627 episodes

CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations.
We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.

CFO THOUGHT LEADER Middle Market Executive

    • Business

CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations.
We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.

    755: Serving the Creators | Craig Foster, CFO, Picsart

    755: Serving the Creators | Craig Foster, CFO, Picsart

    During 2018, the very year Craig Foster joined Bright Machines, the San Francisco–based company was spun out from contract manufacturing firm Flex, raised a headline-grabbing $179 million in Series A funding, and shed its original moniker, AutoLab AI.
    By all accounts, the manufacturing start-up, which promised to use a combination of robots and new software to perform manual labor, was open for business. However, like many start-ups, Bright Machines had yet to add some basic business functions.
    “We had a sense of product, but we didn’t have any infrastructure whatsoever,” comments Foster, who notes that among the company’s most immediate needs was an HR executive hire—someone capable of populating the company with experienced managers.
    Still, arguably more critical to future of the business were the remedies for certain flaws that had begun to become visible in the company’s maturing business model.
    “I had been working there only a few months before I realized that the business model was simply not going to work,” explains Foster.
    “Basically, we had a blueprint for how things were actually supposed to come together but only a semblance of one for what the business model was supposed to look like going forward,” continues Foster, who adds that over a period of months he worked with the CEO and the company’s board to “retool” the model to better facilitate customer recurring revenues and place less emphasis on the services aspect of the company’s offerings.
    “We needed not a reset of the model but just a retooling in terms of how we thought about pricing, product, and development, and we needed to retool these things in concert,” observes Foster, who notes that the new mind-set kept the distinct value that Bright Machines offers its customers in sharper focus.  
    Says Foster: “It was a tough bandage to rip off, but I had great support from the board and everyone else at the time.” –Jack Sweeney 

    • 45 min
    Planning's Longest Yard | A Planning Aces Episode

    Planning's Longest Yard | A Planning Aces Episode

    Steve and Jack discuss FP&A's 100-year march. Featuring commentary and FP&A insights from Planning Aces: CFO Kurt Shintaffer of Apptio CFO Jim Morgan of CallRail & CFO Daniel O'Shaughnessy of FormLabs.

    • 39 min
    Bonus Replay: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

    Bonus Replay: Allocating Resources to Achieve the Right Outcomes | Inder Singh, CFO, Arm

    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 development executive for AT&T Corp. It seems that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was looking to upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure—to the tune of $4 billion.
    “Other companies were just offering typical bank financing. In our case, we said, ‘Let’s do an oil barter agreement,’” explains Singh, who says that the proposal involved having Saudi Arabia supply $4 billion of oil to Chevron Corp., which then would pay $4 billion in cash to AT&T, which then would build Saudi Arabia a $4 billion telecommunications network.
    “If you just think outside the box a little bit, bring your engineering skills, and bring some financial skills and common sense, you’ll see what makes sense for three different parties. And guess what? We actually won the deal,” comments Singh, who notes that the fact that Saudi Arabia may not have demanded such an imaginative financing solution is not important.
    Says Singh: “The fact that we put it on the table made us stand apart.” And so it goes for Inder Singh, whose imaginative approach to financing deals over the years has routinely set him apart from his finance leadership peers. –Jack Sweeney

