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Today’s growth companies have a plethora of technology at their disposal: cloud, mobile, and analytics to name a few. Unlike the massive, traditional ERP solutions of yesterday, emerging technology offerings aren’t just for enterprises. As the stewards of their company’s coffers, CFOs hold the power when tech providers come knocking on their door, promoting their latest and greatest wares.
Operating with tight staffs and budgets, senior finance executives at small and midsize companies often don’t have time to consider strategic IT investment. Gerry Mendelbaum, Managing Partner, Camber Advisors LLCFor nearly 30 years, Gerry Mendelbaum has been providing consulting services to a wide range of companies. Mary Beth Findlay, Editorial Director, Product Development, CFO Publishing Mary Beth Findlay is editorial director of product development for CFO Publishing's custom-content division and oversees the development of editorial and custom content products, including eBooks and CFO Playbook Webcasts.
CFO and the sponsor reserve the right to limit participation in this Webcast to select audience members. By clicking submit you are agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of our privacy policy and to receive offers from CFO. Vinay: The primary reason I came to Politico is because they have built a new business model.
Underappreciated skillsetThe most underappreciated skillset in finance is the cost-accounting mindset. This work force wants constant change and they’re not willing to stay with the status quo.
Samuel: You’ve had a good long run from your previous experience, in more of a television environment.
Vinay: The first thing I can think of is that the most underappreciated skillset in finance is the cost-accounting mindset. On the revenue side, there is alot more diversity in the revenue field; more in new media than there is in the ‘traditional’ media space. Vinay: I think there are 2 kinds of CFO – there are CFOs who are very financial focused, and then there are CFOs like myself – CFOs who blend the financial and the non-financial data.
Vinay: The energy and the passion around their mission of providing political information to their audiences. Samuel: It must be a big change, coming from NPR-type of background, where you were truly middle-aged, taking a look at everyone around you. Samuel: So what are you doing to put change into a finance group that needs to be changed a little bit? Secondly, substituting some of the skill sets that are lacking on the team, I bring in new people. Samuel: How does it feel to be responsible for human resources in an environment that’s growing, dynamic and where culture is a key part of the talent pool? Samuel: What advice would you give to someone in finance that’s trying to work their way up and wants to become successful in their career? Vinay: I would say that having an understanding of the numbers and the context of the business, the strategy of the business is extremely critical in this day and age to be a successful CFO.
A CFO Success Story is a feature of Samuel’s CFO Blog, where Samuel Dergel follows up on his book, Guide to CFO Success, speaking with CFOs featured in CFO Moves and CFO Moves Canada, Samuel’s popular and comprehensive weekly report on CFO Movement across the USA and Canada. Earlier this week I shared a new research report by CFO Publishing sponsored by SAP with some insights on the Future of Finance. Thack Brown is general manager and global head of Line-of-Business Finance at SAP, and I had the opportunity to speak with him about the report. I would like to share 5 points that Thack shared with me that I thought CFOs should hear, listen to, and think about further. Companies in the general market are currently revaluating their platforms, their ERP, their financial systems, all of that stack, and saying “it’s all changing”. CFOs need to be ready to make the step out of the finance field, into a more comprehensive involvement understanding of the entire workings of the company. Mid-size companies need to keep an eye on the technology transformations of automation and simplification, because this may be not their opportunity to catch up the big boys, but actually leap-frog them entirely. A new research report released today by CFO Research and sponsored by SAP shows that while Finance has improved a lot over the past years, there is plenty of opportunity to Finance to deliver more value to the organization. Finance professionals are embracing their influence in their enterprises—and looking forward to a bright future as their profession evolves. The good news is that finance professionals are more influential than ever in their organization, and have opportunities to go beyond core traditional areas of ‘old’ finance. The organizational scope of the finance function—already broad— continues to expand to encompass risk management, IT, M&A, and other key functions. Again, as Finance becomes the central organizational address for all administrative and support functions within an organization, can the talent planning match this need? Finance teams will be challenged to fulfill their core performance management mandate in the face of rapid change and greater business complexity. High value-add within finance can only happen with the right people, processes and technologies in place, especially as business gets more complex and change continues at a faster pace. Finance professionals see the rising wave of digitalization and automation as the key to their ability to partner with the business to manage performance. In a conversation with Thack Brown, general manager and global head of Line-of-Business Finance at SAP, he said that the impact of technology opportunities (digitization and automation) will radically change how the transactional part of finance is being managed, even by those following current best practices. The following is from an interview with Aidan Cullen, recently hired as CFO of CliQr, as announced in CFO Moves.
