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Do You Stay On The Gas With “Unlimited” Resources…?

March 20th, 2017 Comments off

     It’s been just over four months since I made the jump to start a self-imposed sabbatical to “recharge” and look to define the next chapter after 4.5 years in a hyper growth start-up. In essence, it was 4.5 years training at a redline pace that ultimately demanded a level of moderation, but at a pace that wasn’t mine to control. But what does a hyper-driven and intensely competitive individual do to “recharge” the batteries and spend some much deserved down time do? Well of course you decide to set your sights on doing one of the longest paved climbs in the world, as well as deciding on racing two of the most notable Classic races in Europe that will have no less than a combined 100 kilometers of cobbles between the two events. Those are natural next steps in getting some rest…right?

I’ve always made some pretty strong comparisons between the training for my cycling and the disciplines that have to be practiced in a Corporate environment. While some may balk at the comparison, it comes down to managing the resources you have available, using those resources in an effective manner, while accomplishing the goals or commitments you’ve made to yourself…or others. Let’s look at the very macro comparison of the resources available at a Corporate level versus Personal level. At the Corporate level, imagine having complete open access to the checking account of your favorite VC and being able to deploy those resources in any way you could to your business…ANY way. You can spend anything from $1 million…to $100 million…or more if you felt you needed it. Let’s say you settled on the amount and burned through that spend. What have you been able to accomplish with the deployment of those resources in the end? Have you built a healthy business that has a strong foundation for future growth and have you been able to establish a strong pattern of increasing performance metrics that strike the right balance between aggressive growth, establishing a healthy corporate environment, while positioning the company to deliver on your commitments? General questions, but you get the point.

Let’s talk about the Personal side though. I find myself on sabbatical and all of the sudden I basically have an “open checking account” for training time and can do whatever I want. I can train for 10 hours per week, 20 hours per week…or even 40. However, as with a Corporate environment, there is the same consideration to resources and a healthy foundation as there is for an athlete training for an event. It has to be methodical, planned, sustainable, with appropriate periods of reflection and a tempering of the pace. The attached picture is the actual chart of my training since November and the progressive peaks and subsequent tapering as I move towards my goal of leaving for Europe next week. In the chart the magenta line is the shorter term acute training load while the blue line is the longer term chronic load, which indicates a core fitness base. The yellow line is the fatigue line and the more it dips, the higher the fatigue and time and indication of need to rest. Think of the magenta line as the 200-day moving average for a stock…you can see spikes above the norm, but ultimately it’s going to come back down before hopefully making the next run up. It’s the same concept here. You can see where I’ve had the spikes, but ultimately, you taper down before making the next training push. It’s about finding the right balance, creating a healthy foundation, and continually pushing forward.

Just like the Personal level, there is an equal penalty for “overtraining” at the Corporate level. At the personal level, overtraining can lead to becoming ill, an inability to achieve peak performance, and an extended recovery time to get back to a healthy state of training. In the Corporate environment, the equivalent of “overtraining” is essentially excessive spend, excessive hiring, and a deterioration in the performance metrics of the company. At that point, there’s no choice but to move into a period of recovery to get back to a higher level of performance.

Over the last four month I’ve managed to put in over 9,200 kilometers in the saddle, climb in excess of 300,000 feet, and during that time burn almost 210,000 calories on the bike to achieve that. Again…that’s just in the last four months. Putting 210,000 calories in perspective with some of my favorite foods…

  • Roughly 2,100 packets of energy gel…
  • 131 pounds of pasta…
  • Roughly 1,750 Chobani yogurt cups
  • 1,500 cans of that nectar of the gods…Coca Cola

You get the idea…it’s all about the long game and establishing a strategic and achievable result. Imaging trying to cram all the stats above into a shorter window…say even two months. The likelihood is that you don’t have the proper foundation in place, will overtrain yourself, you’ll likely get sick…and ultimately your fall back weeks or a month…or in the case of a Corporate scenario…potentially losing Quarters due to overtraining.

