treks known in the animal kingdom, the arctic tern has one of the most widely followed migrations on the planet—and such would be the case for Adobe, whose most dedicated observers were unquestionably its investors. “How do we tell investors that this is a great thing for them, that the metrics on which they’re most reliant actually won’t have any validity for 2 or 3 years, and that they should look at other numbers instead?,” asks Justin Judd, who at the time—as a vice president in Adobe’s corporate legal group—became involved in the massive migration as the company’s finance and legal worlds converged to better address the trans
05/12/20211 hour 6 minutes 46 seconds
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756: Start-Ups, SPACs, and Street Fights | Michael Levine, CFO, Payoneer

Start early, stay late, be prepared, and don’t shy away from the street-fight environments surrounding start-up companies. These methods have helped Michael Levine to bound up an unconventional leadership ladder en route to the CFO office of Payoneer, the global B2B digital commerce company that he helped to take public in June of this year via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). According to Levine, Payoneer’s decision to go with a SPAC rather than a traditional IPO was influenced by his ability to share forecasts with prospective investors amid the pandemic’s digital commerce boom. Levine followed an untraditional path to the CFO office, from his start as an investment banker to his swift rise up through the ranks in the commercial banking, telecommunications, and healthcare software sectors. Fresh from Wharton, Levine recalls, he would wait at the end of the line queued up outside the vice chairman’s office each evening in hope of a brief audience. On occasion, h
01/12/20211 hour 8 minutes 47 seconds
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755: Serving the Creators | Craig Foster, CFO, Picsart

During 2018, the very year Craig Foster joined Bright Machines, the San Francisco–based company was spun out from contract manufacturing firm Flex, raised a headline-grabbing $179 million in Series A funding, and shed its original moniker, AutoLab AI. By all accounts, the manufacturing start-up, which promised to use a combination of robots and new software to perform manual labor, was open for business. However, like many start-ups, Bright Machines had yet to add some basic business functions. “We had a sense of product, but we didn’t have any infrastructure whatsoever,” comments Foster, who notes that among the company’s most immediate needs was an HR executive hire—someone capable of populating the company with experienced managers. Still, arguably more critical to future of the business were the remedies for certain flaws that had begun to become visible in the company’s maturing business model. “I had been working there only a few months before I rea
28/11/202158 minutes 34 seconds
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Planning's Longest Yard | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve and Jack discuss FP&A's 100-year march. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Kurt Shintaffer of Apptio CFO Jim Morgan of CallRail & CFO Daniel O'Shaughnessy of FormLabs.
27/11/202139 minutes 49 seconds
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Bonus Replay: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

Inder Singh started off his professional life as an engineer, only to learn that the large engineering projects that he aspired to someday lead often faced as many financial obstacles as they did engineering challenges. So, Singh says, he went back to school and earned an MBA in finance, allowing him to redirect his career down a path populated with unique and imaginative financing deals to support engineering feats as well as business transformations. One of the more innovative financing projects that Singh has helped to champion came along in the 1990s, when he was working as a business development executive for AT&T Corp. It seems that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was looking to upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure—to the tune of $4 billion. “Other companies were just offering typical bank financing. In our case, we said, ‘Let’s do an oil barter agreement,’” explains Singh, who says that the proposal involved having Saudi Arabia s
24/11/202148 minutes 58 seconds
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754: The Return to Earth | Tom Fitzgerald, CFO, Planet Fitness

Back in the mid-1990s, before email became widely used across corporate America, the executives of Frito-Lay’s northern California region suddenly found their mailboxes full. “We were getting all of these letters from people asking, ‘What did you do? What’s going on in northern California?,’” explains Tom Fitzgerald, who at the time was finance director for the region, a geography known to be a sales laggard among Pepsico’s 24 business units, within which Frito-Lay itself was a particularly heavy bottom dweller. Thus, as Fitzgerald relates, there was no shortage of intrigue concerning a sudden and steady sales climb inside Frito-Lay’s northern California business. Looking back, he observes that the explanation of the phenomenon was not necessarily pleasing to neighboring regions, which were known to be on a constant lookout for cunning new sales promotions or incentives. “Northern California, oddly enough, was the only unionized market for Frito-Lay in the count
21/11/20211 hour 16 minutes 52 seconds
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753: Time to Make the Coffee | Jim Calabrese, CFO, Finalsite

Jim Calabrese recalls that when he began to climb the corporate ladder early in his finance career, an executive mentor told him, “Never be afraid to make the coffee.” This curious advice caught Calabrese’s attention, so the up-and-coming executive listened carefully as the mentor added: “As an executive, you need to be able to get dirty—to roll up your sleeves. You don’t want to be the person who can’t do a mundane task because you’re in love with your title.” Today, as a CFO, Calabrese serves up his own bite-size mentoring verbiage in this way: “There’s nothing more valuable when you’re the CFO than understanding how the widgets are made—and being the person who’s willing to take on the challenging projects.” Calabrese tells us that he reached the CFO office by aggressively pursuing projects outside the traditional finance realm while also signing up for long stretches on strategic planning teams, where he guided re-engineering projects in the energy and softw
17/11/20211 hour 7 seconds
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752: Making Your Company More Valuable | Howard Wilson, CFO, PagerDuty

Among today’s career building finance pros who view the CFO office as their ultimate destination, Howard Wilson might be labeled an off-road commuter. Whereas most finance leaders have shared a common view as accounting and finance milestones fell away in their rearview mirror, Wilson entered the finance realm from the merge lane – where his rearview revealed a roster of operational milestones and sales experiences. Having spent most of his early career altogether removed from the accounting cubicles, Wilson's operational experiences began supplying added luster to his CFO credentials. It’s no secret that as the CFO role has broadened, our CFO guests have been eager to highlight their operations experience, but as Howard Wilson’s career perhaps reveals, operations experience is no longer just a pit stop along the motorway of CFO career journeys. –Jack Sweeney
14/11/20211 hour 2 minutes 30 seconds
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751: The March Goes On | Dave Damond, CFO, March of Dimes

When does a mission-driven CFO initiate a crucial turnaround of an erstwhile nonprofit that’s been losing money for years and has a legacy pension plan dragging down its balance sheet? Before he’s even been offered the job. At least that’s how you take care of business if you’re March of Dimes Senior Vice President and CFO Dave Damond. “I came in with a change management plan,” reveals the former KPMG auditor, who was a finance executive with American Red Cross before launching himself into his current role in 2018. “In fact, when I was interviewing, they showed me what the current table of organization looked like. And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s wrong – here’s what it should look like.” Damond got the job, and immediately implemented his plan, which included replacing a 30-year-old legacy ERP installation with a cloud-based system (within a year), hiring new talent (including a controller) and addressing that drag on the balance sheet as interest rates fortuitously plummet
12/11/202144 minutes 3 seconds
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750: Fielding Your Insight Team | Chitra Balasubramanian, CFO, CircleCI

Talk to, or about, CircleCI CFO Chitra Balasubramanian and you’ll hear the word “team” early and often. The phrase describes her leadership approach and to how her finance group equips colleagues with next-level business and customer insights. Current and former colleagues will tell you how much value (and fun) she brings to any “solve team.” And Balasubramanian refers to her “insights team” when discussing her group’s FP&A activities  at CircleCI, a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) platform that helps developers do their work faster while ensuring high-quality code. The key to delivering actionable business nights, Balasubramanian notes, includes creating clear problem statements and outcomes. When that clarity is wanting, Balasubramanian’s insight team clicks into exploratory mode. Once the financial analysts have gleaned what the business needs to make better decisions, it’s time to distill. “We don't want to simply relay a party bag full of in
10/11/20211 hour 20 minutes 3 seconds
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749: Scouting the Perimeter of Predictability | Daniel O'Shaughnessy, CFO, Formlabs

Dan O’Shaughnessy may be the only finance leader with whom we’ve ever spoken who credits hard work and financial acumen with having helped to keep him out of business school. Or at least this seems to be what unfolded at Gymboree back in early 2015, when he accepted a job offer from the CFO of the children’s apparel retailer. Explains O’Shaughnessy: “At the time, Gymboree had been taken private and was managing a significant amount of debt. I told myself that if we could turn around the business quickly, it would be a great opportunity, and if we couldn’t, then business school was always a good option.” As it turned out, the retailer’s successful turnaround would require a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as part of a larger process that expanded O’Shaughnessy’s role into comptrollership, tax, treasury, and even supply chain planning and store operations. Along
07/11/202152 minutes 46 seconds
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Making Salary a Competitive Advantage | A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett and Jack discuss the move by Amazon and other companies to pay employees daily are likely to trigger new approaches in salary administration. Plus, more developments in the age of the "great resignation."  Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CEO Craig O'Neill of Versapay, CFO Michael Rosen of Digital Power Marketing, CFO Kurt Shintaffer of Apptio.
05/11/202153 minutes 39 seconds
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748: Keeping the Bees Busy | Shana Rowlette, CFO, Mann Lake

Minnesota-based Mann Lake Ltd. is a leader in the beekeeping industry, serving commercial beekeeping businesses and backyard hobbyists alike. The company specializes in quality manufacturing, innovation, customer service, and global ESG (environmental, social, governance) matters. “Bees pollinate one in every three bites of food that humans consume,” Mann Lake CFO Shana Rowlette explains. “Colony collapse is a real thing, and we’re very involved in helping our industry to address this risk.” Her company’s unique realm and rapid growth quickly nudged Rowlette beyond the traditional bounds of the staff accounting role that she filled when she joined the company. “I started with payables, receivables, and inventory but steadily took on more responsibilities that showed me how everything functioned as our company grew,” she notes. “It’s been 11 years, and I haven’t had a boring day yet.” <span id="id6181ed88dc35c" class="collapseom
03/11/202145 minutes 5 seconds
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747: Exposing Your Growth Drivers | Jim Morgan, CFO, CallRail

It sounds counterintuitive, but the best big men in basketball succeed less on size than they do on finesse and footwork. NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan’s right-foot jab created the space that he needed to sink his patented bank shot or fire a pass to an open teammate. The same holds true for data-driven CFOs who partner with founder CEOs in technology start-ups. CallRail CFO Jim Morgan began his professional career by pivoting from Goldman Sachs to a 100-employee, venture-backed start-up in early 2000. Once there, he immediately helped to pivot the marketing-technology company’s business model in response to the looming dotcom crash. Since then, Morgan—a former center who co-captained Stanford University’s hoops team in the early ’90s—has served as CFO at a succession of venture- and private-equity backed high-growth companies. “I love working with the entrepreneurs,” Morgan notes, “and I’ve learned that the CFO has a highly uni
31/10/202148 minutes 6 seconds
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When FP&A Becomes a Business Function | A Planning Aces Episode

Steve & Jack discuss planning’s crunch time in the 4th quarter and the operationalization of FP&A inside different business functions. Featuring FP&A Insights & Commentary from Planning Aces: Sameer Ralhan, CFO, The Chemours Company, Chris Kuehn, CFO, Trane Technologies,  Laurence Capone, CFO, Pipedrive. Akash Palkhiwala, CFO Qualcomm.
28/10/202134 minutes 43 seconds
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746: Growing With People & Purpose | Robert Alvarez, CFO, BigCommerce

When Robert Alvarez first joined the finance team of one venture-backed start-up, he was thinking that one day he might like to be a CFO. However, upon further reflection, the young finance analyst realized that he had little idea what a CFO did. Being part of a start-up team afforded him the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with different senior leaders, including the company’s CFO, Alvarez recalls. Of course, access to leadership has little value unless you are willing and able to undertake the responsibility of shepherding a future deliverable. For Alvarez, the task of identifying such a deliverable was best left to its intended recipient. “We were together going down the list of items that I was working on, and I stopped and asked the CFO, ‘So, what’s on your list?’” remembers Alvarez, who says that the CFO subsequently began listing one item after another. Alvarez says that he asked if he could “take a stab” at tackling one of the items and to
27/10/20211 hour 13 minutes 55 seconds
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745: Origins of a Come Back Therapy | Troy Ignelzi, CFO, Karuna Therapeutics

Troy Ignelzi’s CFO career is rooted in an unlikely place. In fact, some might describe it as the least likely of all places, for the environs of his early vocational path were not those of a growing company but instead a place where businesses had stopped growing. So it was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the late 1990s when Ignelzi—part of a local economic development team—became tasked with creating jobs in the wake of Pfizer’s decision to remove a number of business operations from the region, including a large plant. “They moved all of the R&D jobs and everything business-related out of Kalamazoo and Portage, Michigan, and all they left was a very large manufacturing plant,” explains Ignelzi, who notes that the move by Pfizer began putting the area’s larger biotech sector at risk. “What happened was that this big vacuum got created, so what we said was, ‘Let’s keep these other smart guys in town,’” continues Ignelzi, who adds that preserving the region’s biotech
24/10/20211 hour 9 minutes 52 seconds
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744: Democratizing Phone Services | Evan Fein, CFO, TextNow

When Evan Fein accepted his first CFO position more than a decade ago - his focus as a finance leader was too narrow according to the CFO, who in a moment of self-reflection can’t conceal his exacerbation.  "Ashamed is not the right word, but I'm such a better CFO now than I was then,” remarks Fein, who gives his younger self some kudos for having helped to champion the company’s business model as well as extending the organization’s lines of sight into the future. Still, there’s little question Fein finds the notion of time travel appealing. “What I would now tell my younger self is that the CFO role is about the ability to partner and build relationships and grow other people. That is the special sauce that I bring to my job now,” Fein comments. Asked to better expose his former CFO mindset Fein says: “At the time, I decided if everybody stayed in their swim lanes and we each ran our trains on time, that things would come together. It’s just not that si
20/10/202141 minutes 20 seconds
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743: Winning With Employee Success | Michael Rosen, CFO, Power Digital Marketing

Michael Rosen’s finance career began inside the loan department of middle market lender Union Bank (now MUFG Union), when—after completing an 18-month training program—the 23 -year-old was provided with a stack of business cards bearing the title “Loan Officer.” “At the time, being a loan officer meant a great many things. You would be responsible for most of your clients’ needs, as well as bringing in new business for the bank,” remembers Rosen, who today credits the program’s scope with allowing him to quickly find his footing inside the bank’s apparel sector—a realm made up largely of midsize businesses ranging in size from $15 million to $100 million. “It was a significant program that provided some broad-based training in things like financial analysis, collateral analysis, and financial accounting, as well as the legal and ethical issues that come up when ru
17/10/20211 hour 9 minutes 32 seconds
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HR by the Numbers | A Workplace Champions episode

Brett and Jack discuss the marriage of fintech and human capital management, and the of the growing mandate for employee success.  Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Sameer Ralhan of the Chemours Company, CFO Robert Alvarez of Big Commerce, CFO Laurence Capone of Pipedrive.
15/10/202151 minutes 55 seconds
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742: When a SPAC Unlocks Quantum Possibilities | Thomas Kramer, CFO, IonQ

When Thomas Kramer recalls his decision to leave his job with a prestigious consulting firm to start up a tech firm in the final hours of the dotcom boom, he doesn’t hesitate to underscore his decision’s questionable timing. “This was when I realized that I would be getting out of consulting at what potentially would have been the worst possible point in time. Everyone could see that the Internet boom was closing, and smart people do what smart people do: They run in the other direction,” recalls Kramer, now some 20 years later. Whether it’s quantum bits, IPOs, or even SPACs, the exciting developments surrounding IonQ are no match for CFO Kramer’s insightful personal advice and often biting self-reflection.  “Travel is something that you do when you can,” explains Kramer, who tells us that during those times when his career has dispatched him to different parts of the world, he has frequently combined work and leisure trips. At one point back in the early
13/10/202151 minutes 12 seconds
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741: One Step Ahead | Kurt Shintaffer, CFO, Apptio

In the wake of an economic downturn, a company’s door of opportunity swings open to a finance up-and-comer. This is a familiar early career chapter for many finance leaders, and few have revealed to us the uncertainty surrounding the moment better than Apptio CFO Kurt Shintaffer “The CEO came to me and said, ‘Do you think that you have what it takes?’ I said, ‘Well, sure!,’ without really knowing what I was signing up for,” explains Shintaffer, who back in 2002 was a senior finance executive for Pacific Edge Software when the company’s then-CFO exited. Until this moment, Shintaffer’s resume arguably had resembled those of thousands of other finance career builders stationed along the different rungs of finance’s corporate ladder, and like Shintaffer, may have completed a stint in public accounting. (Shintaffer spent three years with Ernst & Young).   Still, at 28 years of age, Shintaffer was already aware that his technical knowledge was not what would make the
10/10/20211 hour 7 minutes 13 seconds
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740: Illuminating the Home of the Future with a Brand from the Past | Roy Simmons, CFO, GE Lighting, a Savant company

Twenty years ago, when Roy Simmons first joined General Electric Company as a rookie financial analyst, it likely would have been difficult to imagine that he would someday occupy the CFO office of GE Lighting. Of course, occupying the CFO office of “GE Lighting, a Savant company” would have required the young analyst to be endowed with not just imagination – but a crystal ball. This being said, in 2019, when a more seasoned Simmons joined the former GE business (now owned by Savant Systems, Inc.) as CFO, he had little trouble imagining a list of finance leader priorities for the coming year. Read More   “We’ve been together for the last 14 months and we together have a vision to bring that brighter life to the peop
06/10/20211 hour 20 minutes 47 seconds
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739: The Rules of Play | Craig Abrahams, CFO, Playtika

