Reflecting on a finance career that has spanned nine different countries and three decades, Chris Roling says that he may have received his most valuable career lesson at a plant in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country.
As a newly minted MBA, Roling was hired by Armstrong Industries in the late 1980s to augment the finance executive ranks of its growing European operations. However, prior to dispatching its new hires abroad, the giant building materials manufacturer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, made certain that its executives got a generous helping of local operations.Read More
“It was reverse culture shock,” comments Roling, who served as controller of an Armstrong plant in Marietta, Pennsylvania, for 24 months before garnering a European assignment.
Growing up, Roling—the son of a navy doctor—had had an aptitude for learning foreign languages, a talent that had led him to set his sights on a career in international business. Now, the Marietta plant was all that stood in the way of the young executive being able to realize his ambitions.
“I thought that this was beneath me—I thought that I was a hot-shot MBA,” explains Roling, who says that the role involved leading a team of about eight accountants ranging in age from 18 to 58.
“I was Immediately humbled. They taught me how to do the job, how to manage, and they taught me how to be a leader,” recalls Roling, who credits this experience with providing him with “many dividends” after his career took him overseas.
Still, Roling says, his greatest lessons at the Marietta plant came from a “crusty, old” plant manager, who insisted that Roling regularly visit the plant floor.
“It got to the point where I would see the plant manager coming in my direction and I would escape out the office’s back door in order to get down to the plant floor,” reports Roling.
“What he reinforced was that the product was the heart of everything—and how that product was made and the issues that related to quality and productivity were things that I had never learned in grad school,” remarks Roling, who says that he later realized that the plant manager had also provided him with an important lesson related to finance and business partnership.
Years later, while working abroad, Rolling says, it was his turn to be persistent as he sought out business partners in different parts of the organization who could provide “dedicated, knowledgeable, on-the-spot insight” and, on occasion, perhaps, an invitation to visit the plant floor. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Coinme and your priorities as its CFO …
Roling: We are no longer pre-revenue. Last year, we did about $32 million, and this year we will be at about $50 million. We’re in 49 states and just about to launch international this year, in all likelihood probably heading south toward Latin and South America, where we’ve built some very good partnerships. Thankfully, we’ve got a great Cap table.Read More
When I joined, we had our own ATMs, which was very CapEx-based. We very quickly realized that we were somewhat of an analog company in a digital world, so what we did was to pivot away from hardware to being—I don’t want to say kind of a SaaS model—very much Coinme-as-a-service.
My priority is very much to get us to a fully funded place, such that we have enough money to be able to grow the business from a head count perspective, from a technology perspective, and also from a geographic location perspective. Moving into other countries requires different fintech licenses and obviously, in some cases, different statutory entities. This may require people.
This will become a major investment for Coinme, one that I really want to accelerate and move quickly on. It obviously requires money. My hope is that we will close a highly successful series B, which will give us more than enough money not only to continue to scale the base that we already have but also to increase it. Then, hopefully, 12 months from now, I could be telling you about our business in Mexico, Brazil, the European Union, and so on, and so on.
Today, we’re a 100-person company. I can only imagine that at that point in time we will be at several hundred. We’ll see. The exciting bit is that I think that our partners will begin to change as the institutions are now beginning to wake up. Crypto is no longer taboo. In the past, many people treated me as the CFO of a leper colony—nobody would touch me in terms of banking, or audits, or anything like that.
Guess what? Four years later, everybody’s knocking on my door. Everybody wants to participate. I still have a very good memory, so I remember those old approaches. It is becoming much more mainstream. We relish this. It’s fantastic. Fortunately, we’ve done a very good job in terms of regulation, so anything that comes along in terms of regulatory clarity for us will be fantastic.
“Take “the path less trodden.” Take a chance in terms of new functions within finance (and outside), new companies (large and small), and new geographies. It’s essential as part of the education and experience process.” – Chris Roling, CFO, Coinme
Coinme | www.coinme.com | Seattle, WA