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For every top sales leader who confides to friends that he or she is really a numbers freak at heart, there’s an Andrew Hicks, who, as CFO of Advanced, would be just as apt to boast about a sales funnel innovation as he would about the adoption of a new accounting rule.
In fact, it would probably not surprise Hicks’s past and present business colleagues to learn that when asked to identify a mentor from his past, Advanced’s CFO chooses the head of sales for a former employer.
“It was because of this relationship that I first experienced an inkling of how people can think about the business differently and think differently about what drives value in the firm,” explains Hicks, who found his mentor after being transferred to Austin from London by Misys, a UK-based software developer that today is part of Finastra.
“I had moved across the world, and the sales leader took me under his wing a bit as someone new in the U.S. who didn’t really have family or friends nearby. Talking to him really piqued my interest in learning more about how the business worked,” recalls Hicks, who would remain in the U.S. for nine years before being recruited for a CFO role back in London.
Along the way, Hicks’s professional network became energized via a budding relationship with private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, which enlisted him as an advisor after Vista bought a portion of Misys’s healthcare business. “Vista is continually working its network to find talent, and I was found by that means,” says Hicks, whose CFO career chapter has to date been populated by multiple Vista-owned companies. –Jack Sweeney
Guest: Andrew Hicks
Headquarters: Berkshire, England
CFOTL: Tell us what metrics matter these days for Advanced?
Hicks: As my career has evolved, I’ve developed this passion for having finance information be driven from actually operating metrics. So, I try to challenge the traditional approach such that we are actually talking with operational colleagues around the things that they’re doing and how they’re running the business and having them so interlinked with the financial metrics that, frankly, the finance numbers take care of themselves. When I think about this, I’ll be thinking about the sales pipeline and particularly bookings, which we think about with our own nomenclature here at Advanced. I’ll be working with the CSO on what our pipeline coverage is looking like and what the conversion metrics are between the various stages in the funnel.
We’ve got a six-stage funnel that ranges from literally being a prospect on through to a closed deal. The first thing we do is help the sales teams make sure that they’ve got things in the right buckets because once they’ve got things in the right buckets, some of those 10 percent conversion rates become more reliable and more usable. It’s all about engaging and communicating with and really challenging the sales organization around some of these, things, with a view toward optimizing performance.
The other interesting dynamic is someone on my team who led the FP&A group and worked with me and the sales organization on some of these analytics and thoughts. We got to the point where we promoted him into a sales enablement role to become the righthand person to what we call the CSO here at Advanced. So he’s gone from being a finance partner to a function to actually taking on an operating role within the sales function. I think that this is probably a good example of how we are increasingly seeing finance skills permeating organizations these days.