It was after he had worked 3 years as an investment analyst with Bear Stearns and spent more than 2 years inside the corporate strategy bullpen of The Walt Disney Company that Craig Abrahams decided to head to business school. However, Abrahams says that unlike many of his future classmates, he had made up his mind that hedge funds, investment banks, and strategy consulting firms would not be on his preferred menu of postgraduation career opportunities. “I wanted an opportunity to work really hard and stand out but also to go somewhere a little bit different, where I wasn’t competing with 10 versions of myself,” explains Abrahams, whose earlier experiences at Bear Stearns and Disney had left the MBA student searching for a less traditional route to career success. Observes Abrahams: “I was looking for a place where I personally could have an impact.” <p
03/10/202148 minutes 28 seconds
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738: Using Digital Insight to Unlock Business Value | Sameer Ralhan, CFO, The Chemours Company

Unlike many of the up-and-comers who populate the corridors of The Chemours Company, CFO Sameer Ralhan spent the balance of his career building years with the company inside its manufacturing plants. It was there where Ralhan says that he observed everyday executives making decisions that routinely impacted the business, and it was there where his M&A activities allowed him to imagine new avenues for value creation. Says Ralhan: “The heart of this company beats at the plants.” Still, the many hours that Chemours’s future CFO spent there made him aware of a growing disconnect between finance and the plant’s decision-makers.  According to Ralhan, Chemours, not unlike many U.S. manufacturers, had undergone decades of reorganizations designed to streamline and centralize its operations. However, one consequence of this was that the bond between the plants and the Chemours finance team had become weakened. “It was really limiting the finance support at
29/09/20211 hour 4 minutes 13 seconds
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737: The Future Before Us | Chris Kuehn, CFO, Trane Technologies

It was a complicated transaction that Ingersoll Rand’s then-CEO Mike Lamach challenged his finance and operations people to address by “turning over every rock in the company” to nullify the possibility of unforeseen snags. Recalls Chris Kuehn, who at the time served as Ingersoll Rand’s chief accounting officer: “I remember Mike coming back and telling us that he had never been through an IPO in his career, but this transaction was likely going to be the closest he ever got to one.” Today, Kuehn is CFO of Trane Technologies, the spinoff and resulting offspring of the transaction that involved the merger of Ingersoll Rand’s industrial business, Milwaukee-based Gardner Denver. “Mike didn’t want us to accept the status quo. He wanted us to review every one of the 600 cost centers and every organizational chart and function,” continues Kuehn, who adds that the exhaustive process spanned between six and nine months. Part of engineering the spinoff’s early succ
26/09/202144 minutes 17 seconds
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736: Inside the Growth Cauldron | Pramod Iyengar, CFO, Veem

When Pramod Iyengar returned to school after working for several years as a manufacturing engineer with United Technologies, he was ready to change careers. The young engineer headed back to the University of Michigan, where as an undergraduate he had earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering. However, this time he had a business degree in mind Post graduation with an MBA in hand, Iyengar landed at Intel Corp., where he had the opportunity to join a “very efficient and very well-structured finance team,” he explains. For his part, Iyengar says Intel gave him the opportunity to learn not only the discipline of finance, but also how to use financial data and analysis to influence and improve operations across the company. Intel also offered the opportunity to move into a variety of other areas. "Employees just had to take the initiative and take advantage of them," comments Iyengar. At Intel, Iyengar began as a finance manager with the distribution channel an
22/09/20211 hour 10 minutes 38 seconds
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735: Recognizing Windows of Opportunity | Akash Palkhiwala, CFO, Qualcomm

Back in 2014, when Akash Palkhiwala was first approached to serve as treasurer of wireless technology company Qualcomm, the company’s future CFO was uncertain as to what the role of a treasurer might actually entail. “I’m not making this up: I did a Google search on what a treasurer does,” explains Palkhiwala, who recalls that the approaching retirement of the firm’s incumbent treasurer had led then-CFO George Davis to gauge Palkhiwala’s interest in the role. Palkhiwala had first joined Qualcomm in 2001, and during his early years with the firm had been involved in the wireless firm’s M&A activity. Eventually, he graduated from a succession of financial planning and analysis roles through which he had rendered a steady flow of strategic insights for Qualcomm management as the company climbed from 3G to 4G to 5G along the wireless continuum. “Although I’ve been here for 20 years, I feel like I have changed companies multiple times,” comments Palkhiwala, who notes
19/09/202155 minutes 37 seconds
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Making Your Next FP&A Hire | A Planning Aces Episode

Featuring FP&A Insights & Commentary from Planning Aces: Ian Charles, CFO, Flexe, Beth Clymer, CFO, Job Case,  Mark Shifke, CFO, Billtrust, Mike Rasic, CFO, Synapse.
17/09/202139 minutes 41 seconds
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734: The X Factor: Being Approachable | Geoff Brannon, CFO, Oversight Systems

Back in 2011, when Radiant Systems was acquired by NCR Corporation, a door swung open for Radiant Systems controller Geoff Brannon, who received an invitation to join NCR’s plus-size FP&A function as a finance director. The appointment had been made possible by a former Radiant boss who had stepped into a divisional CFO role shortly after the acquisition’s completion. “He took a bet on me,” recalls Brannon, who says that the former boss knew his skillset well and had witnessed firsthand “a willingness to learn.” However, up until his NCR appointment, Brannon had resided mostly in the accounting side of the house. Looking back, the one-time controller tells us that he was also known as a collaborator and problem-solver who had distinguished himself through an easy manner when it came to working with others—a trait coveted by many FP&A leaders. A few years later, when the divisional CFO was recruited elsewhere, Brannon was tapped to be the division’s new CF
15/09/202156 minutes 35 seconds
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733: Eyes Wide Open | Laurence Capone, CFO, Pipedrive

Back in the early 1990s, Laurence Capone was a Paris-based public accountant serving a distinguished list of oil and gas industry clients when she heard about an audit assignment unlike any that she had taken on before. It turned out that a manufacturer of cotton fabrics had engaged Capone’s firm to help to audit the operations of its subsidiaries located in central Africa. As a team was being assembled for the client engagement, Capone did not hesitate to express her interest and shortly found herself departing for a monthlong stay on the continent. From the start, Capone knew better than to expect an indulgent environment. In fact, the region of central Africa—including Chad, where she would be based—was still experiencing waves of casualties from the AIDS epidemic. “I was working with this local CFO, and even just getting
12/09/202151 minutes 16 seconds
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732: A Walk on the Creative Side | Matthias Tillmann, CFO, Trivago

It was little more than 6 months after Matthias Tillmann first joined Trivago—and shortly after the travel booking company’s December 2016 IPO—when the company’s future CFO decided to step away from his senior IR role in order to head up Trivago’s creative production function. However, the jump to the creative side was not triggered by a sudden creative itch on Tillmann’s part. Instead, he was determined to extract new ROI insights from Trivago’s television advertising dollars, the very allocation that the online travel platform is credited with having converted into a groundbreaking strategic advantage. “I started to develop my own hypotheses but was unable to test them,” reports Tillmann, recalling his frustration when it came to extracting greater ROI from Trivago’s annual TV budget, which by 2019 had grown to more than $600 million, or roughly 70 percent of th
08/09/202149 minutes 40 seconds
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BONUS Replay: The Rewards of Taking Inspired Action | Brice Hill, CFO, Xilinx

    In front of the restaurant’s dozen or more cash registers, customers were standing six or seven deep when Brice Hill raised his voice and began instructing the hungry mall shoppers to immediately exit the store. “No one listened to a single word I said,” says Hill, who opens our discussion by transporting us back to the mid-1980s, when as a teenage recent graduate of McDonald’s management training program he was given a surprise leadership test. Having made a trip to the mall for some holiday shopping, Hill had poked his head into the mall’s marquee McDonald’s only to find a few of his fellow managers nervously waiting for a return call from McDonald’s headquarters. <p
05/09/202141 minutes 22 seconds
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Where Corporate Culture Trumps Exec Comp - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett and Jack discuss the highs and lows of executive compensation, and  why corporate culture may trump all.  Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Gregg Clevenger of LiveVox, CFO Charles Freund of  FLEETCOR and CFO Jill Klindt of Workiva.
03/09/202142 minutes
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731: When It's All Systems Go | Vicki Dudley, CFO, TTX Company

Having previously held a succession of finance leadership roles inside Chicago’s ever vibrant financial services sector, Vicki Dudley was perhaps more surprised than anyone to find herself accepting a CFO position with Yancey Bros. Co. of Atlanta, the oldest Caterpillar dealer in the country.   Nevertheless, the job hop drew Dudley into a world of opportunity that she credits with having helped to open the door to her latest career chapter as CFO of TTX, the largest railcar provider in North America. “That particular experience did help to prepare me for my current role. Not only did we have sales for Caterpillar and Blue Bird bus, but also we had leasing plus repair facilities across the state of Georgia,” remarks Dudley, who gives credits to Yancey for tasking her with the company’s process improvement function “and tying it to my toolkit.” –Jack Sweeney
01/09/202156 minutes 9 seconds
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730: Facing Your Transformation Year | Charles Freund, CFO, FLEETCOR

When Charles Freund was named CFO of FLEETCOR in 2020 – his arrival in the c-suite became the latest chapter of a varied and lengthy career journey that paralleled the rise of the $2.6 billion fintech.   Accepting a position in FLEETCOR’s corporate development department, Freund joined the firm in the year 2000 when it was generating roughly only $30 million in annual sales and struggling to manage its cash flows. “On two separate occasions, the corporate controller called me and said, ‘Charles, I know we normally pay you on a Friday, but we’re not going to make it this week. Can you wait until next week?,’” recalls Freund. In the years that followed, FLEETCOR found its strategic footing and Freund entered a succession of roles that would ultimately advance him into leadership positions overseeing FLEETCOR’s corporate strategy and global sales. What’s more,
29/08/20211 hour 5 minutes 46 seconds
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729: The Pivot Toward Growth | Jill Klindt, CFO, Workiva

Jill Klindt recalls that back in 2008, when she joined Workiva, the software start-up was somewhat removed from the career path that she had envisioned for herself. “It wasn’t that obvious to me at first, and it wasn’t what I was looking for,” explains Klindt, who says that at the time, the Ames, Iowa, company employed six to eight people. Once on board, Klindt found that her accounting skills and willingness to problem-solve quickly made her a go-to executive along the entrepreneurial byways that ruled Workiva’s early years. “I was relied on, which felt really good, and people kept bringing me opportunities, so I never felt passed over,” explains Klindt, who notes that even when an outside CFO was recruited to lead Workiva’s 2014 IPO, she never felt displaced. “I would not have been ready for that role at that point in my career,” comments Klindt, who adds that her predecessor in the CFO office became an outstanding mentor to her, as did other members of
25/08/202157 minutes 52 seconds
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728: The Courage of Your Convictions | Joe Wolk, CFO, Johnson & Johnson

Joe Wolk was about 5 years into his 23-year career with Johnson & Johnson when he was encouraged to take a manufacturing operations position at a newly acquired J&J company in Vacaville, California. One hot July day, Wolk recalls, he and his wife drove up to Vacaville to visit the plant, where he ended up taking a seat across from the newly acquired company’s plant manager. As one of Vacaville’s initial J&J transplants, the young finance executive sensed that his arrival was being viewed less than enthusiastically.   Read More “Within the first 90 seconds, he says: ‘Hey, you know what? I don’t think we need you out here,’” Wolk remembers, citing those words as the plant manager’s first remarks. Thus began one of Wolk’s least
22/08/202151 minutes 37 seconds
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727: The Power of Patience | Greg Saunders, CFO, Ygrene Energy Fund

When Greg Saunders tells us that “having patience” was perhaps the quality that most contributed to his first appointment as a CFO back in the early 1990s, we wonder how many additional years a more impatient Saunders (then only 32) may have needed before stepping into the CFO office. Of course, then again, a railcar leasing and repair business might not have been the first choice of many aspiring Bay Area CFOs, who as a group have for decades preferred to satisfy their C-suite ambitions via the area’s high tech companies. Read More “I remember thinking back in the early ’90s that maybe I should jump into the tech sector, but I stuck it out and I’m glad that I did,” reports Saunders, who 5 months after joining Transcisco Industries as a co
18/08/20211 hour 1 minute 52 seconds
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726: The Opportunity Beyond Arbitrage | Manish Dugar, CFO, Mphasis

Back in the early 2000s, the use of videoconferencing to conduct job interviews remained rather rare in most parts of the world—and India was no different. What made Manish Dugar’s interview experience still rarer was the fact he had participated in 18 different video calls over a period of 3 months for a single job opportunity. Says Dugar: “Over that span of interviews, I became almost as knowledgeable about IT services as any professional in that sector.” Nonetheless, Dugar recalls, he had some reservations about Wipro Technologies, a tech services company based in Bangalore, India, that had recently begun to distinguish itself in a number of areas—including its thorough vetting of job candidates.   “It did not seem so exciting for me to leave a big name company in the north of India and relocate to the south to become part of an industry that was not as well known,” explains Dugar, who at the time was working for Coca-Cola India in Delhi. What’s
15/08/202154 minutes 46 seconds
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Evolving Your Metrics, Wall Street's Point of View - A Planning Aces Episode

This Episode Features FP&A Insights & Commentary from: Ross Tennenbaum, CFO Avalara Waifa Chau, CFO, Nylas Brad Kinnish, CFO, Aryaka
13/08/202143 minutes 29 seconds
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725: Pivot Toward the Future | Mike Dodson, CFO, Quantum

“Fire the auditor!” Three words that Quantum CFO Mike Dodson vowed would never cross his lips were now being spoken aloud by Quantum’s board. “Fire these guys!” was the message that Dodson received after weeks of personally rejecting the notion.   “We had been delisted, we were in the middle of a multiyear restatement, and there were lender issues,” recalls Dodson, listing the action items that needed to be addressed to regain credibility with Quantum’s investors and lenders. “In the middle of all of this, the last thing that you want to do is to fire the auditor and start over,” observes Dodson, while summoning up past experiences that seemed to counter the logic behind dismissing Quantum’s auditor. “I was sticking to my guns,” reports Dodson, who, along with Quantum’s chief accountant, doubled back in hope of getting deeper insight into the auditor’s progress or lack of it. “It just
11/08/20211 hour 20 minutes 50 seconds
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724: A Taste for Disruption | Scott Dussault, CFO, Workhuman

Back in 2001, after Scott Dussault had been named CFO of StorageNetworks, it’s unlikely that the 30-year-old finance leader was popping any champagne corks. The company’s management had offered him the position when its previous CFO had vacated the office to serve as CEO in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble collapse. “The ride up the roller coaster was exhilarating—the ride down was educational,” explains Dussault, who had joined the firm as a controller in 1999 and been promoted to vice president of finance within 6 months. “We hired 1,000 people in 3 years and grew the company to $150 million in revenue,” recalls Dussault adding some context to the “ride up.” In 2000, when StorageNetworks went public, its stock climbed 234 percent in its first day of trading—a frenzied indicator for a company whose customer portfolio was known to be 80 percent Internet-r
08/08/20211 hour 11 minutes 41 seconds
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723: When a Crisis Becomes a Catalyst | Gregg Clevenger, CFO, LiveVox

The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s is as good a place in time as any for Gregg Clevenger to use to begin explaining the mix of professional and personal circumstances that made Rochester, New York, his port of entry into the CFO office. At the time, Clevenger recalls, he was a vice president for Goldman’s Sach’s media entertainment and technology group in Singapore and observed $100 million of recently raised funding “go up in smoke.” Having been recruited to join Goldman while overseas, Clevenger returned to the U.S. as something of an unknown. “People didn’t really know me in the U.S. context,” he remembers. “So it was going to be a very tough row to hoe.” What’s more, the travel to which Clevenger was accustomed was no longer a great match for his young family. “My first two children—one born in Singapore and the other in Hong Kong—I nev
04/08/20211 hour 1 minute 28 seconds
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722: Establishing the CEO-CFO Nucleus | Joe Euteneuer, CFO- Emeritus, Mattel, Sprint, Qwest, Comcast

Lovers of tortilla chips will swear that the only true ones are made with corn (and never wheat) and that when it comes to sourcing them, the highest-yielding kernel of corn comes from West Texas. Or so explains Joe Euteneuer, who exited an auditor position with Price Waterhouse in the mid-1980s to join a snack-making entrepreneur in a quest to lower the cost of tortilla production—a coveted advantage in what was quickly becoming a highly competitive market. “I flew to West Texas and bought corn crops from those farmers so that I could get the best deal that we could and get the best return on my—on our—invested dollars,” explains Euteneuer, a seasoned finance leader who has to date occupied the CFO office at more than a half dozen companies, including hefty brands such as Mattel, Sprint, Sirius XM Radio and Comcast. Still, it’s Euteneuer’s trip to
01/08/20211 hour 12 minutes 39 seconds
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When the Mission Matters - A Workplace Champions Episode

Brett and Jack discuss the power of the mission, the CEO return-to-work agenda and covid’s delta variant backlash. Featuring the commentary and insights of workplace champions CFO Beth Clymer of Jobcase, CFO Todd McElhatton of Zuora and CFO Scott Dussault of Workhuman
31/07/202136 minutes 49 seconds
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721: Every Transformation Begins with Listening | Melissa Ballenger, CFO, Mosaic

