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Questions From Colleagues & Preserving Sanity…

April 24th, 2017 Comments off

It’s always interesting to me how cycling manages to work its way into professional conversations, even with a population of folks that don’t participate in the sport with any frequency, if at all. However, there’s a certain curiosity to people when they learn that you are actually spending 350-400 miles a week “on that little seat”. Most often they say nothing, might make a passing comment, or sometimes ask how the training is going with an obvious sincerity.

I’ve always talked about how strong a correlation there is between the disciplines I practice in my personal life and those I practice in my professional life. Very seldom are the two very far apart from one another. However, I was asked a very interesting question by one of my prior colleagues at Cylance. Knowing how much I ride, and that my training rides usually started at 5.30a, I was asked “if the effort required for those hours and rides were worth it and did it provide some balance to the turmoil of life at a start-up?” It was a great question and one that I had discussed with folks on my direct team, as well as friends and vendors.

Simply answered…YES. It really is too easy to get caught up…or I should say buried in the weeds and lose your perspectives when the pressure is high, there is change coming at you from every direction, and there is usually a loosely defined direction that is dependent on tracking against a business that is difficult to predict. You can really get caught in an escalating pace of analysis paralysis. Analysis that has you running every possible scenario, discussing every possible outcome with trusted folks on your team, balancing the hourly or daily interruptions that occur “because you need to be in this meeting…” while never really reaching conclusion or final decision. I learned very early on during my time working in equity research to quickly synthesize information, inquire with a few trusted colleagues, and make the necessary decision…and move on. Not all decisions can be made in that manner, but the vast majority can. Exceptions occur when they are going to have a material and lasting impact on the P&L….hiring, capital expenditures, etc.

When those decisions tend to be more prolonged I always found that my time on the bike, in the early morning hours, would give me the opportunity to weigh the alternatives and think about my decision without the inevitable interruptions that come in the office. When you have hours on the bike you sometimes you pass a certain business, recall a pertinent conversation, or simply realize a new idea that would have never materialized in the office. When you are on the bike, and in the dark, the only thing out there is your commitment to achieve specific performance objectives on the bike…and the thoughts of what you need to accomplish in the office. As I mentioned above, those two are seldom far apart. One moment your making sure you are tracking against the wattage number your supposed to maintain for the 40-minute block you’re in the middle of…and the next minute your thinking about the utilization rate that was just reported by Services, what effect that is going to have on their margins for the Quarter, and recalling the last Quarters activities and the contributions to the performance of that group. Was there a specific project where billing was delayed…was it not properly quoted at the beginning? How are the two large Product opportunities progressing with only two weeks left in the Quarter…and there hasn’t been an update in the most recent few days. These are the things going through your mind in the predawn hours of that ride…

Sometimes those hours in the saddle can be with a key member of the team that might be struggling with a certain decision. Very early on our CEO was faced with making a decision to fully replace the first generation Sales team and basically start from scratch. He and I had know each other for years before he made the commitment to start Cylance so bikes were nothing foreign to the two of us. If we got out on the bikes it was never predicated on having a meeting or certain discussion…but only to get out for a training ride. Inevitably it usually went in the direction of business, as it had that day. There was a long discussion about the challenges and potential risk of making the change, but in the end he knew the decision that had to be made…it was only the process of rolling along at 20mph discussing the subject that made it a bit of a therapy session.

