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CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Jack Sweeney Speaks to CFOs About Driving Change | Middle Market Media, LLC

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CFO THOUGHT LEADER

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Jack Sweeney Speaks to CFOs About Driving Change | Middle Market Media, LLC

12
Followers
70
Plays
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About Us

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

Latest Episodes

SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees. The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations.

42 min1 d ago
Comments
SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

Back in the late 1980s, Mike Brower’s list of audit clients included a roster of oil and gas companies as well a local university and a number of different state and local government entities. It was the type of client list that any accountant based in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, might covet, a fact made all the more undeniable by having Taco John’s International top the list. A restaurant franchisor with over 450 restaurants nationwide, Taco John’s first began serving local Cheyenne customers in the 1960s, before expanding rapidly across the Plains and upper Midwest as it outfitted franchisees in small towns rather than big city locations. “They just popped up everywhere, and I sort of had an insider’s view,” says Brower, who joined the Taco John’s finance team in 1990 after having given notice to the Cheyenne office of McGladrey & Pullen. For the next 6 years, Brower’s responsibilities intersected with every aspect of Taco John’s accounting and reporting function, event...

48 min3 d ago
Comments
644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

Back in 2015, Katie Rooney was only 7 months into her first industry CFO role at Aon when her boss asked her to exit the office. “He came into my office on November 1 and said, ‘I’m retiring, and I want you to take on my role. I’m leaving in 8 weeks,’” recalls Rooney, who says that the news triggered a mix of surprise and fear, which she recalls outwardly expressing with the words “Oh, my God!” Her boss quickly sought to ease her concerns. “He said: ‘You know what? It will be the best thing for you. If I stick around, you will never get the credit from the team,” explains Rooney, who subsequently swapped her CFO business unit responsibilities for her boss’s broader, divisional-level CFO portfolio. Looking back, Rooney confides that she expected to someday to fill her boss’s shoes, but perhaps in 2017 or 2018—and certainly not in 2015. For her, though, the timing would turn out to be most fortuitous. In early 2017, 13 months after she had officially taken on her boss’s...

29 min6 d ago
Comments
643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

It’s not uncommon for career-building executives inside the finance realm to obtain an MBA in order to pivot their careers in a new direction. Such was the case for Sachin Patel, who after finding some early success as a systems engineer at IBM Corp. began to study the path before him more closely. “One of the things that you don’t very often get to do as an engineer is to articulate what you did by using the written word or even verbally. Just having this not be a feature of the job was something that began to be evident to me,” says Patel, who as the years passed found the laconic nature of engineering to be in direct conflict with his growing desire to play a more active role in shaping and influencing business strategy. “I looked at two areas—investment banking and strategy consulting—and began pursuing both, which probably wasn’t the best approach from a time management standpoint,” explains Patel, who says that ultimately the numbers—or, as he describes it, “the com...

30 min1 w ago
Comments
642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

“It’s not cheap to go public,” concedes CFO Steve Cakebread, echoing the oft-repeated refrain that founders and CFOs confront when considering the prospect of selling shares in their companies to the public. Concessions aside, it will come as little surprise to Wall Street and private investors alike that Cakebread—a seasoned finance leader who has taken public such companies as Salesforce, Pandora, and his latest firm, Yext—has come not to bury IPOs, but to praise them. And 2020 might be the year when founders and CEOs are prepared to listen. Certainly, few of Cakebread’s CFO admirers are likely to question the finance leader’s keen sense of timing. In fact, more than a few will likely be making room on their bedside tables for Cakebread’s soon-to-be-released The IPO Playbook: An Insider’s Perspective on Taking Your Company Public and How to Do It Right (Silicon Valley Press, 2020). “With all of the macroeconomic and pandemic issues going on, there have been as many—if n...

31 min1 w ago
Comments
641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

Jamie Samuels still recalls some of the raised eyebrows that he saw after having completed in short order both the verbal and written portions of an exam that his future employer administered to job applicants. Not unlike most of his fellow applicants, Samuels had been invited to take the exam after responding to a newspaper advertisement, but, unlike his peers, he had been the only foreign applicant—or, more important, the only foreign applicant able to complete both portions of the exam in fluent Chinese. “At that time, my written Chinese was very good because I had only recently completed my senior thesis,” explains Samuels, who first became immersed in the Mandarin-speaking world in the early 1990s when at 18 years of age he spent 12 months in China in a gap year before returning to the U.S. and entering college as a Chinese language major. “Language is a tool to go do something else, so I spent a lot of my early career in trying to figure out just what that ‘something else...