    • 48 min
    754: The Return to Earth | Tom Fitzgerald, CFO, Planet Fitness

    754: The Return to Earth | Tom Fitzgerald, CFO, Planet Fitness

    Back in the mid-1990s, before email became widely used across corporate America, the executives of Frito-Lay’s northern California region suddenly found their mailboxes full.
    “We were getting all of these letters from people asking, ‘What did you do? What’s going on in northern California?,’” explains Tom Fitzgerald, who at the time was finance director for the region, a geography known to be a sales laggard among Pepsico’s 24 business units, within which Frito-Lay itself was a particularly heavy bottom dweller.
    Thus, as Fitzgerald relates, there was no shortage of intrigue concerning a sudden and steady sales climb inside Frito-Lay’s northern California business. Looking back, he observes that the explanation of the phenomenon was not necessarily pleasing to neighboring regions, which were known to be on a constant lookout for cunning new sales promotions or incentives.
    “Northern California, oddly enough, was the only unionized market for Frito-Lay in the country. Meanwhile, we had a direct store delivery business, which meant that we went to every store at least once a week—and often every day—to merchandise and sell the inventory,” explains Fitzgerald, who notes that the “direct sales” approach afforded the region larger numbers of employees than other locales, which in turn allowed Frito-Lay to at times operate inside the region more like a “military organization.”
    Like those of many of his peers, Fitzgerald’s Pepsi career routinely opened new chapters as the packaged goods company rotated its finance executives into new regions and business units. Fitzgerald’s arrival in the northern California region brought a new set of eyes to Frito-Lay’s local challenges and paired the finance executive with a divisional leader who was prepared to listen.
    “I told the leader that too often the business had one answer one day and a different answer the following week. I said, ‘Let’s just pick three, and then we’re going to lock in and stay there,’” comments Fitzgerald, who credits a newfound focus and the regional leader’s willingness to collaborate with having propelled the snack maker to the top of the region’s 24 business units within 3 months.
    As for the details behind Fitzgerald’s “three answer” prescription, the finance leader reports: “Two were top line–driven, operational metrics that we could measure. The other was related to how our team worked and coached the frontline salespeople.”
    For Fitzgerald, the remedy was less about strategy and more about focus.
    “It’s not necessarily about how good your strategy is,” he says. “Frankly, there may have been three better ideas along the way, but because they changed the strategy and moved to the next thing too quickly, they couldn’t get all of their people aligned to execute it well.”
    Adds the finance leader: “I became a big believer in the notion that if you have an ‘A’ strategy but a ‘C’ execution, you’re going to miss your numbers every time.” –Jack Sweeney

    • 55 min
    753: Time to Make the Coffee | Jim Calabrese, CFO, Finalsite

    753: Time to Make the Coffee | Jim Calabrese, CFO, Finalsite

    Jim Calabrese recalls that when he began to climb the corporate ladder early in his finance career, an executive mentor told him, “Never be afraid to make the coffee.”
    This curious advice caught Calabrese’s attention, so the up-and-coming executive listened carefully as the mentor added: “As an executive, you need to be able to get dirty—to roll up your sleeves. You don’t want to be the person who can’t do a mundane task because you’re in love with your title.”
    Today, as a CFO, Calabrese serves up his own bite-size mentoring verbiage in this way: “There’s nothing more valuable when you’re the CFO than understanding how the widgets are made—and being the person who’s willing to take on the challenging projects.”
    Calabrese tells us that he reached the CFO office by aggressively pursuing projects outside the traditional finance realm while also signing up for long stretches on strategic planning teams, where he guided re-engineering projects in the energy and software sectors.
    His strategic work—along with his operational “grinding and tinkering”—positioned the CPA/MBA hybrid to thrive as a finance leader, especially in his current role as CFO of Finalsite, a private equity–backed SaaS developer serving the education sector.

    • 39 min
    752: Making Your Company More Valuable | Howard Wilson, CFO, PagerDuty

    752: Making Your Company More Valuable | Howard Wilson, CFO, PagerDuty

    Among today’s career building finance pros who view the CFO office as their ultimate destination, Howard Wilson might be labeled an off-road commuter.

    Whereas most finance leaders have shared a common view as accounting and finance milestones fell away in their rearview mirror, Wilson entered the finance realm from the merge lane – where his rearview revealed a roster of operational milestones and sales experiences. Having spent most of his early career altogether removed from the accounting cubicles, Wilson's operational experiences began supplying added luster to his CFO credentials.

    It’s no secret that as the CFO role has broadened, our CFO guests have been eager to highlight their operations experience, but as Howard Wilson’s career perhaps reveals, operations experience is no longer just a pit stop along the motorway of CFO career journeys. –Jack Sweeney

    • 42 min

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