Gillian Sheeran’s was perhaps 17 years into an illustrious finance career and on her second CFO tour of duty when she finally met the limits of her CFO superpowers.
These powers had first guided her into a CFO role at the tender age of 32, where during her tenure she would help to turn a 200-employee IT consulting firm into a global business with 850 workers and eight offices in six countries. Next, she added a turnaround chapter to her CFO resume when she helped to design and implement new processes that would lead a company to return to profitability within only 9 months.Read More
It was such stirring feats and results-oriented outcomes that led a mentor impressed by her resume to comment, “You’re going to have to take half of this stuff out because nobody is going to believe that you did all of this in such a short period of time.”
To help us better understand the career mind-set that once guided her thinking, Sheeran issues a mock impression of herself: “I work incredibly hard because that’s what I do—I work smart, and I work hard, and I go in and achieve, and I never fail.”
To which she adds: “I thought I was invincible because I used to be able to sleep.”
She explains: “Monday to Friday, I might have slept 4 hours—or some nights, even worked straight through—but I could always sleep on the weekend. But now, with kids, I could no longer sleep on weekends.”
Of course, we know that more than sleep—or the lack of it—is responsible for altering Sheeran’s career mind-set. It was during her turnaround CFO chapter that Sheeran, then the mother of a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old—encountered experiences that she had never run into before.
Sheeran recalls: “I ran into a wall—and I never run into walls.”
There were days, Sheeran tells us, when she was unable to answer emails. This is a frank admission that Sheeran uses to expose what now appears to be a turning point in her career.
“The experience made me redefine who I was and how I was going to do my job going forward—and unfortunately I had to learn by failing,” explains Sheeran, who would step down as CFO and vacate the professional world for a period of 2 years, during which the pandemic arrived.
Along the way, as Sheeran’s oldest child reached school age, she and her husband agreed that her home front status need not be a long-term plan.
Reports Sheeran “I may be a great CFO, but I’m not great when I’m home with the kids all day.”
Last January, as she began evaluating opportunities for returning to the C-suite, Sheeran listed market potential, fast growth, and smart people as the most requisite characteristics of a business that she would like to join.
In addition, she wanted a workforce culture and set of values that she could “get behind,” before adding yet one more business characteristic to her wish list: “flexibility.”
Comments Sheeran: “I really wondered whether my (criteria) was pushing the boat too far.”
In July 2022, Sheeran was named CFO of Pricefx, a fast-growing pricing software company that she credits with having checked every box on her list.
Indeed, flexibility soon turned out to be a very important box when the date of Sheeran’s daughter’s first day of school in late August ended up being scheduled to coincide with a Pricefx strategy meeting—which quickly landed elsewhere on the calendar.
Remarks Sheeran: “We believe in family, and it’s not just lip service.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Pricefx … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Sheeran: Pricefx is a pricing software platform that helps enterprises that are suffering from pricing challenges. We help them to reliably accelerate their profitable growth with precision, visibility, efficiency, and so on. Where we really assist is with pricing optimization management and the CPQ piece. What we’re invariably doing is upgrading organizations from Excel or maybe some homegrown or legacy solution to something that’s much more dynamic in real time. Our customers are very large, multi-billion-pound organizations with high volume and highly complex pricing schemes sometimes across several different types of industries.Read More
There are internal and external considerations. Internally, there’s working capital, corporate performance, tax strategy, and so forth. Externally, it’s always about the next winter. We’re based in Europe. We have a good, strong presence in the U.S., but Europe is a huge consideration at the moment because of inflation, the cost-of-living crisis, and what Mr. Vladimir Putin is doing to the Ukraine, which is impacting all of Europe, particularly with regard to energy.
Europe will probably survive this winter. It will be tough, but we’ll use our reserves. It’s next winter where I have a question mark. What will happen then if Putin hasn’t pulled back? Inflation definitely will be in play, particularly probably in the UK. The U.S. will probably potentially have deflation.
This is what I’m watching. I’m trying to determine what will happen to our market within this. How will we survive? To do this, will we need funding sooner rather than later? If there is a downturn next year, I think we’ll be okay. I think that we’ll be able to refocus into the U.S. But I need to look at our funding capacity in this sense.
Pricefx | www.pricefx.com | Pfaffenhofen, Germany