“Actively seek counsel from your business partners, learn the business from the ground up, and dive deep into both the numbers and the culture of the organization that you have joined.” –Daniel O’Shaughnessy, CFO, Formlabs
Dan O’Shaughnessy may be the only finance leader with whom we’ve ever spoken who credits hard work and financial acumen with having helped to keep him out of business school. Or at least this seems to be what unfolded at Gymboree back in early 2015, when he accepted a job offer from the CFO of the children’s apparel retailer.
Explains O’Shaughnessy: “At the time, Gymboree had been taken private and was managing a significant amount of debt. I told myself that if we could turn around the business quickly, it would be a great opportunity, and if we couldn’t, then business school was always a good option.”Read More
As it turned out, the retailer’s successful turnaround would require a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as part of a larger process that expanded O’Shaughnessy’s role into comptrollership, tax, treasury, and even supply chain planning and store operations.
Along the way, the finance executive was frequently tasked with dealing with the company’s creditors and investors.
“The creditors across the table with whom I had been negotiating aggressively one day became my board members on the following day,” reports O’Shaughnessy, who notes that the experience taught him “how to have professional conflicts but maintain relationships.”
Within a few quarters, the turnaround began to get some momentum, as the retailer sold off certain noncore assets and saw EBITDA grow by 50 percent.
For O’Shaughnessy, a former manager with Price Waterhouse’s M&A practice, the leap to the operations side of a struggling business likely provided more relevant lessons than he might have learned from attending business school. In the end, he says, “it opened up my eyes to how much I enjoyed the operations side of business.” -Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Formlabs … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
O’Shaughnessy: Formlabs has successfully disrupted the 3D printing space. To give you some perspective on the industry, it’s not new. It’s been around for 30-plus years. This company was founded 10 years ago last week and really took off on Kickstarter.
The whole model here is to bring a machine with a technology that I equate to that of the old IBM mainframes—which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, took up half of a room, and required an engineer to run—and put it onto the desktop. You’re now providing for under $5,000 a technology that previously cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As I like to put it, It’s so easy, a finance guy can use it. It’s an out-of-the-box solution. 3D printing is a very complex technology, but our team was able to develop and manufacture a product that performs as well as 99% of these multi-hundred-thousand-dollar machines at a fraction of the price.Read More
I’d say that my #1, #2, and #3 priorities are to grow and scale the Formlabs business. Everything that we do from a finance perspective is in support of growing the business, delivering more value to our customers, and figuring out how to do this. It’s engaging the team and driving alignment in trust. It’s getting the simple things right so that we don’t run around every day fighting fires. Sometimes, this makes us feel good and important, but there are certain things that just need to run smoothly. So, we need to do this, to drive predictability: If this, then that, and here are the different levers that we have to pull. After this, it’s really putting the right people in the right places both to deliver the most value and to grow the most personally and professionally in support of the finance infrastructure that will enable the growth. If we do this well, we will drive the growth in the business over the next 12, 24, and 36 months. jb
Formlabs | www.formlabs.com | Somerville, MA