Happy training my friends…

Jeff

“I Have This Idea I Want to Share…”

November 18th, 2016 Comments off

While I am still only a few weeks detached after deciding to leave my position with Cylance, I’ve been getting an endless flood of inquiries about the trajectory we had been on as a team, how the company had achieved some of the major milestones it had, as well as whether there were any lessons that I was taking with me and would carry with me into the next chapter. It’s true that the pace had been insane from the very beginning and that the success we had achieved as a team may never be replicated…at least not without the synergies the team had realized early on. I also know that Cylance will not be easily replaced as the experience has been nothing short of amazing. It’s not about finding a job. It’s about reflecting on what has been a life changing 4.5yrs and the desire to reflect on that experience and share with those that have been asking. I’m not sure how many “chapters” there might be, but this is certainly my attempt to kick it off..
While Stuart and I had known each other for a handful of years prior to Cylance, we never knew the depth of each others professional capabilities. I knew he was involved in Security and he know my background was in Finance….end there. What we did know about each other was the relentless nature in our personalities and the ability to suffer for extended periods of time on a bike…think more than 12 hours. Think dehydration, severe cramping, horrible weather conditions, and perhaps all at once. Situations that truly test your personality and whether you have the vision and commitment to see it through. With that said, Stuart shared his idea of a new generation of security and one that he had a team committed to solving. This new initiative was not just about the tech, but about changing the way people thought of security. Fortunately, I had a mentor of almost two decades that came from the security space and he quickly validated Stuart’s knowledge of the space and where he was headed. Combine that with two investors who had prior interactions with Stuart and I know that this was not going to be any ordinary start-up.
Start-up. That characterization that seems daunting to some and terrifying to others. You’re not coming in and inheriting a team…or for that fact, even a company. You have to build it with the team. There’s no other way around it. We had found early on that there were a number of people that were just not capable of surviving in a start-up environment. Whether vision, discipline, experience, inability to build their own client book…or whatever the element might have been, some fell victim to an ongoing exercise in Darwinism. It was truly survival of the fittest. As I had started as employee #7, or for anyone starting in the first 50-100 people, there is no place to hide. You were either getting it done…and getting it done right…or you knew it was time to move on. There was no coddling, no hugs and “it’ll be ok..”…but a relentless push for achieving the results. As I had learned and practiced at so many other prior companies, you delivered on what you promised. Period.
However, at that time in the company, there was also a deliberate avoidance, and an absolute disdain, for politics and silos. We all recognized that if we didn’t have a sense of cohesion in place, a commitment to an end goal, and the support of our respective team members, then we were going to fail. Period. It was in these early days that the support was absolute. Whether someone was getting married, selling a house, establishing new households, moving across the globe…that these conditions were supported…to ensure that we were going to be successful and that everyone was going to be along for the ride. We knew we were going to be on the gas and the pace was going to be relentless. The pace was going to have to be relentless if we wanted to establish a billion dollar company inside of a 3-5 year window. Now keep in mind, while the term “Unicorn” now is common, if not overused, it was not in existence until being coined in 2013. So in 2012 for Stuart to say that in a handful of years he wanted to establish a commercially successful company with a billion dollar valuation…he was dead serious and it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. His vision, while aggressive, was not part of a herd mentality of wanting to be in some hyped “Unicorn Club”. His view was not about creating a tech that would get sold on the hope of establishing commercial success…NO…he wanted to establish a truly disruptive technology that would turn the security space upside down. He wanted to see the team create a tech that would just eat the lunch of first generation AV vendors. Period.
After having done a number of turnarounds, the thought of a start-up certainly was not intimidating. Considering the quality of the team we had, the wealth of experience that each of them was bringing to the table, as well as the collaborative personalities that each one of them shared, I knew that we had a very high likelihood of success in the launch of this company. The most difficult balance we were going to have to achieve was being fiscally responsible to mitigate burn, continue hiring the right individuals, and ensure we had the resources in place that would allow Stuart and the product teams to stay laser focused on their obsession to disrupt the security space. The team that had been assembled would absolutely be able to do that. There would be a further challenge in determining what the necessary resources were that should be put in place. As an example, I had just finished an SAP implementation at my prior company and clearly that was not going to be our platform of choice, but it certainly wasn’t going to be Quickbooks or some other bottom tier platform. The challenge would be to find the Goldilocks solutions for the first 12-18 months. No reason to buy the F1 race car when you couldn’t afford the pit crew and the track hadn’t been built yet…
After a number of emails, a few phone calls, and finally settling on an offer letter, it didn’t take much convincing to join this new start-up. I saw the vision, I believed in the vision, I believed in the team, and I trusted the team at the table. With that, and a few weeks later, Stuart gave me my laptop, let me know it had Quickbooks on it, and if I could get the payroll done that day. With that, as well as a payroll processed that day, I knew we were off to the races… 🙂
Looking forward to the next chapter..
Jeffrey Ishmael

