627: Learning the Lyrics to a Finance Career | Mark Sargent, CFO, Westhaven Power

Listen to the Episode Below (00:36:25)

At the start of his finance career, Mark Sargent says, he could not picture himself working for a large, big-name corporation. He says that he was drawn instead to smaller companies, which he believed would be more accepting of “creative types” or those employees more prone to self-expression.

In Sargent’s case, an accounting and finance job was Plan B, or a “safety” occupation in case his aspirations to become a rock musician didn’t pan out.

Interestingly, it was Sargent’s deliberate avoidance of big business that undoubtedly allowed him to quickly garner some of the experiences that finance career builders long to add to their resumes.

“The very first job that I got was really a perfect fit: It was a small paper-making company, and I quickly learned that they were 9 months away from an IPO,” recalls Sargent, who was hired as a cost accountant but quickly found himself reassigned to oversee the implementation of a new accounting system intended to add some muscle to the company’s post-IPO reporting regimen.

This was the type of early career experience that later helped Sargent to open the door to more senior finance and accounting roles, such as the operations controller post he took on at Spectrian, a Sunnyvale, Calif., technology company. After years of serving government and aerospace industry customers, Spectrian, in the mid-1990s, moved to supply its cellular technology offerings to commercial customers in light of the growing infrastructure opportunities driven by cellular phone usage.

Not unlike had occurred in Sargent’s first career chapter, Spectrian went public within months of his arrival, increasing the demand for improved visibility into the numbers and challenging the finance team to routinely produce metrics that could help management to better set performance expectations. “I really consider it my inflection point in becoming a CFO and a leader,” explains Sargent, who adds that it was his breadth of visibility across the company and his awareness of being part of a team of highly skilled finance professionals that whetted his appetite for more and turned his finance career into Plan A. –Jack Sweeney

Guest: Mark Sargent

Company: Westhaven Power

Connect: www.westhavenpower.com

Headquarters: Yuba City, CA

From lead gen to customer satisfaction.

Sargent: One of the things that’s unique about Westhaven and that attracted me was that at its core it is a trade company. By “trade,” I mean the construction trades, electrical, roofing, HVAC, and so on, and that’s really where it’s rooted.

In 2011, the company started to add solar installations to its profile of products, and this has led to some pretty good success over time. What interested me in 2018, when I joined, was the prospect of the company becoming less of a contractor and more of a next-generation power company. In fact, we just recently changed our DBA to Westhaven Power. We’re bringing on new products like battery storage and backup generators. Over the next 12 months, the immediate goal is still to focus on getting out of the current crisis that we’re in with the COVID pandemic.

Westhaven has actually done a fantastic job in weathering the storm. We made some immediate changes to how we went about business, and so far all of these changes have actually turned out to be even more advantageous than we thought. We’re not out of the woods completely yet, so we’re going to continue to be very diligent in everything that we need to do to finish off this passage through the pandemic.

I think that as it fades, we’ll be looking at navigating toward changing the whole atmosphere of our solar business and becoming a power company, offering more products, more service, and really becoming a very critical and important part of the power landscape in the Sacramento Valley and really expanding our geography. This is something that we were deep in the middle of working on right before all of this hit, and firing this back up to have some stronger regional growth and extend our reach throughout the rest of California is something that we will be focusing on. jb