During the early years of his finance career Dan Fletcher was accustomed to being the executive from somewhere else.
When he first joined the asset management team at Allstate Investments, he was “the auditor from Price Waterhouse”, and when he landed inside an interim management role as a private equity advisor he was the former investor turned operator.
For its part, Fletcher’s early career journey is a standout not just for its navigation of the finance triad: auditor, investor, operator – but for the speed at which he was able to pivot from one to the next.Read More
“I did not look like everyone else,” comments Fletcher, who doesn’t try to cloak the burdens of his first pivot from auditor to investor.
Remarks Fletcher: “These are two totally different disciplines, where from an auditor’s perspective you’re viewing the business from the outside in, and trying to mainly validate the financial statements, whereas from the investor perspective you’re mainly concerned with returns.”
Meanwhile, Fletcher makes clear his ability to pivot was dependent on regular outreach along the way.
“It required a lot of careful fostering of relationships to have people place a bet on me,” comments Fletcher, who tells us his pivot to the operations side involved both individual initiative as well as a rigorous future employer.
“It took a lot of vetting. I think I interviewed with probably 20 different people and I would complete a lot of research on my own,” comments Fletcher.
Reflecting on his research Fletcher adds: “Thanks to the Internet there was no shortage of material out there as far as how to thrive in different roles – both from the hardskills and softskills point of view.”
Still, one career pivot Fletcher put in motion had more to do with narrowing his lens rather than widening it. Nearly a decade into his career, Fletcher’s decided to interview exclusively with private equity technology firms thus ending his days as an industry agnostic.
Says Fletcher: “I just slowly fell in love with tech – I started to understand how technology was really where more innovation – and therefore more value creation – was happening relative to older industries.” – Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Planful today … what sets apart this company? …and what sets apart its offerings?
Fletcher: I’ll take all the time you’ll give me. I’m quite the evangelist for the product. I’m a user of the product myself, obviously, and very excited about the trajectory the company has taken and continues to ride. And so fundamentally, what does Planful do? Planful helps you plan, organization-wise, helps you plan in an automated and agile fashion. It helps you close the books faster with functionality that our audience here on the CFO THOUGHT LEADER will understand as consolidation and financial close, and then it helps you report. Report in gap financials, report in management reporting, report operationally, KPIs, dashboards, whatever you want.
And so it’s the soup to nuts platform for finance and accounting, and increasingly for other departments, including marketing, HR or people, teams, depending on who you ask, and IT, because everybody plans.Read More
And this is not news to you, Jack, but the category that we operate in, this sort of FP&A software category, has increasingly become more cross-functional and sell to all the C-suite, different operational leaders throughout the business, because, I’ll say it one more time, everybody does planning, but not everybody has the right tools to do it.
Earlier, I mentioned that we might find room to talk about that acquisition that Planful did in September of 2022, and this strikes me as a very good strategic moment for your audience. I have as a CFO, and like many of our listeners, do not only finance and accounting, but some other responsibilities. And this is nothing new for CFOs now over the past decade or two, that they’ve become more multidisciplinary, more cross-functional, and I love it for the role of CFO. I own also legal and also corporate development, and corporate development is the group in many companies, and certainly our company, that assesses the product in partnership with product marketing and the actual product management group, and begins to develop a sense of where we have gaps that we could fill to better serve our customers, and also of course to grow our own business and create value for our shareholders.
And so that is a strategic function for me. I work cross-functionally to develop a market map and understand the trends historical and emerging in FP&A. One of those trends of course is xP&A, or planning outside of the office of finance, planning other than in general ledger codes, and that is inclusive of things like what I mentioned about the SDR team. They plan in number of dials needed to get a connect and how long they’re on a phone call and they resource their group around those metrics. And one of the areas that struck us as very, very ripe for an elevated amount of tooling and education around planning was marketing.
Marketing, traditionally one of the biggest cost centers, and I think many finance people will nod their heads when I say a bit of a black box, takes a lot of investment, and there’s not a great way, at least historically, to understand the return on that investment. Sure, you can measure things like revenue and amount of dollars spent on marketing per dollar of revenue you get, but those are just two total disconnected. One is at the very tip and one is at the very end, and there’s a whole bunch of metrics in between there that can be understood and planned around. And so what does marketing do when they get on an annual basis… Let me step back. On an annual basis, you run the financial planning, the budget process, and if finance is good at what they do, they’re partnering with each of the departments, including marketing, to develop what marketing thinks they need to spend on things like programs and humans that year, and events, et cetera.
But then, traditionally they lock in on a number and then they hand it, they being financed, hands it over to marketing. The board approve, you have $10 million to spend on programs. But then it’s a black box to finance, and what marketing will do, well, they will take that $10 million and they will cascade that out into campaigns, and they’ll resource those campaigns with people, with PR resources, with ad spend, with content, content creation and content management. If there are any CMOs listening, I’m doing my best on what you guys do. It’s that campaign-level planning, but they don’t even have the ability to completely link the outcomes of those campaigns. How much did that event, that webinar we did, generate for us in terms of lead flow? There are swim lane issues, and et cetera. So, this just screams for technology.
It’s 2023, we have the technology to be able to link the finance plan, cascade that into campaigns, and then link the ROI from things like the CRM and the ad networks. And what we found when we went out, my core dev function and I into the market, was that a company called Plannuh, P-L-A-N-N-U-H, a Boston company, some of you will get that joke, Planner, Plannuh, and they were doing this. They were a relatively early stage startup, but they had built the perfect mouse trap to take what finance gives a marketer, plan it out the way marketers actually run their business, and track the ROI. And it was an aha moment, a finance strategic moment that the founder and I both saw the synergies between what FP&A planning platforms do and what that marketing performance management platform did, and we said, “This is one plus one equals five. It’s not even one plus one equals three.”
It will closely interlink finance and marketing for maybe the first time in the history of business, and it’s been very successful so far. So, that deal closed in September and it’s been off to the races. We’ve now got a couple common customers selling into Planful’s relatively large customer base, and certainly have been out in the market pounding the table saying that every finance and marketing team should be wanting this to help improve their alignment and help them speak the same language.
Planful | www.planful.com | Redwood City, CA