How to Make an Impact | FP&A Fridays, LIVE from Clubhouse

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This is a podcast episode titled, How to Make an Impact | FP&A Fridays, LIVE from Clubhouse. The summary for this episode is: <p>Let's talk about HOW Finance can make a huge impact to the business. Join Rowan, Chris and special guest Glenn Snyder, Head of FP&amp;A at Global Growth Holdings, on another "FP&amp;A Friday" as they talk different structures and strategies for implementing processes, going from a tactical to strategic mindset, leveraging technology to free up time, and more. </p>

- All right, well, we've got some really exciting topics to cover today. I know we've talked a lot recently in recent weeks. I know we had a little break there for some Easter relaxation end the quarter time for a few folks. We've talked a lot about, you know, how you should act, how you should be thinking, the mindset of the modern FP&A professional. Let's dive a little deeper today into the kind of the how, how do we go about doing that? How do we operate the business? How do we work inside of the organization to actually make that impact that we've been talking about? Can you hear me?
- Yeah.
- Yeah?
- Is that a question?
- Yeah, yeah. I was just gonna get started. Glenn, I know you're on the line, I wanted to bring you on stage, I think you've got to accept my invitation there on Clubhouse. But, yeah what I was trying to think of was like when you really trying to operate the business, there's lots of ways that you can go about doing that, you can hold people to different types of budgeting processes, you can have planning and operating to a forecast or planning and operating to a budget. You can have a budget take-away processes where you use it or lose it. You can have all sorts of different processes that you wanna instill. And I'd really like to kind of get your perspectives on where you kind of draw the line on why you implementing a certain process and what the benefit of that may be. And Glenn, Chris, feel free to jump in here and really kind of help folks understand why we might have different structures and strategies.
- Sure, I'll kick it off if that's okay. So really it depends on the company and the environment that you're in. You gotta go... And, you know, you can't go in and say we got one play we're gonna run regardless of the company, what the marketplace is or anything, you gotta go in and evaluate the situation. And the most important thing is to understand that constituents, what are their needs? You have to recognize what does the company need to get out of this? What is finance need to get out of this and what the business partners need to get out of it? And when you find that place that hits all three of those, that's where you need to be. So it's not about having one particular type of process or approach, it really has to be able... You have to be able to look to adapt it. And as a really good example, I think of a forecast process. Some companies like to forecast on a monthly basis, some companies want to do a quarterly, some company will do it semi-annually, some companies don't do it at all. Each one of those perfectly fine. It really comes down to what is going in the business, how the business operates, and where the district needs to have updated information. So it's just one of those things that you just have to adapt to the environment here.
- Yeah, I think Glenn hit it right on the head. I think like, when you think about to me, it always gets down to the value proposition. And it always gets a bath maximizing the story that you're telling inside your organization, right? To me like the always North star of accounting, finance, FP&A particularly around leadership, particularly around whether you're leading strategic projects or tactical operations, it's always about like what is the business question we're trying to answer? So for me, I'll always look at it and say it's like it at Emarsys, I want us to be what is a high performance partnership and performance accounting and financing look like, right? That's the business question that I wanna answer, that's the business question that I want to bring and then kind of how you structure your team, responsibilities, projects that you engage, you know, all the way down to individual quarterly compensation that you're aligning people on. But it all starts with like, to the leaders that are listening to this, what is the value that you wanna bring, right? Do you wanna be the analytical experts, right? Do you wanna the business partners that are helping navigate the company? Do you wanna be the strategic environment, right. It's all about what you want that value perception and the value you wanna bring. But also even with that too, you got to do a survey of like, what are the skill sets? What are the talents? What are the passions? And what are the other intangibles that I have amongst my team, or amongst our vision that we wanna bring to the organization. So for me, it's always been about what is the value proposition you wanna bring? And then how you structure your teams, How do you identify the baselines of skillsets, passions and talents with inside organization to make sure you deliver on that ultimate business question you're trying to answer. So that's usually how I've looked at it.
- Yeah, that makes sense, Chris. So actually- Go ahead Glenn.
- Chris pointed out something really important, you have to know where you are, have an evaluation of where's your starting point? You can't say I'm gonna start going in a direction if you don't know where you are first, because then you can probably go in the wrong direction. So you got to start having that evaluation of what is your talent? Where is the company today? Where is the company trying to go to get a better sense of how you move forward?
- Yeah, and that comes back to, you know, the moment of time that what you're talking about you know, Glenn, for example, you've recently joined a company that manages portfolio all the companies, right? And I'm sure each of those companies is in a different position with different strategies and needing very different business thesises ultimately, to achieve each of those businesses growths, rights? And Chris, you've been at Emarsys for a while, right? You were the first North American finance lead. And that's a growth strategy, right. You know, a European company trying to expand into North America. And that required a very different strategy, for example, not only business strategy, but that business strategy then pairs back into what is the finance strategy. So talk about that and how that may have evolved in the kind of few years that you've been there. And Glenn, maybe you can give some perspectives on companies that you've worked at before, where, you know, the business might've been, you know, on a slower growth trajectory and you need to do things differently. You might meet trying to cut costs so that you can get, you know, improve that top line.
