Years from now, when finance leader David Burt is reminiscing about his varied career chapters, you might imagine a captivated listener politely interrupting the veteran CFO with the question, “Excuse me, but what exactly was your profession?”
This is a query perhaps more likely to be asked of veteran CFOs than other seasoned business leaders, in light of how finance leaders are less tethered than others to any one industry or opportunity throughout their careers.
Such is the case with Burt, who, as CFO of ServiceTitan, is busily applying his patchwork of business and industry experiences to the multibillion-dollar residential home services industry.
Turn back the clock 20 years, and you’d find Burt helping companies expand into China as a Bain & Company consultant based in Sydney, Australia, his original home. Ten years later, you’d find him evaluating digital media acquisition targets as an investment banker with JP Morgan. Only 8 years after that, you’d see him roaming the frontlines of the streaming wars while serving as co-head of corporate development for Netflix.
Today, Burt views his finance leadership role as being not unlike that in an earlier chapter as a strategic advisor, when he sought to help empower management to be more outward-looking. He says that finance executives “oftentimes get boxed into just looking at the internal aspects of the company.”
To highlight his point, Burt recalls that back in 2012, Netflix realized that three companies—Disney, Nickelodeon, and the Cartoon Network—would someday soon wield a powerful advantage inside the realm of children’s content as more consumers turned to streaming.
“I asked myself, ‘If I were sitting in the FP&A teams for those companies, what would things look like?’ I realized pretty quickly that this meant that we as a company would need to begin investing in original content much sooner,” explains Burt, who says that up until that time, Netflix had been focused on developing content mostly for more mature audiences, with shows like the “Orange Is the New Black.” – Jack Sweeney
Guest: David Burt
Headquarters: Glendale, CA
CFOTL: What are your top of mind metrics?
Burt: The first things that I look at on a weekly and monthly basis tend to center on the fundamentals. Once we’re in the door with a customer, there’s an opportunity for us to provide additional services that might add additional recurring revenue. This growth is really important because it allows us to forward-invest into areas of R&D, sales and marketing, and so forth. We are of a certain size today, but we have aspirations to be much, much bigger, and as we grow, we are enabled to do more and more for our customers more efficiently because we can scale our investments in R&D across a larger base.
The second big area that I like to focus on is our unit economics. In particular, one of the key metrics within the unit economics would be how efficient we are in delivering the service. The financial measure that we look at there would be ongoing gross margin. Then there’s how efficient we are at actually acquiring a customer, so we have a set of measures around customer acquisition costs. There’s also how good we are at satisfying the customer, which manifests itself in churn. You can get pretty misled by churn, particularly in a B2B software company where your software is so critical to a company. It’s important to look at not just the numbers and the financials, but also what might be underlying indicators of key metrics in this third area. Our measures of customer satisfaction are important here, and in particular we spend a lot of time looking at net promoter score, NPS, among a few other C-SAT types of metrics.