When and how did you get started in your finance career, specifically within the tech industry?
My finance career started when I was 19 and landed a job as an Accounting Clerk at a life insurance company. Growing up, I had admired my friends dad who was stock broker which got me interested in the field of finance.
Early on, I wanted to be a trader on Wall Street, but quickly realized that wasn’t for me, so I turned my focus to Corporate Finance and haven’t looked back. I have the opportunity to work for some great companies, and in 2011 had the opportunity to join a small growing tech company here in Minneapolis called ABILITY Network, which was my first venture in the tech space.
What is unique about your role with the technology industry, compared to other industries?
The most unique thing about the technology industry is the level of growth companies experience. We’ve more than doubled in size every year since the company’s inception, and are on pace to do that again this year. This is dramatically different than most other industries where modest single digit growth is the norm.
What do you find most interesting or challenging about being a modern-day CFO?
I think the number one thing I find most interesting about being a modern-day CFO in the tech industry is the breadth of experience and influence we have on the overall business. Modern CFO’s are shedding the “spreadsheet guy” persona, and are able to have a real impact on business outcomes.
Why did you decide to join Total Expert earlier this year?
The biggest reason I joined Total Expert was its position within the industry, and our ability to grow well beyond where the company is today. We’re creating a whole new category with our Marketing Operating System for Financial Services, and the company is poised to do great things. The other major factor is the team Joe Welu has built. My peers (Chris Lyon, Sue Woodard, Brian Walerius to name a few) are the best in the business, and its exciting to come to work everyday and be a part of a fantastic team.
How is success measured in your role as a CFO?
I’m going to use the same answer as a few other CFO’s that have done this…my success is measured by the company’s success. If the company hits our targets (revenue, employee hiring, margins, etc.) then I’ll consider the year a success.
Have you ever made a decision around office space and commercial leasing?
Yes, a few times.
If so, what did you learn from the process? How did you select an agent/broker?
Two big takeaways for me. 1) having a well seasoned capable broker is invaluable. They have the inside track on space, know how/when/what levers to pull during negotiation, and can provide a ton of great insight throughout the process. 2) start early. It will take longer than you think to find the right space for the right deal.
If so, what advice would you have for the founder considering their first office lease?
2 pieces of advice: 1) keep the lease short. The only constant is change when building a company, and the last thing you want is to be saddled by a long term lease. 2) Location, Location, Location. Your office space and “the vibe” can be a great recruiting tool. People want to work in spaces they like.
What do you enjoy doing with your time outside of the office?
Aside from chasing my 1 year old daughter around and watching her grow, I’m one of the few people still interested in Racquetball. I play a few times a week and find it’s a great way to get some exercise and hang out with friends.
What advice would you have for someone in finance who wants to become a CFO?
I’ll sound a bit repetitive with some of the other CFO’s that have participated, but I would say chose your first boss, not your first job. Being a successful CFO requires have a broad range of experience, and all too often, people choose their careers based on company, industry, pay etc. I would argue it’s more important to choose the right person to work for, who will give you exposure to areas like Insurance, Treasury, M&A, Tax etc. All of which are critical for your development.
How do you effectively manage expectations to help everyone in the company know what their priorities should be?
In general, priorities revolve around our strategic goals, which we’ve clearly communicated to our employee base. Customer Success being priority #1, growth #2 etc. When you have competing priorities, the one that best serves the customer should come first. If customers are not greatly impacted, the next highest priority should be the one that helps the organization grow.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not right now.