- Yeah, I'll go ahead and kick this one off. I think for me, like coming into it Emarsys, which will be five years in October, feels like 10. 'Cause any high growth technologies company, every month is like a year, it goes by super fast. But for us Rowan, the interesting thing about it was we were a European-based company so most of all of our operations were based in Europe. And we were making the migration to the U.S. A lot of organizations do it the other way, right. Their U.S. presence, and then they go to like the UK or other places. And shout out to Planful in the last 11 months, man, knocking out the park in the UK. But it's a different strategy, right? And for us it was the U.S. total addressable market for e-retail, e-commerce for marketing, for what we provide is like, there's... You can look at the addressable market for the entire world and it's not even like 50% of what the e-commerce retail market is in the United States, specifically the America's. So for us, it was all about, you know, making sure that we were rapidly scaling in exponential growth. So from an accounting and finance FP&A perspective, the skill sets were completely different, right? AMEA, which is our more established operations in Europe, APAC was established, you know, six years before we were even incorporated or founded. It was a whole different value proposition. I remember talking to our CFO and my direct manager and he says, "Chris, I don't need an accountant to come in, I don't need... I need a business person that understands rapid growth, that understands, like you're not gonna have it all figured out in the processes." And for me at that stage of my career, I was ready to build and shape my own narrative, not building the shaking off of a CFO, our VP of finance or a CEO that I worked for before. I was ready to step up and say, okay, I've executed some playbooks in the past, I'm ready to start my own playbook. And it just lined up perfectly because you know, the market and what we've been able to accomplish, and obviously the pinnacle of that was last November we got acquired by SAP, which is a tremendous opportunity for our organization and then continued into the customer experience portfolio that we're a part of. But again, that journey, man, in five years, it has so many ups, downs, balances, everything in between. And a lot of it too was a lot of mistakes that I made. I had some people aspects of it that I just dropped the ball on. I had some processes that I dropped the ball on. But at the same time, it was all about like the learning. It was all about how do we learn our customers? How do we go to market differently in the America's? How do we take all the learning skills and knowledge that we gained from our America's to revamp our other operations? That was another interesting side of it too, is because all the things we were learning in America's was helping guiding changes in our AMEA, in our APAC operations, right? Like AMEA and APAC were not even on committed contracts, they were usage-based. So revenues was cycling all over the place. And we said, nope, we're gonna get you on an MRR contract, we're gonna be a solid SAS business, we're gonna have every contract that's gonna be a SAS-based contract. So it was a given pool, right. There was things that we were learning that feeding back into the organizations, there were other things that the organization was learning feedback into us, but it was a continuous feedback loop of innovation, learning, failing, and trying to just expand as much as we did possible. Ans the story we've been able to accomplish here in the America's business is absolutely amazing.
- That's awesome. And Chris, when you first kind of got into the seat you know, early on in the America's business growth based on what Glenn said, right. We're talking about different cycle times, right? Monthly, quarterly, semi yearly, or even not at all, were you probably in the weekly mode for a while, and just trying to get that feedback loop compress those cycle times?
- Honestly, Rowan and Glenn You're gonna see in Glenn's perspective too but I was in the daily feedback cycle and my onboarding and starting was non-traditional right? Like the whole first 30 days, 60, 30, 60 90 days, the whole first month I was at the organization, I didn't look at any GL, I didn't look at any... I didn't look at where we were trending the budget. I didn't look at our most other day forecasts. I didn't spend any of the time on that. And some of the listeners and people may look at us like," Chris, you were the finance guy, how are you not looking at this stuff?" And I said, you know what? I'm gonna know all of those numbers, I'm gonna know what they mean, I'm gonna... The most important thing for me in this first month, in this new role, in this new organization, that's a hundred percent focused on exponential growth, is I need to develop the with the business. So I spent the whole first month... I spent the whole first month that every day I sat and talked to different people in the organization, right. I met with leaders, I scheduled meetings, I sat down and sat in conversations, right? I got to know my counterparts in different operations. I didn't even spend time in the GL. And that was so monumental for me because I didn't wanna come in and be like the number person that's gonna fine tune every single number, I want it to be the business partner that's in the trenches of all this exponential growth and all this change that we're going through right now. And that was tremendously value add. So being in that seat was a little bit different. And for me, it was a little... I was like, this is different, but the trajectory that we're going and it paid you dividends. And that first quarter, that first 30, 60, 90 days. But again, Rowan, the key about that was, I knew what I wanted the value proposition to be for accounting, finance, FP&A in the future. I knew what I wanted it to be. I said, this is the kind of finance leader I wanna be. This is the skills, passions, and talents I'm bringing it to the organization. This is my vision of what America's is gonna be for three, four, five years from now. So again, I had that and I would just execute on that strategy. And, you know, it was really advantageous for our business in the growth that we've seen.
