I have had the pleasure of working with two very influential bosses. I learned a lot from Harland LaVigne, who was the CEO at Lancope in 2002 when I made the decision to work for Lancope instead of continuing on the venture path. He's a very experienced CEO who had worked with a number of startups. We were a very small company, still just 20 people or so, and we built the company from there through the good and challenging times to becoming profitable in '08 and have maintained profitability since.
One thing Harland enabled me to do was to take a lot of ownership in areas outside of finance and accounting. One reason I think I'm not a typical CFO is because I've been afforded the opportunity to get involved in marketing strategy, product direction, sales and customer care.
Lancope's current CEO, Mike Potts, joined the company in 2010 and allowed me to continue in my expanded role. Mike has also been successful in a lot of different startup companies and has brought that experience to the Lancope team. His approach is very collaborative and he allows the team to get involved in high-level objectives, but also knows that at some point someone has to be responsible for making decisions. With a company like Lancope with tenured employees, his approach is much appreciated and has helped shape the way I approach managing my team.
As a company, Lancope is going through some pretty active growth -- 50 percent year over year last year while maintaining profitability and generating some great cash flow. Everyone in the company is in the boat and rowing in the same direction. I think a lot of that has to do with Mike's approach to transparency and being a motivator and getting everyone involved. Personally, I have continued to expand my areas of responsibility and was recently promoted to COO and CFO.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
My perspective might be a little different than others given that we made some tough decisions in 2008 that allowed us to get to and maintain profitability while traversing the rough economic climate in 2009-2010. A few years ago, I would have said access to capital, but I think capital is freeing up again.
I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to stay involved in so many aspects of the business and spend time with customers. I am able to do so because I have a great team behind me, and especially a great controller. The ability to expand one's horizons and grow professionally is contingent upon having a great staff.
Another challenge is determining when to pull the trigger on growth, when to bring in more people and when to invest in sales and marketing. For us now it's not a lack of ideas on how to grow, it's having the bodies to execute on those ideas and deciding when to spend and what to spend on while trying to avoid placing ourselves at too much risk. One thing that is always a challenge is finding the right people.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
For me, a good day at work is marked by two things. One is if I have a list of things to do and I can get half of it marked off, then it's really a good day. Like most people, I drive into work thinking, OK, this is what I have to accomplish today. But in reality, you're lucky sometimes if you can get one or two things off the list. A good day is when you can look at it and say, "Wow I really did get these done and I didn't have too many distractions."
But more than that is feeling that I can help people -- whether on my team or in other departments -- showing them how to achieve a goal, seeing that "ah-ha" moment where it clicks for them and knowing they will continue to be valuable contributors to the company.
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