When Ambereen Toubassy decided that it was time to start up her own hedge fund, it’s likely that no one cast doubt on the experienced investor’s grand plan. That is, no one except Toubassy herself.
After 7years as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and a dozen running hedge funds, Toubassy says, she told herself, “Okay, this is a moment, I have a track record, I should start my own hedge fund.”Read More
Thus with some freshly drafted marketing collateral in hand, she initiated the early round of discussions that would allow her to begin raising capital.
“When I started doing this, I realized my that heart wasn’t in it—I told myself, ‘Okay, if your heart isn’t in this, you have no business asking other people to entrust you with their capital,’” recalls Toubassy, who notes that her outreach had put her in touch with a span of finance professionals from her Goldman Sachs years, including a number who had exited the investing world to take on a variety of operating roles—including CFO positions.
“What clicked for me and why I made the shift to operations was how much time CFOs spent in talking about the people with whom they were working,” reports Toubassy, who points out that while the guiding principle of her career had always been to “always be learning,” her discussions with CFOs made clear that there was more to learn.
Remarks Toubassy: “I’d always sort of had this inkling that when I was managing a portfolio and tickers, I didn’t get as much of that people mentorship experience as I would have liked to have had.”
Today, after having served in multiple CFO roles, Toubassy keeps people top-of-mind when offering advice to new finance leaders.
For one thing, she advises, “Spend time gathering context and developing relationships with your peers and the business leaders for all of the other functions.”
Moreover, Toubassy exposes the people factor in CFO success from the perspective of output and input metrics.
“The financials are output metrics, and a CFO cannot influence them or change them because they’re exactly that,” remarks Toubassy. “To effect change, you need to understand and influence the inputs that go into the business.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, though, Toubassy quickly circles back to her relationship-building advice: “You need to spend time with the head of each of the business functions. You need to have a relationship with each of these people. You need to put yourself in their shoes and say, ‘How would that person effect change?’ And, over time, the output metrics that finance cares about will change.”
Meanwhile, Toubassy finds little or no irony in the title “chief finance officer.”
“We have this tendency to jump straight into the financials or outputs because that’s who we are,” she says. “And, we are the chief financial officer.” –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Airtable … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Toubassy: What’s at the heart of Airtable is that we enable builders. We started as a collaborative database and grown into what is effectively an app development platform. We give individuals, teams, and departments control over building and deploying their own apps to make their work faster, easier, and better. At the same time, these individuals and teams and departments are able to connect into shared sources of data. As a business, you’re breaking down data silos as all of your teams and departments are tapping into the same data, and then you’re driving business impact because, again, you’re breaking down silos, you’re allowing individual teams and departments to do their work faster and better.Read More
The way we think about it is to consider that work essentially has three components. First, you want to make sure that you find the information that you need to do your work. Then, you need to take a series of actions to create output from that work. Once you’ve done this, then you want others to be able to visualize and understand your work. Airtable helps with each of these three phases.
The other way to describe those same three phases is to think of them as being almost like a software stack. Finding information is effectively a database layer, doing a series of actions is effectively a logic layer, and then allowing other people to visualize and understand this is an interface layer. This is the definition of an application and software: data, plus logic, plus interface. We now refer to ourselves as a connected apps platform to sort of describe this full scope.
I think that people sometimes think that growth and efficiency are competing priorities. We think of growth and efficiency as an integrated single goal. Our job is to maximize growth for Airtable efficiently, so everything that we do is done through this lens. One of the things that “efficiency” translates into is intense focus. We want to make sure that we make the right bets and focus entirely on them because this will not only effect and continue our growth but also allow us to do this more efficiently.
“Finance leaders need to understand and influence the inputs that go into the business. … And to do that, you need to spend time with the head of each of the business functions. You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and say, ‘How would that person effect change?’ And, over time, the output metrics that finance cares about will change.”
Airtable | www.airtable.com | San Francisco, CA