- That's awesome, Chris, it comes back to, as you said, you know, defining that strategy and I'm sure as you got through that kind of first six weeks of just embedding yourself in the business you had all the guideposts effectively, you'd learn all the information that you could then go and kind of formulate, you know, the strategy to then say, okay, well, this is the actual structure that we need within finance. Because I'm hearing from sales that they don't need... You know, the business is so volatile early on in terms of we need to understand pipeline metrics that you might be instituting kind of weekly sales forecast reviews from a finance perspective, sales are probably already doing them, you're all listening. And then from an expenses perspective, you might be like, "Well, we're gonna look at that on a monthly basis, monthly and quarterly." But where we really need to drive the growth is in sales and probably marketing. And I need that feedback loop to be much faster just by spending that first four, six weeks just sitting inside the business and listening to what they need.
- Correct, correct. Yeah, it wasn't like a one size fits all for different areas, right? It was like you said, it was very, very fluid in terms of what that needs to be. But I know that we were a hundred percent focused in America's operations that growing and gaining customer. Right, and we were all about growth. And we were all about getting as many logos getting many brands as possible. So I needed to have a strong partnership with the sales, marketing and the kind of success groups, 'cause those are the growth engines of what the entire America's operations was meant to do. So yeah, it was very fluid.
- Excellent. And Glenn, you know, you've seen some very different organizations. You've been at some really large organizations. I know you've been at, you know, some REITs as well, I'd love to hear some of your perspective on those different cadences compared to a, you know, hyper growth SAS company.
- Well, the funny thing is actually I don't think the industry has much to do with it, but the growth stage and the size of the company absolutely does. You know, I've worked at companies that are... You know right now my current company, which is a a private equity firm, we own some companies that are a couple of million dollars in revenue, all the way up to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. But I've also worked for companies that are in the down of 30, right. And that are in the S&P 100 S&P500. So each company, you got to take that different approach. And Chris, he hit the nail on the head. When he said, you got to go out and learn the business. Because as a finance person, yes, you are about the numbers, but if you don't know what the numbers mean and how the numbers apply to the business people that you're talking to, you're not having the right conversation. And if you don't have that right conversation, you don't have trust and then that's it, you're all done. So you really have to go out and say to the business, "Hey look I need to learn about what you're doing how you're doing it, how can I help, what are your goals and how do I help you achieve them?" And if you're in a hyper growth company it is about sales, marketing, clients products, that's your focus. If you're in a much more established company that is a much larger company it might be more around cost efficiency, head count, maintaining relationships, client service those types of things. So it really comes down to depend on what type of company. I've worked at companies that like really covered the spectrum. And I built out teams from scratch and I've come in and I've run teams that have already been established. In each situation you have to go in and just evaluate and say, where are you? And the number one thing that I do, day one... Actually usually really during the interview process, but certainly on day one of a new job, is you go to your boss or the CFO and you say, "What is it that you are seeing that where the gap is today that I really need to focus on the next three months." And you have to understand what is that top priority. And that's where you got to go and establish yourself. The other thing that Chris mentioned, which is really about putting together the right strategic framework to move forward, everywhere I've gone, I've taken that kind of an approach. You go in, you got to listen, you learn, I like to say you play sponge because you get to absorb what's around you, right? That's what you have to do in at the beginning. But then you have to go and say, "All right, here's where we are, here's where we're going to and here's how we're gonna get there." And I always like to put together a three-year strategy that says in the first year here's the objectives we're gonna be achieving, and at the end of the year one, this is what the group's gonna look like. Then in year two, here's what you're gonna do. And granted, as you go further and further out it is a little harder to forecast those specifics. But you put something together that is more about what type of work you're gonna be doing, what type of analysis, the impact you're gonna have on the business. And then once we even have that strategy it's not something that you just keep it managed to, you got to share it with all your business partners. You got to share it with your team, you got to share it with everybody so that everyone knows what direction we are moving in and to make sure you're all going to be moving in the same direction. Because the second you go out there and say, "Okay, we're looking for this." And you got your head of sales come back and say, "Not, not what I'm looking for." You have to pivot, you can't hold to that. So you have to make sure that everybody's moving in the same direction.