That’s exactly what cycling is for me relative to my chosen profession…it’s part therapy, part challenges, part perspectives, part bonding with friends…and one more way for me to quantify & measure my efforts. The conversation I’ve had with colleagues is not about the specific activity of cycling, but to choose any activity that can give you a similar parallel with your activities at work, provide those perspectives, and allow you to avoid getting so embedded in the weeds that you are unable to make effective decisions that are in the best interest of the company, your team, and the objectives that everyone is working towards. Whether it’s running, rock climbing, cross country skiing, or swimming….what’s that activity that is going to keep you healthy, your brain engaged, and sharp for the next stretch of hurdles that you face at the office?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Not All Levels Of Transparency Are Created Equal…

March 13th, 2017 Comments off

Transparency

Over time it’s always interesting to see how individuals and organizations define and operate under varying levels of “transparency”. These insights may take weeks to play out or may ultimately take years. While I will agree out of the gate that there should be varying levels, depending on the sensitivity of the underlying data, an extremely high percentage of transparency should exist within an organization to build trust with internal and external customers, as well as investors and other key constituents. In summary, Transparency should be defined as…

a :  free from pretense or deceit : 

b :  easily detected or seen through : 

c :  readily understood

d :  characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

As mentioned, there are always certain types of information that need to be contained to a small group depending on the level of sensitivity, but 98% of discussions should be open and collaborative with the broader team. Are you planning a reduction in force that may cross over multiple departments…then yes, that is going to require an incredibly amount of sensitivity and confined to a small group in the planning of the event. Releasing this information to the broader group would result in a paralyzing decrease in productivity across the teams and produce undue anxiety for those that aren’t affected. Absolutely painful, but these are actions that need to be controlled with military precision.

Are you doing an IPO? The group in the know on this activity obviously widens as it becomes necessary to involve more people in the process as you continue to bolster internal functions, coordinate functional area contributions to the drafting of an S-1 and the characterization of the business, working with investors, bankers, and legal partners. A large group…absolutely, but still a relatively combined group of folks. Will there be leaks in this pool and others find out…absolutely. But again, not necessarily doing regular updates out to the broader organization and discussing in an open environment in a regular cadence.

I’m really not a fan or subscriber of playing semantics with certain topics. The allowance of “access” or inclusion in a meeting or systems is also not equal to transparency. It’s just exactly that…access or inclusion. You may be given access to a courtroom to view a criminal case, but that doesn’t mean that you’re given access to all the details of the files held by the defense and prosecution, but you have “access”. In a corporate environment, that absence of financial information, historical activities, investor information, or operational performance will simply result in the failure of a team to succeed…period.

When it comes to strategic planning, hiring, geographic expansion, financial performance, facilities expansion, or other operational initiatives, there’s no reason not to be working in a fully transparent manner to build trust and effective collaboration across the teams. It’s not about spinning the information or results to create a sense of vagueness of lack of definition for the team, or withhold information that creates a hurdle in allowing the team to make a fully informed decision. Ultimately, as reflected in the definition above, any level of deceit will always be discovered and the subsequent erosion of trust can seldom be recovered.

This is not a topic that should require extensive discussion…it comes down to just recognizing the DNA of an individual or organization. For a team, and ultimately an organization to succeed, there needs to an environment free of pretense and deceit, an environment that is easily translated and readily understood, and is characterized by high visibility & accessibility of information concerning the vast majority of business results and practices. It’s an insightful walk to observe how different people and organizations promote these conditions, but in the end, it’s critical for the success of the team, company, and ultimately promoting a healthy environment of trust and collaboration.

Thanks for reading and sharing in my walk…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Preserving Culture & Success In a Hyper Growth Environment…

February 22nd, 2017 Comments off

After my departure from Cylance, one of the biggest topics that I’ve been asked about, and given extensive consideration to, has been that of culture and how you preserve the success factors that were part of the early stages. Cylance was started with some key cultural goals in mind, which were primarily based on the disdain and avoidance of silos and politics. We had all experienced it at larger companies. The early efforts and decisions were all focused on the building of a product that would change an industry…nothing else mattered and everyone was committed to that vision.

