As our finance leader guests well know, we seldom hesitate to ask where they spent their career-building years.
Moreover, if we learn that a CFO spent more than 5 years with any one company, we’re apt to ask, “Why? What kept you there?” On the other hand—and somewhat oddly—finance career investments spanning a decade or more are likely to lead us to leapfrog more perfunctory queries in order to let the grilling begin.
Such was the case with CFO Keith Taylor of Equinix, the $7.2 billion data infrastructure giant with 248 data centers in 27 countries.Read More
For Taylor, who is logging his 24th year with the firm, the investment of career decades inside a single company led us to imagine a string of experiences somewhat uniform from one chapter to the next.
However, Taylor quickly informs us that his investment of years inside a single company has afforded him a breadth of experiences that few job-hopping finance executives may have ever surpassed.
It’s fair to say that when Taylor was named Equinix CFO in 2005, the business model responsible for the company’s following 79 consecutive quarters of growth was still in its infancy.
However, for Equinix’s newly minted CFO, it seemed hard to imagine that the breadth of experiences that lay ahead could match those already behind him.
Back in 1999, as Equinix’s founders began to eye the public markets, they hired Taylor to add some heft to their fledgling finance team. The company would hire a CFO and go public in August of 2000 just as the dotcom bubble began to burst.
“We then went through a near-death experience when we had only one payroll left and didn’t think that we were going to make it,” recalls Taylor, who remembers a string of long calls with investors over the ensuing 24 months.
Says Taylor: “There was a determination not to give up that allowed us to survive, and by January 1, 2003, we were like a new company, with new shareholders and our problems mostly solved.” –Jack Sweeney
“Be professionally inquisitive and work to fully understand the output of your decisions, including the interdependencies across functions and various interested parties. Work to be a good leader at all levels of the organization, including by surrounding yourself with people who complement your skills and style. Always give constructive feedback.” –Keith Taylor, CFO, Equinix
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CFOTL: Tell us about Equinix … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Taylor: I think of us as a digital infrastructure company, but are we a services business with data centers or a data center company with services? We think of ourselves as a services company, and the best way to narrow this down is to describe us as a digital infrastructure. We have 2,000-plus networks that reside inside our facilities. We have 3,000-plus cloud and IT services companies. We’re effectively the On and Off ramps for the Internet and the cloud. We’re independent. We built this geographically dispersed platform that allows the ecosystems of over 10,000 customers to thrive. What you might call the “Who’s Who” of the Internet reside in our facilities, where we are their On and Off ramps to the cloud, which is very relevant today.Read More
It’s sometimes said that all things digital have to come through Equinix at some point. Whether it’s autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, gaming, electronic trading—we run the full gamut, including things that are really important. Hospitals need us to help manage things like the records of their communications. Police departments use us. We have water departments, such as one in the Netherlands that employs our infrastructure to share data and move it around. We create what I think is the best manifestation of a digital infrastructure company that’s growing and scaling with its customers.
One of the things on my radar screen is in some ways the result of some criticism from the outside markets. As a CFO, you have to realize that although you have different constituencies always presenting different points of view, you have to do what you think is best. What I’m referring to is that we carry a lot of cash on our balance sheet. Everybody thinks that cash is good, but when you’re an investor, cash is a stranded asset that generates sub-acceptable returns.
I’ve kept more liquidity on our balance sheet and maintained access to it because I think that despite at times getting the feeling that things are good, I also sometimes get the feeling that they’re bad. Inflation feels like it’s still going to be there, so interest rates are going to be higher for longer. Thus you have occasional ups, but you also have the challenges of economic downturns. I think that having flexibility around liquidity is going to be really important. Don’t spend it before you earn it is another thing that comes to the top of my mind. We’re going to be very disciplined about how we manage our cash flow.
Equinix | www.equinix.com | Redwood City, CA