- I think what you said there, Glenn is really key. And we all know G&A teams are always stressed for resources, right? And so it's never going to be easy to actually force yourself to take that time to actually sit and learn, because you're always gonna be, you know, getting pushed and pulled on just standard budgeting, standard kind of school keeping stuff, the tactical operations as Chris calls it, right? You're gonna have all that time pressure to fulfill the tactical operations. And then you're trying to absorb so that you can build the strategic initiatives, right? And when you build those strategic initiatives what you just said there Glenn is you can't do them in isolation. You can't just kind of keep them to yourself because otherwise they're not actually strategic, they're just an internal driven, you know, finance only view of the world that nobody ever believes in because they've never seen it. And so I think one of the biggest kind of ironies in all of this is you've actually almost got to like Chris said, stop doing the tactical operations for a little while to invest the time. So how, you know, I'll ask you Glenn specifically because I think you've probably done this a lot more times than any of us on the call, but how do you free up or kind of create that space for yourself or for your team in order to say, "Actually, I'm not gonna do some of these tactical stuff for six weeks because it's more important that I do these other things."
- That is a great question. And my answer is not necessarily going to be one that everyone's like, "Oh yeah, let's go do that." It's basically, you gotta double the work. I mean, when I come in and I start a new job, I'm typically working 80 hours a week for the first six months. And it's because you have everything that is due that you have to do all those tactical things, the reports, the analysis that have to get out. You cannot let your businesses suffer because you're trying to get out in front of them. And most of the time when you're coming into a new role there's usually a lot of fire drills going on. You got to take care of the business, you cannot let... Because it's not about you and finance, it's about the justice and what we're putting in the marketplace. So you have to make sure you solve that. But at the same time, you have to do your longer term strategic vision and you know, your analysis to put that together and then share that with other people vet it and so on. So what you really end up doing is you're working 140-hour work week saying, "Okay, here's the job I got to get the job done. I've got to do the different things." And then you're spending another 40 hours on top of that saying, "Okay, I need to get out in front of this so I could stop the fire drills. I could be focusing the team on working on what to do in the next two to three weeks, not what's due tomorrow or even yesterday." And then it usually takes about three to four months for you to really kind of get over that hump. Once you do that, things start to calm down, you're not in fire drill mode, you're able to really think about how you do things why you do things where you do things, you could become much more efficient, and then you put yourself on a much better path. But you cannot just say, "You know what? I know CEO, you'd like to get your monthly reports to understand where the company is. Sorry, not gonna do that for a couple of months while I figure out what I'm going to do with the FP&A team." That's not gonna fly, you're not gonna have a job very long. So you have to go in and make sure you are delivering on what needs to be delivered on. And then you guys got to find the time. And honestly, it is just... It's a lot of hard work at the beginning but if you do it right after a few months, you come back to a much more normal kind of a work schedule and everyone can take it a little more of a deep breath 'cause they don't feel like there's so much pressure, 'cause they're not working on the things that were due yesterday, they're now working on stuff that's due two weeks down the road.
- Gotcha.
- Yeah, I think the other thing that you at the very start of that, Glenn, the thing that you said which I know Chris and I have talked a lot about before is you you can't drop the ball for the business because if you do that, you immediately lose any level of credibility too. So if you're asleep on the budget variance analysis that they're expecting week over week, or month over month, or however they've been conditioned to kind of receive or look after information, if you drop the ball on that then you lost the credibility that you're trying to earn by working that second 40 hour workweek that you just talked about. And the value there is just a really, really important in that early stage, because as the new hire coming in, you're obviously trying consume all the business information, you're trying to manage all the business information, and then you're trying to shape the business and set the strategy aligned to the business strategy. And you can't drop any balls along that way otherwise you've just immediately lost that trust and credibility, which is huge.
- One thing too, is that, you have to remember when you come in and you are that leader of the organization it is not... Leadership isn't about telling people what to do, it's about getting people to follow you. Especially getting people to follow you when they don't have to. That's really, that's what real leadership is. And when you come in, if you just say, "Okay I'm gonna go tell everyone to work longer hours and I'm gonna take a nice 40 hour work week." That's not a good example, that's not good leadership. You got to go in and you got to roll up your sleeves. You have to do everything to not only do you understand you know, from the reporting and the analysis all the way through the strategic planning, but you're showing that you're willing to be there with your team to make sure that the team is gonna be set up for success in the future. And when your team sees that, they respond in a similar way. But if you go over and say, "Okay, hey, look, I expect you to work the weekend, sorry I'm going golfing." You're not really gonna drive a lot of loyalty with your team. So for those first couple of months, when you were building out that team, and you're trying to say, "We're gonna be doing this in a different way." You have to be there every step of the way with your team.
- Are you talking about golf 'cause I'm wearing a golf shirt, Glenn?"
