loader from loading.io

575: The Benefits of Openness | Anup Singh, CFO, Illumio

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 02/26/2020

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...

info_outline
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...

info_outline
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...

info_outline
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...

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

CFO Thought Leader

info_outline
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...

info_outline
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

info_outline
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...

info_outline
578: The Awesome Power of FP&A  |  Jason Child, CFO, Splunk show art 578: The Awesome Power of FP&A | Jason Child, CFO, Splunk

CFO Thought Leader

Less than a year after his arrival at Splunk—a fast-growing, San Francisco–based software developer—CFO Jason Child appears to have been fully repatriated to his native land. To be clear: The “land” to which we refer is not the code-crunching zone of software development but the turf of business growth and scale—a locale in which Child resided for more than a decade while serving in multiple finance leadership roles at Amazon. Child first joined that company in 1999 as a corporate controller before being reassigned to the firm’s FP&A function. During his 12 years at Amazon,...

info_outline
577:  Rethinking Sales Productivity |  Carolyn Koehn, CFO, Boomi show art 577: Rethinking Sales Productivity | Carolyn Koehn, CFO, Boomi

CFO Thought Leader

When finance leader Carolyn Koehn looks back on her career to identify the experiences that she feels best prepared her for a CFO role, she shares a candid observation: “I went to places no one else wanted to go.” Such was the case in the late 1990s, when she moved to Bogotá, Colombia, for Nortel Networks, after having helped the company’s finance leadership understand why she was a good match for a sudden job opening. “I was the only interested candidate who wanted to go,” recalls Koehn, who says that her initiative and willingness to relocate helped her to become short-listed for...

info_outline
 
More Episodes

Among the more novel approaches that CFO Anup Singh has recently used to help advance a more open working environment at Illumio, of Sunnyvale, California, was the creation of a channel inside the instant messaging application Slack through which employees can access Illumio’s finance leader by tagging their queries with an unassuming “#CFO ask me anything”.

“They will ask me my views on things. This is about high employee engagement and being really accessible to the employees. I’m letting them know that they’ve got an avenue where we can be straightforward and very transparent with sharing information,” says Singh, who joined Illumio in early 2019 after having served in the CFO role for several different companies, including Anaplan and Nimble Storage.

According to Singh, the CFO Slack channel extends his reach beyond his finance team members and helps him to communicate with Illumio employees with whom he may not ordinarily engage.

Says Singh: “I can use the opportunity to explain the meaning of some of the financial analyses and metrics to a nonfinancial audience, and this is information-sharing that is conversational.”

At the same time, Singh’s efforts to inject more openness into Illumio’s finance function and the company at large have also involved more conventional methods.

Such is the case with “The Bottom Line,” a label given to a number of somewhat impromptu meetings that Singh has held to better engage with Illumio employees.

“I do these a couple of times a quarter here at Illumio. It’s off-the-cuff. I show up for an hour in the break room and employees can dial in from anywhere around the world and ask me questions,” says Singh, who frequently uses the words “openness,” “conversation,” and “engagement” when describing the role of finance at Illumio.

“As a CFO, you are truly a cross-functional executive. You’re wearing the hat of a GM. So this is about getting in there with sales and marketing and product people and sharing a very clear understanding of the value drivers and how your team helps the organization,” he explains. –Jack Sweeney

 

CFOTL: What are your priorities as finance leader over the next 12 months?

Singh: In looking ahead at Illumio, my big focus is on continuing to support our go-to-market expansion. Our company's growing quickly. We're expanding globally. This means recruiting in different geographies, expanding our offices, and so on. This is something that I and my team do a lot to support. In the past year, I would say that we've also worked hard to transform Illumio into a really data-driven environment as well as to emphasize the operational excellence of the company. The ongoing task is to continue to automate our metrics and automate our key processes. This obviously helps us to manage our growth efficiently. The last thing, which is very near and dear to my heart and a priority for me every year, is to continue the journey in building out a world-class team here at Illumio. This is an ongoing quest that we have.

We try every year to just be better and better. When you have a model such as ours, which is very much "land and expand," having a healthy NRR or net revenue retention rate is a great indicator that the customers that you are getting in and winning are coming back to buy even more. You look at things like renewal rates and churn and so forth. These are good metrics to examine not just because they impact revenue but also because they act as good indicators of customer satisfaction, of how the product is doing, of the value that the customers are getting from our software, and so on. In addition to growth, we also track a bunch of other KPIs and metrics to ensure that we're achieving a healthy mix between growth and improving our margins and leverage in the business. We want to ensure that over time our gross margins are healthy and that we see this sequential improvement in margins every year.