For Rebecca Mahadeva, the late 1990s audit of a minor league baseball team was the type of rare career assignment that never failed to intrigue both accountants and non-accountants alike.
At the time, Mahadeva was serving a variety of technology audit clients as a young associate for Coopers & Lybrand when she added to her lineup a major league baseball team otherwise known as the New York Mets.Read More
“The Mets controller at the time engaged me to do a site visit and some compliance work on the financials of a Single A team up in Canada known as the St. Catherines Stompers,” explains Mahadeva, who says that her visit’s findings were used to help bolster confidence behind the purchase price that the Mets owners had divvied up to pay for the Single A team.
Following the close of the deal, the Stompers relocated to Brooklyn and were subsequently renamed the Brooklyn Cyclones, becoming the first professional baseball team to play in the borough of Brooklyn since the Dodgers had left for Los Angeles in 1958.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but this engagement was really my job interview,” observes Mahadeva, who notes that less than a year later, she received a Mets job offer from the same controller. Mahadeva joined the Mets organization as an assistant controller and would spend more than a decade inside its finance function, often taking on assignments to improve operational efficiencies in different areas.
“Baseball is a very hard industry to leave—people seldom do—but there were no growth opportunities for me,” comments Mahadeva, who next accepted a controller position in a professional services firm specializing in marketing communications and healthcare—a realm that has continued to bring her new and more senior roles.
Today, as CFO of marketing agency Greater Than One, Mahadeva believes that professional services present a challenge to finance leadership unlike that presented by other sectors.
Says Mahadeva: “The CFO of an agency must find the delicate balance between the output of our employees and the hours that are required to pursue new business opportunities.”
Of course, no matter what balance may be achieved, few outcomes will ever match the deal that brought baseball back to Brooklyn. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us a little about Greater Than One, please …
Mahadeva: Greater Than One is an independent advertising agency focused on digital that mostly serves healthcare clients. It was founded in 2000 by our CEO and owner, Elizabeth Apelles. She incorporated during the week of the dotcom bust, so here she was, a single woman in tech in the ’90s during dotcom bust. Twenty years later, we have 100-plus employees. We are in San Francisco, New York, Madrid, and the UK. We have Big Pharma and small pharma clients, and we’ve remained independent this whole time. We have no debt on our books. We are self-funded and have now been operationally cash positive through the past 21 years.Read More
As an advertising agency, we don’t have inventory. We sell hours of time. So it’s about the balance between trying to operationalize the output of our employees and how their hour of time gets billed to a client and trying to figure out what level this needs to be at for us to make our profit margin without overtaxing employees—because there are also hours that we need to allocate to new business opportunities.
For me as the CFO, there’s a delicate balancing act in trying to figure out the optimal utilization that is going to drive our revenue. It’s also going to trigger when we need to make staffing moves or bring on new talent. It’s always a game: How far ahead of an opportunity do you need to hire and onboard? You assume that investment is going to cost something if we are to have a seamless transition for new business. So, for me, all of the metrics that drive our business growth are dependent on the hours of time and how they’re allocated.
Greater Than One | www.greaterthanone.com | New York, NY