How Do You Summarize 4.5yrs of Hyper-growth?

November 3rd, 2016 Comments off

For my friends & family who have been watching my pace over the last four years, that pace has been relentless, and for the most part, all consuming. The 4+ years that I have spent at Cylance where I started as employee #7 and working on fold up tables in a living room had progressed to over 700 employees. Cylance has grown from an idea our founder shared in a coffee shop to now a multi-national company with operations in 10 countries and billings in excess of 9-figures, while protecting some of the most recognized company names.
As with most chapters, there comes a time to turn the page and start a new one. I’m so incredibly proud of the team I have been able to work with, what has been accomplished, and what they will likely continue to accomplish. The next chapter is not about quickly finding a new opportunity, but reflecting on the incredible experiences & team that I had the privilege of helping to create.

I look look forward to sharing the experiences I collected at Cylance & the insane hypergrowth pace we found ourselves in. From the early stages of transient office spaces, to system decisions, preparation for modest growth levels, financing rounds, vendor relationships, as well as the cultural challenges created in such an extreme growth environment. I leave behind an amazing team and know our paths will likely cross again and will look forward to that possibility.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Who Is Your Go To Mentor When You Don’t Have The Answer?

August 20th, 2016 Comments off

One of the staples that I have had in my career has been a mentor. Fortunately for me I was able to meet this individual and strike a good relationship, and friendship, that has lasted the better part of 20-years. He’s been there in my early career transition days where I was moving from Operations and Product Planning into a more Finance-specific track. In fact, it was his prompt that really directed me towards the Finance path I am on today.

While he has been a staple through those years, I’ve also aligned myself with people that I very much enjoyed both working with…and for. Folks that challenged me individually and people that I was able to learn from as well. There were three CFO’s in particular that I was able to work for that really challenged me and gave me all the rope I ever wanted…with the challenge presented that it would only by my actions that would cause my hanging. Fortunately I always kept the rope pretty taut…

However, as you move higher on the climb, the challenges become more pronounced and quite often the experience you bring to the table may not be sufficient to get you through the next challenge. This is when both the strength of your mentor(s), as well as the strength of your network, need to be of sufficient levels to carry you through. Each individual’s challenges will be unique, but still a minefield that needs to be walked and navigated.

In particular at Cylance, there is nobody on our team that has been through the kind of growth that we are currently realizing. From the increase in our billings, to the increase in our headcount, or the international rollout and rapid formation of subsidies. We’ve never seen anything like it, and typically have only come across it in a B-school case study. We’re living the case study right now at Cylance…

  • How do you accurately forecast growth when you continue to blow out your numbers and nobody has seen similar growth in quite some time?
  • How do you ensure that you’re preserving the culture, intimacy, and execution in the coming years that you’ve seen over the last 4-years?
  • What are your key metrics to measure and how often will those metrics evolve as the company continues to mature?
  • What are the key areas of risk that you need to have on the radar and keep a focus on regardless of how well things are going?