As we had shared with investors, analysts, and media, it took us the better part of 3 years to reach 115 employees. There was a focus on our burn and regulating our spend in a prudent…and almost surgical manner. It then took another year to grow our employee base to 450. Even this number, while certainly aggressive, did not give us an undue amount of concern. Yes, we did tap the brakes a few times to make sure our billings were continuing to trend as they were…multiples above our original plan. However, as I’ve discussed in prior posts, we were also focused on making sure the underlying metrics of billings and revenues per employee were also continuing to trend upward, as well as ensuring that our cash burn was in the confines of the original plan. Some might take the view that a tripling our headcount was an unhealthy growth, but we were cognizant of the number increase and actively discussing the potential risks with our key investors. We wanted to learn from their other portfolio companies and couldn’t afford the distraction of having to correct course under the trajectory we were on.

Let’s take that tripling of headcount and why that wasn’t necessarily an unhealthy number. When you look at the hiring of 335 over the course of a year that equates to 6.5 people per week that are hired in across every functional area…Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Research, etc. While the new hires might be coming in with some of the “corporate baggage” from the larger companies, there was a significantly larger number of incumbents that are able to offset that influence, properly onboard the new employees, and successfully indoctrinate them into the culture that had been the foundation of our success. Even in the latter part of the year, when you’re bringing in the other 165 hires, you still have a fairly large & established group that can help in the absorption and molding of new employees. Will you make some mistakes in hiring? Absolutely. But you also need to take the necessary steps to course correct early on. I also believe, but wasn’t successful in enforcing, was the need to have hiring managers outline the roles & responsibilities for their newly requested hires, which would later play into assessing the quality of their delivery, and ultimately, qualifying their work relative to bonus payouts. This was an extreme challenge as we were also confronted with a trajectory that was multiples of our original plan, which meant that we also were having to manage headcount growth that was nowhere near the original plan, or the first revision…or the second or third revisions. You get the picture…hyper growth demands quick reaction.

The biggest question though is where does the process actually break? What is the percentage of “tenured” incumbents that need to be present relative to hyper hiring…and is this even a valid statistic? This becomes the key question when you find yourself in a Quarter where headcount grows by 50% and there is a push to increase an incremental 30% the following Quarter…or effectively doubling your headcount growth in two Quarters. When you start hiring at the rate of not 6.5 new hires per week, but 18 per week…and then mix new hires with an equally new group of individuals who have not fully adopted the success elements of the existing culture. New hires, who when combined with undefined roles & responsibilities and a lack of guidance, are treading water at best and not sure how to direct their efforts in the rapidly expanding environment they just got tossed into. Combine the cultural challenge with the financial challenge where the majority of the cash flow is affected by headcount and how the Company is then performing relative to the billings and revenues per employee…and the cash burn metrics that have been committed to the Board. It’s all about keeping an engineered and discipline approach, but balanced with the unplanned needs of the business. There is no textbook approach in hyper growth and you can’t look to your past experiences to guide you through this scenario because in all likelihood…you haven’t been there. Ultimately, the success will be predicated on keeping successful communications going with the team, healthy collaborations, and knowing the pulse of the business…PERIOD. In the absence of these your destined for performance mediocrity, or worse yet, course corrections that will affect morale and momentum.

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

Do You Have a Compass For Your Journey…?

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve written before about the criticality of having  not only the right systems in place, but having them planned and configured in a manner that will yield the highest quality information that you can use to make your daily decisions. Although I have always worked in relatively lean environments and have always had to have a strong level of self-sufficiency, I’ve come to appreciate the quality of good information even more working in a start-up environment and having to ensure that every resource deployed ($$$) is being done so in the most productive manner.

For our company, our biggest asset, or conversely, our biggest liability, is the people that have come to work for us. We are still a small enough company that every hire must not only have the appropriate experience and skills, but also be able to integrate in with the rest of the team. Even then, the need to hire must be quantified as much as possible and have the appropriate data and long-term plan to support each new position. While this might seem a pretty simple and somewhat rhetorical point of view, its application is a bit harder in a start-up environment. While there has always been the specific business plan in place, many of the early hires were done so at a “gut” level with the belief that they would support the mission and make the necessary contributions.

