635: Finding Your Finance Team’s North Star | Markus Harder, CFO, Contentful

Listen to the Episode Below (00:48:28)

The Berlin headquarters of software developer Contentful occupies an old brick warehouse with heavy metal doors and broad functional corridors and spaces native to its industrial past.

Standing six stories high, the structure once accommodated its worker population with a miniature kitchen on every floor, a favorite employee perk perhaps first introduced by a coffee-loving tenant.   

Still, not everyone at Contentful loves coffee—or at least its CFO, Markus Harder, doesn’t.

“My secret is that I hate coffee—I just don’t like it,” says Harder, who shortly after his arrival at the firm put in motion a mandate to remove the small kitchens.

“It was arguably one of my biggest career gambles,” says Harder, as he captures our attention and leads us to wonder why a finance leader would make a point of championing such a seemingly misguided decree.

Of course, Harder’s actions are only Part I of a two-part tale. The second part involves the creation of what he dubs “a central watering hole” complete with a coffee machine worthy of Berlin’s trendiest “third-wave” coffee shops.

“With all of these floors and their little coffee machines, we were never seeing each other—we never talked to each other,” explains Harder, who reports that Contentful hired a champion barista for a 2-week period to teach every employee how to properly use the new machine to render an excellent coffee.

Says Harder: “Whatever you want to drink—a coffee, a latte, an espresso—you’ll find that there’s always somebody there who has been to the training or someone in line who is ready to train somebody else.”

According to Harder, skeptics of the original mandate have largely been won over, but outsiders still find the coffee-making arrangement hard to imagine.

“Three hundred people, just one coffee machine—how does that work?” asks Harder, echoing the thoughts of coffee drinkers beyond Contentful’s four walls.

“Well, actually, it works. And it’s about the line. It’s a social experience, and one that I celebrate each morning,” remarks Harder, who says that on any given morning he’ll spend a minimum of an hour at the café.

Says Harder: “We’re all in the open. I’m available. Ask me something.” –Jack Sweeney

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Guest: Markus Harder

Company: Contentful

Connect: www.contentful.com

Headquarters: Berlin, Germany & San Francisco, CA

Managing the pipeline…

Harder: We’re in the fortunate, but also tricky situation that historically we’ve doubled or more than doubled revenue over basically every year of our history. And that brings challenges toward pipeline generation. Because if you want to double the revenue again, you need to have a massively bigger pipeline. We are doing more with existing customers. Our existing customers have certain requirements that today we can’t always fulfill. So how do we get them to be successful in all those things they want to do? We have just relaunched our partner program.  So oftentimes Contentful gets implemented through a large partner who is either specialized in building web presences, or building workflows for the customer without touching any internal user interfaces and so forth. So you can think of the Accenture’s and Capgemini’s of this world, or Razorfish or … There are certain marketing agencies that use Contentful.

So we’re working with more with partners, and enabling them to be more educated with how to best implement Contentful. We’re investing a lot in enablement and training and coaching. So the learning materials about Contentful are out there are heavily downloaded. We have a Contentful certification. So if you are a developer, you can actually graduate with a Contentful diploma. And we try to be industry agnostic, such that our solution really works for a broad variety of customers though. Yeah. So I continue to invest in the team. I continue to invest in automation and systems. I’m actually accelerating hiring at this point and I’m getting Contentful ready to be a public company in a couple of years. That is sort of a North star. That doesn’t mean that we will go public, but a North star that I’m instilling in my team because the quality of financials, the quality of insights, the quality of processes I want to see us have is that of a public company.