5 Lessons For The Modern CFO from Former Oracle CFO, New Adaptive Investor, Jeff Epstein

Jeff Epstein Adaptive Planning Bessemer Venture Partners CFO Corporate Performance Management Sofware CPM Software Business Intelligence Davey Pefley DocuSign CFO Mike Dinsdale Netflix CFO Barry mcCarthy Adaptive Planning CFO Dave PefleyOn Oct. 15 Jeff Epstein, current Operating Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and one of Adaptive Planning’s newest investors,  headlined Adaptive’s “The Modern CFO” event in Redwood City, CA.

Epstein gave a wide range of advice and insight to the hundreds of finance professionals in attendance. Among the advice: Five lessons Epstein learned during his career that are still very relevant to today’s finance chiefs.

If you missed it, check out the five tips below from one of the most successful CFOs in the cloud industry.

Watch the webcast “Elevate the Role of Finance In Your Organization”

1. Raise money when you can, not when you need it

Epstein used the rise and fall of DoubleClick, the digital marketing technology and services provider, to detail his point.

Founded in 1995, DoubleClick filed its IPO just three years later and enjoyed tremendous success. After one year on the open market, the company’s stock price rose from $2.50, to over $120 per share. Its market cap also exploded during that same time period, from $250 million to over $12 billion.

Where and when did DoubleClick go wrong? The company filed a $700 million follow-on in 2000, which prompted the FTC and US Attorney General to launch an inquiry into DoubleClick’s privacy practices. Long story short: Google eventually bought the majority of DoubleClick for a third of DoubleClick’s peak market value.

2. Execution matters

Drawing a lesson from his current role on Priceline’s Board of Directors, Epstein not only explained the importance of proper execution, but also the difference between skepticism and pessimism.

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“Skepticism and pessimism are not synonymous,” Epstein said, explaining that pessimism is required during times of excessive optimism.

When the level of pessimism is too high, Epstein explained that the opposite is also required. A certain level optimism is needed to quell pessimism and keep people motivated during difficult times for any company.

3. A company is a machine; the CFO is the engineering designer of that machine

With the right CPM software, today’s CFOs should be driving business decisions based on accurate corporate financial budgeting and forecasting (check out Ben Lamorte’s three tips to creating better financial plans in today’s data-driven culture).

According to Epstein, the role of a CFO who is truly the designer of that corporate machine includes making some tough calls, such as knowing when to say no to sales and other departmental executives, and when to stick to the corporate plan instead of giving in to customer demands.

4. Measure the important things

Businesses have enough data to measure just about anything these days. According to Epstein, it’s important to stay focused on measuring what matters. As a current member of the Shutterstock Board of Directors, Epstein detailed Shutterstock’s focus on achieving and measuring higher customer loyalty year-over-year. That growth correlated to a 300% growth in valuation for Shutterstock, just one year after the company’s IPO.

5. In a fast-growing company, hire for talent and ambition

“How many future CEOs and CFOs are in your finance department?” Epstein asked the crowd. Again using DoubleClick to relay his message, Epstein pointed out that among the 11 original members of DoubleClick’s finance department, there were:

  • 4 Future CEOs
  • 4 Future CFOs
  • 3 Future SVPs

Talented and ambitious people create industry-leading companies. Epstein advises finance executives to assess their teams and determine whether the team’s individual members have the skills and motivation to one day become finance leaders themselves.

Watch the webcast “Elevate the Role of Finance In Your Organization”

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