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563: Energizing Your Entrepreneurial Mind-set | Stephen Grist, CFO, Bohemia Interactive Simulations

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 01/15/2020

586: Why it's Time for B.I. to Turn the Page | Mohit Daswani, CFO, ThoughtSpot show art 586: Why it's Time for B.I. to Turn the Page | Mohit Daswani, CFO, ThoughtSpot

CFO Thought Leader

When Mohit Daswani stepped into the CFO office of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ThoughtSpot this past January, he ascended to something more than just another finance leadership position inside a SaaS start-up. Daswani was joining an influential class of CFOs distinguished by their ability to communicate a vision that connects not just with investors, but also with other CFOs. This is a cohort widely visible within the realm of business Intelligence, or BI, the space where finance leaders frequently shop for new technologies and tools to analyze their business data while surveilling the messaging of...

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CFO Thought Leader

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585:  A Taste for Opportunity | Ankur Agrawal, CFO, Cooks Venture show art 585: A Taste for Opportunity | Ankur Agrawal, CFO, Cooks Venture

CFO Thought Leader

As the newly appointed CFO of agtech start-up Cooks Venture, Ankur Agrawal lists one of his favorite duties as designing menus. Of course, we are referring to the menu of performance measurements featured on the poultry company’s maturing business dashboard. “One of the beauties that comes with joining a new company is that you get to build from scratch,” explains Agrawal, who says that he’s relied on some of his earlier experiences using dashboards at Pepsico and Blue Apron to help Cooks Venture to build a better one. According to Agrawal, a successful dashboard begins with...

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584: Keeping an Eye on KPIs  | Omar Choucair, CFO, Trintech show art 584: Keeping an Eye on KPIs | Omar Choucair, CFO, Trintech

CFO Thought Leader

Along his path to the CFO office at technology firm Trintech, Omar Choucair’s segue from radio to high tech was among his most consequential career transitions. “There were not a lot of radio companies based in Dallas, Texas, at the time, and there was this young but growing tech company. While it was a calculated risk on my part, I liked the people, and the executives were hard-charging, which I also liked,” says Choucair, when asked to recall some of the decision-making behind his leap to the high-tech realm. Today, as Trintech’s finance leader, Choucair has a list of CFO priorities...

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583: An Appetite for Change | Tod Nestor, CFO, Energy Focus show art 583: An Appetite for Change | Tod Nestor, CFO, Energy Focus

CFO Thought Leader

Nestor: Energy Focus is an LED lighting and controls company. LED lighting is like comparing a smartphone to a rotary phone. LED lights are actually extremely high-tech—it's almost like having a laptop inside the light. If you were to take one apart, you would be amazed at how many computer components and wafers and chips are in there. These lights are not a commodity. They are very differentiated. Unfortunately, the industry historically has sold them very much like a commodity, through the same channels as fluorescent and incandescent lights. Energy Focus does not. One thing that sets us...

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582: Fortifying Your FP&A Footing  | Robert Richards, CFO, Centauri show art 582: Fortifying Your FP&A Footing | Robert Richards, CFO, Centauri

CFO Thought Leader

CFOTL: Tell us about this business - what does it do and what are its offerings?  Richards: Centauri is a government services business. We've been growing at about 20% a year, on an organic-only basis, for the past four or five years. We just reached just under $500 million in revenue in 2019, and I'm looking to continue growing in the 20% to 30% range in 2020. We're really focused on space and missile defense and where those domains intersect and create sort of an ecosystem in the defense world. We focus on employing what we believe really is our strength, which is the top technical and...

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Covid 19 Briefing | Terry Schmid, CFO, Topia show art Covid 19 Briefing | Terry Schmid, CFO, Topia

CFO Thought Leader

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581: Applying Your Fresh Eyes to the Role|  Anthony Coletta, CFO, SAP, NA show art 581: Applying Your Fresh Eyes to the Role| Anthony Coletta, CFO, SAP, NA

CFO Thought Leader

CFOTL: Share with us a finance strategic moment?  Coletta: The most recent strategic moment that sticks with me goes back two years to when I moved to our North America organization as CFO. We were on the battlefield of innovation and the cloud business, and we were carrying a big share of the company's business, with high expectations on the street already. We had a business that had been a bit bumpy in the beginning of the year, but we had a solid team that was always seeking to improve itself. To me, it was, Okay, what do I bring to the table and how do I change the dynamic here? The...

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580:  Finding Your Groove inside the CFO's Evolving Role | Laura Onopchenko, CFO, NerdWallet show art 580: Finding Your Groove inside the CFO's Evolving Role | Laura Onopchenko, CFO, NerdWallet

CFO Thought Leader

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579:  When Your Two Worlds Become One  | Shari Freedman, CFO, Room to Read show art 579: When Your Two Worlds Become One | Shari Freedman, CFO, Room to Read

CFO Thought Leader

CFOTL: What are your priorities as a finance leader over the next 12 months? Freedman: Here at Room to Read, we've just launched our 2020–2025 strategic plan, of which one of the core parts is the continued build of our financial sustainability. I'm super excited and proud that we are launching a five-year, $10 million initiative—we're calling it a Future Fund—to which we're asking our donors to contribute. In addition to funding our day-to-day programs, we're looking to build out funds that will be unrestricted and allow us to get to six months' operating expense coverage, which is...

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It was back in 2002, Stephen Grist says, when he first punched through a surface of rigid assumptions to grasp the innovative levers that would propel him into the ranks of strategic CFOs.

At the time, Grist was the CFO of Viatel, a technology company whose management and sales teams were eagerly seeking to reestablish the company’s footing along a growth path after having recently emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

With its bankruptcy in the rearview mirror, the company emerged with an unbridled appetite for growth—but one that was perhaps lacking in long-term vision.

Says Grist: “The existing business managers were so focused on ‘Take that hill!’ and ‘This is our business, and this is the path that we’re going down!’ They just were not capable of identifying the disruptive risks.”

Having already logged a string of seven-day weeks to hasten Viatel’s exit from bankruptcy, Grist might have found it easy to applaud the sales team’s mounting tactical wins and provide diligent governance. Instead, he engaged the company’s general counsel, and together they approached a number of bankers in order to “add on” some small Internet businesses that could quickly diversify the types of services that Viatel offered to its small to midsize customers.

According to Grist, Viatel at the time was struggling with the “The Innovator’s Dilemma”—a phrase referring to disruptive competitors first coined and used as the title of a popular text by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen.

“You’re so caught up in your vision of the company that you’re not really capable of identifying where those disruptive risks are affecting the company as they come in from different, different directions,” says Grist, who looks back at 2002 as a turning point for both Viatel and his CFO career.

Moving forward, Grist has entered new CFO roles as a disruptive risk expert tasked with questioning assumptions.

“Every time I’ve come into a company, it’s been like, ‘Okay, it’s time to do the long-term business plan’—but you’ve got a different view of the world, so you can ask all those questions,” says Grist, who since Viatel has served in a string CFO roles for both founder-led and VC-backed companies.

Says Grist: “As the CFO, you bring your experience to bear and you identify risks as you build the next year’s budget or the long-term model from really being in a position to question assumptions.” - Jack Sweeney