Just where and how Glenn Hopper came to acquire his finance skillset exposes an organizational dysfunction to which no small number of finance leaders have likely contributed.
As a product manager for a small telecommunications firm, Hopper was asked by the vice president of marketing to begin giving presentations at a recurring management meeting regarding the allocation of marketing dollars and their impact on his specific product’s P&L.Read More
“I was basically doing shadow FP&A for the marketing team,” explains Hopper, who adds that his presentations caught the eye of the company’s chief operating officer, who subsequently “poached” Hopper and tasked him with producing a similar financial analysis for the company’s operations at large.
“The COO was tired of having to battle the CFO for the resources that he needed,” remarks Hopper, who went on to lead a department of 32 employees that was principally tasked with managing a $150 million annual operations budget, including $130 million of SG&A and $20 million of capital.
Looking back, Hopper recalls that “the company’s environment was very siloed—the finance team was very protective of their data, so the operations team was unable to plan because they did not have access to it.”
According to Hopper, finance’s proprietary approach with the company data quickly began to magnify its cross-functional planning challenges as the company acquired and merged with a string of other firms.
“What I learned from having to scrap and battle for the budgetary dollars outside of finance and at the same time still liaison with finance people was the importance of the finance department not just being in this ivory tower but seeking to understand the challenges of other departments,” he notes.
Along the way, Hopper became visible throughout the organization to functional heads and C-suite executives, as well as to company investors, one of whom helped Hopper to open his first CFO career chapter when he recruited him to become finance chief for one of his new angel-round companies. –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Sandline Global … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Hopper: We’re an e-discovery company, a legal technology company that I was drawn to it because of their extensive use of natural language processing and machine learning as technology for law firms.
Imagine a lawsuit where both parties are in the discovery phase and they have to turn over documentation related to whatever’s going on in the lawsuit. Well, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, this may have meant that a paralegal came over with a banker’s box and picked up some files and walked out with them. Then you had a human go through and review the files to figure out what was relevant and what was not. But as the world gets more and more digital, and as there’s more and more data, it’s not a banker’s box—It’s terabytes and terabytes of data. Too much data for humans to effectively go through.Read More
Our technology helps you to run all of this information through machine learning algorithms that can help to determine what’s relevant, what’s not relevant, and what’s privileged. It goes through these massive datasets that include everything from emails and Excel files to CAD drawings, Slack conversations, and just massive, massive amounts of data. Then it reduces this amount of data down to something suitable for a group of human attorneys to go through and review. This makes things much more efficient.
Also, it’s very interesting to see how the technology works around various challenges and how the courts deal with the process. Different courts look at it in different ways. How much can you rely on technology-assisted review versus human review of documents?
So, Sandline Global is a legal technology company. We provide this e-discovery service, as well as forensic services, like getting information off of people’s phones and laptops.
We have a lab in New York where we gather this information that kicks off the e-discovery process. Our clients are some of the largest law firms in the world. The interesting thing about this business right now is that there’s been a tremendous amount of M&A activity and technology change that have been commoditizing the marketplace. The philosophy that we are using at Sandline is that we don’t want to compete on par or in a race to the bottom. We’re really working on not only how to keep our boutique feel but also how to grow. As we move to different countries around the globe, we also need figure out how we can keep this small company feel while also serving a wider population of customers.
“Finance is not an ivory tower. The function does not operate above or outside of the rest of the business. Finance leaders must dive into the details—from customer prospecting through onboarding, customer care, invoicing, and eventual churn. To provide true strategic value, finance leaders must understand the full spectrum of business operations.” –Glenn Hopper, CFO, Sandline Global
Now Check Out Glenn’s Book Deep Finance
Sandline Global | www.sandlineglobal.com | Falls Church, VA