40 min2 w ago
Comments
640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

Back in the early 2000s, Catherine Birkett found herself being pulled into confidential meetings where her company’s senior management was discussing restructuring plans with the company’s largest investor. The company—a fiber optics telecom firm known as Interoute—was not yet 6 years old, but its days appeared to be numbered as the company sought to weather the telecom industry’s historic collapse. As Interoute’s top FP&A executive, Birkett knew from the ongoing business plan’s numbers that massive changes were urgently needed, and she as well as others were not optimistic about the restructuring options available to the company. In fact, Birkett recalls, she and many executives had to tamp down the feeling that “this was not going to end well.” From a career perspective, Birkett arguably had less at risk than the other more senior executives sitting ringside during the restructuring discussions. Not yet 30 years of age, she joined the discussions knowing perhaps that othe...

38 min2 w ago
Comments
639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession. At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises. In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to $170M—a $20M uptick that led certain analysts to believe now might be the right time for the food giant to step on Cost Smart’s accelerator. Not so fast, says Ingredion CFO Jim Gray, who reports that he already likes what he’s seeing in Ingredion’s rearview mirror. The opportunity around remote work environments and online collaboration has accelerated toward us,” observes Gray, who over the past 2 ...

47 min3 w ago
Comments
638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

The son of two doctors, Tom Fencl recalls that while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to him a free market economy was more “an intellectual curiosity” than a possible career destination. “When the Berlin Wall came down, I was midway through high school—it was a very formative experience,” remembers Fencl, who says that the historic happening suddenly released “a market economy spirit.” After studying at Prague’s University of Economics, Fencl says, he was “drawn to the big financial centers” and worked in London for 2 years at Stern Stuart & Co. as a consultant before heading to the University of Michigan for an MBA. “From a university standpoint, the University of Michigan may not be the most obvious place for a European to go—but they found me more than I found them,” explains Fencl, who notes that years earlier in Prague he had met students from the University of Michigan who were involved in a study of post-communist economies. “They were virtually the firs...

46 min3 w ago
Comments
637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’” comments Smith, who recalls thinking at the time: “I know how to use spreadsheets, I perform calculations—but I don’t know how to word this letter.” Later, Smith says, she reached out for guidance from the technical team, followed by the legal team, before sitting down and writing a letter to the customer. Very often, the customer relationship would involve multiple partners and payment schemes, she...

51 minSEP 23
Comments
636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

Latest Episodes

SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees. The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations.

42 min1 d ago
Comments
SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

Back in the late 1980s, Mike Brower’s list of audit clients included a roster of oil and gas companies as well a local university and a number of different state and local government entities. It was the type of client list that any accountant based in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, might covet, a fact made all the more undeniable by having Taco John’s International top the list. A restaurant franchisor with over 450 restaurants nationwide, Taco John’s first began serving local Cheyenne customers in the 1960s, before expanding rapidly across the Plains and upper Midwest as it outfitted franchisees in small towns rather than big city locations. “They just popped up everywhere, and I sort of had an insider’s view,” says Brower, who joined the Taco John’s finance team in 1990 after having given notice to the Cheyenne office of McGladrey & Pullen. For the next 6 years, Brower’s responsibilities intersected with every aspect of Taco John’s accounting and reporting function, event...

48 min3 d ago
Comments
644: Thwarting COVID By Rethinking Opportunities | Mike Brower, CFO, Office Evolution

643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

Back in 2015, Katie Rooney was only 7 months into her first industry CFO role at Aon when her boss asked her to exit the office. “He came into my office on November 1 and said, ‘I’m retiring, and I want you to take on my role. I’m leaving in 8 weeks,’” recalls Rooney, who says that the news triggered a mix of surprise and fear, which she recalls outwardly expressing with the words “Oh, my God!” Her boss quickly sought to ease her concerns. “He said: ‘You know what? It will be the best thing for you. If I stick around, you will never get the credit from the team,” explains Rooney, who subsequently swapped her CFO business unit responsibilities for her boss’s broader, divisional-level CFO portfolio. Looking back, Rooney confides that she expected to someday to fill her boss’s shoes, but perhaps in 2017 or 2018—and certainly not in 2015. For her, though, the timing would turn out to be most fortuitous. In early 2017, 13 months after she had officially taken on her boss’s...