As the company has moved from living room start-up to growing revenues, it’s been extremely satisfying to be able to have the data that honestly supports the hiring of new positions. Data that is the product of systems that were planned, implemented, and have evolved with the growth of the company. Data that looks at everything from the opportunity pipeline that Sales is working on, to projects currently being scheduled for delivery, the manner in which our consultants are spending their time, to the necessary time our consultants support the Sales team.

We can now look at the time that our folks are spending on both internal and external projects and make informed decisions on when to hire and what specific skills need to be hired in order to support the current team and developing opportunities. It’s certainly a win for the entire team when you can make a decision that is based on data and not based on gut or hope that an expected event will transpire. Although the timing may not always be ideal and the existing team might be taxed a bit longer, you’re ensuring that when the resources are finally deployed and you bring in a new employee that they will be there for the long haul and become part of the “family”.  After all, working in a start-up is no cakewalk and it’s the long days, accomplishments, and team camaraderie that ultimately deliver the success that everyone shares in.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

The Unconventionals….Assessing Team Additions

October 10th, 2013 Comments off

One of the larger challenges of managing the Finance side of the organization, which includes A/P, A/R, Accounting, and in some cases, HR and IT, is the multitude of personality and skill sets needed for each position. In some positions, say in the case of Controller, there is a typically a defined educational or work history that is required.  In other cases, the position may allow some level of latitude in the candidate hire with respect to their work history or absence of certain credentials. I’ve had a number of these hires over the previous companies I’ve worked with and I call them The Unconventionals. Unconventional in the respect that if the sole qualifier was the content of their resume then they probably wouldn’t make it to the interview stage.

With respect to my background, I might have been considered an unconventional hire when I joined MGE since the majority of my experience was in the Retail & Apparel industries and not Technology. I was also going to be tasked with the implementation of the IFRS reporting for the North American operations, for which I had no previous IFRS experience. However, I had an executive team that saw past that and look at other accomplishments and my personality to know that I would get the job done. Not only did the job get done, but we excelled in our continued performance during the 3+ years I was with the company. Perhaps it was this experience that has prompted me to adopt a similar approach in the identification and hiring of candidates.

While working at MGE, I had an opening for a Financial Analyst position. This position would typically call for 2-5 years of experience. However, I was introduced to a potential candidate who really didn’t possess any substantial finance or accounting experience. However, what I recognized was that he was a Marine and had worked with munitions. What I saw was not a candidate, who didn’t have the requisite experience, but someone who had a great work ethic, an attention to detail, and a commitment to team work.  I knew I could bring him up to speed and could trust that he would be a great ambassador internally for the team. In the following years, I hired him into a separate company I had subsequently moved to as a Finance Director, and most recently, he secured his first CFO position with a small action sports company.

While tasked with the turnaround of a small footwear company in San Diego, I had the need to bring in a staff accountant that would also oversee A/P and A/R. I was presented with a number of well qualified candidates. However, the one candidate who had the least amount of experience, with predominantly tax preparation history, was an Olympic level track runner. Knowing the work ethic and dedication required for the athletic endeavor, I knew she was my candidate. Over the subsequent years she not only excelled at that small company of $30 million in revenues, but moved to a larger action-sports company overseeing all accounting for the Canada entities. During this time she also secured her CPA certification and has become the Assistant Controller for an OC-based manufacturer.

At my current company, I had a drastic need to hire a Business Operations Analyst that could support me in the implementation of operating systems, HR functions, and the myriad of other financial reporting I was responsible for. I had a candidate recommended to me, who had previously done some project work for me at DC. On paper, he was green and a recent graduate from UCSB. However, I knew that based on the project work he had done for me that he had a solid work ethic and would likely be a solid team player if given the opportunity. He also had great attention to detail, which was critical since he’d be working quite a bit independently and I couldn’t afford slips in this area. He’s not only done fantastic work, but become a respected member of the Cylance team as a result of his contributions and work ethic.