When Melissa Ballenger stepped into a deputy CFO role for TD Bank’s U.S. subsidiary back in 2011, she did so knowing that she had been recruited to be a change agent. Having recently generated business headlines from acquiring two sizable banks in the U.S., TD Bank had U.S. expansion plans that were hardly a secret. “A lot of competitor banks in the U.S. were still back on their heels at the time from credit concerns, capital considerations, and other things like that, and TD had the opportunity to take share profitably from competitors,” recalls Ballenger, whose new role at first involved interfacing with the different management groupings and teams of executives who were expected to help to drive a finance transformation designed to position’s TD Bank’s U.S. subsidiary for the coming decade.    “We had a very interesting mix of people. Some were from the
28/07/20211 hour 2 minutes 26 seconds
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720: Build a Function That Drives | Beth Clymer, CFO, Jobcase

It was one of the last pieces of advice that CFO Beth Clymer left us with—an item that we snagged with one of our favorite questions: What advice do you have for new CFOs?    Her reply—“Don’t skimp on resources”—at first seemed trite, but a groundswell of words shortly followed. “Too often, CFOs will say, ‘I don’t need that extra analyst’ or ‘I don’t need an extra accounting manager.’ But don’t skimp on resources. The impact that a strong finance organization can have throughout the business is massive, and those resources will almost always pay for themselves,” explains Clymer, who perhaps sounds more like a veteran CFO or a finance leader with multiple CFO tours of duty than an executive who entered the CFO office for the first time only in 2019. However, prior to entering the C-suite at Jobcase, a jobs-oriented social media platform, Clymer had invested
25/07/20211 hour 14 minutes 24 seconds
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719: Achieving New Finance IT Synergies | Madhu Ranganathan, CFO, OpenText

The aspiration to become a CFO was always there,” says Madhu Ranganathan, executive vice president and chief financial officer of OpenText, a leader in information management based in Waterloo, Ontario. “I just didn’t know what the journey would look like.” Along the way, Ranganathan says, she learned that while technical acumen remains critical to a successful career, collaboration and a commitment to understanding business operations is what has ultimately propelled her leadership journey. Ranganathan launched her career as a public accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC and then moved to Liberty Mutual Financial Services. “I did make the decision very consciously to say, ‘I would like to explore multiple industries throughout my career,’” she notes. She also wanted to gain ownership of a business’s financial performance rather than remain in an advisory role. After a stint as vice president and corporate controller with Redback Networ
21/07/20211 hour 48 seconds
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718: An Appetite for Impact | Sean Mulloy, CFO, Level Ex

When asked when he knew that he wanted to become a chief financial officer, Sean Mulloy tells us that he knew from the time he first became “siloed” within an organization. At the time, Mulloy was a project manager with the financial services company Discover, where his lines of sight seldom extended beyond his immediate projects. “I knew that I wanted to have a bigger impact. I knew that I wanted to tackle operational efficiencies and execute fund-raising and capital structure, but I was stuck sitting in a silo,” explains Mulloy, who subsequently left his confines at Discover to join a consulting firm that specialized in turnarounds and structuring outcomes for distressed companies. Says Mulloy: “This was essentially serving as the interim CFO for distressed companies. I was no longer just doing FP&A—I became responsible for banking relationships, audits, operati
18/07/202134 minutes 55 seconds
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A Cut Above FP&A | A Planning Ace's Episode

This Episode Features FP&A Insights & Commentary from: Chad Gold, CFO, SalesLoft Maria Manrique, CFO, O’Reilly Media Harmit Singh, CFO, Levi Strauss & Co. Andrew Kenny, CFO, Scoular
15/07/202146 minutes 45 seconds
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717: Minding Your Workflows | Nathan Winters, CFO, Zebra Technologies

Looking back, Nathan Winters says that his appointment as CFO of GE Healthcare’s global supply chain was in every way a milestone in his career—a high-calorie leadership stint that would ultimately propel him into the CFO office at Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ: ZBRA), a publicly traded provider of digital workflow and tracking solutions. Says Winters: “It gave me the responsibility for delivering productivity, improving working capital, and thinking about how we transform the supply chain to really create value for the company.” It also charged Winters with leading a global team spanning more than 50 manufacturing sites. “I had to quickly learn how to lead differently, drive change, and deliver results,” he explains. After 17 years with GE, Winters joined Zebra in 2018  as vice president of corporate development and business operations. “This wa
14/07/202146 minutes 5 seconds
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716: Building Your Operational Model | Chad Gold, CFO, SalesLoft

Back in 2008, Chad Gold was working for Home Depot as an FP&A professional when the economic downturn upended the home building market and summoned him to the retailer’s forecasting front lines. “Finance had to be ahead of the business as far as thinking through all the different scenarios went because the housing markets were changing literally day to day,” comments Gold, who observes that the crisis revealed to him how the finance team must always be out in front “looking around corners.” After several years with the giant retailer and multiple promotions, Gold says, he began to grow frustrated as the flow of promotions slowed down despite his willingness to take on big projects in different functions. Then, one day, an issue involving one of his projects “blew up.” “My boss sat me down late at night and on a whiteboard drew some stair steps with a
11/07/202154 minutes 45 seconds
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715: Blazing a New Strategic Path | Todd McElhatton, CFO, Zuora

Among the growing number of finance leaders who can be classified as cloud computing CFOs, few have arguably stayed in step with the parade of cloud opportunities longer and with more brand muscle behind them than CFO Todd McElhatton of Zuora. For the past two decades, McElhatton has been finance’s cloud point man for some of the biggest names in tech as the technology developers have shifted their offerings from on-premise to in-the-cloud solutions. Turn back the clock to 2001, and McElhatton is joining Hewlett-Packard’s finance team, where he serves as a vice president of finance while advancing into the realm of managed services for the first time. Fast-forward to 2007, and he’s joining Oracle, where he invests 7 years and oversees business operations for the developer’s pioneering cloud business. Next, he’s jumping to VMware, where he’s named CFO of the developer’s Hybrid Cloud Business before moving onward to SAP as SVP an
07/07/202146 minutes 21 seconds
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714: A Career Beneath the Headlines | Christian Lee, CFO, Transfix

In March of 2009, when the economy was still in the clutches of the global financial crisis, Time Warner spun out its subsidiary Time Warner Cable into an independent company. “As we spun off, we paid a massive dividend to the parent of $18 billion, and our central thought became: ‘How do we survive? How do we survive as a newly public company with lots of debt?’” recalls Christian Lee, who at the time was a Time Warner Cable senior vice president and head of the company’s M&A strategy. Over the next several years, Lee says, he experienced a fast ride of ups and downs that provided a string of lessons when it came to speaking to debt holders and investors inside ever-changing market conditions. Fast-forward to 2014, and Lee and Time Warner Cable (TWC) CFO Artie Minson receive a hostile takeover letter from competitor Charter Communications, which made no secret of its intent to replace TWC’s board of directors with its own selections.  “We spent the next
04/07/202148 minutes 43 seconds
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713: Banker, Builder, Finance Leader | Stuart Henrickson, CFO, Bold Commerce

In the late 1990s, when Stuart Henrickson was CFO for Koch Industries’ Canadian operations, Chase Manhattan made him a job offer unlike any that he had received before. “It was a fork in the road for me. Koch had been consolidating and bringing many of its operations back to their head office in the U.S., and it happened to be at that point in time that Chase brought me the opportunity,” explains Henrickson, who reports that he was asked to spearhead a development bank for Chase in the Middle East. “So, within the course of a week, I had to make a decision regarding whether I went down to the U.S. to be part of a Koch team that was already built or instead started to do something new with a blank sheet of paper,” recalls Henrickson. After 4 years with Chase, he would join the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, where he led investment banking for nearly 5 years bef
30/06/202153 minutes 19 seconds
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712: Making an Impact One Employee at a Time | Maria Manrique, CFO, O’Reilly Media

When Maria Manrique stepped into her first role as a CFO, she did so knowing that her finance leader mentor was still in the building—in fact, he was occupying the CEO office. “It would be unfair of me to not say that this was critical—being able to step into the role and have someone there who could help me to bridge the gaps,” recalls Manrique, who prior to entering the CFO office at the start-up had served as vice president of FP&A. Manrique had already occupied similar senior planning roles at multiple companies, having previously worked for Fidelity Investments, where she had lent her FP&A acumen to the financial services firm’s portfolio of venture-backed companies. Still, at the start-up, she found herself along the front lines at the company’s board meetings—an opportunity that she had seldom been afforded at Fidelity. But along with her increased visibility came responsibility, she points out. “I had been supporting venture capital–backed compani
27/06/202158 minutes 24 seconds
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Building a More Inclusive Culture - A Workplace Champions Episode

25/06/202142 minutes 5 seconds
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711: Building Your Network | Nicole Anasenes, CFO, Ansys

Asked to recall the experience of stepping into a CFO role for the first time, Nicole Anasenes doesn’t mince words. "It’s a very lonely, scary moment,” comments Anasenes, as she considers her early days at technology company Infor—a CFO appointment that preceded more recent CFO engagements at Squarespace and now technology firm Ansys. “If only someone would have told me how lonely it feels to make certain decisions—you can bounce ideas off people, but you are the ultimate decision-maker,” continues Anasenes, who says that, looking  back, she may have been able to ease some of the decision-making concerns if she had had a broader professional network to which to turn. “I happened to have been lucky that Charles Philips, the CEO of Infor, was a financially savvy person, but since then, I’ve built a much broader network of people and a framework for how to have these type of con
23/06/20211 hour 9 minutes 20 seconds
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710: Supply, Demand and Oil in the Gears | Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah, CFO, Analog Devices

It was nightly business conversations at his parents’ dinner table that first led Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah to consider alternatives to business when it came to building a career. “As most small business owners do, my parents worked all the time—and as with most small businesses, things could at times be financially challenging,” explains Mahendra-Rajah, who vividly recalls business rent increases, outstanding receivables, and the dynamics behind supply and demand that pervaded his parents’ dinner conversations. Nevertheless, it was this same scrutiny of supply-and-demand dynamics that Mahendra-Rajah credits with helping him to “come full circle” and ultimately led him to business school. At the time, Mahendra-Rajah was working full-time as a senior process engineer for chemical giant FMC Corp., a career-building stint that afforded him the real-world insights required to enrich a master’s thesis that he needed in order to complete a chemical engineering degree f
20/06/20211 hour 3 minutes 51 seconds
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709: Investor, Advisor, Operator | Mark Shifke, CFO, Billtrust

Billtrust CFO Mark Shifke likes to label himself an “accidental CFO”—a tag that a number of our guests have appropriated from time to time when faced with explaining a past filled with less-than-traditional career experience. However, in the case of Shifke, the term arguably has little to do with career experience, for Billtrust’s CFO spent nearly a decade on Wall Street before entering the C-suite. Instead, Shifke uses the appellation to help to reveal the pivotal role that a single phone call came to play in his finance career. Back in 2000—near the beginning of Shifke’s Wall Street career and the end of the market frenzy known as the dotcom bubble—Shifke took a phone call from a CEO founder whom he had met through a personal acquaintance. Just as the CEO didn’t hesitate to ask Shifke to invest in his struggling company, Shifke didn’t dither when it came to coming up with some figurative cash. “I made a handshake agreement with him over the phone,” explains Sh
16/06/20211 hour 1 minute 44 seconds
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708: Making FP&A Your Cross Functional Glue | Waifa Chau, CFO, Nylas

Several actions proved key as Waifa Chau advanced from financial planning and analysis (FP&A) roles to chief financial officer positions. Collaborating with other functions, gaining an in-depth understanding of the overall business, and helping his colleagues understand how FP&A benefits an organization have driven his success, says Chau, currently CFO with Nylas, Inc., a provider of productivity infrastructure solutions for software.  Cross-functional collaboration helps in gaining an understanding of a company’s overall business, Chau says. While working at Gap Inc., the company behind Gap, Banana Republic, and other apparel brands, Chau focused on driving higher gross margins—key in the retail industry. Chau’s curiosity about the business also helped him propel his career forward, he says. He spent about two years in a merchandising role at Gap, during which he gained a better understandin
13/06/202148 minutes 25 seconds
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707: Light From a Distant Star | Ian Charles, CFO, Flexe

Of course, every finance leader needs to understand the mechanics of accounting and know how to identify the financial implications of management’s decisions. Their preparation should also include learning from their experiences—and this includes mistakes, says Ian Charles, chief financial officer with Flexe, an on-demand warehousing solution. In particular, identifying the optimal candidate for a job is one of a leader’s most difficult and critical responsibilities, Charles notes. It’s also far from straightforward. It’s easy to believe that you’re hiring a star who will move the organization to the next level, only to discover that the individual isn’t as exceptional as he or she appeared as a candidate. In other situations—say, when it’s necessary to fill a role quickly—a candidate who appears less inspiring at the outset can turn out to add tremendous value to the organization. To improve his track record when hiring for cr
09/06/202139 minutes 3 seconds
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706: A Career of Build & Scale Moments | Trent York, CFO, Restore Hyper Wellness

Nearly 20 years later, CFO Trent York tells us that he can still hear the finance executive’s exact words. “Trent, I don’t need you tell me how not to do something—I need you to help me to figure out how to work through the issue and what needs to be addressed in order for us to be able to expand,” recalls York, placing just enough emphasis on the word “not” to expose a degree of anxiety that still lingers. At the time, York was a newbie controller for Golfsmith, an Austin, TX–based golf specialty retailer that in the 2000s was opening dozens of stores annually as golf enjoyed newfound popularity nationally amidst the Tiger Woods boom.  “We went from 20 retail stores at the time I joined to close to 80, and we actually took it public, so this was really a build-and-scale moment that was quite exciting,” explains York, who advanced into the vice president of finance role as the golf retailer began to prepare for a public offering that ultimately debuted
06/06/202159 minutes 15 seconds
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Culture & Competencies | A Workplace Champions Episode

04/06/202127 minutes 4 seconds
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705: Expanding the Lane to Organic Growth | Bill Kelley, CFO, TreeHouse Foods

When the TreeHouse Foods financial planning and analysis (FP&A) team notice CFO Bill Kelley entering the room, chances are that a number of team members shoot a quick glance at the company’s latest revenue figures. “I’m probably more predictable than I want to be,” explains Kelley, who has made revenue management a top priority for the $4.5 billion private label food and beverage maker. The push for organic growth at TreeHouse follows a larger reorganization at the company that roughly coincided with Kelley’s arrival inside the CFO office. According to him, that reorg has since led finance to begin embedding senior finance executives inside different business lines. “There are finance people who are now hard-wired into the business units, and we have created a revenue management function that had not previously existed,” points out Kelley, who notes that the embedded finance professionals are today playing a more strategic role inside the business than ever befo
02/06/202151 minutes 53 seconds
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704: When Investors Come to Mind | Puneet Pamnani, CFO, KORE Wireless

When asked about a personal habit that has served him well over the years, finance leader Puneet Pamnani raises his voice slightly and seeks to mimic the delivery of his wife’s tone:  “This is what you do for a hobby? You read company annual reports?” To which Pamnani defends his favorite pastime with the retort: “I find them interesting!” Although it might seem difficult to imagine this exchange taking place on sandy beach vacations and holiday escapes, it nonetheless remains an example that Pamnani uses to illustrate his relentless curiosity for how businesses operate and perform.   According to Pamnani, this curiosity has led him to regularly attend the annual shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, the major event for many value investors and fans of Warren Buffett, among whom Pamnani proudly includes himself. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Pamnani’s reading pastime is one that Buffett has long enjoyed and encouraged others to purs
30/05/20211 hour 16 seconds
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703: Driving Future Performance | Harmit Singh, CFO, Levi Strauss & Co

When it comes time for Harmit Singh to brief Levi Strauss & Co.’s management team regarding the latest performance results, Levi’s CFO will often share a briefing document that features a front page bearing the heading “What’s Working and What’s Not.” “It’s more difficult to understand what’s not working, and it’s the ‘What’s not’ that helps us to determine the areas on which we have to focus to take the business to the next level,” explains Singh, who notes that the “front page” is carefully rendered by Levi’s Financial Planning  & Analysis (FP&A) crew – a team of forward-looking financial professionals whose past feats of analytic derring-do have included helping the jeans maker to foresee the leap from “skinny Jeans” to the baggie look among young consumers. It’s here among Levi’s crack team of number crunchers that the “what’s not” often becomes exposed, and it’s here where a new mind-set – one that keeps consumers top-of-mind and favors stakehold
26/05/202147 minutes 35 seconds
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702: Making Relationships Matter | Andrew Kenny, CFO, Scoular

Andrew Kenny still remembers the smell of day-old pizza that lingered in the back of the Cairo conference room as negotiations between his then company, food processing giant ADM, and a future joint venture partner entered day five. “Planting a flag in Egypt was extremely important for us because it was not just about having a presence there—it was about creating an entire supply chain and creating value for an asset base back in the U.S.,” explains Kenny, who tells us that the 5-day gathering was the culmination of 10 prior trips to Egypt and a burdensome due diligence process.  Still, at times, a positive outcome was in doubt. “We were struggling to come to economic terms on the transaction,” recalls Kenny, who says that the developments that broke the stalemate ultimately had little to do with the happenings inside the conference room. As the day-five negotiations dragged on, Kenny says, he would at times step out of the room with the Egyptian company’
23/05/202156 minutes 30 seconds
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701: Real-Time Insights, Yet Another Covid Legacy | Adam Meister, CFO, Talend

