535: Wiring Your Customer-Centric Organization | Sarah Murphy, CFO, BSI Americas

Listen to the Episode Below (00:43:16)

As she approaches her 20th year with BSI Group, Sarah Murphy repeats the word “variety” when asked why she turned a blind eye to other opportunities outside the company known to many as an exemplar of business standards. “There was always something new to move on to,” says Murphy, who, having spent the past decade in the United States as CFO of BSI Americas, is about to open yet another career chapter as she returns to the BSI’s headquarters in London.

The “variety” that Murphy has long pursued has led her to open different career chapters in Hong Kong, London, and Paris. Prior to arriving in the U.S., she served as a global finance director as well as a finance director of BSI’s Asia Pacific region. Still, there’s little doubt that while BSI has offered Murphy a varied menu of opportunities from which to choose, it’s a passion for driving change across the BSI organization that has routinely opened the door to new opportunities and allowed Murphy to savor greater career satisfaction.

“There’s always been a real commitment here and a drive for change,” explains Murphy, who says that finance got to play a central role in helping BSI Americas to “hit the reset button.” After years of flat sales, says Murphy, BSI Americas transformed itself by adopting a new go-to-market strategy and entering the consulting services arena. “Now the question has become ‘How do we maintain the growth?,’” adds Murphy, who doesn’t hesitate to mention BSI’s growing appetite for M&A. –Jack Sweeney

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Guest: Sarah Murphy

Company: BSI Americas

Headquarters: Herndon, VA

Connect: www.bsigroup.com

CFOTL: What comes to mind when we ask for a finance strategic moment?

Murphy: Several years ago, I was asked to oversee a small business that had come to us here in the U.S. through an acquisition overseas. It had been running at a loss, and I was asked to review this business, which revolved around orders in the food supply chain. I essentially did a forensic review of it, and I found that there was really very little quality information about the segregation of services or the isolation of revenues and costs and their assignment to the different aspects and service lines. One of the first things that I did was to try to create a picture of what was really driving this and which activities, if any, were profitable and which were less profitable. It was really a question of getting in under the hood and understanding the business, first of all, and then the different aspects of its service lines, and then saying, Okay, if these are the services, what is driving them and what are the interdependencies? If I get rid of one service line, does this mean that I impact something else? These sorts of questions.

Where there were established service lines that were actually taking a loss or were very low-margin, could we change this and improve it? If not, what would be the implications of getting rid of that service? This was fascinating because—after going through a lot of analysis and deep dives and having a lot of discussion with the business heads and leaders—we started to really sort of drive some change. Actually, there were very few business lines or services that we stopped. What we did, though, was to introduce a lot more discipline around pricing and scheduling and how we serviced some of these clients.

Within about 18 months, we had made that business profitable. To me, this just demonstrated the value of financial discipline married with actual commercial input. When you bring them together to really look at a situation and look at a business scenario, you can make really well-informed decisions. The power of finance—the true value of finance—-lies in what you can bring to the table in terms of business decisions. jb