Ultimately, these candidates have a much higher burden to perform as they have to be willing to go the extra step to earn the respect of the surrounding team. They’re held to the same level of accountability, and if they don’t perform, are also subject to potential dismissal. Although there is a first for everything, and I’m prepared to, I have yet to hire a non-performing candidate I’ve had to dismiss.

While perhaps unconventional, these hires are a direct reflection on me and my ability to deliver on the commitments I have made to the rest of the Executive team or the Board. The hiring of these candidates are a reflection on my department and my effectiveness in assessing candidate potential. When I take this approach, I have to have a comfort that any candidate I’m willing to support will be able to deliver and excel after I’ve brought them up to speed. Not only deliver on my requirements, but also be resourceful enough to potentially support other members of the Executive team. While I do all I can to keep my turnover low and promote internal candidates, there’s nothing more satisfying then seeing these same folks depart into a more prominent 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

Start-Ups & Shades Of Grey…

February 10th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve written a few other posts about the hiring process we all inevitably go through (continuously…) and the critical need to be honest with yourself and have an accurate assessment of your skill set, as well as the environment you might possibly be hiring into. This scenario played itself out again this week as I potentially started the interview process with a candidate. I know that this candidate had some insight on the company so the fact that they were going to be potentially joining a start-up was not a new development. However, and almost immediately out of the gate, the questions were all in the spirit of “How is process “X” defined?”. “Where do you see the company in 5-years?”. “I’m used to working with automated process so what will my budget be for “xyz” technology?”.  Already I could tell we weren’t quite getting off on the right foot and the candidate likely would have an extremely tough time adapting to the life of a start-up.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all very valid questions, but when you’re 6-months into a start-up, there are very few things that are black & white. For starters, when I’m asked how a certain process is defined & documented, there are few processes, at least at this point that are documented. Yes, we might have specific deadlines for submitting payroll, paying vendors, and we might have project timelines, but the time that the respective teams have available needs to be spent on mission critical tasks and not defining & documenting processes. From a Finance perspective, I have always had to live in the world of defined processes and reams of documentation on how something needs to be channeled through the organization to be addressed. In the world of a start-up, there has to be an implicit level of trust that your team members are working with their respective Director or VP and progressing in the completion of their deliverable. Yes, there are check-in meetings and other discussions to ensure progress…but processes and documentation…not here. Just get it done and deliver on what you promise.

Regardless of whether it’s a cyber security start-up or a small apparel firm, you’re bringing together a group of individuals with the experience to deliver and that have the requisite experience in the industry or their respective expertise. If you’re the newbie, as I am amongst my team, you’re not going to be pestering them for documentation and whether they’ve defined the process. Clearly not a value add in the very earliest stage of a start-up.

Even slightly more amusing is the question of where we’ll be in 5-years. Well, unless we deliver on what we’ve promised inside of the first 12-18 months it’s hard to think about 5-years. Don’t get me wrong, we have a wicked brilliant team and we can reasonably table that 5-year question with the talent that has been assembled, but the more valid question is “What are the immediate needs over the next 3-6 months as you navigate the critical first stages of the company?”.  It was very clear that hiring into the CFO role for a start-up meant I was going to be doing a high volume of “non-traditional” work for my role. I wasn’t looking for traditional since I had plenty of “traditional” in my career. I was looking for a true challenge and the opportunity to join in the mission of a company that I could believe in and would have a positive benefit for the customers we’d be servicing. However, assuming that same role also meant joining the uncertain world of start-ups and being comfortable living in the many shades of grey that would present themselves. What’s your comfort level when definition might be lacking?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Cyber & Network Security: “I See Said The Blind Man…”

October 31st, 2012 Comments off

After joining my latest company, I’ve found myself exposed to a group of brilliant individuals who have a laser focused fascination for cyber security and every subtlety tied to it. For those that know my background, the natural question is how did I get pulled into this one? After my tours of duty with Quiksilver & DC Shoes, Schneider Electric, Pacific Sunwear, and investment banking, the security industry is a bit out of my realm. But then again, I wasn’t brought in for my security expertise, but for my ability to drive financial performance and create a foundation for the rest of this group to prosper.