There’s little question that the pandemic has led business leaders to amp up digital initiatives across most industries. In response, CFOs have more frequently been called upon to serve up some detailed answers for investors eager to keep a grasp on all spending tied to such initiatives. However, capital spending numbers were only an appetizer for certain board members and investors who viewed their businesses’ growing digital operations as a dependable source of new and timely insights into their firms. “The severity of the risk associated with the pandemic pulled finance executives into a place where they needed to be more comfortable in sharing a degree of detail with investors that was much more foreshadowing or predictive,” says Adam Meister, CFO, Talend, a publicly held cloud data integration company that recently announced its acquisition by private equity firm Thoma Bravo. According to Meister, the search for more timely insights by investors was
19/05/202147 minutes 22 seconds
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700: Making What Was Once Unstructured - Strategic | Alex Amezquita, CFO, Herbalife Nutrition

Space is not typically the realm that CFOs point to when we ask about experiences that prepared them for a finance leadership role. However, the first 10 years of Alex Amezquita’s professional life frequently involved celestial spaces. “I was an engineer and chip designer, and some of those chips are floating around space on satellites right now, as we speak,” explains Amezquita, who served in a succession of senior chip designer roles before returning to graduate school for an MBA. “As a designer, it’s all about problem-solving, or, ‘How do I get from point A to point B in a very structured way?,'” comments Amezquita, before making a thoughtful comparison between chip design and finance.   “Finance leadership is about taking unstructured information and figuring out how to make it fit into a budget or P&L or message that we can share with the public
16/05/202158 minutes 26 seconds
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699: The Return of Jimmy Lai | Jimmy Lai, CFO, Acepodia

When Acepodia CEO Sonny Hsiao began developing a list of candidates to fill the chief financial officer role at the biotechnology company that he had cofounded, it may have surprised some to see Jimmy Lai make the list. Certainly, this was not due to any U.S. markets void on Lai’s resume—to the contrary, he had helped to take three companies public and served as chief financial officer for multiple U.S.-listed firms. Nor was it due to a presumed lack of boardroom stature on Lai’s part, as he was at that time serving on the boards of multiple NYSE-listed companies). Instead, any surprise that Lai’s name elicited may have been due to the simple fact that he was known to have retired. Read More “I had been working in (Asia) for 17 years, and it was time to change the pace and
12/05/202147 minutes 18 seconds
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698: Decomposing Business Metrics | Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara

It’s no secret that the herculean effort required to keep corporate board meetings on time frequently involves tracking the arrivals of certain board member attendees. Of course, the most anticipated arrival inside the boardroom is often not a board member at all, but a new business measure or yardstick commonly referred to as a metric. And just as board members often hail from faraway places, so too do metrics. Or so explains Ross Tennenbaum, a former investment banker, who in 2020 stepped into the CFO office at Avalara, a developer of tax compliance software. “I’m obsessed about what I call, for lack of a better name, the macro-to-micro continuum,” explains Tennenbaum, who notes that his new environs have opened his eyes to the life that metrics lead as they swim upstream to the boardroom. “It’s about how you connect that board-level output to the individual all the way down in the organization,” comments Tennenbaum, who believes that too often there’
09/05/202130 minutes 15 seconds
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697: A SPAC Puts Leafy Greens on the Menu | Guy Blanchard, CFO, AeroFarms

Back in 2014—when Guy Blanchard first entered the CFO office at AeroFarms—the indoor vertical farming company had roughly 20 employees and a commercial farm prototype under construction. Seven years and four rounds of private funding later, AeroFarms has recently broken ground on its third commercial farm in Danville, Virginia, and a research farm in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, this past March, Aerofarms demonstrated that its appetite for innovation extends beyond farming techniques when it announced a merger with Spring Valley Acquisition Corp., a SPAC that the company now expects to use as a vehicle to go public. “Spring Valley prefers growth-stage companies that don’t have any technology risk and can just focus on the execution part of the equation,” says Blanchard, when asked how the talks with Spring Valley had first gained traction. "They were a grea
05/05/202136 minutes 44 seconds
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696: Ascending the Funnel | Darrell Cox, CFO, Vena Solutions

When marketing campaigns get old, they’re like polyester leisure suits that seem to fit okay but look awful, explains finance chief Darrell Cox of Vena Solutions, who credits finance with helping Vena to empty its closet. Or, to put it another way, Cox credits finance with helping Vena to fail faster. “The earlier you know that you should stop investing, the more successful you will be at failing efficiently and having your experiments be effective,” comments Cox, who says that such experiments are frequently conducted in collaboration with the sales team, as finance seeks to lengthen its lines of sight into the  sales funnel. Read More “The further up you get in the funnel, in terms of being able to analyze where your sales leads a
02/05/202153 minutes 52 seconds
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Trust & the Individual - A Workplace Champions Episode

Featuring the Workplace Champions CFO Arleen Paladino of Crum & Forster CFO Guy Blanchard of Aerofarms CFO Mike Rasic of Synapse CFO Ross Tennenbaum of Avalara
30/04/202140 minutes 49 seconds
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695: As Public Perception Changes, Opportunity Advances | Louie Reformina, CFO, Turning Point Brands

Chances are that CFO Louie Reformina never expected to be in the rolling papers business. Having advanced down a career track populated with different private equity firms, a stint at Goldman Sachs, and a Stanford Business School degree, Reformina could have landed inside any number of industries offering him multiple C-suite doors of entry. However, not unlike the pick-and-shovel entrepreneurs who once outfitted troves of Gold Rush  prospectors, Reformina is confident that his arrival inside the CFO office at Turning Point Brands (NYSE:TPB) is well timed for an uptick in cannabis sales due to the industry’s quickly changing regulatory environment as well as public perception.    In addition to cannabis, Turning Point, a marketer and distributor of “alternative smoking accessories,” is now seeking to satisfy its appetite for growth inside a number of product categories such as cigar wraps, hemp paper and paper cones. “The majority of our profits now come
28/04/202148 minutes 2 seconds
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694: Specific and Time-bound, Aggressive yet Realistic | Ana Sirbu, CFO, Nitro

Not unlike other finance leaders, Nitro CFO Ana Sirbu wants you to know that she’s a “prioritizer.” Both personally and professionally, Sirbu has created a list of objectives that never strays far from her mind’s eye. Meanwhile, she undoubtedly keeps a second list—a listing of key results.   “Effective key results are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic,” wrote John Doerr, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, in his ode to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) Measure What Matters (Penguin Random House, 2018).   Learning how items move from the first list to the second is one of our objectives in talking with Sirbu, a steely-eyed Silicon Valley CFO who’s known to bring a vice-like focus to key results. By way of introduction, she names past affiliations (Google Capital, Silver Lake Partners) to expose her path to the CFO office o
25/04/202157 minutes 26 seconds
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693: Building Individual Trust | Mike Rasic, CFO, Synapse

Looking back, Mike Rasic says that his entry into the world of tech start-ups got kicked off with a phone call that he almost didn’t answer. “I have a strict policy that if I see a phone number popping up on my mobile that I don’t recognize, I just don’t pick up,” explains Rasic, who goes on to say that the voice on the other end belonged to a head hunter who subsequently gave him the scoop on a CFO position. “It worked out,” reports Rasic, a former PwC partner who is currently the CFO of Synapse, a fintech start-up that can now be counted as Rasic’s fourth CFO tour of duty. Asked what advice he wishes that someone had given him upon entering the CFO office for the first time, Rasic replies “timing matters,” before explaining further: “I joined a mortgage company as CFO at the onset of the mortgage crisis.” Besides some of the more challenging lessons gleaned from the mortgage crisis, Rasic says that he exited the experience with two key takeaways that he
21/04/20211 hour 4 minutes 7 seconds
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692: Betting on Your Future | Tim Murphy, CFO, REPAY

In 2008, as the subprime mortgage crisis began turning the Street’s brash dealmakers into a squeamish clan of risk-averse bankers, Tim Murphy, an associate at Credit Suisse, decided that it was time to try some slots. Lots of them. “I took a gamble in the casino space—it was probably one of the best decisions that I have made in my career and one the best decisions that we have made as a family,” explains the finance leader, who accepted a director of finance position with Cadillac Jack, a fast-growing slot machine manufacturing company based in Georgia.   At the time, Murphy’s wife (the couple had met at business school) was working for The Coca Cola Company in Atlanta, a factor that the finance executive says helped to hedge his career bet. “I had opportunities to join investment banks in Atlanta and other large organizations, but we made a conscious decision that given the fact that she had a job at a very large and stable company, I could take a gamble with
18/04/20211 hour 1 minute 50 seconds
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691: Get Out of the Weeds | Rob Krolik, Partner, Burst Capital (CFO emeritus)

When Rob Krolik agreed to join us for a CFO (emeritus) episode, we expected to hear about the successful business turnaround chapter that he added to his finance resume while CFO at We also anticipated learning about his years at Yelp, where—back in 2011, as the firm’s new CFO—he was credited with helping to lead one of the year’s most successful IPOs. While Krolik was only too happy to share a few thoughts regarding both of these chapters, he also reflected on a place in time about which we never expected to hear—namely, when a speech delivered by the outgoing president of his international youth group turned out to be plagiarized and in fact a word-for-word copy of an address given by another retiring president a number of years earlier. “It was a very moving speech and I had put the guy up on a pedestal, so it taught me not to put anyone up there again,” explains Krolik, who notes that this experience from his teen years led him to enter the professional w
14/04/202157 minutes 35 seconds
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690: The Next 100 Years | Arleen Paladino, CFO, Crum & Forster

In the early 1980s, when Arleen Paladino joined Crum & Forster as a 21-year-old internal audit trainee, she was frequently sent to remote office locations to complete audits of financial statements the data from which were then transferred to keypunch cards and fed into a giant mainframe at the insurance company’s Morristown, New Jersey, headquarters “While this might seem like a long time ago, we just decommissioned the mainframe last year,” says Paladino, who entered Crum & Forster’s CFO office in 2017 after serving as a senior vice president of the company’s internal audit function. Having only recently bid farewell to mainframe technology, Crum & Forster is not likely counted among the industry’s tech savvy innovators. Still, evolution is arguably what Crum & Forster does best. The insurance company will celebrate its bicentennial next year. “Understanding the systems and how the processes worked together really helped me to understand the business model,” c
11/04/20211 hour 10 minutes 57 seconds
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689: Be the Bridge | Terry Coelho, CFO, BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI)

Within 4 months of her 2019 arrival inside BDSI’s CFO office, Terry Coelho had spearheaded a product acquisition and managed a successful equity raise—two finance milestones that would produce generous sales tailwinds for the specialty pharmaceutical firm.   BDSI would experience 100% net sales growth in 2019, followed by 40% net sales growth in 2020.  Such sales momentum recently led BDSI to issue a press release praising its “new commercial team” and at the same time announcing that Coelho’s CFO title would now include the designation “executive vice president.” For Coelho, a seasoned finance executive who spent more than a decade serving in a variety of senior positions inside Novartis and Sealed Air Corp., the call to leadership at BDSI afforded her a wide berth from which deliver results that are now arguably visible to all. Still, even this success chapter must compete for our attention when we hear about a promoti
07/04/20211 hour 9 minutes 46 seconds
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688: Ready for Takeoff | Kevin Ingram, CFO, FM Global

Back in 2014, when FM Global wanted to entice finance executive Kevin Ingram to move back to the US from England, the UK finance director was offered a position no one at the company had ever heard of before.       “My CEO came to me and said, ‘It’s called sr. vice president of corporate services and that means nothing to anybody, but I love that because that means I can put anything I want there and no one can tell me it doesn’t belong.’" explains Ingram, who says the newly created role would grow to include business analytics, business risk consulting, capital management , risk management as well as other areas. Still, the corporate services title to the outside world was arguably somewhat vague and perhaps not what a top executive may have in mind after 25 years with the same company. Says Ingram: “I was never looking to leave. It was really just a question of when the opportunity was going to present itself and if it didn’t present itself what else would I d
04/04/20211 hour 7 minutes 40 seconds
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687: The Room Where It Happened | Ken Kaufman, CFO, Community Dental Partners

Each Wednesday morning, as the CEO prodded his team for business projections and troubleshooting ideas, the midsize company’s top managers would huddle around a white board inside a glass-enclosed office. For 20-something Ken Kaufman, the management huddle was a silent spectacle—except for the occasional bouts of laughter that burst out from behind the glass. “The managers would always leave with this positive energy and always have new guidance for how the business could move forward,” explains Kaufman, who says that for him, over time the meeting became not just a source of weekly intrigue but also a career destination.   Years later, Kaufman recalls, when he was invited to join the huddle at another middle market company, the gathering generated little energy and was far less productive than what he had expected. “I finally made it into the room, and then we spent the entire time arguing over why certain numbers were wrong,” remembers Kaufman, who—now
31/03/20211 hour 6 minutes 28 seconds
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686: Making “Why Not?” Your Career Door Opener | Hamza Benamar, CFO, Kyriba

Long before growing numbers of digital nomads freely roamed the planet, Hamza Benamar had achieved a borderless professional life inside the world of internal audit.   “I went through a phase in my career when I was not even planning the next year—I was too busy getting my work noticed and getting proposals to go somewhere else,” explains Benamar, who recalls that the question “Why not?” became the familiar response with which he greeted each new opportunity. Having grown up in multilingual Morocco, Benamar found that crossing international borders came naturally to him, which gave him an edge when SAP came looking for young professionals to serve a growing roster of clients interested in scaling their processes globally. “I knew that I was actually going to be able to learn from these marquee companies and discover how to design, implement, and run the processes of A/R, A/P, and general ledger,” remembers Benamar, who joined SAP’s Houston operation in 1999 befo
28/03/202154 minutes 14 seconds
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Greetings From the Post-Covid World - A Workplace Champions Episode

Featuring the CFOs: Tom Berquist, CFO, TIBCO, Terry Coelho,CFO BioDelivery Sciences , Kevin Ingram,CFO, FM Global, Robert Linder, CFO, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
26/03/202133 minutes 31 seconds
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685: When Opportunity Knocks | Rebecca Mahadeva, CFO, Greater Than One

For Rebecca Mahadeva, the late 1990s audit of a minor league baseball team was the type of rare career assignment that never failed to intrigue both accountants and non accountants alike. At the time, Mahadeva had been serving a variety of technology audit clients as a young associate for  Coopers & Lybrand when she added to her docket a major league baseball team otherwise known as the New York Mets.  “The Mets controller at the time engaged me to do a site visit and some compliance work on the financials of a single A team up in Canada known as the St Catherine’s Stompers,” explains Mahadeva, who says her visit’s findings were used to help bolster confidence behind the purchase price the Mets owners had divvied up for the single A team. Following the close of the deal, St. Catherine’s Stompers relocated to Brooklyn, and was subsequently renamed The Brooklyn Cyclones . The newly rebranded Cyclones
24/03/202143 minutes 39 seconds
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684: Completing the Job at Hand | Paul Ottolini, CFO, Russell Reynolds

When Paul Ottolini is asked to share a personal trait—one that a family member might divulge to us— the seasoned finance leader tells us that he likes to cut his own lawn and that he is known for being “cheap.” Still, Ottolini makes clear to us that it’s more the satisfaction of completing a job and not the cost savings that regularly fuels his pursuit of manual tasks. “I’m smiling when I spread 10 yards of mulch,” says Ottolini, whose words perhaps provide a clue to his past as well as to a work life cadence with which one suspects that he has rarely if ever fallen out of step during his more than three decades of  career-building. The son of a chemist employed by General Motors Corp., Ottolini graduated from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) after completing a co-op undergraduate degree that permitted students to pay for their education by alternating 3 months of classes with 3 months of work inside G
21/03/20211 hour 1 minute 40 seconds
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683: When It’s Time to Sit in the Driver’s Seat | Stéphane Berthier, CFO, Uniphore

When Stéphane Berthier joined Uniphore of Palo Alto, CA, as CFO this past January, the move no doubt raised more than a few Silicon Valley eyebrows. For more than two decades, Berthier had served a list of prestigious Bay Area tech companies as a top audit partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where his impressive tenure had originally been kicked off by his relocation from France to better serve one of the firm’s most coveted Silicon Valley clients: Hewlett-Packard. During the next two decades, Berthier would become inducted into Silicon Valley’s coterie of familiar advisors and consultants known to provide sound advice to IPO-minded technology start-ups as well as software firms struggling to replace “on premise” customer revenue with new cloud-driven funds.   “I stayed 20 years and loved every aspect of client service—this was a tough decision for me, but I think that it was the right time,” says Berthier, who describes Uniphore as being uniquely positioned to
17/03/202150 minutes 23 seconds
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682: Achieving a Flywheel to Create Long Term Value | John Collins, CFO, LivePerson

When CFO John Collins is asked how his background in data modeling and strategy is influencing the role that finance plays inside LivePerson, the artificial intelligence (AI) software firm that he first joined 2 years ago, he draws our attention to the mountains of data accumulating alongside most businesses today. “Given the volume of data that exists and that the tools to transform it into information have not evolved very much, my taking over the CFO seat and building out this team under me is putting us on a path to better achieve more data efficiency,” explains Collins, while referring to the team that he’s dubbed “DMD,” or Data Models and Decisions. “Data is essentially an input into a model. The model may be rather simple and rules-based or it may involve more sophisticated machine learning, but the models manipulate and organize that data to produce useful information,” continues Collins. Still, what sets Collins’s data aspirations apart from those of hi
14/03/20211 hour 6 minutes 23 seconds
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681: Not Settling for Business as Usual | Christian Geyer, CFO, ActiveNav

