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

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Release Date: 10/14/2020

655: Awaiting the Return to Travel | Tom Tuchscherer, CFO, TripActions show art 655: Awaiting the Return to Travel | Tom Tuchscherer, CFO, TripActions

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Twenty-five to 30 years ago, senior executives seeking CFO roles did not think like Tom Tuchscherer. Many still don’t, which is why CFO roles have increasingly come to executives like Tuchscherer, a gate crasher from the world of corporate development. Such was the case back in 2012, when Tuchscherer entered the CFO office for the first time at Talend, a fast-growing developer of data integration software. At the time, Tuchscherer was accustomed to having long strategy discussions with both Talend investors and board members and was even tasked with helping management to recruit “a...

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654: The Path to Being IPO-Ready | Drew Vollero, CFO, Allied Universal show art 654: The Path to Being IPO-Ready | Drew Vollero, CFO, Allied Universal

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

When Drew Vollero arrived in the CFO office of Snap (formerly Snapchat) in 2015, the executives occupying the tech world’s traditional IPO talent bench no doubt raised a few eyebrows. Having spent the previous 25 years inside the corporate corridors of Mattel, Inc., and PepsiCo, Vollero had a resume chock-full of strategic planning initiatives that any finance leader would covet. Still, he could not be counted among the familiar CFO all-stars known for their routine rotation into IPO-minded tech companies. Of course, whatever buzz Vollero’s hiring may have stirred, Snap left no...

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In Search of a Culture Metric  | Workplace Champions show art In Search of a Culture Metric | Workplace Champions

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

  "Talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it." - Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara CFOTL: What are your priorities for the coming year? Tennenbaum: One is building out our finance and accounting talent to take us to a billion dollars’ worth of revenue and beyond. We’re at close to half a billion of revenue, and we’re looking to go well beyond that. You really need the talent that has experienced a larger scale, knows how to achieve it, and can take you there. So, talent has become really important,...

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653: From Real Estate to the Immune System | Chad Cohen, CFO, Adaptive Biotechnologies show art 653: From Real Estate to the Immune System | Chad Cohen, CFO, Adaptive Biotechnologies

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Of all of the business discussions that Chad Cohen has had over the years, few are likely as memorable as the 20-second conversation he had with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff about midway into his 9-year career stint with the online real estate company. Cohen joined Zillow back in 2006 as corporate controller, a position that he says also had the added distinction of being the company’s first full-time finance role. Over the next 4 years, as Zillow’s back-office finance and accounting team took shape, Cohen’s responsibilities grew, allowing him to step into the role of vice president of...

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652: Exposing Gross Margin’s Hidden Levers | Jeff Nichols, CFO, UJET show art 652: Exposing Gross Margin’s Hidden Levers | Jeff Nichols, CFO, UJET

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

In 2016, when Jeff Nichols had been a senior member of Glassdoor’s FP&A team for 2 years, he and other members of the finance team were confronting the nagging truth that the firm’s path to going public wasn’t getting any shorter. The online job recruitment firm’s efforts to grow its profit margins had met only mild success, while its cash burn rate was inching upward. According to Nichols, Glassdoor’s path to going public was further complicated due to the unique characteristics of its business model. Points of comparison between Glassdoor and top recruitment rivals such as...

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651: Remedying Your Metrics Disconnect | Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara show art 651: Remedying Your Metrics Disconnect | Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Ross Tennenbaum remembers that back in 2018, when he was a managing director at Goldman Sachs, he had conversations with a number of senior executives from Slack Technologies, Inc. At the time, the fast-growing workplace messaging and communication platform was preparing to go public, and the company was making a special effort to educate bankers and analysts alike about the firm’s business. As his questions became more pointed, Tennenbaum says, he noticed that members of Slack’s senior management team would frequently permit other executives stationed along the conversation’s...

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650:  When Opportunity Comes Your Way  | Kieran McGrath, CFO, Avaya show art 650: When Opportunity Comes Your Way | Kieran McGrath, CFO, Avaya

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

In 2008, as the economic downturn threatened to upend IBM Corp.’s financial well-being, the company’s leadership was considering different candidates to lead a corporatewide restructuring when Kieran McGrath’s name surfaced. McGrath was known as a troubleshooter inside the ranks of IBMers, a seasoned finance executive whose 27 years with the company had produced a zigzag career trajectory tracing a jagged path that signaled to IBM insiders both a breadth of experience and company loyalty. “Early in my career, I got a reputation as a workhorse and a bit of a problem fixer, and while...