For someone that measures every watt, pedal stroke, and heartbeat when I’m on the bike, these are the things that I completely geek out on when measuring the performance and health of the Cylance organization. This organization is an athlete that will be continually be subjected to fine tuning and unplanned shifts. Shifts that will be influenced by our employees, our executive team, our investors, and the mentors that we all should have in place to successfully navigate a race that is ours to lose…

Who is your go to mentor when the race stakes get high?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

When You’re Lucky Enough To Love What You Do…

April 16th, 2014 Comments off

I often talk with friends and colleagues about my career path and how fortunate I feel to have found a profession that I thoroughly enjoy and receive so much satisfaction from. Not only from the day to day activities that I engage in, but the countless colleagues I work with daily, as well as the great group of vendor partners that I have been able to establish over the years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with companies ranging in size from the start-up I’m currently working with…to the large multi-national firms headquartered in the U.S. and France. Those companies have ranged from Apparel, Retail, and Footwear firms to critical infrastructure and now, cybersecurity. While there has typically been some pretty heavy lifting in each one of these opportunities, I’ve had the opportunity to either work with, or build, some pretty amazing teams. With those teams, we’ve been able to achieve some pretty amazing results.

The fun part about the journey I’ve had since my first CFO position has been the variety of “opportunities”, or as some would like to refer to, the problems I’ve had to deal with at each one of those companies. While not always enjoyable, I’ve always embraced each opportunity for what it represented….a fantastic opportunity to learn and continue the progression of my career. From the implementation of $100 million payroll systems, to complete brand turnarounds, SAP implementations, & ground zero start-ups….it has been an absolute blast. For those that know me, there is also a great correlation between the competitiveness and focus I carry in my cycling to the personal characteristics I bring into the office. Fiercely competitive, fiercely driven, along with a strong commitment to team and the achievement of results.

As a CFO who really tries to lead by example, as well as deliver the promised results to those I report to, it’s really a great affirmation to receive the recent recognition as a Finalist for Orange County CFO of the Year. Regardless of the outcome I might experience that evening, it was enough to participate in the dinner that evening as a Finalist and the amazing quality of peers that were in attendance.  It’s been a path of results and value creation that I look forward to continuing.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

 

Are You Part Of The Solution or Part Of The 62% Non-Operators?

March 28th, 2013 Comments off

If you have read my blog over the years, you know how much I have advocated the involvement of CFO’s in the day-to-day operations of a company. Maybe not necessarily leading the charge with the assumed role of COO or VP of Operations, but collaborative involvement with other members of the Executive team who oversee this area. When it comes to developing the budgets and forecasts of a company, it needs to be more than just a spreadsheet exercise. It needs to be based on a solid knowledge of the flow of resources through a company and what levers can be pulled to improve the operating results of the company.

This is why I was a bit surprised by a recent poll posted on CFO.com, which perceived most CFO’s to be poor operators and having very little involvement in that area of their company. A surprisingly high 62% were only “somewhat involved” or “had little or no involvement”. Regardless of whether you are overseeing a services-based firm and your operations involve labor productivity metrics & similar KPI’s, or you’re part of a manufacturing entity with a dynamic flow of resources, it’s your obligation as a CFO to be involved and have an intimate knowledge. If you have a COO or VP of Operations on your team, it’s your obligation to work EXTREMELY closely with that individual and not only ensure they have every level of support they need to perform to plan, but they are transparent in their results with you so that you can accurately forecast the results of the business.