As Christian Geyer sees it, the path to the CFO office can begin just about anywhere. For him, anywhere happened to be the accounts payable department of a DC-area construction company. Having built numerous government facilities across the region, the company hired Geyer—along with three other “payables specialists”—to manage the process of paying for the expansive list of building materials that the company was constantly acquiring to use in the construction of its buildings. “I knew that if I stayed in step with the department’s typical rhythm, I would never go anywhere,” explains Geyer, who reports that shortly after his arrival, he converted what had been a 40-hours-a-week job into a 60 to 80 hours one. “I looked at the purchase order process as well as the payment approval process, and I tried to whittle these down to figure out where the bottlenecks were in order to make us more efficient,” recalls Geyer, who quickly began eliminating snags withi
10/03/202151 minutes 32 seconds
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680: Making Sales Success a Must-See Metric | Ron Knutson, CFO, Lawson Products

A little more than a decade ago, Ron Knutson remembers, when he first stepped into the CFO role at Lawson Products, he quickly realized that the productivity improvements that he was expected to help drive would demand a number of significant infrastructure and technology investments. In anticipation of the investments that would need to be made, Knutson recalls, he first completed a “competency review” for every member of the finance team, a process that was in part designed to help flag those employees deemed well suited for training tied to future investments. “We wanted to make certain that we would be training the right individuals,” comments Knutson, who notes that the review ultimately led to “extensive” staffing changes as he sought to lessen the team’s overall dependence on existing systems and use new training to whet its appetite for the adoption and implementation of new technologies, including ERP software.     “Having these individuals go through t
07/03/202152 minutes 57 seconds
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679: Making a Business Ripe for Investors | Graham Miao, CFO, AgroFresh

Looking back, AgroFresh CFO Graham Miao says that the decision to change careers early in his professional life was triggered more or less by resource allocation. Originally, Miao had trained as a biologist, but after having earned a doctoral degree in biology from Columbia University, he quickly found gainful employment as a scientist at a research facility run by pharmaceutical giant Roche. It was here amidst the daily pursuit of biological insights that Miao began to observe how finance and accounting professionals held sway over many of the resources needed to complete different projects. “It made you wonder, ‘What is it that accountants know about science that scientists don’t?,’” explains Miao, who after 5 years with Roche returned to Columbia to study business full-time. “At the time, my boss and colleagues thought that I was being crazy and that it was too risky,” remarks Miao, who notes that the pursuit of yet another degree required that he take
03/03/20211 hour 15 minutes 52 seconds
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678: The Arc of Data's Evolution | Ed Goldfinger, CFO, Quantum Metric

When Ed Goldfinger is asked to relate a moment of strategic insight that he has experienced as a finance leader, he draws our attention to his CFO tenure at Zipcar, the car-sharing upstart that targets the short-term needs of its customers by being billable by the hour as well as the minute. At Zipcar, Goldfinger would achieve the fabled CFO milestone of taking a company public. However, the biggest takeaways for him were related to the experience of growing a company widely recognized as an industry disrupter—and thus member of a cohort known as much for innovation in business modeling as for often startling deficiencies in benchmarking data. “You couldn’t point to any existing player and say that this was what we should look like over time,” explains Goldfinger, who notes that Zipcar grew from roughly $55 million to $300 million in annual sales during his term as CFO, a 6-year tenure that ended with the sale of Zipcar to Avis Budget Group in 2013. Among the mo
28/02/20211 hour 7 minutes 11 seconds
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677: Engaging Minds at Work | Michael Pickrum, CFO, ExecOnline

When Michael Pickrum tells us about ExecOnline, the company that he joined as CFO back in 2019, he wants us to know that the education technology firm is aligned with his goals both professionally and personally. When it comes to the professional side of things, Pickrum says, ExecOnline in certain ways is a media company. “You’re taking some IP and figuring out how to distribute and monetize it,” comments Pickrum, while boiling down the somewhat complex approach that ExecOnline uses to repackage the curricula of top business schools and universities to better serve the specific people development needs of a variety of corporate clients. Still, Pickrum’s shorthand description is intended not to spotlight the facets of ExecOnline’s business model but instead to draw our attention to its similarities with his past media industry experience—such as his 17 years with BET Networks, where he occupied the CFO office for 9 of the
24/02/202150 minutes 2 seconds
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676: The Next Transformation Journey | Paul Lundstrom, CFO, Flex

Back in 2015, after nearly two decades of diligent career-building across United Technologies, Paul Lundstrom fixed his career builder’s gaze upon the span of companies known as the Fortune 500. Like many seasoned finance executives who spend the balance of their careers inside large enterprise companies, Lundstrom had to confront the obvious truth that for every company, the CFO office has but one occupant. By all accounts, a Fortune 500 company was a worthy target for Lundstrom’s CFO ambitions, but here, too, the number of CFO roles quickly diminishes when you consider the industry-specific focus that spans the arc of Lundstrom’s career and those of so many others.   Finance executives often tell us that it was here within this realm of heightened ambition and shrinking opportunity that they dared to add one of the most satisfying chapters of their CFO careers, and so it was for Lundstrom. Last fall, the UT veteran landed safely inside
21/02/202144 minutes 21 seconds
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Marching in Step with OKRs - A Workplace Champions Episode

This Episode Features Human Capital Insights & Commentary from: Dynshaw Italia, CFO, Soldo Brad Kinnish, CFO, Aryaka Will Bondurant, CFO, Castlight Health The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations. More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees.
19/02/202130 minutes 26 seconds
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675: When Complexity Equals Waste | Jim Harper, CFO, Goodroot

According to Goodroot CFO Jim Harper, the best way to transform the current U.S. healthcare system is to replace its connective tissue. “It’s going to be a long slog and it’s got to be done one system at a time,” explains Harper, who uses the word “system” while referring to the individual points of connection that knit together healthcare’s patchwork of payers and providers. For Harper, connection points are where waste gathers within the larger system – and where companies often add unnecessary complexity in order to extract more dollars. “Because there is so much money flying through the systems there are a lot of organizations that have become involved here and they are greedy,” comments Harper, whose shares his opinion of the healthcare system as a preface to explaining the mission behind Goodroot.   Not exactly a business incubator, and not a private equity firm, Goodroot prefers to be dubbed a “community” of businesses dedicated to improving the cu
17/02/202153 minutes 59 seconds
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674: Creating Sensible Options From Hard Decisions | Robert Linder, CFO, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

When CFO Robert Linder highlights what distinguishes the dining experience at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, it’s easy to imagine him as a friendly host escorting us across a lively dining area filled with spirited patrons. “I love the hospitality industry, and I didn’t always know why—but I love to host and I love the interaction and taking care of someone and helping them to discover something new,” says Linder, whose words draw our attention to the universal splendor of dining out and its bitter absence from our lives during these past many months. From the start, we knew that our discussion would become focused on the pandemic and its impact on Lazy Dog’s business, yet we couldn’t help but want to linger as Linder listed the popular menu items from the restaurant that currently serves customers at 39 locations in seven states. In the end, we left it to Lazy Dog’s CFO to transport us back to earth with the not so enviable
14/02/20211 hour 1 minute 40 seconds
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673: Advancing Down the Transformation Path | Will Bondurant, CFO, Castlight Health

Years from now, when Castlight Health CFO Will Bondurant reflects back on the varied chapters of his finance career, he may title the current one “The Turnaround”—that is, if he and Castlight CEO Maeve O’Meara are able to achieve what the firm’s previous management team had not been able to: a strategy transformation. Like his CEO, Bondurant is not an outsider: After joining the firm in 2013, he was assigned a variety of strategy and financial planning duties that led to more influential product strategy and operational roles of the type that many aspiring CFOs eagerly seek out. As Bondurant shared with us his cross-functional journey, he mentioned few titles or promotions but instead drew our attention to a variety of experiences that has led us to conclude that Castlight’s future CFO first emerged as one of the company’s foremost problem-solvers. Says Bondurant: “If everything is working, you don’t always get the opportunity to fix something. The reason that I
10/02/20211 hour 56 seconds
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672: Finance From the Top Down | Tom Berquist, CFO, TIBCO Software

When an inquisitive software analyst takes a seat across the table from TIBCO Software CFO Tom Berquist, the inquisitor may not know that TIBCO’s finance leader once sat on their side of the table and in certain ways still prefers it. From 1996 to 2006, Berquist added a distinguished equity research chapter to his career when he became a marquee analyst inside the software realm for a string of Wall Street investment houses—namely, Piper Jaffray, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup. Seated across the table from the likes of Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Bill Gates (at the time, Microsoft’s CEO), and many others, Berquist asked probing questions and listened to the carefully crafted narratives designed to achieve “buy-in” on the company’s strategy from discerning analysts. “You would get pieces of information from each of the different companies, which gives you this incredibly powerful view of the market,” recalls Berquist, who even
07/02/20211 hour 7 minutes 11 seconds
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671: Why the Best Laid Plans Are Continuous | Shane Hansen, CFO, Planful

It was a meeting that Planful CFO Shane Hansen tells us that he was not looking forward to. The SaaS developer’s FP&A team had discovered a “fairly large” forecasting error, and Hansen deemed it necessary to brief Planful CEO Grant Halloran on the matter. So, as planning teams are apt to do, Planful’s FP&A crew performed an extracurricular round of scenario planning—or what might more accurately be described as "CEO planning." Says Hansen: “We did our homework and put things together in order to be ready for whatever reaction Grant might come up with.” Halloran’s response: “Oh, that’s just a mistake. What can we do to improve?” Of course, whether the Planful CEO’s reaction was among those considered by the planning team in its anticipated responses is not the point. Instead, the tale of the forecasting snag allowed Hansen to bump our discussion concerning continuous planning into the continuous improvement lane. And make no mistake: Planful’s finan
03/02/202156 minutes 40 seconds
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670: Judgment: At the Heart of Every Decision | Gary Golden, CFO, Cherwell Software

If we were asked to boil down our discussion with CFO Gary Golden to a single word, our answer would be: “judgment.” It perhaps goes without saying that having good judgment is a prerequisite for every finance leader, and the quality frequently tops the list of reasons that CEOs give when asked to describe what sets apart one CFO candidate from another. Still, the word comes to mind not because Golden uses it—which he does multiple times—but because he routinely draws our attention to the “decision-making” central to every CFO position and the experiences that have helped to shape the judgment that he uses to make sound business decisions. Golden’s professional life began as a lawyer in a Dallas law firm, where his goal was to become a top mergers and acquisitions attorney, but along the way he jumped to American Airlines.  “One of the reasons I left private practice for American is that they had a reputation for moving lawyers onto t
31/01/202158 minutes 47 seconds
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669: Transactions, Trades, and Treatments | Ozan Pamir, CFO, 180 Life Sciences

We seldom hear a finance leader tell us that they took a pass on a promotion early in their careers, so when CFO Ozan Pamir told us that as a 25-year-old associate he had turned down a vice president position with Echelon Wealth Partners, a Canadian investment banking firm that he had been with for only 2 years, we felt obliged to ask: “Why?” “I’d like to think that I’m a relatively self-aware person, and at the time I just did not feel ready—I thought that I had a little more room to grow and things to learn,” says Pamir, who had joined the banking firm as an IV analyst and was promoted in short order to associate—at which time he began managing other analysts.   “A year later, they offered me a vice president role again, and I accepted it at that time,” continues Pamir, who believes that the extra year as a “senior associate” served him well. “It gave me more time to learn how to better manage the analysts and how to take on responsibility when it came to mana
27/01/202153 minutes 57 seconds
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668: Investors Make Room for a Streaming SPAC | Jason Eustace, CFO, CuriosityStream

It was roughly 12 months ago that Jason Eustace was named CFO of CuriosityStream, an upstart streaming media company launched in 2015 by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks. For Eustace, CuriosityStream represents something of a flashback career chapter, arguably having more in common with the first 10 years of his finance career than the past ten. Turn back the clock 20 years, and Eustace could be found in the accounting department of the National Geographic Channel, which at the time was a newly formed joint venture between the National Geographic Society and Fox Cable Networks. “Nat Geo wanted to marry up their content with the distribution of the cable world, so it was a perfect marriage,” explains Eustace, who saw his responsibilities grow over a 6-year stint that ultimately landed him in a controller role. Controllership credentials in hand, Eustace then joined Discovery Communications, where he would serve in a variety of
24/01/202139 minutes 45 seconds
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667: Where Growth & Trust Meet | Brad Kinnish, CFO, Aryaka

The mid-December conference call was 45 minutes old, CFO Brad Kinnish says, when he began to feel edgy. One of the company’s biggest deals of the year had yet to close, and the specifics behind its commission structure (or lack thereof) had led a number of the call’s participants to begin to flag potential snags. As time passed and commissions continued to dominate the discussion, Kinnish found he could no longer remain on the sidelines. “Hey, look, team—I think we’re spending time on the wrong thing here. I think we need to be spending time on closing this deal and getting it done. I need you to trust me that we’re going to pay a commission that’s fair to the sales leaders, fair to the sales reps, and fair to the company” are the words that Kinnish recalls saying as he charged the group to not begin waving red flags outside of the mechanics of the specific deal and to put their trust in him. “I needed to rely on
20/01/20211 hour 2 minutes 43 seconds
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666: When Vision is the Plus Multiplier | Manmeet Soni, CFO, Reata Pharmaceuticals

It’s a phrase that has historically never roamed far beyond the corridors of pharmaceutical companies, but now—thanks to COVID 19—the term “clinical trials” has entered the vocabulary of the public at large. Perhaps at no time in history have the “trials” that pharma companies use to generate data on the safety of a particular drug, vaccine, or treatment been as heavily scrutinized—and at no previous time has CFO Manmeet Soni of Reata Pharmaceuticals believed that the processes and approaches that govern Reata’s “trial design” have been more ripe for innovation. “Our learnings from the past 9 months are going to influence how we operate for the next 90 years,” explains Soni, who says that these learnings were put into motion last spring as COVID’s arrival shut down trials and began curtailing Reata’s data flows. “That’s when we began asking: ‘Why can’t we do trials in a way similar to how home health services are provided? Why don’t we deliv
17/01/20211 hour 3 minutes 43 seconds
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665: A Data-Driven CFO Grabs the Wheel | Rob Barnhart, CFO, SimpleTire

Among the experiences that Rob Barnhart credits with having prepared him for a CFO role was an executive training program in which he participated when he served as director of FP&A for defense contractor BAE Systems. Known as LEAD, or Leadership Enhancement Accelerated Development, the program put a spotlight not on technical knowledge or management best practices but on each participant’s soft skills, Barnhart recalls. “There were literally clinical psychologists sitting in on meetings who would later reflect on your behavior and give you advice on how you could have been a more effective communicator,” says Barnhart, who also credits one of his own earlier talent development efforts with helping him to advance down the CFO path. At the time, Barnhart was heading FP&A at Fanatics, a company specializing in sports merchandising, “The question became: How can I make sure that I don’t have to level up or bring new people in and put them over
13/01/202135 minutes 31 seconds
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664: Good Judgment: Every CFO's Star Attribute | Gary Swidler, CFO, Match Group

Back in 2015, when Gary Swidler was a candidate for a CFO position at Match Group, the seasoned banking executive recalls being told by company management: “On paper, you are definitely not the most qualified person for the job.” The gap on Swidler’s resume was due to the fact that he had never held a CFO position—a void that frustrates many first-time CFO candidates who routinely find themselves second in line to candidates whose resumes list previous CFO appointments. Perhaps frustrated CFO candidates might find some comfort in the notion that Match, a company whose online offerings excel at achieving “matches”—albeit romantic ones—chose to discard industry’s traditional CFO matching criteria. According to Swidler, the CEO remarked: “‘You’ve never done this before, but I’ve known you for a long time and you have very good judgment. You’re a smart person with high integrity, so don’t prove me wrong.” Swidler’s comments expose the rol
10/01/202152 minutes 1 second
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663: Building a Better Product | Hoang Vuong, CFO, Amplitude

We have been speaking with Hoang Vuong for little more than a minute when he mentions the CFO mentor whom he credits with having influenced his early career decisions. “Hey, what do you really want to do when you grow up?” was the question that Vuong remembers being asked by the CFO, who had gotten to know Vuong personally while the young techie had served as an IT troubleshooter for his company’s ambitious SAP implementation. Fast-forward a few years, and the same CFO introduces Vuong to the management of an early-stage Internet search firm in the travel space, known as SideStep. Vuong joins the young company and subsequently focuses his troubleshooting skills on the firm’s mounting growth obstacles. “I had started reading a bunch of blogs where I began learning about this little company called Google and the interesting things that they did,” recalls Vuong, who says that he quickly began to grasp how Google offerings could help SideStep to
06/01/202153 minutes 28 seconds
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662: A Thirst for Innovation | Dynshaw Italia, CFO, Soldo