29 min6 d ago
Comments
643: The Rise of People-Centric Finance | Katie Rooney, CFO, Alight Solutions

642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

It’s not uncommon for career-building executives inside the finance realm to obtain an MBA in order to pivot their careers in a new direction. Such was the case for Sachin Patel, who after finding some early success as a systems engineer at IBM Corp. began to study the path before him more closely. “One of the things that you don’t very often get to do as an engineer is to articulate what you did by using the written word or even verbally. Just having this not be a feature of the job was something that began to be evident to me,” says Patel, who as the years passed found the laconic nature of engineering to be in direct conflict with his growing desire to play a more active role in shaping and influencing business strategy. “I looked at two areas—investment banking and strategy consulting—and began pursuing both, which probably wasn’t the best approach from a time management standpoint,” explains Patel, who says that ultimately the numbers—or, as he describes it, “the com...

30 min1 w ago
Comments
642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

“It’s not cheap to go public,” concedes CFO Steve Cakebread, echoing the oft-repeated refrain that founders and CFOs confront when considering the prospect of selling shares in their companies to the public. Concessions aside, it will come as little surprise to Wall Street and private investors alike that Cakebread—a seasoned finance leader who has taken public such companies as Salesforce, Pandora, and his latest firm, Yext—has come not to bury IPOs, but to praise them. And 2020 might be the year when founders and CEOs are prepared to listen. Certainly, few of Cakebread’s CFO admirers are likely to question the finance leader’s keen sense of timing. In fact, more than a few will likely be making room on their bedside tables for Cakebread’s soon-to-be-released The IPO Playbook: An Insider’s Perspective on Taking Your Company Public and How to Do It Right (Silicon Valley Press, 2020). “With all of the macroeconomic and pandemic issues going on, there have been as many—if n...

31 min1 w ago
Comments
641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

Jamie Samuels still recalls some of the raised eyebrows that he saw after having completed in short order both the verbal and written portions of an exam that his future employer administered to job applicants. Not unlike most of his fellow applicants, Samuels had been invited to take the exam after responding to a newspaper advertisement, but, unlike his peers, he had been the only foreign applicant—or, more important, the only foreign applicant able to complete both portions of the exam in fluent Chinese. “At that time, my written Chinese was very good because I had only recently completed my senior thesis,” explains Samuels, who first became immersed in the Mandarin-speaking world in the early 1990s when at 18 years of age he spent 12 months in China in a gap year before returning to the U.S. and entering college as a Chinese language major. “Language is a tool to go do something else, so I spent a lot of my early career in trying to figure out just what that ‘something else...

40 min2 w ago
Comments
640: Communicating Your Strategic Plan | James Samuels, CFO, EXUMA Biotech

639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

Back in the early 2000s, Catherine Birkett found herself being pulled into confidential meetings where her company’s senior management was discussing restructuring plans with the company’s largest investor. The company—a fiber optics telecom firm known as Interoute—was not yet 6 years old, but its days appeared to be numbered as the company sought to weather the telecom industry’s historic collapse. As Interoute’s top FP&A executive, Birkett knew from the ongoing business plan’s numbers that massive changes were urgently needed, and she as well as others were not optimistic about the restructuring options available to the company. In fact, Birkett recalls, she and many executives had to tamp down the feeling that “this was not going to end well.” From a career perspective, Birkett arguably had less at risk than the other more senior executives sitting ringside during the restructuring discussions. Not yet 30 years of age, she joined the discussions knowing perhaps that othe...

38 min2 w ago
Comments
639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession. At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises. In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to $170M—a $20M uptick that led certain analysts to believe now might be the right time for the food giant to step on Cost Smart’s accelerator. Not so fast, says Ingredion CFO Jim Gray, who reports that he already likes what he’s seeing in Ingredion’s rearview mirror. The opportunity around remote work environments and online collaboration has accelerated toward us,” observes Gray, who over the past 2 ...

47 min3 w ago
Comments
638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

The son of two doctors, Tom Fencl recalls that while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to him a free market economy was more “an intellectual curiosity” than a possible career destination. “When the Berlin Wall came down, I was midway through high school—it was a very formative experience,” remembers Fencl, who says that the historic happening suddenly released “a market economy spirit.” After studying at Prague’s University of Economics, Fencl says, he was “drawn to the big financial centers” and worked in London for 2 years at Stern Stuart & Co. as a consultant before heading to the University of Michigan for an MBA. “From a university standpoint, the University of Michigan may not be the most obvious place for a European to go—but they found me more than I found them,” explains Fencl, who notes that years earlier in Prague he had met students from the University of Michigan who were involved in a study of post-communist economies. “They were virtually the firs...

46 min3 w ago
Comments
637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’” comments Smith, who recalls thinking at the time: “I know how to use spreadsheets, I perform calculations—but I don’t know how to word this letter.” Later, Smith says, she reached out for guidance from the technical team, followed by the legal team, before sitting down and writing a letter to the customer. Very often, the customer relationship would involve multiple partners and payment schemes, she...

51 minSEP 23
Comments
636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

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