With the companies that I have worked with, it has not been the home run sales contracts that have typically allowed me to report stellar annual results, but more the sustainable changes in operations that have led to an improved bottom line. Those changes will obviously be different for every company, but it’s diving in and analyzing all of the individual contributors and how they can be improved. If you’ve assumed the CFO role within your company, you are not in a position where you can just sit back and wait for the results to post. You have a team that you should be working with, supporting, and identifying the areas that can be improved, thus influencing the bottom line. If you’re part of that 62%, expect an eventual lesson in Darwinism and don’t be surprised if you’re no longer part of the herd.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

When Careers & Lifestyles Fail To Diverge…

March 22nd, 2013 Comments off

No big messages here this morning, only a little break from the usual Finance-laden topics and a self-reflection on career. Everyone I talk with seems to strive for that balance between their career and their personal life. Much of this has to do with the lifestyle they lead outside of the office. In my case, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of companies that were actually lifestyle drive companies. DC Shoes, O’Neill Wetsuits, and GT Bicycles to name a few.  What was different about those companies is that emphasis was on Lifestyle as opposed to running the business and having the lifestyle be a fantastic complement to the results being achieved. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop a career that seems to aligned with the lifestyle that I lead outside the office….Cycling.

Huge difference you say? How can you even begin to compare Cycling with the CFO roles that you have held? That’s all finance-related, accounting driven, with some boring operational elements mix in…right? Pretty much the case with my cycling. If you take my approach to cycling, it typically is not about getting out for a little ride on the weekends and enjoying the sunshine. It’s a nice derivative, but it’s not the goal. My goal has always been the pursuit of relentless progression and seeing improvements in my performance. There’s a “P&L” to manage when it comes to my cycling. There’s “inputs” and “market conditions” that will affect my performance and I need to take those into consideration when preparing for a ride or analyzing the results.

Revenue. My revenue equivalent is my wattage number. This is the power that I am able to generate during a training ride or race. There’s no altering this number…you either deliver or you don’t. Ever since I was introduced to my first power meter 5 or 6 years ago I’ve been hooked on the data it provides and putting my efforts into perspective. Just like revenues, not all power figures are created equal. There’s the sub-measurements that include power:weight ratios, average wattages, normalized wattages, and your breakouts at specific time increments. All monitored over time and taking into account key events. Sound familiar?

Cost of Goods.  As I monitor my cost of goods with my P&L at work, I have to monitor my “inputs” in the same way. The obvious, and primary input, is nutrition. Are you “building your product” with B-grade quality and not eating appropriately or are you using good quality so as to avoid issues down the line? Have you made adjustments to your positioning? Have you completed the necessary pre-race preparations? If you have a crappy Quarter of results due to mismanagement of your inputs you can’t get that Quarter back…it’s gone. As in business, you need to maintain your momentum and capitalize on the results.

Operating Expenses. There are countless other “expenses” that need to be managed if your to achieve the results that you want. In my case, since I’m obviously not a full-time athlete, I need to deliver on the expected results in the office. There’s no compromising this. That’s why I’m up at 4a for my trainer workouts so I can still be in the office by 7.15a. Sleep…another expense that needs to be managed, which perhaps is also an input. There’s give and take…I’m up at 4a…but lights out by 9p and with as little deviation as possible.

Capital Expenditures.  Let’s not go there. Carbon is not cheap, but it’s a consideration to the results. As in business, if you’re not prepared to make the necessary equipment investment, then you’re not going to achieve optimal results. At the level I’m trying to race at, you can improve your wattage figures, but without the right equipment, you’re simply not going to win or have a top result for the day.

Net Profit. What was my actual wattage achieved? In consideration to my forecast, the “market conditions”, and my “inputs”, did I achieve the expected outcome? Last night I did a time trial at the Great Park here in Irvine. My previous wattage PR for the course was 309w. I was looking to improve this by 1% to 312w. At the end of the day I missed it by 1% and achieved only 306w. However, I also set a new time PR by 1% due to adjustments I had made in my fit and maintaining more discipline on positioning during the race. At the end of the “Quarter”, I hit my “Net Profit” figures, albeit with some consideration in the mix getting there.