When innovation is a topic for discussion, Dynshaw Italia can’t resist mentioning Cobra Beer—or, to be more specific, “the big bottle.” It was Cobra, of course, that first opted to forgo the UK’s standard 500–550 ml beer bottles and introduce an ever more generously proportioned 650 ml vessel. “Cobra was all about doing things differently and better and, as a result, changing the marketplace,” explains Italia, who recalls that Cobra’s big bottle strategic insight had to do with the willingness of UK diners to share their oversize beverage with others at their table.   “Because they were sharing the bottle, it would be kept on the table. As a result, customers entering the restaurant would see all these tables having a bottle of Cobra, and it was like free advertising,” continues Italia, who served as group CFO for the popular UK beer brand from 2003 to 2010 as it continued to f
03/01/202158 minutes 30 seconds
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When Purpose Eases Workforce Stress | A Workplace Champions Episode

Inside the realm of corporate finance, it’s safe to say that the year 2020 has been unlike any that have preceded it. As more employees have occupied remote workspaces, growing numbers of finance chiefs have told us that they are more carefully monitoring the financial and cultural levers that influence workforce behaviors.  
28/12/202037 minutes 58 seconds
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661: Finding Your Finance Port of Entry | Dan Stokely, CFO, Ampio Pharmaceuticals

Thinking back to his days as a charter boat captain off the coast of Point Loma, San Diego, Dan Stokely marvels at the responsibilities that he shouldered as a young adult. Serving a mix of customers, Stokely would routinely welcome on board groups of small business owners, executives, and doctors before setting off to sea on 3- to 15-day jaunts. “Whether it was dealing with people experiencing some kind of medical emergency at sea, or really rough weather, or mechanical failures—you just had to be on top of your game all the time,” recalls Stokely, who says that the experience forever shaped his mind-set when it comes to taking on challenges.   Initially, Stokely had set his sights on acquiring equity in a boat, but conversations with different customers piqued his interest in business and led him to begin a college career alongside his sea captain vocation. Upon graduation, Stokely feared that the lack of an accounting internship on his oceangoing resum
22/12/20201 hour 18 minutes 44 seconds
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660: A CFO Finds Her Career Cadence Inside PE-Backed Firms | Debra Ricci, CFO, Guidehouse

Back in 2018—when Deb Ricci’s name topped the list of leading candidates to fill the CFO role at Guidehouse, a management consulting firm carve-out—three career distinctions likely set her apart from other candidates. First, Ricci was a veteran public sector executive whose finance resume included multiple chapters inside the government services sector, Guidehouse’s home turf. Second, she had worked inside private equity–backed companies—experience that few recruiters could ignore in light of Guidehouse being the offspring of private equity firm Veritas Capital. Third, she had an EBITDA mind-set—an unyielding orientation that allowed Ricci’s lines of sight to seldom stray very far from the metrics that helped to track, measure, and deliver EBITDA.  Of course, it is just such a mind-set that has likely kept Ricci’s finance leadership credentials on the radar of private eq
20/12/202042 minutes 14 seconds
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659: The Rewards of Taking Inspired Action | Brice Hill, CFO, Xilinx

  In front of the restaurant’s dozen or more cash registers, customers were standing six or seven deep when Brice Hill raised his voice and began instructing the hungry mall shoppers to immediately exit the store. “No one listened to a single word I said,” says Hill, who opens our discussion by transporting us back to the mid-1980s, when as a teenage recent graduate of McDonald’s management training program he was given a surprise leadership test. Having made a trip to the mall for some holiday shopping, Hill had poked his head into the mall’s marquee McDonald’s only to find a few of his fellow managers nervously waiting for a return call from McDonald’s headquarters. The restaurant—at the time one of the busiest McDonald’s locations on the West Coast—had only minutes earlier received a bomb threat, and as Hill digested the blank stares triggered by his shouts to clear the store, he realized that more extreme measures were required.</
16/12/202045 minutes 19 seconds
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658: The Technology-Driven Turnaround | Sandra Harris, CFO, Tupperware Brands

When Tupperware Brands CFO Sandra Harris is asked what set her apart from the other CFO candidates who aspired to fill the finance leadership role at the iconic maker of food storage products, she doesn’t hesitate to mention that her previous leadership turn was not as a CFO, but as chief information officer for outdoor apparel and footwear manufacturer VF Corporation. It was there where Harris first climbed into the company’s leadership ranks from VF’s FP&A function, where she had become increasingly focused on the company’s quickly evolving global supply chain.   “VF was on a trajectory of going from $6 billion to $12 billion, and in order to do this, they needed to optimize their supply chain,” explains Harris, who along the way found herself overseeing VF’s procurement function—a position that made her the direct report for VF’s sourcing for all of Asia. “Asia was one of our most complex businesses—it had every kind of retail channel, and it was because of m
13/12/202044 minutes 6 seconds
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657: From the Ground Up | Yevgenia Fink, CFO, HOVER

It was near the end of her 9 years with Intel Corp. that Yevgenia Fink received a bit of advice that today she credits with having helped her to blaze a path that would ultimately lead to the CFO office.   As Fink recalls, “Leave Intel before you forget how to open an Excel spreadsheet” was the brief but memorable comment that a respected manager opined. “I felt that I had a lot of influence at Intel, but most of my function became leading and managing people, and I still didn’t feel confident in my pure finance skill set,” says Fink, who at the time was a group controller for the chip maker’s mobile platform team. Fink’s future finance career path would involve a string of start-ups where she got to demonstrate her FP&A skills and along the way acquire broader finance responsibilities that made her a candidate for VP of finance positions and eventually the CFO office at HOVER, an application that
09/12/20201 hour 53 seconds
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656: A Taste for Disruption | Russell Burke, CFO, Life360

When Russell Burke tells us that his days at Sony Music Entertainment included “huge peaks” such as the release of the hit sound track for the motion picture Titanic as well as huge challenges such as the rise of digital pirates, the two developments quickly converge. Suddenly, in our mind’s eye, we see Burke’s career vessel of choice surrounded by pirates and the finance executive shouting a string of orders to a bewildered seafaring crew. Once again, the instant imaging that our conversations often render appears to be strangely prescient of the finance leader’s future career chapter. “Before that piracy, I hadn’t really understood the concept of disruption,” explains Burke, who occupied VP of finance roles at Sony Music in both New York and Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s.   At first, Burke was tasked with helping Sony to lessen piracy’s bite by leading a series of cost optimization initiatives, including setting
06/12/202049 minutes 16 seconds
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655: Awaiting the Return to Travel | Tom Tuchscherer, CFO, TripActions

Twenty-five to 30 years ago, senior executives seeking CFO roles did not think like Tom Tuchscherer. Many still don’t, which is why CFO roles have increasingly come to executives like Tuchscherer, a gate crasher from the world of corporate development. Such was the case back in 2012, when Tuchscherer entered the CFO office for the first time at Talend, a fast-growing developer of data integration software. At the time, Tuchscherer was accustomed to having long strategy discussions with both Talend investors and board members and was even tasked with helping management to recruit “a professional” CFO. However, when a new CFO exited the company only 12 months after being recruited, Tuchscherer agreed to serve as an interim finance leader.   “First it was 3 months, then 6 months, then 9 months, and then a year. Eventually, the board said, ‘Hey, you seem to be doing a good job with this—why don’t you just stay?,’” explains Tuchsche
02/12/202047 minutes 57 seconds
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654: The Path to Being IPO-Ready | Drew Vollero, CFO, Allied Universal

When Drew Vollero arrived in the CFO office of Snap (formerly Snapchat) in 2015, the executives occupying the tech world’s traditional IPO talent bench no doubt raised a few eyebrows. Having spent the previous 25 years inside the corporate corridors of Mattel, Inc., and PepsiCo, Vollero had a resume chock-full of strategic planning initiatives that any finance leader would covet. Still, he could not be counted among the familiar CFO all-stars known for their routine rotation into IPO-minded tech companies. Of course, whatever buzz Vollero’s hiring may have stirred, Snap left no room for IPO skeptics, having earlier in 2015 hired Imran Khan, head of Internet investment banking at Credit Suisse, where he had recently led the IPO for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. “Whenever we walked into a room together—on the road show or wherever—there were seven or eight people who knew Imran,” explain
29/11/20201 hour 5 minutes 40 seconds
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In Search of a Culture Metric | A Workplace Champions Episode

  "Talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it." - Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara CFOTL: What are your priorities for the coming year? Tennenbaum: One is building out our finance and accounting talent to take us to a billion dollars’ worth of revenue and beyond. We’re at close to half a billion of revenue, and we’re looking to go well beyond that. You really need the talent that has experienced a larger scale, knows how to achieve it, and can take you there. So, talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it. CFOTL: What does the phrase “workforce culture” mean to you? Tennenbaum: Beginning in my investment banking days, I’ve studied many companies and management teams. I’ve seen teams that were really high-functioning, really strong, great cultures. I’ve also seen managem
25/11/202038 minutes 46 seconds
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653: From Real Estate to the Immune System | Chad Cohen, CFO, Adaptive Biotechnologies

Of all of the business discussions that Chad Cohen has had over the years, few are likely as memorable as the 20-second conversation he had with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff about midway into his 9-year career stint with the online real estate company. Cohen joined Zillow back in 2006 as corporate controller, a position that he says also had the added distinction of being the company’s first full-time finance role. Over the next 4 years, as Zillow’s back-office finance and accounting team took shape, Cohen’s responsibilities grew, allowing him to step into the role of vice president of finance. “I had been moving up the ladder, and it was right before we made the decision to go public—I remember Spencer coming into my office and saying, ‘You’re going to be CFO,’” says Cohen, who recalls Zillow’s CEO saying little more before exiting. For Cohen, the exchange signaled a 6- to 12-month tra
22/11/20201 hour 5 minutes 9 seconds
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652: Exposing Gross Margin’s Hidden Levers | Jeff Nichols, CFO, UJET

In 2016, when Jeff Nichols had been a senior member of Glassdoor’s FP&A team for 2 years, he and other members of the finance team were confronting the nagging truth that the firm’s path to going public wasn’t getting any shorter. The online job recruitment firm’s efforts to grow its profit margins had met only mild success, while its cash burn rate was inching upward. According to Nichols, Glassdoor’s path to going public was further complicated due to the unique characteristics of its business model. Points of comparison between Glassdoor and top recruitment rivals such as LinkedIn and Indeed offered few insights due to the firm’s unique approach, making Glassdoor’s story more challenging for management to tell. To help remove the firm’s storytelling obstacles and address its meager margin growth, Nichols says, the firm’s finance team began asking, “How do we get the business to perform over the long term in a way that would actually make
18/11/202053 minutes 12 seconds
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651: Remedying Your Metrics Disconnect | Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara

Ross Tennenbaum remembers that back in 2018, when he was a managing director at Goldman Sachs, he had conversations with a number of senior executives from Slack Technologies, Inc. At the time, the fast-growing workplace messaging and communication platform was preparing to go public, and the company was making a special effort to educate bankers and analysts alike about the firm’s business. As his questions became more pointed, Tennenbaum says, he noticed that members of Slack’s senior management team would frequently permit other executives stationed along the conversation’s periphery to supply the answers. “At first, I thought that they served sort of a chief-of-staff type of role, but what I realized was that when the executive was pressed with a question, one of the sidekicks would always be turned to for the answer,” explains Tennenbaum, who found his conversations with
15/11/20201 hour 40 seconds
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650: When Opportunity Comes Your Way | Kieran McGrath, CFO, Avaya

In 2008, as the economic downturn threatened to upend IBM Corp.’s financial well-being, the company’s leadership was considering different candidates to lead a corporatewide restructuring when Kieran McGrath’s name surfaced. McGrath was known as a troubleshooter inside the ranks of IBMers, a seasoned finance executive whose 27 years with the company had produced a zigzag career trajectory tracing a jagged path that signaled to IBM insiders both a breadth of experience and company loyalty. “Early in my career, I got a reputation as a workhorse and a bit of a problem fixer, and while this was positive in the long haul, it did not always seem that way at the time,” explains McGrath, who says that he was 10 years into his career with IBM when “special assignments” began regularly populating the path before him. “I was constantly getting pushed out of my comfort zone because I was never able to stay in any one space too long,” says McGrath, whose
11/11/202050 minutes 53 seconds
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649: Entering the Auction Room | Martin Nolan, CFO, Julien's Auctions

Had Martin Nolan studied engineering instead of accounting, his career path would likely never have entered the worlds of Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson. Still, Irish-born Nolan is quick to point out that it was a Green Card lottery, not his accounting degree, that facilitated his relocation to New York City, where he would meet and ultimately team up with Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions, the world’s leading entertainment auction house. Before the two men met, Nolan had traveled a remarkable distance from his early days in New York, where in the early 1990s—Green Card in hand—he had landed a job working at the front desk of the New York Hilton. In the years that followed, the determined Irishman had networked his way up into a string of Wall Street jobs, where he found success as a stock broker and investment advisor at such firms as JP Morgan Chase and Merrill Lynch.   “Darren was doing a Johnny Cash auction when I met him—he was a m
08/11/202056 minutes 47 seconds
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648: A Life Sciences Angler Casts a Sturdy Line | Bill Adams, CFO, NervGen Pharma

It’s a familiar sequence: A strong-minded investor musters the will to lead and steps into the CEO office determined to revitalize a struggling technology company and put it back on the growth track. For Bill Adams, this swift turn of events occurred only a year into his first industry stint as a corporate controller—a career chapter, he recalls fondly, that included a devoted CFO mentor. However, the company’s CFO and CEO had exited the firm just prior the investor’s arrival, and Adams found himself stepping into a finance leadership role. Although stressful, the circumstances swung open the door for Adams to not only oversee the finance function but also have the opportunity to play a more strategic role in the business. In short, he would now be in lockstep with the new CEO as they together championed the latter’s strategic vision that would upend the tech company’s growing focus on software revenue and double down on hardware sales. Or so the CEO beli
04/11/20201 hour 5 minutes 25 seconds
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647: Accruing Your Global Acumen | Adrian Talbot, CFO, Hotwire

When Adrian Talbot tells us that he parachuted into Thames Television in the early 1990s, the image of the London skyline—once used to brand the popular British broadcasting company —quickly comes to mind. Suddenly, in our mind’s eye, just to the right of St. Paul’s dome, we spy a 20-something-year-old Talbot floating confidently downward. Along with a boatload of first-class metaphors, this is the type of instant imaging that every conversation renders—at least for those of us on the lookout for them. But Talbot’s successful first jump—not unlike those of many future finance leaders—came about with a degree of serendipity. “The lead auditor became sick—I was parachuted in for 2 years, and this gave me an early taste of media,” explains Talbot, who at the time was an auditor for BDO. Several internal auditing roles followed, including one with Hilton International that required a good deal of travel in order to complete audits in different parts of the wo
01/11/20201 hour 7 minutes 8 seconds
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Bonus Episode: The Networking Imperative | Robert Bendetti, CFO, Life Cycle Engineering

Bendetti: I'm trying to steal that great quote from Warren Buffet, "I'm trying to be greedy while others are fearful." And I'm trying to grow. And if you're an existing organization with a big overhead, wow, you're retreating. You are worried about how you're going to continue if you're a 501C6, you're not eligible for the PPP loans. They're in a period of retrenchment, these other professional associations. I have no costs. I'm lean by design. I have a job. This is my nights and weekend gig. So everything I do is easy and lean. And so I have no costs. And so I'm trying to grow, I'm trying to be greedy while others are fearful and expand this thing. While I can't meet anywhere physically, so I can grow virtually.
30/10/202024 minutes 46 seconds
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646: Making Finance a Workforce Whetstone | Michelle McComb, CFO, Bluecore

Just as Michelle McComb was imagining that she would shortly be joining another Silicon Valley start-up as a finance leader, the CFO of Lucent Technologies helped to upend her plans. Back in the early 2000s, McComb’s first CFO tour of duty was coming to an end with the successful sale of her company to a larger, publicly held software firm. However, within a matter of months, the buyer was itself acquired by the giant telecommunications player, and Lucent’s CFO offered up a question to McComb: “What would it take to keep you?” The coveted query is one that career builders long to hear but don’t always answer in rational ways. “I packed my bags and moved to England, where I became CFO of one of Lucent’s major divisions,” she explains, leaving little doubt that her answer had landed well. “I received tremendous international exposure as I traveled extensively and got to deal with finance peopl
28/10/202053 minutes 18 seconds
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645: The Investor Came Knocking | Glenn Schiffman, CFO, IAC/InterActive

There’s little question that 2020 will long be remembered as a year of crisis for the casino industry. Commercial gaming revenues in the U.S. were down 79 percent during the second quarter when compared to Q2 2019, a fact that made IAC/Interactive’s August announcement that it was purchasing 12 percent of hospitality and gambling giant MGM all the more headline-grabbing. “We think we found a once-in-a-decade opportunity to find a meaningful position in an iconic brand,” explains IAC/InterActive CFO Glenn Schiffman, who says IAC’s balance sheet remains flush with cash (more than $3 billion) after the recent spinoff of online dating site “We believe that Las Vegas will come roaring back, and this comes back to how IAC likes to invest: We like massive addressable markets with tailwinds from offline to online, and that’s what we see with gaming,” says Schiffman, who is no stranger to industries in crisis. Back in September of 2008, Schiffman was he
25/10/202046 minutes 4 seconds
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COVID Keeps People Top of Mind Among Business Leaders - A Workplace Champions Episode

More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees. The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations.
23/10/202042 minutes 3 seconds
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644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

