530 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

    • Careers
    • 4.6 • 93 Ratings

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.

    677: Engaging Minds at Work | Michael Pickrum, CFO, ExecOnline

    677: Engaging Minds at Work | Michael Pickrum, CFO, ExecOnline

    When Michael Pickrum tells us about ExecOnline, the company that he joined as CFO back in 2019, he wants us to know that the education technology firm is aligned with his goals both professionally and personally.
    When it comes to the professional side of things, Pickrum says, ExecOnline in certain ways is a media company.
    “You’re taking some IP and figuring out how to distribute and monetize it,” comments Pickrum, while boiling down the somewhat complex approach that ExecOnline uses to repackage the curricula of top business schools and universities to better serve the specific people development needs of a variety of corporate clients.
    Still, Pickrum’s shorthand description is intended not to spotlight the facets of ExecOnline’s business model but instead to draw our attention to its similarities with his past media industry experience—such as his 17 years with BET Networks, where he occupied the CFO office for 9 of them.  
    As for the personal side of things, Pickrum says that he is a “big believer” when it comes to the transformative power of education.
    “I went to public schools growing up—I was very fortunate to go to a great university, and it changed my life,” remarks Pickrum, who adds that ExecOnline packages the academic IP not with aspiring college students in mind but with an eye toward first-time managers as well as more senior business leaders.
    According to Pickrum, part of the added value that ExecOnline offers corporate clients derives from providing the IP in a more relevant and efficient way.
    “Most of our programs are 1 week, 3 weeks, or 6ix weeks,” explains Pickrum, who says that at times the material being covered can be applied to a specific project that the managers are undertaking within their company.  
    “It’s just a great marriage between the business school’s IP, professors, and resources, and our platform and ability to engage people where they are, which is at work.” –Jack Sweeney 
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    • 42 min
    676: The Next Transformation Journey | Paul Lundstrom, CFO, Flex

    676: The Next Transformation Journey | Paul Lundstrom, CFO, Flex

    Back in 2015, after nearly two decades of diligent career-building across United Technologies, Paul Lundstrom fixed his career builder’s gaze upon the span of companies known as the Fortune 500.
    Like many seasoned finance executives who spend the balance of their careers inside large enterprise companies, Lundstrom had to confront the obvious truth that for every company, the CFO office has but one occupant.
    By all accounts, a Fortune 500 company was a worthy target for Lundstrom’s CFO ambitions, but here, too, the number of CFO roles quickly diminishes when you consider the industry-specific focus that spans the arc of Lundstrom’s career and those of so many others.  
    Finance executives often tell us that it was here within this realm of heightened ambition and shrinking opportunity that they dared to add one of the most satisfying chapters of their CFO careers, and so it was for Lundstrom.
    Last fall, the UT veteran landed safely inside the Fortune 500 world when he was named CFO of Flex, a $24 billion contract manufacturer. However, it was the 4 years between UT and Flex that Lundstrom now points to as constituting one of the most satisfying periods of his career.
    Back in 2016, Lundstrom exited UT to accept a CFO position with Aerojet Rocketdyne, a struggling aerospace company that had recently found it necessary to restate its financials.
    “This was a $2 billion NASDAQ company that did not have a controller,” explains Lundstrom, whose 4-year tour of duty as Aerojet’s CFO coincided with a rise in the company’s stock price from $16 to $50 per share (pre-COVID).
    “The goal was business transformation,” explains Lundstrom, who now characterizes his Aerojet years as a “turnaround” chapter that no doubt put yet another stripe on his CFO career path sleeve. –Jack Sweeney
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    • 37 min
    For the Luv of Dictators, Marching in Step with OKRs

    For the Luv of Dictators, Marching in Step with OKRs

    This Episode Features Human Capital Insights & Commentary from:
    Dynshaw Italia, CFO, Soldo
    Brad Kinnish, CFO, Aryaka
    Will Bondurant, CFO, Castlight Health
    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.
    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.

    • 30 min
    675: When Complexity Equals Waste | Jim Harper, CFO, Goodroot

    675: When Complexity Equals Waste | Jim Harper, CFO, Goodroot

    According to Goodroot CFO Jim Harper, the best way to transform the current U.S. healthcare system is to replace its connective tissue.
    “It’s going to be a long slog and it’s got to be done one system at a time,” explains Harper, who uses the word “system” while referring to the individual points of connection that knit together healthcare’s patchwork of payers and providers.
    For Harper, connection points are where waste gathers within the larger system – and where companies often add unnecessary complexity in order to extract more dollars.
    “Because there is so much money flying through the systems there are a lot of organizations that have become involved here and they are greedy,” comments Harper, whose shares his opinion of the healthcare system as a preface to explaining the mission behind Goodroot.  
    Not exactly a business incubator, and not a private equity firm, Goodroot prefers to be dubbed a “community” of businesses dedicated to improving the current state of healthcare delivery.
     Harper once more tells us: It's a mission that can only be achieved  "one system at a time." - Jack Sweeney
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    • 42 min
    674: Creating Sensible Options From Hard Decisions | Robert Linder, CFO, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

