Back in 2018—when Deb Ricci’s name topped the list of leading candidates to fill the CFO role at Guidehouse, a management consulting firm carve-out—three career distinctions likely set her apart from other candidates.
First, Ricci was a veteran public sector executive whose finance resume included multiple chapters inside the government services sector, Guidehouse’s home turf.
Second, she had worked inside private equity–backed companies—experience that few recruiters could ignore in light of Guidehouse being the offspring of private equity firm Veritas Capital.Read More
Third, she had an EBITDA mind-set—an unyielding orientation that allowed Ricci’s lines of sight to seldom stray very far from the metrics that helped to track, measure, and deliver EBITDA.
Of course, it is just such a mind-set that has likely kept Ricci’s finance leadership credentials on the radar of private equity partners. To date, she has played senior finance roles inside four private equity–backed firms.
“I know what they’re looking for. Often I think like they think. And I find that the objectives that they’re looking to achieve are the same ones that I look to achieve,” explains Ricci.
Since Veritas first acquired the public sector practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2018 and rebranded it as Guidehouse, the professional services firm has made headlines with its acquisition of Navigant Consulting in October of 2019, a deal that expanded Guidehouse’s workforce from 2,000 to 7,000 and planted a trove of commercial clients inside Guidehouse’s customer portfolio.
What’s more, the Navigant organization brought along two-decade–old processes and practices, whereas the Guidehouse organization had still been mapping out its internal approaches and practices.
“We were receptive to adopting some established practices, while on the Navigant side I think that they were very accepting of change—so for me, this was the most successful acquisition that I’ve ever been associated with,” remarks Ricci. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: This business having been established via a carve-out, what was your first order of business as you stepped into the CFO role?
Ricci: We had some structure in place, but not fully built out and not built to stand alone. So really one of the first things that I worked on was building internal reporting. We had been organized by client-facing segments, but we really didn’t have P&Ls. We didn’t know really how one compared to the other or anything like that from a profitability point of view. I brought a few members over from other organizations that I had worked with or people I had known and that’s the first thing we built. We really evaluated our segments on a similar basis, building their P&Ls, looking at the businesses, creating budgets. They had never had detailed line item budgets at the same level that we were doing. Obviously, as an order of magnitude, we were this carve-out, which was tiny in comparison to the size of all of PwC, and we had to basically stand this up and build detailed plans for how we were going to operate.Read More
One of my priorities as a CFO is really building the framework for my employees. I have a circle of people with whom I’ve worked in prior organizations or whom I’ve known through other people, and it’s really making sure that I build a challenging work environment for them where they can really grow to the next level. Sometimes that’s hard when you’re in more of a support function versus the front line or you’re the service that’s being sold. So that’s one of my top priorities.
Another one is basically technology, continuing to invest in technology. We are working on basically a new budget and planning system. We have two ERP systems that we’re still on, and coming up with a long-term solution for that is another goal that I have for next year—continuously looking at building out dashboards, making it easier for people to work. I think fewer and fewer people need to basically be involved in the ERP and the back working or back systems that run the business, and more and more information needs to be just kind of served up to people. So we’re continuously working on improving that.
Then there’s also growing our business, doing what we need to do to support and grow our business, be competitive in pricing, being competitive in just anything that we may need to offer as far as capabilities to our clients go, if it has to be an acquisition or a key contractor relationships or anything, vendor relationships or anything like that.
Value Quote: “Another thing that we’re tracking continuously is the customer ‘follow on.’ … And this means: Has something else resulted from the work that we’ve done for them? That’s an example of a metric that we regularly evaluate to basically ensure that we’re achieving stickiness with our customers.” jb
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