loader from loading.io

637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Release Date: 09/27/2020

646:  Making Finance a Workforce Whetstone | Michelle McComb, CFO, Bluecore show art 646: Making Finance a Workforce Whetstone | Michelle McComb, CFO, Bluecore

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Just as Michelle McComb was imagining that she would shortly be joining another Silicon Valley start-up as a finance leader, the CFO of Lucent Technologies helped to upend her plans. Back in the early 2000s, McComb’s first CFO tour of duty was coming to an end with the successful sale of her company to a larger, publicly held software firm. However, within a matter of months, the buyer was itself acquired by the giant telecommunications player, and Lucent’s CFO offered up a question to McComb: “What would it take to keep you?” The coveted query is one that career builders long to hear...

info_outline
645: The Investor Came Knocking  | Glenn Schiffman, CFO, IAC/InterActive show art 645: The Investor Came Knocking | Glenn Schiffman, CFO, IAC/InterActive

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

There’s little question that 2020 will long be remembered as a year of crisis for the casino industry. Commercial gaming revenues in the U.S. were down 79 percent during the second quarter when compared to Q2 2019, a fact that made IAC/Interactive’s August announcement that it was purchasing 12 percent of hospitality and gambling giant MGM all the more headline-grabbing. “We think we found a once-in-a-decade opportunity to find a meaningful position in an iconic brand,” explains IAC/InterActive CFO Glenn Schiffman, who says IAC’s balance sheet remains flush with cash (more than $3...

info_outline
SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder show art SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees. The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations.

info_outline
644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution show art 644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in the late 1980s, Mike Brower’s list of audit clients included a roster of oil and gas companies as well a local university and a number of different state and local government entities. It was the type of client list that any accountant based in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, might covet, a fact made all the more undeniable by having Taco John’s International top the list. A restaurant franchisor with over 450 restaurants nationwide, Taco John’s first began serving local Cheyenne customers in the 1960s, before expanding rapidly across the Plains and upper Midwest as it outfitted...

info_outline
643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance  | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions show art 643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in 2015, Katie Rooney was only 7 months into her first industry CFO role at Aon when her boss asked her to exit the office. “He came into my office on November 1 and said, ‘I’m retiring, and I want you to take on my role. I’m leaving in 8 weeks,’” recalls Rooney, who says that the news triggered a mix of surprise and fear, which she recalls outwardly expressing with the words “Oh, my God!” Her boss quickly sought to ease her concerns. “He said: ‘You know what? It will be the best thing for you. If I stick around, you will never get the credit from the team,” explains...

info_outline
642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth  | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio show art 642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

It’s not uncommon for career-building executives inside the finance realm to obtain an MBA in order to pivot their careers in a new direction. Such was the case for Sachin Patel, who after finding some early success as a systems engineer at IBM Corp. began to study the path before him more closely. “One of the things that you don’t very often get to do as an engineer is to articulate what you did by using the written word or even verbally. Just having this not be a feature of the job was something that began to be evident to me,” says Patel, who as the years passed found the laconic...

info_outline
641:  The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext show art 641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

“It’s not cheap to go public,” concedes CFO Steve Cakebread, echoing the oft-repeated refrain that founders and CFOs confront when considering the prospect of selling shares in their companies to the public. Concessions aside, it will come as little surprise to Wall Street and private investors alike that Cakebread—a seasoned finance leader who has taken public such companies as Salesforce, Pandora, and his latest firm, Yext—has come not to bury IPOs, but to praise them.  And 2020 might be the year when founders and CEOs are prepared to listen.   Certainly, few of...

info_outline
640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech show art 640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Jamie Samuels still recalls some of the raised eyebrows that he saw after having completed in short order both the verbal and written portions of an exam that his future employer administered to job applicants. Not unlike most of his fellow applicants, Samuels had been invited to take the exam after responding to a newspaper advertisement, but, unlike his peers, he had been the only foreign applicant—or, more important, the only foreign applicant able to complete both portions of the exam in fluent Chinese. “At that time, my written Chinese was very good because I had only recently...

