Name: James Tholen
Time with company: 5 years
Education: Bachelor of Science in Economics from Davidson College; MBA from Yale University
Company headquarters: Gaithersburg, Maryland
Revenue: $138 million in 2011 up 40 percent from 2010
Countries of operation: employees in 21; customers in over 75 countries.
Number of employees total: about 500
Number of employees the CFO oversees: 40
CFO's areas of responsibility: finance, accounting, financial planning, M&A, investor relations, legal, human resources, facilities, information systems
About the company: BroadSoft provides software that enables mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to deliver voice and multimedia services over IP-based networks.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I actually got the tech bug early. I just loved the ability for the entrepreneurial technology companies to change and disrupt an industry, to really change how things are done. For me, finance was a way to get to play in that tech sandbox.
I started out in the technology investment area of Morgan Stanley. As much as I enjoyed banking, I was really interested in how companies are doing and how they're doing it, and I realized I could be a real change agent for companies from inside rather than outside as a broker. That's what has really driven me for the last 20 years to be a CFO or COO at companies. I've been able to have the opportunity to work for and partner with the entrepreneurs who had the vision and the tenacity to work for a company that creates that kind of change. I've been able to partner with those folks to build great companies.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
Three actually really came to mind and they were all CEOs I had the good fortune to work for.
The first was Jerre Stead, he came in as CEO at Legent, which was sold to Computer Associates. Jerre is a master motivator and a driver of change. He's been able to do that and drive cultural change at very large organizations in a deliberate way. I began to understand how you could create that kind of change and drive performance in [observing] the way Jerre did it.
The second is Rob McGovern, who founded Careerbuilder. We created a brand new company that really helped change the way people look for and get jobs. It was a radical idea at the time to do job search via the Internet instead of newspaper job postings. Rob really taught me how to have not only that tenacity as an entrepreneur but to be willing to constantly reinvent what you created as your drive forward.
The final one is the current CEO at BroadSoft, Mike Tessler. Mike had the vision, courage and tenacity to take on something that had never been done before -- in this case disrupting global telecommunication. What Mike has really taught me is the notion of a global startup. We went global very early. And now we have employees in 21 countries and customers in 75.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
There's an external set of challenges and an internal set of challenges -- they obviously coexist and co-mingle. First and foremost, there's a very uncertain macro environment and that creates challenges. It creates challenges from an investment standpoint and from a street standpoint. It's a very demanding investment environment for public companies. There's a white-hot spotlight on public companies and you tend to operate in that kind of environment.
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