When Adrian Talbot tells us that he parachuted into Thames Television in the early 1990s, the image of the London skyline—once used to brand the popular British broadcasting company —quickly comes to mind.
Suddenly, in our mind’s eye, just to the right of St. Paul’s dome, we spy a 20-something-year-old Talbot floating confidently downward.
Along with a boatload of first-class metaphors, this is the type of instant imaging that every conversation renders—at least for those of us on the lookout for them.
But Talbot’s successful first jump—not unlike those of many future finance leaders—came about with a degree of serendipity.Read More
“The lead auditor became sick—I was parachuted in for 2 years, and this gave me an early taste of media,” explains Talbot, who at the time was an auditor for BDO. Several internal auditing roles followed, including one with Hilton International that required a good deal of travel in order to complete audits in different parts of the world.
“When you have chased the financial controller for the Caracas Hilton around the airport with a sheet of accruals or when the general manager of the Nairobi Hilton is yelling at you for telling him that he made a mess of a capex project, it is rather character-building,” comments Talbot, who soon jumped back into the media realm with United Business Media, where he would serve as a finance director for the company’s television broadcasting properties before entering the global communications sphere as a finance director for Burson Marsteller.
Talbot reports that years later, when he was recruited to be CFO of Hotwire, a fast-growing global communications firm, he found a unique match—not because of his years inside media and communications but because of Hotwire’s global CEO, Barbara Bates.
Bates had sold a communications company that she had spent 25 years building to Hotwire in 2016 and gone on to be named Hotwire’s Global CEO.
“I was able to help her with my experience around the globe, and she was able to help me with her experience inside the USA,” says Talbot, who today credits Bates with helping him to safely land inside a finance leadership opportunity. – Jack Sweeney
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Guest: Adrian Talbot
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
CFOTL: When it comes to customer engagement what are you looking at these days or what are you trying to now measure?
Talbot: I’m a very client-focused CFO, and I do actually spend quite a bit of time talking to clients. I often say I’m in charge of births, marriages, and deaths at Hotwire. So when the client arrives, it meets me, and when it leaves, it usually does.Read More
And well, the marriage part, maybe not so much, but I think I learn a lot from the front end on those, and also from talking to clients. We had quite a lot of clients who said, “I don’t want all this information, telling us where you’ve spent all the hours. I just want to know what you’ve delivered. I want deliverables, outputs, outcomes. I don’t want to know where you spent all the time.”
And I think one of the learnings for us, was to look at every office and strike higher minimum pricing. So what’s your get out of bed price, and look really hard at things around that and say, actually, no, we’re not going to operate at that level because the fixed cost of entry is too much.
The other thing for us is 60% plus of our clients we work with globally. So one of the key things for us is to balance the budget. France’s budget might be different compared to the budget in New York or Spain. So how do we level that out across the organization and how do we keep everybody in our stakeholder group happy
So to your question, I think its really looking at the engaging with clients to understand the challenges. I think you could easily not do that and just assume that you know, but testing with clients if we changed our pricing in this direction, or testing with clients what they really want to know, what they’re getting for their money, has proven quite useful to me and to Hotwire. I’ll be keeping a very close eye on the economies around the world. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on clients, because as we emerge from this (pandemic), who knows how things are going to develop. And in my team, we are continuing our ruthless focus on consistency, on the way we use systems, processes, and how we measure the business. And I’ve described, we’ve just struck a new three-year plan for Hotwire, and we’re looking really hard at our value proposition to the market, which we’ve completely redone. And also, I’m a key member of delivering that.