When you start to get into a specialized business like engineering, you look at all the portfolios and investments and really begin to understand how things roll in a company.
A lot of us are very technically and operationally qualified and the next part of that is the chemistry and the synergy that you have with the executive team. We spend so much time trying to build a network and then when we get into a new job we tend to forget about that network. It’s very important to keep a close check on what challenges other CFOs face in the market these days. You should value your network and you should always think about building and expanding on your experiences.
You went from an engineering organization to a sales organization, both of which have very different requirements and very different world views. I’ve seen that a lot of CFOs who – while they were certainly smart – were at the right place at the right time.
On the operational side, I have the skills that I need from a sales operation perspective that I can use to go underneath the sales organization and understand the key issues associated with productivity, the sales model, the pricing and so forth.
What tool do you use to ensure that you stay in front of everyone you want to stay in front of on a regular basis?
Another process that has worked for me in the past is I will meet with CFOs on a semi-annual basis.We go to lunch and without getting into numbers we discuss the business process and we go into networking. What are some of your objectives to help the company along and make a bigger impact in its success?
What advice would you give people trying to build themselves up on a path to success as CFO?
A CFO Success Story is a feature of Samuel’s CFO Blog, where Samuel Dergel follows up on his book, Guide to CFO Success, speaking with CFOs featured in CFO Moves, Samuel’s popular and comprehensive weekly report on CFO Movement across the USA. And if you’re still not sure, ask your CFO Peers about their success stories in making this work. Since the release of my book, Guide to CFO Success in 2014, I have been reminding CFOs that they need to build and develop their relationships within their organization. Last fall, when speaking with some of my key Chief Financial Officers that I keep in regular touch with, I was reminded that while CFOs are lonely, there is a solution to their loneliness. Starting this past winter, I created 3 groups of 10 CFOs from across the USA and Canada, with the express goal of getting them to talk, learn, share and network with each other.
Here is a sample of some of the discussions we have had so far this year in CFO Peer Group. What changes have you made both to the finance organization and encouraged throughout the organization to deal with top line growth year-over-year in the 20%+ range. How do you redirect the culture of an organization to be conscience of tight cash flow when the CEO wont. What are your thoughts on how the role of the CFO evolves over time and how do you build your team such that you focus on the highest priorities?
Do any of you have a well defined non confidential process around acquisitions that cover everything from target evaluation, negotiations, financing, due diligence and all legal documentation through purchase? Curious on rigor of Internal Audit Process and role of group within your company (financially vs.
As the year progresses, my CFOs will be sharing, learning, growing and networking, both in our continued conference calls, as well as at our first in-person meeting this November in Chicago. As a CEO or Board member, aren’t these the types of things you want your CFO to have the support for? Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
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In previous surveys, we looked at how HCM-related compliance ranks as a strategic priority and the benefits it can contribute to business success.  This year, the survey explored how HCM-related compliance systems can help organizations “get better at getting work done.”  For example, how can an integrated, accessible compliance system help a company improve the way it manages resources, makes decisions, increase employee engagement and enhance customer satisfaction? Our latest research revealed that compliance-related information is an important asset for businesses – 70 percent of survey respondents (comprised of senior finance and human resources executives at mid-sized and large companies) say their management team reviews HCM-related compliance data as it makes business decisions at least some of the time.  Yet, despite the value HCM-related analytics can provide, 44 percent of survey respondents say their business still relies on multiple, disparate systems to access this information. John Motz is the Vice President of Product for ADP Added Value Services, where he oversees product strategy and direction.  Prior to joining ADP, he led product innovation at Intuit for 13 years and worked for several years in the financial services industry.
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How can strategic CFOs use this consumer-oriented technology to pave the way for business growth? In some ways, by investing in such technologies piecemeal, smaller organizations have a unique opportunity to investigate new solutions and strategies for growth that their larger counterparts simply cannot afford.