- If I can add to what Glenn said, I've had a completely different perspective on it. For me... And the question that you asked is how do you get out of the tactical so you can focus more on the strategic? Which is, you know, that for me, in working in entrepreneur high growth, rapid growth technology and software companies, there's never been like a moment where there's like, okay there's like downtime, I can like go chill a little bit. For me to make that leap from tactical to strategy, my value add has always been leveraging technology always, right? Because, you know, when I first came into Emarsys, the whole first year I was with the organization, it was me. You know, it was me and an external accounting partner that we had. So I didn't have the luxury of like having a eight-person team and like doing all this. But one thing I did know, and I knew this early in my career was leveraging technologies. And we had a lot of technologies in our businesses that we were utilizing, but we were utilizing, we weren't actually getting the value add out of them. So, you know, when I sat down with the VP of sales and the whole marketing organization, we were utilizing salesforce. And I said, okay, I really know salesforce like back of my hand. So I'm gonna spend some time building out a lot of the tactical, like reporting stuff that I need to do, but I'm gonna have, you know, a technology solution do 80% of that work. And now I'm free to to do the 80% of what the numbers actually mean. Here's what our pipeline, here's what our conversion rate is, here's how we're tracking on our top, you know, really the insights of it. So for me, it was, you know... And I learned this early on in my career when I remember working in public accounting and people used to use it like a badge of honor that they worked in like 90 hours, really busy season. And I always looked at that and said, well, are you efficient? Are you really getting the most out of that time that you're working? Or are there other things that you can leverage like technology that could, you know, take 30% of that out and say, okay, I'm gonna spend some time. We're going to have to invest in this technology. Or the technology is already there but underperforming and being utilized, but underperforming in terms of analytics, and in terms of insights, that's where you can do it. So like, for me, I've always said like, you know I can have... And even right now my team, isn't huge, I have three people on my team, right. But we're a super high performance and partnership organization. And our other teams have like double the size, right? Like AMEA team has eight people, our APAC team has around 10. So they're like double and triple the size of people that we have. And they looked at us and they're like "Chris, man how are you able to do all these things?" I'm like, cause we leverage technology. We leverage technology. We leverage technology to get us to process data and information, we have technology do that. You incorporate our team to get knowledge to decision making. So for me, I've always taken that approach of like what are some gaps and how can you fill it with technology to get a lot of that tactical, operational score-keeping stuff done. And then now you freed up yourself as a finance leader or building out an FP&A vision or trying to figure out that business question. Now you have more time to go focus on that element of it. To Glenn's point is more of that forward-looking versus being in the trenches of data aggregation and data mining and you know, one version of the truth and what is marketing and say, what is sales say? Like it is monumental. So if I was to give one piece of advice for people trying to make that shift from tactical to strategy, for me it's always been like helping them leveraging technology. And that's where like, you know, Planful and other solutions like that being that spoke of the wheel of any high-performance FP&A team, they aren't technology evangelists. Like they love technology. If you look at any high-performance finance, accounting FP&A team and they don't... And I always ask them, you know a high-performing accounting, finance FP&A team. If you ask them what's in their tech stack. And if they say their tech stack is QuickBooks and Excel, it's not a high-performance accounting and finance team. But if they say, you know, our tech stack is, you know we Collect AR for collections, we use, you know, Suite AP for our AP process. We got Planful for our budgeting forecasting scenario planning. We've got, you know, Microsoft Power BI for our data visualization. If they say all of that, you can tell that they have really sharpened their focus and put technologies in the right place of their business to really move from tactical to strategy.
- You know, if I could add one thing because Chris I a hundred percent agree with you, technology is how you become an efficient organization. It is how you focus on the value add and get out of the competitive. And that is absolutely critical. The one thing I would say though, is I've had a few times in my career where not only did I come in and I was the only employee, I had nothing to build on and there was no technology. And so you start with the Excel. The one piece of advice that I would add to that, is build out what you need manually and run it for a couple of months so you really know what requirements are. When I was at Visa, I joined Visa a couple of years before they went public. And I was hired as the director of profitability and Visa with a not-for-profit company. So I was a little strange role to have. And the whole role was to build a product and client profitability analysis models, so you could look at how profitable is each individual product or client, or how much, how profitable are current clients within products or quote the product for the clients. There was a technology that they were trying to build out but we didn't know what the model really was yet. It turns out that was the wrong approach. So we took a step back, we built an actual Excel model. It was an 80 meg Excel model took 15 minutes for the thing to calculate. I mean, basically you send out a calculation go out for lunch, that was, you know, what we had to do. But it allowed us to understand what the technology... Real technology solution would be. And after running that model for a couple of quarters we knew exactly what we needed. So when we went out and sourced that technology and we did our RFP process, we nailed it on what the solution was and how the installation process would go. So completely agree with you, Chris, you have to have that technology, but you have to know what you need from the technology before you go out and get it too.