Back in the late 1980s, Mike Brower’s list of audit clients included a roster of oil and gas companies as well a local university and a number of different state and local government entities. It was the type of client list that any accountant based in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, might covet, a fact made all the more undeniable by having Taco John’s International top the list. A restaurant franchisor with over 450 restaurants nationwide, Taco John’s first began serving local Cheyenne customers in the 1960s, before expanding rapidly across the Plains and upper Midwest as it outfitted franchisees in small towns rather than big city locations. “They just popped up everywhere, and I sort of had an insider’s view,” says Brower, who joined the Taco John’s finance team in 1990 after having given notice to the Cheyenne office of McGladrey & Pullen. For the next 6 years, Brower’s responsibilities intersected with every aspect of Taco John’s accounting and reporting fun
21/10/202048 minutes 27 seconds
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643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

Back in 2015, Katie Rooney was only 7 months into her first industry CFO role at Aon when her boss asked her to exit the office. “He came into my office on November 1 and said, ‘I’m retiring, and I want you to take on my role. I’m leaving in 8 weeks,’” recalls Rooney, who says that the news triggered a mix of surprise and fear, which she recalls outwardly expressing with the words “Oh, my God!” Her boss quickly sought to ease her concerns. “He said: ‘You know what? It will be the best thing for you. If I stick around, you will never get the credit from the team,” explains Rooney, who subsequently swapped her CFO business unit responsibilities for her boss’s broader, divisional-level CFO portfolio. Looking back, Rooney confides that she expected to someday to fill her boss’s shoes, but perhaps in 2017 or 2018—and certainly not in 2015. For her, though, the timing would turn out to be most fortuitous. In early 2017, 13 months after she had officially
18/10/202030 minutes 7 seconds
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642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

It’s not uncommon for career-building executives inside the finance realm to obtain an MBA in order to pivot their careers in a new direction. Such was the case for Sachin Patel, who after finding some early success as a systems engineer at IBM Corp. began to study the path before him more closely. “One of the things that you don’t very often get to do as an engineer is to articulate what you did by using the written word or even verbally. Just having this not be a feature of the job was something that began to be evident to me,” says Patel, who as the years passed found the laconic nature of engineering to be in direct conflict with his growing desire to play a more active role in shaping and influencing business strategy. “I looked at two areas—investment banking and strategy consulting—and began pursuing both, which probably wasn’t the best approach from a time management standpoint,” explains Patel, who says that ultimately the numbers—or, as he describes it, “the
14/10/202031 minutes 10 seconds
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641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

“It’s not cheap to go public,” concedes CFO Steve Cakebread, echoing the oft-repeated refrain that founders and CFOs confront when considering the prospect of selling shares in their companies to the public. Concessions aside, it will come as little surprise to Wall Street and private investors alike that Cakebread—a seasoned finance leader who has taken public such companies as Salesforce, Pandora, and his latest firm, Yext—has come not to bury IPOs, but to praise them.  And 2020 might be the year when founders and CEOs are prepared to listen.   Certainly, few of Cakebread’s CFO admirers are likely to question the finance leader’s keen sense of timing. In fact, more than a few will likely be making room on their bedside tables for Cakebread’s soon-to-be-released The IPO Playbook: An Insider’s Perspective on Taking Your Company Public and How to Do It Right (Silicon Valley Press, 2020). “With all of the macroeconomic and pandemic issues going on,
11/10/202031 minutes 16 seconds
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640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

Jamie Samuels still recalls some of the raised eyebrows that he saw after having completed in short order both the verbal and written portions of an exam that his future employer administered to job applicants. Not unlike most of his fellow applicants, Samuels had been invited to take the exam after responding to a newspaper advertisement, but, unlike his peers, he had been the only foreign applicant—or, more important, the only foreign applicant able to complete both portions of the exam in fluent Chinese. “At that time, my written Chinese was very good because I had only recently completed my senior thesis,” explains Samuels, who first became immersed in the Mandarin-speaking world in the early 1990s when at 18 years of age he spent 12 months in China in a gap year before returning to the U.S. and entering college as a Chinese language major. “Language is a tool to go do something else, so I spent a lot of my early career in trying to figure out just what that
07/10/202040 minutes 15 seconds
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639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

Back in the early 2000s, Catherine Birkett found herself being pulled into confidential meetings where her company’s senior management was discussing restructuring plans with the company’s largest investor. The company—a fiber optics telecom firm known as Interoute—was not yet 6 years old, but its days appeared to be numbered as the company sought to weather the telecom industry’s historic collapse.   As Interoute’s top FP&A executive, Birkett knew from the ongoing business plan’s numbers that massive changes were urgently needed, and she as well as others were not optimistic about the restructuring options available to the company. In fact, Birkett recalls, she and many executives had to tamp down the feeling that “this was not going to end well.” From a career perspective, Birkett arguably had less at risk than the other more senior executives sitting ringside during the restructuring discussions. Not yet 30 years of age, she joined
04/10/202038 minutes 48 seconds
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638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession. At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises. In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to $170M—a $20M uptick that led certain analysts to believe now might be the right time for the food giant to step on Cost Smart’s accelerator. Not so fast, says Ingredion CFO Jim Gray, who reports that he already likes what he’s seeing in Ingredion’s rearview mirror. The opportunity around remote work environments and online collaboration has accelerate
30/09/202047 minutes 16 seconds
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637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

The son of two doctors, Tom Fencl recalls that while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to him a free market economy was more “an intellectual curiosity” than a possible career destination. “When the Berlin Wall came down, I was midway through high school—it was a very formative experience,” remembers Fencl, who says that the historic happening suddenly released “a market economy spirit.” After studying at Prague’s University of Economics, Fencl says, he was “drawn to the big financial centers” and worked in London for 2 years at Stern Stuart & Co. as a consultant before heading to the University of Michigan for an MBA. “From a university standpoint, the University of Michigan may not be the most obvious place for a European to go—but they found me more than I found them,” explains Fencl, who notes that years earlier in Prague he had met students from the University of Michigan who were involved in a study of post-communist economies. “
27/09/202046 minutes 17 seconds
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636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’” comments Smith, who recalls thinking at the time: “I know how to use spreadsheets, I perform calculations—but I don’t know how to word this letter.”   Later, Smith says, she reached out for guidance from the technical team, followed by the legal team, before sitting down and writing a letter to the customer. Very often, the customer relationship would involve multiple partners and payment
23/09/202052 minutes 13 seconds
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635: Finding Your Finance Team's North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful

The Berlin headquarters of software developer Contentful occupies an old brick warehouse with heavy metal doors and broad functional corridors and spaces native to its industrial past. Standing six stories high, the structure once accommodated its worker population with a miniature kitchen on every floor, a favorite employee perk perhaps first introduced by a coffee-loving tenant.    Still, not everyone at Contentful loves coffee—or at least its CFO, Markus Harder, doesn’t. “My secret is that I hate coffee—I just don’t like it,” says Harder, who shortly after his arrival at the firm put in motion a mandate to remove the small kitchens. “It was arguably one of my biggest career gambles,” says Harder, as he captures our attention and leads us to wonder why a finance leader would make a point of championing such a seemingly misguided decree. Of course, Harder’s actions are only Part I of a two-part tale. The second part involves the creation of what h
20/09/202048 minutes 57 seconds
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634: Milestones for M&A Success | Steve Young, CFO, Duke Energy

It was a little over 40 years ago when Steve Young first joined what would become Duke Energy, the giant electric power holding company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Not only has it been a long tenure, but also it is the only post-college job that I’ve ever had,” says Young, who first roamed the energy giant’s corridors as a finance assistant. In the years that followed, Young says, he became involved in various finance-related projects as different executives sought him out because he had become recognized as a hard worker. One such senior executive, who sat inside Duke’s rates and regulatory affairs realm, approached Young about a staff position in the department. “It was a smaller group and outside of finance, but from what I could see, the group intersected with the lifeblood of the company’s profitability and revenue streams and pricing,” explains Young, who accepted the position and in short order acquired the regulatory
16/09/202050 minutes 31 seconds
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633: Marching to Fintech's New Beat | Matt Briers, CFO, TransferWise

Among the more transformative chapters of Matt Briers’s finance career was his 3-year stint monitoring and forecasting margin performance inside Google’s UK operations. “The core role was really to understand what was happening in the organization from a revenue and margin performance perspective and then help to operate the organization so that it could better drive that revenue,” explains Briers, who says that his responsibilities included an unyielding effort to expose new drivers of Google revenue “even down to keyword searches.” “My role was to provide a hotline back to product in Mountain View,” says Briers, who notes that UK customers are known to be among the most advanced users of Google’s advertising offerings, outpacing users in the U.S. and other markets by as much as 3 years. The insights gleaned by Briers and his team would become an important strategic voice for both sales and finance at Google and allowed Briers to add an impressive FP&A chapter
13/09/20201 hour 14 minutes 50 seconds
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632: Exposing the Connection Between Financial and Operational Data | Jacqueline Purcell, CFO, Deputy

Jacqueline Purcell’s path to the CFO office began inside an Australian law firm where as a young attorney she was advising corporate clients and their bankers on how to best address some of the legal hurdles that their M&A deal-making might confront. At the time, her routine collaboration with different banking executives gave her a point of comparison to the seemingly less energetic legal world. “They seemed to be having a little more fun and a lot more impact on the outcomes,” she recalls. “This is what sparked my interest in moving into finance,” continues Purcell, who was soon headed to Stanford University for an MBA and then to New York, where she joined Morgan Stanley’s M&A practice. “I spent just over 8 years there focusing on a full spectrum of mergers and acquisitions transactions,” comments Purcell, who says that it was during those years of M&A deal-making that she grew to respect the CFO role and the executives who filled
09/09/202036 minutes 43 seconds
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631: Explaining the Business Reason Behind the Number | Steven Springsteel, CFO, betterworks

Back in the early 1990s, Steven Springsteel nabbed an interview for a CFO role with a high-flying tech start-up. At the time, he was controller for Apple’s worldwide manufacturing operations, but the buzz surrounding the brash start-up intrigued him, and the young but accomplished executive shortly found himself waiting to be interviewed by the firm’s CEO. According to Springsteel, his interview aspirations quickly became somewhat tempered as he sat listening to a stream of expletives originating from the CEO’s office.  Within minutes, the CEO’s door swung open and several long-faced engineers beat a hasty retreat, to be followed by a smiling and gracious Steve Jobs extending a hand to Springsteel.      “I’ve heard a lot of great things about you! Can I get you something to drink? Are you hungry?” Springsteel remembers the legendary tech innovator saying before explaining the role that he had in mind for the CFO of NeXT, Inc. Recalling the interview, Spri
06/09/202051 minutes 19 seconds
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630: Building the Business Case | Bennett Thiemann, CFO, Applicaster

It was the type of role that any recent business school graduate could envy—not because of the position’s title (Chief of Staff) or how much it paid, but because of its proximity to management decision-making. The job is one that Bennett Theimann remembers well as he looks back on the days when he served as chief of staff for the president of Gruner + Jahr’s German magazine division. “It exposed me to that sort of very-high-level strategic thinking. We launched magazines, we sold magazines, we bought magazines,” says Theimann, who very often found himself finalizing some of the documents that Gruner + Jahr management ultimately used to brief its board. “My job was to help senior management translate their investment proposals, budget requests, or whatever they needed to get done, and very often they needed money,” explains Theimann, who adds that while the position was not officially a finance one, this early experience of being a “business case builder” later h
02/09/202056 minutes 49 seconds
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629: Freshly Ripens On The Vine | Matt Hagel, CFO, Freshly

It’s a story that Matt Hagel likes to share as he networks with fellow finance executives and accounting types. Back in 2017—only days after stepping into a finance leadership role at the online prepared meals company Freshly—Hagel was reviewing the company’s chart of accounts when he asked himself: “Why is Plant, Property, and Equipment (PPE) under Operating Expenses?” As he soon learned, this stalwart accounting acronym has long led a double life and is also used by various industries (notably healthcare and food prep) as a shorthand designation for Personal Protective Equipment. Three years later, the protective gear acronym is widely known from coast to coast—just like Freshly. In fact, since its PPE entry first drew Hagel’s consternation, Freshly has opened an East Coast kitchen and distribution center, an expansion that extended the firm’s geographic reach from 28 to 48 states and propelled its sales to nearly 10 times their early 2017 volumes. “I inherited a fin
30/08/202036 minutes 50 seconds
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628: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

Inder Singh started off his professional life as an engineer, only to learn that the large engineering projects that he aspired to someday lead often faced as many financial obstacles as they did engineering challenges. So, Singh says, he went back to school and earned an MBA in finance, allowing him to redirect his career down a path populated with unique and imaginative financing deals to support engineering feats as well as business transformations. One of the more innovative financing projects that Singh has helped to champion came along in the 1990s, when he was working as a business development executive for AT&T Corp. It seems that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was looking to upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure—to the tune of $4 billion. “Other companies were just offering typical bank financing. In our case, we said, ‘Let’s do an oil barter agreement,’” explains Singh, who says that the proposal involved having Saudi Arabia s
26/08/202049 minutes 12 seconds
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627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power

At the start of his finance career, Mark Sargent says, he could not picture himself working for a large, big-name corporation. He says that he was drawn instead to smaller companies, which he believed would be more accepting of “creative types” or those employees more prone to self-expression. In Sargent’s case, an accounting and finance job was Plan B, or a “safety” occupation in case his aspirations to become a rock musician didn’t pan out. Interestingly, it was Sargent’s deliberate avoidance of big business that undoubtedly allowed him to quickly garner some of the experiences that finance career builders long to add to their resumes. “The very first job that I got was really a perfect fit: It was a small paper-making company, and I quickly learned that they were 9 months away from an IPO,” recalls Sargent, who was hired as a cost accountant but quickly found himself reassigned to oversee the implementation of a new accounting system intended to add some musc
23/08/202037 minutes 11 seconds
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626: The Path to Greater Profits | Jason Peterson, CFO, EPAM Systems, Inc.

CFOTL: You first arrived at EPAM in 2017, can you tell us what was top of mind as you entered the office? What were some of your early priorities?  Peterson: I joined a company that was growing rapidly, that's got pretty solid profitability in it, a pretty capable finance organization. You kind of look under the hood, I guess, and what you're trying to do is make improvements without breaking anything. One of the things that happened is, the company had grown really quickly. And I think over a period of time sometimes you'll under invest in certain functions and I think that was probably the case with finance. I started by making some strategic hires, so strengthen the external reporting, the controllership and the tax schemes. And then from a reorganization standpoint, I've done a lot of things, but much of my career has been in FP&A, so I work with a head of FP&A who already had some ideas. When we organized the FP&A group, to not only support corporate leadership decisions
19/08/202044 minutes 5 seconds
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625: A Transformative Transaction | Eyal Hen, CFO, Rekor Systems

Back in 2004, on the very day that Ormat Technologies, Inc., began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Eyal Hen began working in as an assistant controller for the geothermal energy company in Israel. The transition to being a public company opened a transformative chapter not only for Ormat but also for Hen, who—after having been with the firm for only a few short weeks—agreed to relocate to company’s new Reno, Nevada, headquarters. “It was a very small office at that time, with only seven people,” recalls Hen, who would for the next 11 years help to build out a U.S. finance team while accruing growing worldwide responsibilities for Ormat’s electricity-segment. Along the way, Hen says, a number of unforeseen developments helped to advance Ormat’s steady U.S. expansion, including the U.S. government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. “Ormat benefited from the response after it received $600 million in cash grants to build renewable energy power
16/08/202037 minutes 51 seconds
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624: Accelerate Around the Curve | Alyssa Filter, CFO, Clari

Filter: When we were talking at the executive staff level, it's from a mindset of accelerating around the curve. And so I think our CEO has really coined that phrase, but that's the lens that we're looking through and the question we're asking is what investments can we make now that will allow us not only to come out of this better, but accelerate around the curve. And allow us when we have changes in the macro environment to be tremendously successful.  
12/08/202037 minutes 32 seconds
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623: When an Opportunity Rises to Meet You | Sinohe Terrero, CFO, Envoy

When Envoy CFO Sinohe Terrero is asked about his career chapter at Etsy, the online marketplace founded in 2005 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, he begins by explaining how back in 2008 Etsy’s finance function was really just a loose grouping of tools and people. “I'll never forget that I once had to go meet the bookkeeper, and he was like in Coney Island,” explains Terrero, who says that the financial mind-set at Etsy during its early days was that data trumps accounting—or, to put it another way, that data was strategic to the business and therefore should be kept in-house, whereas accounting could be outsourced to Coney Island or wherever. “Etsy was a marketplace, so the transactions occurred in big volumes, but we didn't send invoices. We didn't really have AR. Everything is paid by credit card on the Web,” points out Terrero, who quickly became tasked with establishing more traditional processes in preparation for bringing the accounting function back in-h
09/08/202036 minutes 4 seconds
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622: Elevating Your Organization's Financial IQ | Shane Hansen, CFO, Planful

CFOTL: Having only stepped in to the CFO office in April, what is the vision you have for the role of CFO?  Hansen: I’m really keen on having Planful be a world class FP&A organization and definitely be one of the best users of the Planful platform. I think that’s important for us as an organization to eat our own cooking so to speak. On the second initiative of covering the basics, particularly in times like these where there’s high level of uncertainty, we need to be able to iterate on company plans and department plans. We need to be able to adjust budgets and investments and offer forecasts that illuminate some of the potential paths forward. So I’m talking about basic competencies here like a direct method cashflow forecast that we really don’t want to mess up. So that’s what I meant by make sure we’re proficient in covering the basics. And then finally accelerating growth. I really want to begin with our end in mind and work backwards from there to uncover the ac
05/08/202036 minutes 6 seconds
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621: The CFO as Science Enabler | Ivor Macleod, CFO, Athersys