    674: Creating Sensible Options From Hard Decisions | Robert Linder, CFO, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

    When CFO Robert Linder highlights what distinguishes the dining experience at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, it’s easy to imagine him as a friendly host escorting us across a lively dining area filled with spirited patrons.
    “I love the hospitality industry, and I didn’t always know why—but I love to host and I love the interaction and taking care of someone and helping them to discover something new,” says Linder, whose words draw our attention to the universal splendor of dining out and its bitter absence from our lives during these past many months.
    From the start, we knew that our discussion would become focused on the pandemic and its impact on Lazy Dog’s business, yet we couldn’t help but want to linger as Linder listed the popular menu items from the restaurant that currently serves customers at 39 locations in seven states.
    In the end, we left it to Lazy Dog’s CFO to transport us back to earth with the not so enviable time of arrival being March 2020.
    “It’s hard not to point to something in the past year, given all of what this industry has gone through,” says Linder, when asked to share a moment of strategic insight that he’s experienced during the course of his career.  
    Looking back, Linder recalls the first 48 hours when shelter-in-place orders were being issued in California and the full magnitude of the decisions that would need to be made began occupying the thoughts of Lazy Dog management.
    “We knew that our cash burn rate would be significant, and the thinking was around how we could adjust our costs as quickly as possible in order to survive,” explains Linder, who observes that survival demanded a wide and aggressive workforce reduction but Lazy Dog management remained uncertain about its response and considered whether several waves of layoffs over a period of weeks might permit the business to “buy time” and allow management to revisit the question of layoffs again in the future.
    “What we realized was that the outcome that would be most kind to our people was the one that would offer them a job when we came out of the other side of this thing,” comments Linder, who notes that management rejected having several waves of layoffs in favor of one large one.
    “This was one of the best decisions that we made because from that time forward we have only delivered good news to our people and have been able to say, ‘Hey, we’re bringing some people back” or “Hey, we’re able to restore a portion of your compensation,’” reports Linder, who adds that Lazy Dog has continued to pay health insurance for those who have been laid off.
    Says Linder: “For me, that 48-hour period showed why you can’t run away from a hard decision as a finance leader.”  –Jack Sweeney 
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    • 56 min
    673: Advancing Down the Transformation Path | Will Bondurant, CFO, Castlight Health

    673: Advancing Down the Transformation Path | Will Bondurant, CFO, Castlight Health

    Years from now, when Castlight Health CFO Will Bondurant reflects back on the varied chapters of his finance career, he may title the current one “The Turnaround”—that is, if he and Castlight CEO Maeve O’Meara are able to achieve what the firm’s previous management team had not been able to: a strategy transformation.
    Like his CEO, Bondurant is not an outsider: After joining the firm in 2013, he was assigned a variety of strategy and financial planning duties that led to more influential product strategy and operational roles of the type that many aspiring CFOs eagerly seek out.
    As Bondurant shared with us his cross-functional journey, he mentioned few titles or promotions but instead drew our attention to a variety of experiences that has led us to conclude that Castlight’s future CFO first emerged as one of the company’s foremost problem-solvers.
    Says Bondurant: “If everything is working, you don’t always get the opportunity to fix something. The reason that I was able to have these opportunities is that we had challenges—and from where I sit now, they certainly benefited my own personal development.”
    Then, in 2017, came a $135 million acquisition, a transaction that management told investors would transform Castlight but instead ended up leaving a trail of merger snags and glitches that ultimately led to the formation of a new management team.
    At the time, Bondurant no doubt may have appeared to certain investors and outsiders to be a dark horse candidate for the firm’s CFO role. Still, it appears likely that his Castlight colleagues viewed things differently.  
    Having spent many hours with Castlight customers before becoming CFO, Bondurant was familiar with certain external facing aspects of the role, but not all.
    “Investor relations was a new area for me—I had been external in my previous roles but principally with customers and partners and the like,” explains Bondurant, who recalls several unpleasant calls with investors after stepping into the CFO role.  
    “I recall asking myself in the first week, ‘Do these people just hate me? Am I just really disliked by these people?,’” comments Bondurant, who notes that he now enjoys the calls with investors and very often views them as being more productive than his engagements with customers.  –Jack Sweeney
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    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
93 Ratings

93 Ratings

Santos-L-Halper ,

Relatable and applicable

This podcast truly marries useful finance tips and insights with human stories about finance professionals. It’s such a great mix of information any company can apply today and the characters and personal stories behind that info. The combination makes each episode memorable and valuable.

321 Capt ,

Super informative and thought provoking

I have an MBA and I really enjoy this show. Jack asks probing questions that get into the mind of his guest. I feel like I’m a fly on the wall listening to a couple of intelligent movers and shakers sharing their most important business secrets. This show is a must-listen for anyone who aspires to be a leader in the business world.

Powerful Eric ,

Impressive Professional Wow!

Impressive unique show that gives the serious professional the tool they need to evolve in the business world. Nice work. Great podcast. Highly recommend!

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