Thanks to local commercial real estate pros CBRE for sponsoring our new Meet A Minnesota CFO series!
When did you start your finance career and within the tech industry?
My first finance role after graduating from college in Denver was with Ernst & Young in 1993. My goal just was to get some public accounting and CPA out of the way but just one year into that I met some people working on SurVivaLink that was seed funded by Medtronic.
I joined as a controller, employee number 10, which was my introduction to the technology industry. In 2013, I left medical device and started doing contract CFO work with AVL Partners, now known as GO Intellectual Capital.
I became interested in the growing health tech industry here and was exposed to Zipnosis and reached out to Jon Pearce, the CEO. We had coffee and a great chat, and here I am now!
Why did you decide to move from AVL to Zipnosis?
I was initially engaged with Zipnosis as a contract CFO at first and when the need/opportunity to raise a large amount of capital and go inside emerged, I jumped on it.
What is unique about your role with the technology industry, compared to other industries?
The amount of disruption that’s happening really requires a unique mindset from a traditional sort of company. In a CFO role, I believe that having a vision to see around the corner, maintaining flexibility, and being tolerant in the face of uncertainty or ambiguity are all part of this role.
What do you find most interesting or challenging about being a modern-day CFO?
If you look at healthcare as an established practice, patients go to doctors and now are stepping outside of a traditional care pathway, as we’re connecting them virtually, but the same finance and business rules apply in terms of payment mechanisms. The creation and implementation of new business practices and workflows in healthcare presents an interesting challenge!
How is success measured in your role as a CFO?
1) Making sure the company has the working capital to grow and maintain the business.
2) The fiduciary role of managing investor capital.
3) Strong business partner across the organization in driving growth and strategy.
4) Functional competency and rolling up the sleeves to get the work done.
Have you ever made a decision around office space and commercial leasing?
Yes, in fact we’re among the first tenants to sign at the new T3 building.
What did you learn from the process?
It’s a process! For us it was 9-12 months in the making, so it doesn’t exactly happen overnight, at least not for us. We also had to find the balance to ensure room for growth without overspending. Having good broker representation was absolutely critical.
If so, what advice would you have for the founder considering their first office lease?
Don’t overspend or over commit out the gate…stay as lean and flexible on space for as long as possible. And make sure there is support and buy in from investors. I’ve seen, as I’m sure you have, big lavish offices that seem like too much too soon, and often are.
What do you enjoy doing with your time outside of the office?
Family and travel, the great outdoors — skiing, biking, running.
What advice would you have for someone in the finance industry who wants to become a CFO?
I would say be intentional about developing skills and experiences in the early-mid part of career that will prepare for success. The differentiation, beyond debits and credits, I think lies in leadership and business acumen.
How do you effectively manage expectations to help everyone in the company know what their priorities should be?
Transparency. Everyone in the company must understand the vision and the goals. From there, departmental and individuals can map to those orientations. Dialogue is important.
What is one question you want to ask of your tech CFO peers?
I really like to hear lessons they are learning.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I appreciate you taking the time to ask me these questions.