Not unlike the careers of his finance leader peers, the finance career of Dave Jones, CFO of online car seller Vroom, has been shaped and influenced by economic crises of the past two decades. Last month, as the initial shock of the coronavirus waned and the stock market rallied back, Vroom moved quickly to go public.
Explains Jones: “We consulted with our board and our investors and decided that the time was right.” After pricing its IPO shares at $22, Vroom saw their value more than double on their first day of trading.
This was not the first time that Jones had discovered a window of opportunity in less-than-friendly economic times. Back in 2002, he had found himself in a tight spot while serving as a senior manager for Andersen, the historic accounting house that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal of the early 2000s.
“The view at the beginning of crisis was that there was no way that Andersen would be taken down. For me, the lesson became to never say ‘never,’” says Jones, who adroitly stepped from the ashes of the once esteemed accounting house into a financial reporting role at Penske Automotive Group, where he entered the CFO office roughly 8 years later, in 2011.
“I think that Penske was a $2 billion or $3 billion business when I first got there, and it was an $18 billion business when I left,” recalls Jones, who prior to entering the CFO office at Penske in 2011 had served as CFO of Penske’s European operations and consequently weathered yet another economic storm.
Back in 2008, Penske CEO Roger Penske had described the subprime mortgage crisis as “one of the most challenging periods on record in the automotive industry.” The automotive company would post its first quarterly loss in a decade and painful personnel cuts followed, but for future finance leader Jones, along with professional scar tissue would come valuable lessons for the future. – Jack Sweeney
This article is a condensed version of an article originally featured on Forbes.com. Here
Guest: Dave Jones
Headquarters: New York, NY
Our value prop – is that we have “a much safer environment.”
CFOTL: Tell us about your arrival at Vroom, and what attracted you to the opportunity?
Jones: I wasn’t the first CFO. There was a couple of legacy CFOs that transitioned with the maturity of the business. I think our CEO, Paul Hennessy, had done a terrific job over the 12 months before I got there of really building a fantastic management team that wasn’t necessarily a startup team, but it was more focused on a public company team that could run a 20 or $30 billion business, which ultimately we think we can get to those kinds of levels. And so that was one of the things that attracted me. I was probably the third to last person in out of 10 of us. So I had the benefit of being able to talk to five others on the team and I knew that they worked well together. I knew Paul was building a good team and obviously I really love the space and it was just a tremendous opportunity. But yeah, I think my background as having been with public companies and plenty of experience with transactions of this nature was right in the wheelhouse for me.
Luckily I inherited a good team and we’ve added to that team over time versus changing it. Incoming CFOs don’t always get that luxury, so I was lucky there. But yeah, it was building a team for the future. And then tactical things like getting four years of audits done, which was no small feat, so kudos to my team there. But it’s always about the team. You got to have the right people and structure to get things done. So, within the year we had gotten through four audits and gotten the beginnings of the IPO set up. So we’ve still got a bunch of work to do, I think, around internal controls and process and there’s always a road ahead of you.