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

CFO Thought Leader

Release Date: 07/22/2020

636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA show art 636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

CFO Thought Leader

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’”...

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635: Finding Your  Finance Team's North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful show art 635: Finding Your Finance Team's North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful

CFO Thought Leader

The Berlin headquarters of software developer Contentful occupies an old brick warehouse with heavy metal doors and broad functional corridors and spaces native to its industrial past. Standing six stories high, the structure once accommodated its worker population with a miniature kitchen on every floor, a favorite employee perk perhaps first introduced by a coffee-loving tenant.    Still, not everyone at Contentful loves coffee—or at least its CFO, Markus Harder, doesn’t. “My secret is that I hate coffee—I just don’t like it,” says Harder, who shortly after his arrival...

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634: Milestones for M&A Success  | Steve Young, CFO, Duke Energy show art 634: Milestones for M&A Success | Steve Young, CFO, Duke Energy

CFO Thought Leader

It was a little over 40 years ago when Steve Young first joined what would become Duke Energy, the giant electric power holding company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Not only has it been a long tenure, but also it is the only post-college job that I’ve ever had,” says Young, who first roamed the energy giant’s corridors as a finance assistant. In the years that followed, Young says, he became involved in various finance-related projects as different executives sought him out because he had become recognized as a hard worker. One such senior executive, who sat inside...

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633:  Marching to Fintech's New Beat | Matt Briers, CFO, TransferWise show art 633: Marching to Fintech's New Beat | Matt Briers, CFO, TransferWise

CFO Thought Leader

Among the more transformative chapters of Matt Briers’s finance career was his 3-year stint monitoring and forecasting margin performance inside Google’s UK operations. “The core role was really to understand what was happening in the organization from a revenue and margin performance perspective and then help to operate the organization so that it could better drive that revenue,” explains Briers, who says that his responsibilities included an unyielding effort to expose new drivers of Google revenue “even down to keyword searches.” “My role was to provide a hotline back to...

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632: Exposing the Connection Between Financial and Operational Data | Jacqueline Purcell, CFO, Deputy show art 632: Exposing the Connection Between Financial and Operational Data | Jacqueline Purcell, CFO, Deputy

CFO Thought Leader

Jacqueline Purcell’s path to the CFO office began inside an Australian law firm where as a young attorney she was advising corporate clients and their bankers on how to best address some of the legal hurdles that their M&A deal-making might confront. At the time, her routine collaboration with different banking executives gave her a point of comparison to the seemingly less energetic legal world. “They seemed to be having a little more fun and a lot more impact on the outcomes,” she recalls. “This is what sparked my interest in moving into finance,” continues Purcell, who was...

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631:  Explaining the Business Reason Behind the Number | Steven Springsteel, CFO, betterworks show art 631: Explaining the Business Reason Behind the Number | Steven Springsteel, CFO, betterworks

CFO Thought Leader

Back in the early 1990s, Steven Springsteel nabbed an interview for a CFO role with a high-flying tech start-up. At the time, he was controller for Apple’s worldwide manufacturing operations, but the buzz surrounding the brash start-up intrigued him, and the young but accomplished executive shortly found himself waiting to be interviewed by the firm’s CEO. According to Springsteel, his interview aspirations quickly became somewhat tempered as he sat listening to a stream of expletives originating from the CEO’s office.  Within minutes, the CEO’s door swung open and several...

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630: Building the Business Case | Bennett Thiemann, CFO, Applicaster show art 630: Building the Business Case | Bennett Thiemann, CFO, Applicaster

CFO Thought Leader

It was the type of role that any recent business school graduate could envy—not because of the position’s title (Chief of Staff) or how much it paid, but because of its proximity to management decision-making. The job is one that Bennett Theimann remembers well as he looks back on the days when he served as chief of staff for the president of Gruner + Jahr’s German magazine division. “It exposed me to that sort of very-high-level strategic thinking. We launched magazines, we sold magazines, we bought magazines,” says Theimann, who very often found himself finalizing some of the...

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629: Freshly Ripens On The Vine |  Matt Hagel, CFO, Freshly show art 629: Freshly Ripens On The Vine | Matt Hagel, CFO, Freshly

CFO Thought Leader

It’s a story that Matt Hagel likes to share as he networks with fellow finance executives and accounting types. Back in 2017—only days after stepping into a finance leadership role at the online prepared meals company Freshly—Hagel was reviewing the company’s chart of accounts when he asked himself: “Why is Plant, Property, and Equipment (PPE) under Operating Expenses?” As he soon learned, this stalwart accounting acronym has long led a double life and is also used by various industries (notably healthcare and food prep) as a shorthand designation for Personal Protective Equipment....

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628: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm show art 628: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

CFO Thought Leader

Inder Singh started off his professional life as an engineer, only to learn that the large engineering projects that he aspired to someday lead often faced as many financial obstacles as they did engineering challenges. So, Singh says, he went back to school and earned an MBA in finance, allowing him to redirect his career down a path populated with unique and imaginative financing deals to support engineering feats as well as business transformations. One of the more innovative financing projects that Singh has helped to champion came along in the 1990s, when he was working as a business...

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627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power show art 627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power

CFO Thought Leader

At the start of his finance career, Mark Sargent says, he could not picture himself working for a large, big-name corporation. He says that he was drawn instead to smaller companies, which he believed would be more accepting of “creative types” or those employees more prone to self-expression. In Sargent’s case, an accounting and finance job was Plan B, or a “safety” occupation in case his aspirations to become a rock musician didn’t pan out. Interestingly, it was Sargent’s deliberate avoidance of big business that undoubtedly allowed him to quickly garner some of the experiences...

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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 opportunity in less-than-friendly economic times. Back in 2002, he had found himself in a tight spot while serving as a senior manager for Andersen, the historic accounting house that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal of the early 2000s.

“The view at the beginning of crisis was that there was no way that Andersen would be taken down. For me, the lesson became to never say ‘never,’” says Jones, who adroitly stepped from the ashes of the once esteemed accounting house into a financial reporting role at Penske Automotive Group, where he entered the CFO office roughly 8 years later, in 2011.

“I think that Penske was a $2 billion or $3 billion business when I first got there, and it was an $18 billion business when I left,” recalls Jones, who prior to entering the CFO office at Penske in 2011 had served as CFO of Penske’s European operations and consequently weathered yet another economic storm. 

Back in 2008, Penske CEO Roger Penske had described the subprime mortgage crisis as “one of the most challenging periods on record in the automotive industry.” The automotive company would post its first quarterly loss in a decade and painful personnel cuts followed, but for future finance leader Jones, along with professional scar tissue would come valuable lessons for the future. - Jack Sweeney   Sign up for our newsletter