However, it has been eye opening experience working with this group. Although all the companies I’ve worked with had extensive IT departments, as well as a focus on “network security”, this is a whole different level. Literally, on my first day with this team, I took immediate actions to tighten down my own personal information after reading a few articles that were forwarded to me. One article in particular discussed a journalist who literally had his identity wiped clean, including family pictures kept online, after his accounts were hacked. Unbelievable.

The more noticeable hindsight to me as I was discussing other companies with our team is that I don’t recall EVER receiving an email where the file was password protected. Now keep in mind that I’ve worked for a number of different public companies, as well as equity research at an investment bank, and I have NEVER received a password encrypted file. Maybe a password so I couldn’t alter the structure, but not to actually open the file. Even in my own previous approach, my idea of “locking things down” was to send any forecast or financial info out in PDF so it couldn’t be modified. I’m pretty much chuckling at that approach now in comparison to what the daily MO is here.

What is even more interesting is the approach that most corporate IT departments are taking with regards to internet access, the opening of unfamiliar links, the lack of ongoing security training, and the relative absence of putting any significant effort into this area. Most companies may not offer that much for a targeted attack, but the subsequent cost and loss of productivity is an entirely different matter. I know I’m looking forward to the continued immersion & learning about this industry. For myself, the obvious phrase that came to mind was “I see said the blind man…”, but I think I’m still relatively blind on the security front.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Do You Know If You’re Keeping Your Edge Sharp…?

September 30th, 2012 Comments off

As leaders of our respective finance organizations, as well as our position as executive team members, it’s incredibly important to not only maintain a focus on the business, but to ensure that the efforts you are putting forward on a daily basis are of the highest caliber. The question for any CFO, after multiple years with the same company, is whether or not you’re actually putting forth a high quality effort. Your ability to constantly bring your A-game to the table is dictated by your ability to maintain a balance between your professional & personal life. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest challenges for a CFO.

As my time with Quiksilver/DC Shoes came to an end, I know that my “knife” was being used on a much more constant basis and it was hard to keep that sharp edge. Between the early turnaround efforts, a relocation of the brand that resulted in significant turnover, an SAP implementation that was led out by DC, as well as general corporate challenges, it certainly was not your standard working environment. As difficult as it was, there’s nothing I would have changed about the experience and the lessons I took from working in another larger corporate environment.

Knowing I left the company with some serious battery depletion, I knew exactly what I needed to do for a recharge. I almost immediately left town for a few days and did some cycling up in Santa Ynez to clear the head and take a breather. This was followed up by a trip the following week to the same spot. This was then capped off by an intense 2-week cycling trip through the Dolomites in Italy where I spent a solid 2-weeks cycling and averaged over 5k feet of climbing for every day I was on the bike. By the time I had only a few days left in the trip I was ready to come home refreshed, recharged, and ready to charge again. I came home with a renewed sense of mission, enthusiasm, new blog topics, and the ability to take on what I know will be another wild multi-year ride.

It’s worth noting that just prior to my Italy trip, I had already accepted a CFO position with a new start-up, but knew this trip would be crucial. While I knew a new opportunity would provide a certain amount of excitement and new energy, but I also knew that I would not be able to bring a full armada to this new opportunity unless I took the proper steps to recharge. Did I work remotely for this new company while in Italy…absolutely, but I also knew that all a needed was a good 4-5 hour dose of masochism each day to charge those batteries. What I also realize is that I had a break in between companies to recharge, which is a much more difficult proposition if your engagement continues. However, the biggest question is whether you have the ability to recognize that your edge is getting dull…

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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