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In the past, Sue Vestri has told friends that she has achieved CFO success by routinely working herself out of jobs.
Vestri is not alone. Certainly, many of her finance leader peers have helped to create some exciting M&A deal-making chapters only to be “written out” of the newly merged business’s future script.
“Being put out of a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as one opportunity can open the door to the next—or at least it has for me,” says Vestri, whose latest career post as CFO of Greenphire opened up just as her previous role as CFO of Artisan Mobile of Philadelphia was closing down with the sale of the company in 2015.
“I was thinking that I’d actually take the summer off, but that didn’t happen,” says Vestri, who remembers being contacted by a recruiter about Greenphire, which was yet another Philadelphia-area company that had recently been acquired and was looking for some local C-suite talent to beef up its management ranks.
Along the way, some of the local deal-making impacting her career has involved out-of-town acquirers.
Such was the case back in 2010, when Dell acquired Boomi, a Philadelphia-area technology developer specializing in integration technologies. At Boomi, Vestri had advanced into a finance leadership role just as the giant technology provider from Round Rock, Texas, came knocking.
Says Vestri: “With Dell being public at the time, the whole process and early discussions had to be kept very confidential.” In light of Dell’s concerns, Vestri says, Boomi looked for space off-site and ended up renting a hotel meeting room for a period of months. “The process involved maybe a half dozen people from our side, but there was literally an army of executives from Dell,” she recalls. –Jack Sweeney
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Guest: Sue Vestri
Headquarters: King of Prussia PA
CFOTL: What customer measures have become top of mind?
Vestri: I think that everyone tries to measure customer service and customer support in some way. In the past, we historically have done customer surveys and implementation after implementation periodically throughout the year. It’s always challenging as to who actually responds and how you disseminate the information and make any use of it. We still do these types of things, but recently we’ve actually gone out and done some user forums where we’ve sat in the room with some of our users. To be honest, not all of the feedback was good. There were some pretty harsh critics in the room at some of these forums that we did. It was really actually good for us to hear this, and it’s driving a different strategy for us going into 2020.
We’re going to literally have a team dedicated to site satisfaction and getting training to our sites. In the clinical trial world, there are certainly a lot of sites in the U.S. and they’re easier to touch, but ours are worldwide. They’re all over the world. You have language barriers that you’re dealing with. We rely on our partners to do a lot of the training on how to utilize our software, and we’re finding that this may not be the most successful way to get people up and using it. For us, a big driver of revenue is getting clients worldwide to use the software in the way that it was intended. We are spending a tremendous amount of energy on understanding our clients and what it’s going to take to make them happy and be advocates of using our products in our industry.
We’re very focused on and paying attention to a number of key strategic initiatives. There’s an innovation one and a process optimization one. Things around site adoption and client experience. Everything that we’re going to do in 2020 is going to focus on these key initiatives.