info_outline
639:  Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless show art 639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in the early 2000s, Catherine Birkett found herself being pulled into confidential meetings where her company’s senior management was discussing restructuring plans with the company’s largest investor. The company—a fiber optics telecom firm known as Interoute—was not yet 6 years old, but its days appeared to be numbered as the company sought to weather the telecom industry’s historic collapse.   As Interoute’s top FP&A executive, Birkett knew from the ongoing business plan’s numbers that massive changes were urgently needed, and she as well as others were not...

info_outline
638:  The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion show art 638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession. At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises. In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to...

info_outline
 
More Episodes

The son of two doctors, Tom Fencl recalls that while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to him a free market economy was more “an intellectual curiosity” than a possible career destination.

“When the Berlin Wall came down, I was midway through high school—it was a very formative experience,” remembers Fencl, who says that the historic happening suddenly released “a market economy spirit.”

After studying at Prague’s University of Economics, Fencl says, he was “drawn to the big financial centers” and worked in London for 2 years at Stern Stuart & Co. as a consultant before heading to the University of Michigan for an MBA.

“From a university standpoint, the University of Michigan may not be the most obvious place for a European to go—but they found me more than I found them,” explains Fencl, who notes that years earlier in Prague he had met students from the University of Michigan who were involved in a study of post-communist economies. “They were virtually the first MBA students that I had ever met,” he observes.

From Michigan, he went directly to New York and Wall Street, where roughly 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall Czech-born and -raised Fencl became an investment banker.

“I worked as sort of a traditional investment banker, meaning that I covered everything from capital market transactions to M&As,” says Fencl, who worked for Salomon Smith Barney (later acquired by Citigroup) and Bank of America.

“I left Wall Street just before the 2008 meltdown,” he reports. “That was some lucky timing. I moved back to my home country, the Czech Republic, with my newborn and my wife, and there I joined a private equity boutique,” explains Fencl, who over the next 10 years migrated from what he describes as “transaction-driven” finance roles to more traditional CFO posts.

“I joined Pricefx in Prague—which was its largest office and where a lot of the banking office functions are,” says Fencl, who was named CFO of the company in 2017 and subsequently relocated with his family back to the U.S.—a market that Pricefx now views as a primary source of future growth. –Jack Sweeney

Fencl: To remind your listeners, we're a SaaS company.  So that is a subset of the industry where there's one metric above all, which is ARR, annual recurring revenue, and more specifically the growth of ARR. And then you rank companies based on where they are. For the past few years, we've been somewhere around 80% year over year. So that's a pretty decent clip. Now, you ask what did I change since I arrived? I didn't have to introduce that. They were told already by the very first investors, "You need to watch your ARR growth."

The thing that I had to work on doing, and it is obviously a cultural shift, is understanding that particularly when you're using other people's money, where you're not regulated by, do I have the cash or not ... Now, you have a lot of cash, but the right question is how are you deploying it? How efficiently are you using that capital? So, the metric that I had to work and make sure that the organization understand is payback, customer acquisition cost payback. So understanding how the growth ... How much did I have to spend to get that growth? And that of course is something that then leads to further analysis because you break down the metrics into its components. And that's something where you can't just buy the growth, right? You have to have a certain level of patience.

Well, for us, we mentioned before that we just finished fundraising. So we have plenty of cash to give us the, what they say, runway; meaning, we don't have to worry immediately on the short-term of funding the business. But conversely, we need to deploy that capital and, what we say, that's to scale up. And as I was saying before about it's not just growth, but how efficiently it grows. So I guess the biggest priority is make sure that we deployed efficiently, that we do achieve the growth, but we do it in a way that will satisfy sort of the requirements of the return on capital.

And to do that, one of the key areas of our focus today is work with data. There's obviously a lot of data in the business, but not all of it is structured perfectly. And not all of it is organized in the right way. So we're currently spending a lot of effort on making sure that we clean that up and that we, going forward, make the decisions based on data. Data-driven decision-making is a big priority internally.