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547: Enters the Change Agent | John Karnes, CFO, Vertafore

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 11/10/2019

622: Elevating Your Organization's Financial IQ | Shane Hansen, CFO, Planful show art 622: Elevating Your Organization's Financial IQ | Shane Hansen, CFO, Planful

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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621: The CFO as Science Enabler | Ivor Macleod, CFO, Athersys show art 621: The CFO as Science Enabler | Ivor Macleod, CFO, Athersys

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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620: When People Matter Most |  Laurie Krebs, CFO, Red Hat show art 620: When People Matter Most | Laurie Krebs, CFO, Red Hat

CFO Thought Leader

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,...

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619: Using Data to  Power Up  Ad Inventory| Ray Carpenter, CFO, Xandr show art 619: Using Data to Power Up Ad Inventory| Ray Carpenter, CFO, Xandr

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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618: From COVID's Initial Shock to IPO in 60 Days   | Dave Jones, CFO, Vroom show art 618: From COVID's Initial Shock to IPO in 60 Days | Dave Jones, CFO, Vroom

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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617:  Finding Your Seat at the M&A Table   | Dennis McGrath, CFO, PAVmed show art 617: Finding Your Seat at the M&A Table | Dennis McGrath, CFO, PAVmed

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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616:  Predictability and the Pipeline | Ashim Gupta, CFO, UiPath show art 616: Predictability and the Pipeline | Ashim Gupta, CFO, UiPath

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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615: Validating Your Proof Points for Investors  | Jeff Epstein, (CFO Emeritus) Oracle, DoubleClick, King World show art 615: Validating Your Proof Points for Investors | Jeff Epstein, (CFO Emeritus) Oracle, DoubleClick, King World

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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614: In Pursuit of Data's Deep Impact | Matt Borowiecki, CFO, Biofourmis show art 614: In Pursuit of Data's Deep Impact | Matt Borowiecki, CFO, Biofourmis

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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613: Helping Others Get the Big Picture | Anders Fohlin, CFO, Medius show art 613: Helping Others Get the Big Picture | Anders Fohlin, CFO, Medius

CFO Thought Leader

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...

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CFOTL: What are your top of mind metrics?


Karnes: I think about metrics sort of under three rubrics. The first is what I would think of as a customer-centric layer. Then there's the financial performance one that we all think about as CFOs, and then there's a very distinct operational layer. On the customer-centric layer, we think about things like SLAs, our service-level agreements with our customers, uptime, system availability. These are the things--before we get to gross margin--that really impact our success as a business and what our next quarter is going to be like. There are things like customer health scoring in your customer success organization. Happy customers don't leave. Keeping your revenue is much cheaper than trying to go acquire new revenue. Things like NPS, net promoter score. Things that I watch very, very carefully are very customer-centric, as opposed to what's next, which is more pure financial performance.

At the end of the day, your economics are based on your base business, your new business, and the investments that you make going forward. That's what drives economic performance. The first thing that I look at in the morning is churn and retention. "Churn," for those who aren't SaaS experts, is simply our subscriptions that are terminating and my customers that are leaving me or deciding to subscribe to me in a lesser amount. So, it's lost revenue. After that, it's gross margin. Obviously revenue is tops. Churn is my top line. Gross margin is after my cost of goods sold and tells me how efficiently I'm delivering my product. All of these businesses are built on free cash flow. After I pay my G&A, after I pay the capex that I've got, how much cash am I making and am I self-sufficient or dependent on the equity markets to grow my business? That's a really important part of the business, from a baseline.

New business cost is very important. These are things like customer acquisition costs. I'm making an investment for every customer. How quickly do I get that investment back? How many months? Is it six, 12, 18 months before I recoup that investment? And, like all good SaaSware companies, we invest a tremendous amount of money in our future through research and development. The question is, What is the rate of return that we're engineering to for that research and development? How does this correlate with other opportunities that we may have, like acquisitions or debt repayment?