Meet A Minnesota Tech CFO: Angie Swatfager, Go Kart Labs

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Thanks to local commercial real estate pros CBRE for sponsoring the Meet A Minnesota Tech CFO series.

Angie Swatfager was chosen to be Go Kart Labs first official CFO last fall. We caught up with her to hear more…

When and how did you get started in your finance career, specifically within the tech industry?

I started in 1997 as an auditor at Ernst & Young, where I had the opportunity to work with clients large and small across a wide range of industries. During this time, I gradually realized that emerging technology companies were where I wanted to be. They tend to have tight-knit, open minded teams and challenging problems to solve.

What is unique about your role with the technology industry, compared to other industries?

I’ve been in finance for more than 20 years, and technology has changed a lot throughout this time. It has disrupted entire categories, and has completely evolved the way I work and how I communicate. The biggest change is the growth in automated systems. It’s critical that all operating systems communicate with each other and support each other. For technology companies that use the latest and greatest, there is opportunity for more definition around processes and the technology stack in general.

What do you find most interesting or challenging about being a modern-day CFO?

The increasing importance of business operations is really interesting to me. I find that most successful businesses consult CFOs with the overall business strategy and growth plan. They let data drive and forecast the business. I love to be able to use our numbers to ensure we can support the operations and see progress toward our goals.

Why did you decide to join GoKart Labs?

GoKart “checked all the boxes” for me in terms of tremendous growth potential, an interesting and challenging industry, a healthy company culture that aligns with my core values, and a group of fun people who are bright and driven.

How is success measured in your role as a CFO?

GKL has an aggressive 10-year plan that we want to make continual progress towards. I measure success first by ensuring that we have the right horizons and short-term goals in place — things that are challenging yet achievable. From there, success is all about matching up our actual business operations with the right growth areas and opportunities so we’re getting to where we want to be in a sustainable, intentional way.

In terms of culture, I also strive to be an approachable effective female leader who has direct relationships with people across the organization. Throughout my career, I’ve had mentors and sponsors who’ve helped me along the way, so I want to provide that same kind of support to others.

Have you ever made a decision around office space and commercial leasing?

Yes.

What did you learn from the process? How did you select an agent/broker?

Today’s technology offers so many sources of information about market rates and trends. As an early-stage or growing company, flexibility on real estate options is critically important. The ability to flex up (or down in a worst-case scenario) will likely be worth the added cost of having those options available.

If so, what advice would you have for the founder considering their first office lease?

If you have the luxury of not needing much space, consider shared office space that allows for flexibility in terms of lease length, adjusting space needs up or down (within a range) and still providing yourself and up to a few employees with the social and productivity benefits of an office environment that would otherwise be beyond your budget.

What do you enjoy doing with your time outside of the office?

My husband and I have two children, five and four years old. The kids keep us constantly moving. When our spare time isn’t spent playing games or being active outside, we are visiting extended family and friends.

What advice would you have for someone in finance who wants to become a CFO?

Learn how to work efficiently and effectively. Find a good mentor who can help you define a development plan, hold you accountable, and support your progress to make it happen!

How do you effectively manage expectations to help everyone in the company know what their priorities should be?

Set realistic, well thought-out goals, and continuously monitor and discuss performance against those goals.

What is one question you want to ask of your tech CFO peers?

How are you planning for the unknown economic changes in 2018?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for this opportunity and to all my friends and family who have supported me throughout my career. I’m grateful to all my mentors for their support in helping to elevate my career and open doors for me.

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