Finance chiefs at growing companies are increasingly becoming targets for promising offers—with good reason. That’s why some finance departments are still spending hours trading paper invoices with suppliers or laboring over Excel spreadsheets. He focuses on the intersection of strategy, operations and information technology, including acquisition and integration. Prior to joining the custom-content group, Mary Beth was associate director of research at CFO Research Services. Once you have a good understanding of true cost, and once you figure out how much of that is the standard cost, it becomes easier to manage and scale a business. Therefore they are constantly adopting new technologies, or adapting to new way of doing things. Because the new media companies treat content as information, they don’t treat it as just content. What I have found in my career, what has made me successful is the fact that I am able to overlay the non-financial data with the financial data itself. To be honest with you – one tends to forget, in life, we all have the responsibility to give back to society. Coming from an environment where you were one of the younger ones, to an environment where you’re one of the older ones.
You don’t have to tell these people – they live this every day – how can we do things better.
Because the rest of the organization is so forward thinking that my finance team hasn’t kept pace, with their level of change. The people who do invoicing and billings and collection for my ad business used to sit in finance, in a central location, and I’ve taken them out of there and said go sit in the unit. For instance, somebody with more experience and or somebody who is an expert in certain areas is going to have expertise in their DNA of the finance function and will be able to figure it out as they go along. Early in my career, when I was in accounting, I think the reason why I was so successful with my clients is because I was able to focus on their business problems, not just their financial problems.
I have had the opportunity to speak with Thack numerous times over the years, including for my book, and I continue to find his perspectives and insights relevant, useful and enjoyable. We tend to be so overworked and focused on our profession that sometimes we can fall into that trap of believing that our problems are only our problems.
The biggest challenge with this opportunity comes from ensuring that talent with leadership potential in finance can grow beyond the core additional areas. The insights he offered were fascinating, and combined with this report, provides excellent food for thought for the CFO who is looking to be the best business partner possible to their organization. Similarly, with sales you start to understand what incentivizes salespeople, what motivates them and how you get the most productivity out of them. I got in to the engineering role and the engineering VP at that stage got promoted to the general manager of a business unit that had a value of $1.7 billion dollars.
It’s a little bit of planning and being willing to step up – having the energy level to step up to the next level and perform.
The first that comes to mind is the ability to scale a company from, say, a 20 million dollar company to a 100 million dollar company.
If you build up and broaden your experience and your accomplishments and consistently perform – especially in the CFO capacity – I think that will open any door. CliQr is at the point where it has gone through with a Series C and financing and we’re at that stage of growth. Try to look at the end of every year and assure that you’ve added some accomplishments to your resume or background. In discussing the management of Finance costs, which are composed of People, Process and Technology,  Mary asks – What is the right proportion? You can hire a consultant to figure it out, but you could, with a little effort and honesty (with yourself), can see what your Finance team is actually doing.
CFOs sometimes forget that their leadership role requires that they stand up and stand out. Bringing on and developing higher level value adding senior finance talent will help you reduce the costs of lower level transactional staffing costs. Does your Finance function have to run like it always has, even though your business has changed significantly in the recent past? Each month we had scheduled conference calls, with questions from CFOs sent to the group in advance that prepared the group. At this meeting we will take our phone conversations to the next level and set the stage for where we take this in 2016. How do you ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve by the non-finance departments? Your input, positive or not so positive, encouraging or critical, will add value to all readers of the blog.
The service provides millions of businesses with deep discounts of up to 80 percent on products and services such as business equipment, professional and business services, office supplies, education and training, marketing and communications, and corporate events. Additionally, Corporate Compliance Insights is a focused knowledge-sharing forum designed to educate and encourage informed interaction within the corporate compliance community.
But with nearly 70 percent of all goods in North America being shipped on trucks, trucking companies know they need to have a strong strategy in place to attract and keep their drivers. An increasing need for productivity and profitability necessitated a national vendor to maintain their fleet of 16,000 vehicles in the most efficient way possible, wherever the vehicles were operating.
Automation technology, in particular, can allow growth companies to gain time, efficiency, and productivity, and can help employees by facilitating customer service, invoice processing, marketing, and information security. Smart finance chiefs realize that automating previously manual and paper-based processes will help their workforce focus less on quotidian processes and more on higher-value, income-producing tasks. He has led integration activities for several acquisitions, including the relocation, consolidation and integration of manufacturing operations and IT systems.
She conducted research studies on a variety of finance topics, including banking and capital markets, business performance management, the use of financial and operating data, and professional development. Politico has redefined how to make money in the media business without just being dependent on the advertising side of it.
