581: Applying Your Fresh Eyes to the Role | Anthony Coletta, CFO, SAP North America

Listen to the Episode Below (00:49:16)

Among the job transitions that populated Anthony Coletta’s early finance career, few likely paid more career dividends than the one that he made in 2006 when he leaped from Siemens to SAP.

While both positions were controller roles based in Paris, it’s clear that Coletta quickly found the wind at his back at SAP, as a variety of international opportunities began to surface and propel him along an ever upward, worldwide course.

After filling a number of senior controllership roles inside SAP’s North American region, Coletta held a series of finance leadership posts in Latin America and the Caribbean before being named CFO of Mexico and Central America, after which he then stepped into the CFO office of SAP North America in 2018.

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Guest: Anthony Coletta

Company: SAP, NA

Contact: www.sap.com

Headquarters (NA): Newtown Square, PA

CFOTL: When it comes to finance strategic moments of insight what would you share with us?
Coletta: The most recent strategic moment that sticks with me goes back two years to when I moved to our North America organization as CFO. We were on the battlefield of innovation and the cloud business, and we were carrying a big share of the company’s business, with high expectations on the streets already. We had a business that had been a bit bumpy in the beginning of the year, but we had a solid team that was always seeking to improve itself. To me, it was, Okay, what do I bring to the table and how do I change the dynamic here? The good news was that we had a lot to work with, but the bad news was that when you are public and in a very exposed environment, you never have as much time as you’d like. It’s very important not only to deliver quickly, but also to change or invert some trends.

I really make sure that I bring value to the business. My team and I give advice and make fact-based decisions that really form a success plan for the remainder of the year at any given time. The strategic moment for me came at the end of the year. We had a very sound acceleration and great financial results, and the team got recognized as Finance Region of the Year. We had gotten employee engagement going up, as well as leadership trust. Service attitudes with regard to the business were way above the benchmarks, and all of this was performed with quality, so we had gained in predictability, efficiency, energy, and credibility. Obviously, the credit goes to the team all together, and this takes an entire leadership team really rising to the occasion. But it’s quite powerful to see how dynamics can change and how you can sustain success when you focus on the right things.

This strategic moment for me was then when I entered that office and got so much responsibility put in front of me. There were a lot of areas to improve—I won’t say “fix”—but to improve. At the same time, we had a very high run rate, and some areas were doing fairly well. We had a business environment that was quite steady, a big customer base, and so on. So, how do you really drive change in a short period of time, which in this case was the seven months left in the year to make an impact and turn the ship, so to speak? We have been riding this wave ever since. We have a lot of positive momentum across the board on the business front and also in finance, and I think that inverting some of the trends at the right time was critical. You learn a lot about yourself. You also learn a lot about the ability to drive change and people. To me, this was a very strategic moment in my career in terms of really having the ability to build on everything that I had learned before and everything that I had seen in different capacities in order to really move the needle quickly.