When veteran CFO Ivor Macleod first contemplated joining an early-stage pharma company, the condition  known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) was not appearing in nightly news headlines and was yet to be ranked as the  number one cause of death among COVID-19 patients. Nevertheless, ARDS captured his attention—or rather, Athersys did.  The Cleveland, Ohio–based company, with fewer than 100 employees, met one of Macleod’s foremost criteria in that the company was  focused on the area of medicine known as “critical care”—a space that Macleod characterizes as having  “high unmet medical needs.” “It was the science that attracted me and not necessarily the capital structure,” explains Macleod, when asked whether he may have preferred to join a privately held firm instead of a public one. As the former CFO of F. Hoffmann–La Roche, Inc., North America, and vice president of finance for Merck Research Labs, Macleod knows better than most the risks being ta
02/08/202046 minutes 46 seconds
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620: When People Matter Most | Laurie Krebs, CFO, Red Hat

It was October 2019. Red Hat, Inc., was preparing to submit its latest quarterly results to its new parent, IBM Corp., and Laurie Krebs had just been named Red Hat software’s new CFO. As a senior vice president of finance for Red Hat, Krebs had worked closely with the former CFO and more or less assumed that the acquiring company would likely prefer to fill C-suite spots from its “home team” talent bench of senior executives. In fact, Krebs says that during the course of her career she had never truly aspired to be a CFO: “I often wondered who would want all of that responsibility, especially after Sarbanes-Oxley came in. And then, at the time, I realized that IBM had just acquired us for $34 billion and that it was going to be up to us to deliver the results that were needed.”   Krebs says that the finance team at Red Hat, like many executive teams within newly acquired companies, had experienced some attrition and was perhaps not as highly functioning as it ha
29/07/202052 minutes 24 seconds
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619: Using Data to Power Up Ad Inventory| Ray Carpenter, CFO, Xandr

When Ray Carpenter retraces his steps to the CFO office at Xandr—an analytics and advertising company formed by AT&T’s WarnerMedia—he singles out two earlier roles as having been outside AT&T’s traditional finance track. “I actually got kicked out of finance for one role,” says Carpenter, referring to a stint as a marketer inside a start-up launched by AT&T’s emerging business markets group. “We did things that were uniquely different from what AT&T typically does when it launches a new business,” continues Carpenter, who in addition to marketing was responsible for the start-up’s pricing strategy.    Next, Carpenter joined AT&T’s mergers integration group, where he helped to lead integration planning efforts for different corporate functions, a role that made him keenly aware of the integration challenges such future acquisitions as DirectTV would present. From his stint in the mergers group, Carpenter stepped back inside AT&T’s more traditional finance and acc
26/07/202046 minutes 32 seconds
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618: From COVID's Initial Shock to IPO in 60 Days | Dave Jones, CFO, Vroom

Not unlike the careers of his finance leader peers, the finance career of Dave Jones, CFO of online car seller Vroom, has been shaped and influenced by economic crises of the past two decades. Last month, as the initial shock of the coronavirus waned and the stock market rallied back, Vroom moved quickly to go public. Explains Jones: “We consulted with our board and our investors and decided that the time was right.” After pricing its IPO shares at $22, Vroom saw their value more than double on their first day of trading. This was not the first time that Jones had discovered a window of opportunity in less-than-friendly economic times. Back in 2002, he had found himself in a tight spot while serving as a senior manager for Andersen, the historic accounting house that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal of the early 2000s. “The view at the beginning of crisis was that there was no way that Andersen would be taken down. For me, the lesson became to never sa
22/07/202036 minutes 9 seconds
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617: Finding Your Seat at the M&A Table | Dennis McGrath, CFO, PAVmed

Dennis McGrath was only recently married and a new home owner when he was invited to a Phillies game by the CFO of AC Manufacturing. At the time, McGrath was working for Andersen as an auditor of a roster of growing companies, among which AC—a maker of industrial air-conditioning units—was perhaps not the most glamorous. “At the end of the night, the CFO told me that he wanted to hire me and would pay me a lot more than I was then making,” recalls McGrath, who doesn’t hesitate to reveal what allowed AC’s offer to trump all other opportunities. Says McGrath: “I went for the money.” However, what distinguished McGrath’s AC career chapter was neither compensation nor, for that matter, a lengthy tenure (McGrath was controller for 22 months). Adds McGrath: “It was not too long before the owner decided that he was going to sell the company and had a private equity group come in.”   Still in his mid-20s, McGrath took a seat across the table from a
19/07/202038 minutes 45 seconds
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616: Predictability and the Pipeline | Ashim Gupta, CFO, UiPath

When asked to share a few of the experiences that he feels prepared him for a CFO role, Ashim Gupta recalls what he characterizes as a significant accounting problem. However, it was not the nature of the accounting snag that Gupta wants us to know about but instead how his initial response to the problem was somewhat clumsy and ineffective. The event occurred more than 10 years into his finance career and did not lengthen the path to his next promotion because he had only just arrived in a new role as a divisional CFO for GE Water, a General Electric Corp. operating unit specializing in water processing solutions. Gupta remembers the accounting problem as being “the first thing to pass across my desk.” Realizing the gravity of the challenge, Gupta picked up the phone and called the more senior finance leader who was responsible for a wide swath of GE businesses, including Gupta’s group. “I was nervous about it, and I did not articulate the
15/07/202053 minutes 13 seconds
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615: Validating Your Proof Points for Investors | Jeff Epstein, (CFO Emeritus) Oracle, DoubleClick, King World

In the mid-1990s, when Jeff Epstein was busy satisfying the M&A appetites of media clients for First Boston, one of his smaller, but more boisterous clients asked him to join the firm as its CFO.   “It was the type of situation where if they had gone to a recruiter, I would never have made the resume cut because I had never been a CFO and I had never even worked for a CFO,” explains Epstein, who was 32 when he entered the lively entrepreneurial realm known as King World Productions. A one-time family-owned company, King World had seen its stature grow inside New York’s competitive media landscape as the firm began producing  giant hit TV shows such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The Oprah Winfrey Show.  “It was actually a small company with only about 300 employees, but they had three of the highest-rated, most profitable shows on television, with about $300 million of revenue and $60 million of operating income,” recalls Epste
12/07/202045 minutes 18 seconds
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614: In Pursuit of Data's Deep Impact | Matt Borowiecki, CFO, Biofourmis

When asked what led him to open his latest career chapter as CFO of Biofourmis, Matt Borowiecki quickly mentions the 2018 sale of MassMutual Asia Ltd. to Yunfeng FG. After helping to piece together a string of strategic plays for MassMutual, Borowiecki was instrumental in effecting the Yunfeng FG deal, which was a standout for him personally as well as one that many industry analysts at the time deemed transformational for company. Having helped to spearhead the transaction, Borowiecki was subsequently asked to relocate to Hong Kong and lead international strategy and corporate development for the company. With his deal-making realm vastly expanded, Borowiecki might have been expected to rocket down MassMutual’s transformational M&A track for several more years.    However, the move to Hong Kong challenged him in ways that he had not necessarily anticipated. Seeking to discover new strategies for MassMutual to extend its reach in the region, Borowiecki frequentl
08/07/202050 minutes 54 seconds
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613: Helping Others Get the Big Picture | Anders Fohlin, CFO, Medius

Early in his finance career, Anders Fohlin discovered that he could ratchet up his capacity to consume information and problem-solve simply by drawing pictures. However, what had originated more as a personal observation would eventually evolve to something more as he discovered that his visuals could serve others.   “I started to regularly draw processes on white boards and paper to make things very visual for everybody and help others to get the full picture,” explains Fohlin, whose knack for creating visuals and goal of making things more visible “for everybody” led him to begin viewing routine meetings as opportunities for visualization. Says Fohlin: “I found that process maps and gathering people in the same room was a really good way to spark energy and collaboration and have people feel that they were important and doing something more than just shoveling coal.”    Fohlin adds that his early efforts to create greater collaboration and inclusion end
05/07/202055 minutes 22 seconds
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612: The Rewards of Customer Insight | David Wells, CFO, ENDRA Life Sciences

Back in the mid-1990s, David Wells was a financial analyst for a Bay Area supply chain management company that boasted an impressive list of Silicon Valley marquee customers. Counted among their clients was a large chip maker whose customer relationship upkeep had over time become Wells’s responsibility. Because this was a coveted customer, Wells always sought to be highly responsive to any of the chip maker’s requests for information, but he increasingly found his company’s pricing model out of step with the customer’s needs. “There was a lot of confusion and a lot frustration over what the prices for our services and products should be. Basically, we needed a much more sophisticated pricing model that the customer would accept,” recalls Wells. Faced with growing customer unrest, Wells and a colleague created a new pricing model that was carefully tailored for the chip maker’s business. Says Wells: “It was very intricate and more spe
01/07/202035 minutes 18 seconds
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611: An Acquisitive State of Mind | Jon Nguyen, CFO, Kyriba

Jon Nguyen got his first taste of M&A-related work in the early to mid-2000s when he served as the finance partner for the auto lending unit of HSBC. “In consumer lending, you end up doing a lot of portfolio purchases rather than equity ones, but I have become more involved in the execution of deals over the past 8 years,” says Nguyen, who, distinguishes the past 8 years as a standout chapter -one that has allowed him to certify his M&A credentials and enter the CFO office at Kyriba. Turn back the clock 8 years, and Nguyen is vice president of finance for Mitchell International, a $600 million software and service business. As the company’s FP&A leader, Nguyen was tasked with supplying key insights to management decision-making behind the sale of Mitchell to KKR in 2013. Meanwhile, 5 years later, Nguyen was once more in the M&A diligence mix when KKR sold Mitchell to Stone Point Capital. Along the way, Nguyen’s M&A resume quickly expanded. “At Mitchell, we were
28/06/202033 minutes 54 seconds
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610: Getting a Read on Economic Recovery | Michael Borreca, CFO, LYNX Franchising

Finance leaders who remain skeptical of the prospects for economic recovery inside the 2020 calendar year may want to consult LYNX Franchising CFO Michael Borreca. “I don’t think that it’s going to take us to 2021 to get back to March sales levels,” says Borreca, who doesn’t hesitate to credit three nontraditional metrics for influencing his current thinking on the subject. The first is the volume of disinfectant currently being purchased by franchisees of JAN-PRO—owned by LYNX—which boast of being  the largest commercial cleaning franchiser in the country, with over 8,000 small business owners. “The more our franchise network is buying disinfectants, the more this means that more businesses are starting to reopen. They are doing a deep clean ahead of time, and then customers are being welcomed in,” says Borreca, who counts the lengthening commuting times surrounding LYNX’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, as yet another unconventional metric pointing now toward a
24/06/202057 minutes 44 seconds
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609: Minding Your Financial Ps and Qs | Matt Ellis, CFO, Verizon

It’s a story that Verizon CFO Matt Ellis seems to enjoy telling and one that he has undoubtedly related more than once before.  One evening while in high school, Ellis was working at the fish counter of a local supermarket when he received some feedback from the store manager. Earlier in the day, the man had asked Ellis to clean a number of shelves beside the counter, but Ellis had soon become busy with fish patrons and hadn’t able to complete the task. More than 30 years later, Ellis easily retrieves the store manager’s words: “I’m not disappointed that you didn’t get it done—I know that you were busy with your normal stuff. What disappoints me is that if you had only told me, I could have arranged to have someone else to do it.” This is a classic management lesson that many business leaders have communicated before, but when Ellis presents it, the message is endowed with renewed relevance for finance. It is easy for us to imagine Ellis retrieving
21/06/202054 minutes 5 seconds
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608: Opening the Acquisition Chapter | Jody Cire, CFO, AllCloud

When the Sarbanes–Oxley Act was enacted 18 years ago, it required the Securities and Exchange Commission to create regulations to define how companies should comply with it—a mandate that would end up impacting the careers of finance professionals well into the future. CFO Jody Cire was one such professional. Back in 2010, Cire found himself in Boulder, Colorado, after having been relocated from a role in Germany as KPMG’s lead audit manager for SAP AG. In light of his recent large enterprise experience, KPMG had been eager to assign Cire stateside in order to scratch the Sarbox itch of some of its largest customers. Within a year, Cire found himself knee-deep in massive Sarbox compliance projects with a number of prestigious clients. Still, something was missing. Says Cire: “It just wasn’t where my personality or my curiosity really thrived. I just didn’t enjoy it and began to express that.” Meanwhile, his appetite for assignments involving start-
17/06/202051 minutes 34 seconds
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607: Exercising Discipline to Expose Trend Lines | Angiras Koorapaty, CFO, Reversing Labs

When a new CEO is recruited to lead a company, it’s not uncommon for the incumbent CFO to be replaced. However, there are certain network-savvy CFOs who are able to muster enough influence with their boards to easily discourage incoming CEOs from implementing their displacement as part of sweeping the C-suite clean. Angiras Koorapaty was not one of these well-connected CFOs. Or at least he wasn’t about 20 years ago, when he found himself forfeiting a finance leadership position to a newly arrived CEO’s CFO pick. “This was a pivotal moment for me at the time, and it led me to do some reflection and to think about my career,” explains Koorapaty, who says that he later realized that as a CFO he had been too focused on the company’s internal operations and had failed to build important relationships with board members, investors, and other stakeholders. Says Koorapaty: “As a result, there was a change in finance leadership.” The eviction prompted Koora
14/06/20201 hour 1 minute 25 seconds
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606: Leveraging the Value of Culture | Will Costolnick, CFO, Hire Dynamics

Years from now, when Will Costolnick thinks back to the start of his CFO career, he will likely count the 12 months that preceded his appointment as CFO of Hire Dynamics as part of the same chapter, for—not unlike many of his CFO peers—Costolnick first found his footing at his new employer by slipping into a vice president of finance role for a year or two. In Costolnick’s case, the interim role lasted 12 months, or just long enough for Hire Dynamics to reformulate its management ranks and expand its C-suite. Still, Costolnick hit the ground running by using his interim credentials to begin putting in place processes that would accommodate new growth, which was indeed a priority for satiating the staffing firm’s newfound appetite for acquisitions. Four years ago, Hire D
10/06/202041 minutes 11 seconds
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605: When Finance Sings a New Tune | John Cappadona, CFO, School of Rock

Unlike the music artists and instructors recruited by School of Rock to provide music lessons at its 270 locations around the globe, John Cappadona was first hired by the firm to provide a crash course in accounting. “The day I joined, my controller and I walked through the door together not knowing anything,” explains Cappadona, who stepped into the CFO role at School of Rock shortly after its CEO, Rob Price, moved the music lesson provider’s headquarters to the Boston area. Says Cappadona: “For the first couple of months, it took us almost 25 days to close the books—and we needed to shorten that number in order to start making decisions sooner.” Next, Cappadona set out to enhance the management team’s visibility into the business. “We wouldn’t have known that w
07/06/202042 minutes 43 seconds
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604: When It's Time for a Fire Drill | Gordon Stuart, CFO, Unit4

In the late 1980s, when Gordon Stuart exited a 4-year stint as an auditor with Price Waterhouse, he bid accounting farewell—or at least he did until he stepped into a CFO role roughly a dozen years later. Ever since, he has occupied multiple CFO roles, helping to remove any doubt about his finance and accounting orientation. Still, Stuart’s appetite for broader business experiences during the early part of his career set him apart from many of his finance leader peers. During the 1990s, as a senior engagement manager for strategy consulting firm McKinsey & Company, he found job satisfaction across a variety of industries. Asked what originally led him to join McKinsey rather than take on a more traditional corporate finance role, Stuart says that “the opportunity that I saw would allow somebody who’s naturally curious about business to build a better set of capabilities, frameworks, experiences, and connections to further their career.” Looking back, Stua
03/06/202054 minutes 22 seconds
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603: All Eyes on Recovery Indicators| John Bonney, CFO, Harness

When John Bonney joined San Francisco–based Harness a little more than a year ago, he became not only the company’s first CFO but also its first finance hire. “For me, this was the first time that I came into a role with a blank slate—it was at Ground Zero,” explains Bonney, who says that the software start-up specializing in the automation of software applications delivery had theretofore been outsourcing its finance, legal and IT functions. Initially, he recalls, he was somewhat doubtful that he was good match for such an early-stage firm—and especially one with such meager internal operations. However, he became intrigued by the challenge that Harness CEO Jyoti Bansal put before him. Looking back, Bonney says that he knew that “we could become really big, and here was a chance to set the foundation right.” Within 5 months, Bonney relates, he had fielded a team of roughly eight people, including a controller, an FP&A leader, and department heads
31/05/202042 minutes 6 seconds
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602: A Creative Agency Weathers the COVID Storm |Peter Mair, CFO, CMD Agency

Mair: It was  probably in the first week of March, we had to close our Seattle office and have people work remotely. And it was about the second week in March that we did the same for our Portland office. We have the good fortune of having had a lot of experience working remotely as an agency. A lot of people have flexible schedules, a lot of the work we do is digital. But (COVID) is impacting us. It's still unclear as to what the second quarter's revenue is going to look like, but we're projecting it it'll be down probably by 25% at least. We know from a couple of large events th