And I personally found it very fulfilling to be involved in different causes – to give back to my city, my town, to my local cultural institution. But when you get involved with a non-profit, the thing that I’ve come to appreciate is – sometimes, when you are making an investment, you don’t have a true ROI, from a financial perspective. And I love working fast and changing things, but this work force wants constant change and they’re not willing to stay with the status quo.
Which works to a certain point, but then a lack of knowledge and a lack of expertise because of the hindrance. And because of that, the business units have gone off and made selections of technology products to streamline their operations and their processes. The need to move more effort out of the back office and automate it so you can spend more time in the front office. I then went into internal audit consciously thinking about where I need to go for my success.
Then you become more of a generalist and you start to move into and become more eligible for a CFO role. So I was fortunate to move in with the VP and become the general manager’s number one finance person – the CFO. As you start to get in, a lot of us are very technically and operationally qualified and the next part of that is the chemistry and the synergy that you have with the executive team and also with the CEO. Through my perspective on certain things, I can justify it from the numbers, from looking at the facts, looking at trends, building them out and being able to start to perfect models and sales projections. I have kept in contact with all the top financial recruiters over the years – whether I am looking for an opportunity or not. The next stage is global expansion and building out the enterprise and the sales into the various geographic regions. I think it’s important to meet regularly and get a pulse check with your peers to see if you’re keeping touch with how things are working out.
CFOs have told me that it is hard to be a corporate leader in cost reduction while they need to come back to request and get approvals for increasing their costs to be a better business partner across the business, operationally and strategically.
Communicating what you’re doing in a refined and positive way to your team and your company will help get the support you need to make your plan a success.
If you are running Finance like it’s 1999, and your business looks nothing like it did in 1999, processes need to be significantly updated to fit.
Unless your enterprise is going through a wholesale ERP change, focus on Processes and People first.
While it may sound counterintuitive to someone who has not done this before, learn from the literature.

These CFOs were able to call on their peers both during and outside of our meetings on the issues and challenges facing them. CFO’s award-winning editorial content and loyal, influential audience make it a valued resource for its readers as well as an effective marketing partner for a wide range of B-to-B companies. Founded by successful entrepreneurs from Amazon, Microsoft, CNET, Dow Jones and Ziff Davis, the company’s relationships with UBM, CNET, ZDNet, TechRepublic, Hanley Wood, BuyerZone and others power local distribution and enable access to a highly targeted business audience. Corporate Compliance Insights is founded by Maurice Gilbert, managing partner of the Conselium Executive Search Firm, a compliance-focused executive search firm. Discovering the secret to keeping drivers happy lies in listening to the voices of professional truck drivers. Instead of working with hundreds of small, local, independent vendors – all with different billing systems and varying quality controls – Saia wanted just one. Gerry’s past experience includes partner roles with Deloitte, Archstone Consulting and Infosys Consulting. Before she joined CFO Publishing, Mary Beth served as a research associate at Harvard Business School, writing case studies and background notes for second-year MBA courses.
That’s something that really attracted me– they not only created a new business model, but they are also hugely successful in this new business model, and I want to be part of that. And thanks to my experience in accounting for 10 years, I had alot of clients – manufacturing clients, tech clients – one of the things they taught me was the concept of cost-accounting. And in every financial function I’ve had a small group of people doing data analytics. And I think some of it is maybe because you don’t have the luggage of a traditional media company and all the headaches of running a traditional media company. Go see what they do every day and be part of their workflow, instead of sitting separated on a different floor and communicating through emails.
And on the back end of things you have finance working on QuickBooks because they haven’t kept pace with the evolution and change that has happened in the business.
And we are thinking about additional approaches – until now we took for granted that we’ll have 20-30% turnover and keep hiring new people. At that point you really have the depth to be able to go down a thousand feet and then come back up specifically when you’re dealing with the executive level management.
You would first look at the financial portfolios system or the ERP system and ask: which is the best one to scale?
Because of this, I started to gain respect from my peers and especially the CEO and then I moved forward and it got better. If I can touch base, even if it’s only once a year, I’ll try to keep an eye on them and say hello. Those are the major challenges and in confronting them I bring in head counts and business processes.
Once that part of your plan is in place, you will have the right Finance ecosystem and culture to properly take advantage of.