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649: Entering the Auction Room | Martin Nolan, CFO, Julien's Auctions show art 649: Entering the Auction Room | Martin Nolan, CFO, Julien's Auctions

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Had Martin Nolan studied engineering instead of accounting, his career path would likely never have entered the worlds of Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson. Still, Irish-born Nolan is quick to point out that it was a Green Card lottery, not his accounting degree, that facilitated his relocation to New York City, where he would meet and ultimately team up with Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions, the world’s leading entertainment auction house. Before the two men met, Nolan had traveled a remarkable distance from his early days in New York, where in the early 1990s—Green...

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648: A Life Sciences Angler Casts a Sturdy Line | Bill  Adams, CFO, NervGen Pharma show art 648: A Life Sciences Angler Casts a Sturdy Line | Bill Adams, CFO, NervGen Pharma

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

It’s a familiar sequence: A strong-minded investor musters the will to lead and steps into the CEO office determined to revitalize a struggling technology company and put it back on the growth track. For Bill Adams, this swift turn of events occurred only a year into his first industry stint as a corporate controller—a career chapter, he recalls fondly, that included a devoted CFO mentor. However, the company’s CFO and CEO had exited the firm just prior the investor’s arrival, and Adams found himself stepping into a finance leadership role. Although stressful, the circumstances swung...

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647:  Accruing Your Global Acumen  | Adrian Talbot, CFO, Hotwire show art 647: Accruing Your Global Acumen | Adrian Talbot, CFO, Hotwire

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

When Adrian Talbot tells us that he parachuted into Thames Television in the early 1990s, the image of the London skyline—once used to brand the popular British broadcasting company —quickly comes to mind. Suddenly, in our mind’s eye, just to the right of St. Paul’s dome, we spy a 20-something-year-old Talbot floating confidently downward. Along with a boatload of first-class metaphors, this is the type of instant imaging that every conversation renders—at least for those of us on the lookout for them. But Talbot’s successful first jump—not unlike those of many future finance...

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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 nature of engineering to be in direct conflict with his growing desire to play a more active role in shaping and influencing business strategy.

“I looked at two areas—investment banking and strategy consulting—and began pursuing both, which probably wasn’t the best approach from a time management standpoint,” explains Patel, who says that ultimately the numbers—or, as he describes it, “the common wiring between engineering and finance”—drew him toward the world of finance.

With an MBA in hand, Patel joined Citigroup and set about developing the relationships and industry insights required to succeed in the investment banking realm, until one day—roughly 4 years after his carefully executed career pivot—he received a call from a friend and business school classmate with a job opportunity.

In short order, Patel was accepting a director of finance role with Vantage Oncology, a network of cancer centers and supporting physicians that was quickly expanding across the country. Over the next 4 years, Patel would build and lead Vantage’s FP&A team as he advanced from controller to the CFO office, where in 2016 he ultimately helped to sell the company to McKesson Corporation for $1.2 billion.

Looking back, Patel credits his years at Vantage for providing him with consecutive opportunities to prove himself as he climbed steadily upward. Still, he makes clear that his success there was not always obvious. In fact, even before he accepted the position, he needed to confront a potential obstacle that surprisingly had little to do with strategy or Vantage’s financial footing.

“An interesting wrinkle was that I reported to the business school classmate who recruited me,” explains Patel, who at first mentions his classmate to highlight the added rewards of having returned to business school but is compelled to emphasize the added complexity of such a relationship.

“It was good that we had the baseline of a friendship, but sometimes this can lead to a little more ruffling,” he says, before giving kudos to his classmate as well as to Vantage’s management team for creating an environment where the two friends could both succeed. –Jack Sweeney

 

Patel: We developed an in-house pricing tool for each of our solutions that we offer. And so based on our experience out of what the different components of the expense were, whether it's human time from the operations team, over to cloud expense that I mentioned, anything else that all gets folded into there, I should say, and then we can set the pricing based on that. And this tool allows them to check each of their contracts, or as they're negotiating they can check those margins using that tool. Ultimately, that goes to our chief growth officer who oversees that, and then if we need to make any additional decisions around that, we meet as a group.

But it's become part of the practice, and I think they were actually looking for that being that we are developing new solutions. You're not entirely sure how we should price those in the market when it's a new solution. Many times there's a lot of puts and takes there that you have to consider. And so early on it was a very much live discussion, but now it's part of the standard process, and very much something we follow.

We were guarded about that margin profile. We were very particular about it. And then we realized that there's many other components to our numbers that we can manage better to free up those dollars to win more business. And what we were able to do is understand that from a valuation perspective, moving from X to 1.1 X margin may not be as important to us as having higher revenue growth. So let's orient around that. Let's take the additional dollars we have and maybe give a little here, invest a little there, and make sure that we're driving that top line growth. Because ultimately there's a finite universe of health plans and provider groups after which the sales team can go. But once you're in there, the opportunity to sell more is really where the sizzle is. And so it's important to sort of win the day, and that became something that the management team, ranging from operations and engineering over to obviously sales and marketing, everyone could coalesce.