Twenty-five to 30 years ago, senior executives seeking CFO roles did not think like Tom Tuchscherer.
Many still don’t, which is why CFO positions have increasingly come to executives like Tuchscherer, a data-driven gate-crasher from the world of corporate development. Such was the case back in 2012 at Talend, a fast-growing developer of data integration software, when Tuchscherer first assumed a CFO role.Read More
At the time, he had been accustomed to having long strategy discussions both with Talend investors and with board members and had even been tasked with helping management to recruit a “professional” CFO.
However, when one such new CFO exited the company only 12 months after having been recruited, Tuchscherer agreed to serve as an interim finance leader.
“First it was 3 months, then 6 months, then 9 months, and then a year. Eventually, the board said, ‘Hey, you seem to be doing a good job with this—why don’t you just stay?,’” explains Tuchscherer, who characterizes his arrival in the CFO office as an “accident” rather than a “willful choice.”
In fact, as time passed and Talend began preparing for its IPO, Tuchscherer says his career mind-set remained untethered to the CFO role.
“Had I been in a board member’s shoes, I would have thought that this was pretty dangerous,” explains Tuchscherer, who says that during some “honest discussions” with the company’s CEO and board members, he made clear his willingness to step aside and even to help recruit a CFO with IPO experience.
“Essentially, the message that came back was: ‘We value the relationships that you built and your strategic knowledge of the company much more than the downside of your lack of experience as a public company CFO, and we believe that you can grow and learn those skills … but we will be keeping a close eye,’” recalls Tuchscherer, who notes that by this time he had learned to appease his sizable appetite for high-minded strategy insights—a source of sustenance for many corporate development executives—in order to better digest the company’s accounting and administrative functions.
Looking back, Tuchscherer recalls that his “accidental” arrival inside the CFO office in some ways allowed him to be more clear-eyed about the role of finance leadership.
Comments Tuchscherer: “It forced me to ask a lot of questions and to challenge the role and reinvent it at the same time.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: What are your priorities as CFO of TripActions?
Tuchscherer: My priorities are really making sure that the company is ready when it comes out of the COVID environment. By “being ready,” I mean that the company is ready to recruit again, is ready to onboard people. We know what the priorities are in terms of where we want to expand and what we want to invest in. At the same time, on a short-term basis, the priority is making sure that the team is motivated, enjoys what they’re doing, and is safe, especially in the current environment that we’re in.
There’s still strong belief in the company’s potential and in making sure that that motivation is still there. If you have a team that’s highly motivated—that works well together and believes in the company’s potential—you can accomplish anything.
CFOTL: When you say that sales helps to drive the planning process, what do you mean?
Tuchscherer: When I say that it’s driven by sales, this means that usually there’s a target in terms of trying to achieve a certain growth number or certain bookings or a certain AR number, and the sales team then will come in with a plan in terms of, “Hey, we need to have ‘X’ in order to hit this number: We need to be able to expand in this many countries. We need to be able to recruit this many sales reps. We need to have this type of product offering in order to successfully sell it.” Then this trickles down. This is why things usually start with sales and then trickle down into all of the other functions.
It trickles down into marketing: how much pipeline you need to generate, how many programs you need to put together. It also trickles down to the product organization. If, let’s say, we’re trying to reach a different category of customer or if we need to have a certain feature set, let’s say, for enterprise customers, we’re going to prioritize this type of investment. This also trickles down to the people or the HR team in terms of recruiting. So, you start with what I call the go-to-market functions, and this trickles down across the rest of the organization, typically.
Value Quote: It’s our fundamental belief that people will want to travel again. Coming out of the pandemic, we expect TripActions to be in a much stronger position than where it was before. As companies return to travel, there’s going to be less competition, and we expect to grow super quickly. jb
TripActions | www.tripactions.com | HQ: Seattle, WA