- Facts. Yeah, Glenn, and it just sorry to pivot off a little bit, Glenn, that is a hundred percent, man, I agree with you 200. And too many people, right? They think they're gonna get the shiny new technology and it's going to solve all their problems, right? They're like, "Give me this fancy, smancy like AI machine learning and prescriptive predictive analytics tool, and then I'll sit back and just kick up." No Glenn, you hit the nail right on the head, man. You gotta know what the technology is gonna do. It's like going to go buy a car, right? You go buy a car, and you're just like, "I just want automatic seats, and I want a heads up this way." But you go buy a car that can do like a million different things, you're not really getting the maximum value out of it. So Glenn you're a hundred percent right. And I love it, what you just mentioned Glenn was like go create little mini... I call them MVPs, right? Minimum viable products strategies that you go do inside of the business. I experimented in the business so many times to see what sticks and what doesn't, right? A great experience that you can do right now for all the listeners, that report that all the executive team wants and they can't do, I've done experiments where I haven't sent it for like three weeks, and I see if anybody emails me and asks me about it and say, "Hey, we're missing that report." And a lot of times like people don't even look at that stuff. You know what I'm saying? And you're spending... You and your team are spending eight, nine, 10 hours you know, a week, doing something that, you know, now somebody emails me like, "Hey Chris, we missed that report." Like, this is really critical to exactly what Glenn said. That's where you find the gaps. And you're saying, okay, I know I can't let this one go but how do I make it a little bit more efficient? So to all the listeners too, find ways inside your organization to run experiments. Run experiments on value proposition, run experiments on is this tactic that we're going to spend a lot of time on value add, run experiments to say is this strategic vision that I'm looking to have for our team, is it something that we get actually accomplish? Always be like... As sales is always closing, always be closing accounting, finance, FP&A should always be expanding. That's key.
- Yeah, and just to add one more thing, cause Chris I know Rowan, you probably have a ton of questions at this point, but Chris, you're right. You have to go over constantly evaluate especially on repetitive reporting. You've got to go and look at that on... I actually, what I try to do with my team is on an annual basis. You go out and survey your constituents, the people who are getting the report, and you say what is working well for you? What do you like about this report? What on this report don't you use because maybe you can take out a part of that report that is very time-consuming because no one's even looking at it. And then you go back and you say what are we not doing that you need, and what are we doing that you don't? And if you could go over and you took evaluate that on an annual basis, your reporting will not only be a lot more meaningful, it'll be a lot more streamlined and you can really focus your time and effort on where the value add is rather than just producing a report.
- Yeah, couldn't agree more with all of what you guys have said. I know here at Planful, we have an operational report that produce for the exec team every week. And we're so frequently tweaking that report because A, the exec team is looking at it at every week. And we then ask questions about that report, which is, Oh what if I drilled into this? Well, what if I looked at it this way? Or what if, you know, tell me more about this because we're learning more about the business and as the frequency of the business picks up and as things change and as things scale, we've got to adjust, which is awesome. But the teams underneath have to be able to respond quickly so they've got that new report ready for the next week, right? And that often means some data structure changes as we bring in a new team or build a new little line of business or whatever it may be. And so that's always really important because then for finance, they need to understand that there's a reason behind that report changing because there's a new strategy change, or there's a new course correction, or there's a new update. And you have to be in the room, as we've said at the very start to actually know all of that. The other thing I would say about Chris's use of technology, I was actually at lunch yesterday and we had a really good conversation and we were talking about a new technology that we wanna purchase for the sales organization. And I won't tell you what it is 'cause otherwise the sales rep might be listening and they'll be like, "Yes, I've won that deal." But we were talking about it and we were laughing, we were like "How many SAS products do we have in our business?" And I laughingly said probably over 200. And the rest of the exec team looked at me and they're like, "No, we don't." And I'm like, okay, pretty sure there would be over 200 of we went and looked at them, I said, we're probably at the point where we need a SAS tool to manage all the SAS tools. And I know that there's one out there. So, you know, and that just goes to show like, you know, I've talked about it before on the "Being Planful" podcasts, with other folks that sales and marketing have all this technology, you know, we've been at the forefront of adopting various elements of technology to make sales and marketing more efficient, more effective. And that's what Chris is talking about when he says go and look at technology first. It's not because the technology is gonna wonderfully solve all of the problems. We know that, you've got to have that strategy behind what is the technology going to solve for? But because we've been SAS is easy to implement, it's fast to implement, it's reasonably configurable. And a lot of us have so much good patent recognition as to, "This problem, I know how to solve that problem, I've seen this problem a hundred times. I go and I spend three weeks implementing this thing and it's done. And I fixed that for good." And because a lot of us have grown up digitally native, we have that pattern recognition and we're able to go and solve that really quickly. And that's what I would also say to other leaders on the line is think about that, what patterns have you seen and how have you sold them before? Because you know, you can shortcut a lot of what Glenn said, you may not need the MVP if you've sold that problem with that technology before, it's just like, "There's is my shortcut, I've seen that problem, I solved it before, let's just bring that in because it's the fast way." Where it's a new problem and a new challenge that you haven't seen before, or no one in the business has seen before, that's when you go and spend the time to build the MVP and take the three, six months, you know. And there may not be anything out there that solves for that, there's still plenty of gaps in the market.
- Definitely. And I think like taking the technology approach, right. And technology is like, to me has always been the cornerstone, right. 'Cause a lot of traditional organizations and even my experience starting in Emarsys, right. When it came outside of that first year and I had to get started getting head count. And it was just like, I remember talking to my direct manager and he was like, "Chris, you need to... We need to get like six open rec out. Like we need to start hiring like six people." 'Cause he had as a CFO, the same traditional model of, "Hey we need to have these people going to go do this work like our AMEA team like our APAC team. And I remember talking with him I said, Hey, let's pause real quick and say like, this is the vision that I have of what a high performance Academy and finance FP&A team gonna look like. We're gonna be technology evangelists. So how about, you know, give me the same dollars that you're gonna give me for those six people but let me go make incremental investments in technology. Because I think one thing leaders need to think about in businesses overall, and that's why, you know Planful has 200, we probably have the same amount of SAS solutions inside of our business is people don't scale anymore. Like you can't throw people at problems and expect that to be a scalable strategy for your business going forward. And look at our teams, right. Accounting and finance people, we don't have the luxury of going out and like maybe Glenn does, right. But I don't have the luxury of saying, I need to go hire like 12 more people. Like I got three people and I need to figure this out with three people, maybe a fourth person. You know what I'm saying? So it's all about how do you weave that into the narrative and make it the most efficient
- Glenn's face says that he doesn't have that tool in his tool belt either.
- Actually, I don't think I've ever had that tool in my tool belt, but you could tell me where I could get one, I'd appreciate it. You know, what I can tell you is I think, especially when you're building out a team, and I think about my, my last company that I worked at it's a pretty big company, they're in the S&P 500 publicly traded company since 2004, they had no corporate FP&A team at all. My first three months on the job, I was the only employee. By the time I left the company, which was there for three and a half years I had two people reporting to me, but we were covering all of the corporate FP&A for the entire company. And it's a $4 billion revenue company, it's in 19 countries. So you have to go over it when you're building stuff out, you have to be efficient. And my approach to that has always been you don't hire somebody unless you have 80% of that job that is needed, that is right now being picked up by other people. So you've got to make sure you don't just hire somebody saying we hope we're going to have the demand. You have to go out and build that demand first to prove that that person is really gonna be needed. But I also think when you're building out that demand, Chris was absolutely correct, you do not build scale with people, you build scale with technology. The whole point of scale is fixed costs but your revenues are growing, right. That's where you pick up your economies of scale. So the one place at any company has to focus on making sure that they're scaled properly isn't the back office function, it's HR, it's legal executives, finance, that's where your scale has to be. Because many times your sales people are going through in the more you want to grow them typically the more salespeople you have to have. The more customers you have, the more customer service people you need. The more products that you're producing, oftentimes you need people to go over and build and develop the products. But you should be able to take your finance staff and be able to grow your business by 20, 30, 40%, and maybe add only one person to finance. You should be able to scale up in that way. And that really comes from making sure that you have the right technology, and you're managing that technology in an efficient way. It's great to go over and say, "Hey, look, We got Planful. All these things that Planful can do but we're only going to leverage it for 5% because that's all we're focused on." You got to really look at that three year strategy. And once again, it all come back to that thing where are you? And where are you trying to go? And not only where are your people fit in, but where does the technology fit in? And where do you start capturing that economies of scale? Because when you're talking to the CFO or the CEO, they care about growth on the top line and growth on the bottom, meaning like the earnings for the company. And if you are growing the expenses at the same rate you're growing your revenues, that is not going to be a very efficient organization. So you got to show how you're gonna make an incremental investment, and then the company is gonna pick up scale after that, that's where you're gonna have success.
- And increment the technology too, right? Like you can pick up something like, I'll talk about our product. I don't like talking about it on this podcast 'cause I'm not trying to pitch it here, but you can implement something like ours for one small use case, and then go and add to it. And I can do that with so much SAS technology in the go-to-market tech stack that I have at my disposal as CMO here at Planful, but you can easily just increment buy it and know that you're gonna future-proof it with the right technology. Don't give all the SAS vendors all the money up front, go on, add on, they love upsell. They love that, that's a magic number for them. Go and buy what you need at that time and just know that they've got the future-proof scale for you and implement as you go because you'll learn a lot along the way, and the worst thing that you can do implement any technology is to take on more than you can actually achieve, and more than you need at the time because you're never gonna get to that magic vision. You know, don't let the sales rep sell you on the magic vision and oversell you 'cause you'll never get there. And you'll end up with an unhappy vendor because you haven't achieved the vision that they want and you'll be an unhappy customer. And you don't want that either, right? You're trying to solve a business problem. Buy the thing that solves a business problem now and make sure you test for any future-proofing and any scale that you wanna achieve in future too.
- Yeah.
- And Rowan the thing is is that if you want to be a successful manager in whatever it is, whether it's finance, marketing, operations, whatever you have to build on success. If you start then you go and you buy some new technology and it is way too expensive, and you're not able to leverage it, when you have to go back to that well again, and you're going back to the CFO and saying, "I need an additional investment." They're gonna look at this and say, "Wait a second, we spent a ton of money and really didn't get the value out of it." So you're absolutely right. Buy what you need for today and buy what you need for maybe the next 12 to 18 months. And then as you go and you build those successes then you get to go back and say, "Look at all the stuff we've done, we've worked on it, this is what we know, now we know if we add just little bit here's all the extra that we get." And that is a much better way to approach internal funding than to go and say, give me everything at one time and five years from now, we'll actually use the whole thing. you know no one's going to want to fund it in that way.
- Yeah and just to add a lot of organizations and leaders make the fundamental mistake of like they go want the Ferrari of technologies. But they don't know how to drive a Ferrari. Like they're like, "We want the Lamborghini of this SAS solution." But they don't know how to drive it, they don't know how to put it out of gear. And they're used to driving like a Toyota Prius or like a Toyota Camry. And you know, you're investing all this money, but you're not getting the full value out of what that technology is gonna be. And I think Glenn is right. And I think you mentioned too, Rowan, that's why it's so important that if you are gonna go evaluate technologies and gonna go implement a solution today that that technology is thinking forward to what the problem is and what your concerns are going to be three, four or five years from now. Too many people make the mistake of they want this awesome technology but they have to grow and scale with that technology. And then you get to this gap where the technology has advanced so far above and you're doing, you know, but it's the actual variances that you just wanna have on a dashboard. So again, it's refinement around that 'cause I had conversations with people that they want, the shiny things, they want the AI, they want the machine learning they want the progressive and prescriptive analytics. But when you ask them what they're doing now today and what their value and analytics they're like, "We share an Excel document." And I'm like, do you understand that those are two different worlds? Like that's like being on planet earth and you wanna go to like a whole nother galaxy, you know? So I think that's a fundamental mistake a lot of organizations and leaders make.
- Absolutely it actually, Chris, I look at it this way. You know, if you're lucky enough to be able to travel by private jet, hey great. But if you need to go to the grocery store you're not gonna take a private jet. Understand what your needs are. Right, I've been at companies where the CFO says "You know what? We need to have Hyperion, or we need to have, you know Oracle or SAP. You know, there's a reason why QuickBooks actually exists because you don't need Hyperion for everything. Right, and you got to understand what the system will if not only going to solve your needs, but be the most cost effective system for you. It doesn't mean eventually you might need Hyperion, but you might not need it right away. And so understanding that, yeah, you know what private jets are great, but you're driving... You know, if you only need to go a mile down the road to go pick up some cereal, you probably don't need to take your private jet. And that's the whole thing is that you just understand that these different companies are at... They solve different problems. And you've got to really know what the problem is that you're solving for.
- A hundred percent, Glen. I don't take the minivan when I go for groceries 'cause I try and go by myself. So I take the small car. So gents, I know we've got 10 minutes left. Anything that we've kind of started to cover today that you kind of wanna finish on?
- Yeah, my finishing point, I think it gets back to the earlier look all listeners, accounting, finance FP&A leaders, we need to be ROI accelerators. Not a cost center, ROI accelerators, Let's get it.
- Yep and I would say a hundred percent agree with Chris, but I would add to that, remember finance is not what your business is. I mean, okay, fine, there are some finance companies but let's put those aside. Really finance if they support organization. Recognize that you are there to support the rest of the organization. It's not about you, it's about them, solve their problems and you'll be successful.
- A hundred percent agree. Well, gentlemen, it's been an amazing conversation today. I just almost lost my voice. I know Chris you've you've been coughing today, I hope you're all right.
- Allergies, man. Allergies one, Chris Ortega zero.
- Well, don't come out to California because I know everyone that comes out here always complains about their allergies flaring up every time they come out. But yeah, it was really great conversation today, I had a lot of fun really looking forward to next week and I'll see you all then.


Let's talk about HOW Finance can make a huge impact to the business. Join Rowan, Chris and special guest Glenn Snyder, Head of FP&A at Global Growth Holdings, on another "FP&A Friday" as they talk different structures and strategies for implementing processes, going from a tactical to strategic mindset, leveraging technology to free up time, and more.