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Once you have a very good understanding of true cost, and once you can figure out how much of that cost is a standard cost, it make it much easier to manage and scale a business – rather than just focusing top line goals which is just the revenue side of it.
I think that’s given them a sense of appreciation how the business operated, that they never knew before. My philosophy is we need to find a better way of keeping this from happening instead of constantly dealing with this turnover. The back office of the future will be a just a few highly skilled experts handling, enabling and ultimately evolving the automation. From there I started to specialize in the functional roles and business partnerships, so I went to engineering and managed an engineering group worth about 120 million dollars. I consistently keep in contact with them and these doors remain opened and the friendship and partnership are there. It has the ability to change everything about the way business interacts with information technology. I did the same thing at Gigamon, where I expanded and brought in a new ERP system for a manufacturing company and broadened the sales geographic regions. Dollars on technology needs to be well thought out and prepared for (on the People and Process side) before making significant investments. Until now.Download this Whitepaper where Ryder experts unveil what truck drivers really want. And I think what TV broadcasting taught me is – that it is a business which is hugely capital intensive.
So there’s the mindset of it being an information company instead of being just a media company.
And giving back doesn’t necessarily need to be about giving money – it could be about giving your skillset, and your guidance to these organizations who don’t have allot of sophisticated management skills. This has been a big surprise for me, coming from big corporations where change is so hard, and it’s so hard to get people on board, or to follow new ways of doing things. In every way – from how to come up with new revenue ways, to how can we become more efficient to how to use new technology.
And I get excited about the fact that I can help influence and be a caretaker of the culture of the organization.
After that, I went into another company and managed a sales organization and was a business partner for sales services and support. The main concerns they had, operationally in the company, were in getting the financials restated due to the software changes that were going on, specifically around revenue recognition. Each time you have to make some decision it impacts the business and may impact the CEO and executive team.
We spend time together sitting around the table and then we reconvene in another six months’ time. For example, if we had 5 to 10 million dollars to make a TV show, we would have a very robust cost-accounting system. They have a mission, and as long as you are in mind with the mission, you can help in many different ways. And while that’s true, someone needs to tell the story of lack of diversity, or to tell the story of some other area which nobody else is willing to put the money in to do, because they don’t see the financial ROI on it. I feel that it’s a great opportunity for the organization to be able get what they are looking for, from a cultural perspective.
And so what tends to sometimes happen is that we forget that we have the DNA of a sales-person. In the company that I joined, several of the competing companies had their financial statements restated. They do an amazing job and when you can actually get a line through to these VCs, they truly do mitigate the risk that we have as CFOs. We would knew down to the penny, and down to an invoice, what everything was being spent on.
Sometimes I feel that an HR reports directly to the CEO of an organization, and they tend to take a more of an administrative function.
Fortunately, because of my operational background in external audits and looking at the business side of things, I was able to take that role on and I spent a good year really reengineering the sales organization – specifically from an operational perspective.
For example, one of the financial recruiters is having an event here and it’s typically at an event like that where I catch up with my peers in the industry and have a drink and socialize. It’s a transformation from the old rigid data centers to today’s desire to logically place applications across diverse environments and include the data centers across private and public clouds all in one place.
So I would say that I am very much one of those people who loves to tell the stories behind the financial and the non-financial data.
So we’ll spend money on it because that’s really our core mission is – to educate people. I really feel that HR is very strategic and probably is the most strategic department of this company. Whether we are talking to our salary employees, or if we’re talking in external shareholders or investors. So I would say it’s given me the appreciation to understand that sometimes in business you will make an investment in something that may not have a true ROI, but there will be other ways to measure ROI beyond the financial terms of things. And I feel that anyone who wants to grow their career in a finance perspective, not only has to be a fabulous story teller, but also has to be a sales person. And when you actually have a bit of experience behind you, it’s nice to have that exciting challenge.
In my mind, the market’s real, the product is very very real and we’ve got really smart investors in the company (like Google Ventures and Foundation Capital -to name a couple). This is where we need to put the most focus – to help make sure that we can keep our employees. And then you have to figure out how that translates to revenue – which are the stories that are actually driving traffic to the website, which are the stories that are driving revenue. So I think that going from old media to new media is where I found the benefit of having the ability to build a true-cost evaluating system.

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