When you boil it all down, the elements of my lifestyle outside of work really aren’t all that different from what I do in the office. I’m fortunate enough to love the career I’ve fallen into, which shadows the lifestyle I lead out of the office. While I look at my cycling as my “out of office therapy”, it’s only an additional reinforcement of the disciplines of striving for continual performance improvements.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

The CFO Is Not A Scorekeeper…

March 19th, 2013 Comments off

I was reading a recent blog post by Cindy Kraft, who is one of the leading CFO coaches out there and is very active in helping CFO’s manage their careers and improve their online profiles. One of the comments that had been posted to her blog defined the role of the CFO as that of the “corporate scorekeeper”. Cindy had not suggested this was the role of the CFO, and I know from following her over the years, that she does not share that view of the role of CFO. Personally, I can’t think of a bigger disservice to an organization than just assuming the role of a scorekeeper. This is essentially a non-value add position that leads to the role being an expense, and not an investment as I have always promoted.

So what is the role of the CFO? That’s not entirely an easy question to answer and will depend on the type of organization that you have been hired into. In general, you are assuming the role as the primary strategic partner for the CEO and essentially quantify the anticipated results of the strategies he has mapped out with the rest of the Executive team. You are responsible for the broader back office operations and ensuring that the plan to monetize those strategies becomes a reality. You are responsible for identifying, and mitigating, any of the operational risks that might potentially derail that plan. You are responsible for working closely with your Sales teams, Product teams, and other key functional areas in the execution of the plan and making sure they have the proper resources to deliver, as well as instilling the proper level of accountability. You are responsible for distributing the appropriate levels of information to the Executive team so that they can make informed decisions and fine tune their activities to deliver on the plan.

Scorekeeper? Hardly. The role of scorekeeper is to sit in the booth, or in this case an office, and regurgitate system generated reports and add some token level of commentary. The role of the scorekeeper is ensuring that the debits and credits are properly recorded so the auditors are happy in the end. There is no lever pulling, no collaboration with other departments, nor is there any type of influence on the operational aspects of the business. This couldn’t be farther from the CFO role. The scorekeeper is the necessary expense you have to have to conduct the game. The CFO is an investment that is made with the expectation of receiving a return for that investment…bottom line.

The expectation that I have always placed on myself, and promised to any company I have worked with, is that I will deliver a significant return on the investment made in me. We’re not talking about a 20% or 30% ROI, but a multiple of what my total compensation package is for a company. That return will also come in number of different manners. From a topline perspective it will mean working closely with the Sales department to improve the actual sales figures, as well as the processes that drive the revenue engine. Additional ROI is achieved through tight management of the entire costing structure. Whether labor efficiencies, raw material inputs, quality, or inventory management, these are all key elements that have to be actively managed…not just recorded and reported. Further return is achieved in the ongoing management of operating expenses. Here there is a need to determine the proper balance to support the expectations of the Executive team and executing on the strategic plan. This will involve benchmarking to internal history, peers in the industry, as well as ensuring that existing partners are still representing the best interests of the company.

So you still believe the CFO is the scorekeeper of the company? You might want to rethink that position…

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

There Is No Immunity From Accountability…

March 1st, 2013 Comments off

Idealistic and possible or just a pipe dream? I’ve never started off one of my blog entries with a question, but I started thinking about this statement while out on one of my training rides. I started thinking about some of the past companies I had worked with and some of my “peers” that were responsible for specific divisions or line offerings, who Quarter after Quarter, continued to report results that were not only below an original Budget, but below what they had previously made a commitment to achieve. Not at just a revenue level, but at every level of the P&L. Dare I say “promised” to deliver? Ultimately, what led to the continued support of these individuals was either their relationship with a key executive, or in other cases, a lack of motivation and performance by their Director to make the necessary change. Without an inherent drive for results and improved performance there emerged a tolerance for mediocrity, which ultimately, affected the overall performance of the company.

Don’t get me wrong, it would be a pretty challenging situation to have a company full of relentless Type-A, performance driven individuals. There does need to be a balance in the composition of the staff, but there are also key positions, that in the absence of delivering on key initiatives have much broader implications to the performance of the company.

Whenever I have made a hire that comes from my direct network it’s a direct reflection on not only my responsibility as part of the executive team, but also a reflection on my reputation should that person not work out. Unfortunately for that person, they’ll actually have an even higher level of accountability to perform as I don’t want to have to walk out a hire that I was responsible for. I know it will happen eventually, but I’d like to delay that situation as long as possible. Regardless of whether they are part of my network, or I’ve grown up with them, or ride with them, they need to deliver on the roles and responsibilities for the position that they are being hired into. Without their delivery, they risk impacting the results of the company. There’s obviously an inherent responsibility on my part to ensure their skills are a match for the position, they possess the appropriate motivation, and if there are any deficiencies discovered in certain areas, it’s my responsibility to develop a development plan.

Moving forward, what happens when a hire is made and you’ve realized that the either the skills have been misrepresented or they are simply lacking the proper motivation to deliver what is expected. Very simply, it’s time to make a change before more resources are squandered and you’ve potentially jeopardized timelines or the commitment you’ve made to others. The situation is seldom black & white and easily interpreted. Is it a smaller start-up, as I’m currently working, or a multi-divisional corporation, as I’ve experienced in the past.

In the case of the start-up, there is little room to hide. There are no firewalls. Your deficiencies will quickly be seen if you fail to deliver. Make no mistake about it. You better be taking an honest look in the mirror before committing to a start-up.

A larger company? There’s certainly plenty of room to hide and work under the radar. In fact, if you’re a “friend of” someone, you can usually exploit that situation to do only what is needed to get by and likely sustain a stellar level of mediocrity. The other damage done here is that the skills shortfall is recognized sooner by surrounding colleagues and usually results in a lack of peripheral support in accomplishing departmental goals, which then further erodes morale. More often than not it either isn’t addressed or can take years to play out before a new catalyst is present to make the necessary changes.

I can only hope that in the future that I would promote an environment that allows a colleague to speak openly with me if one of my hires or a recommended candidate was not performing. My responsibility is to delivering the results that I have promised and not to create a de facto subsidy for colleagues who don’t have the skills or motivation to find a job on their own. I want to hire motivated, resourceful and performance driven individuals. What about you? Are you promoting immunity from accountability?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Have You Given Your Skills An Honest Self-Assessment?

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

     One of the more constant questions I’ve been asked over the last 5-years, as well as tabled with the candidates of various positions, is evaluating their skills and where they shine, as well as where they need improvement. The easy part in the interview process is professing to the depth of your skill set and how you’re a “roll up the sleeves team player” and you can operate in the trenches with the best of them. It’s another to actually deliver on that commitment, and what I view as a promise to a perspective new employer.

     A perfect example is the company that I have recently joined. I was probably asked no less than 6x if I “had any issues with doing non-CFO work”. Some of this “non-CFO” work might be HR-related, negotiating leases, and doing other administrative type work. Funny, from my perspective, which has always been the case if it affects the bottom line, it is CFO-related. If it’s going to affect the bottom line, especially in a start-up, I want to know about it.

  • I want to be involved in any long-term agreements that may affect our financial health.
  • I want to have a direct hand in offer letters. These are the financial commitments I can tie back to original financial projections. Does it support our stated mission?
  • I want to be involved in the implementation of our reporting system, whether that’s in Excel, Quickbooks, or SAP. I want to know where the holes are, as well as points of control.
  • I want to be involved in the set-up of all service-related vendors since these are the folks that will be our foundation for what will be accomplished in years to come.

     Going back to the original question of self-assessment, are you really ready to take on these tasks, work in a humbling and collaborative environment, that isn’t supported by multi-million dollar budgets and casts of hundreds, or even dozens. For me, it was an easy “Yes!”. It’s an exciting environment to be a part of, but you have to be honest in your ability to execute at that level. You have no individual firewalls, key support staff, or other vehicles to hide behind. You’re the guy that is front and center in the trenches and “fighting” with your team.

Have you given yourself and honest self-assessment and are you ready for that level of exposure?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael