Think like a COO not just a CFO


As part the Carta CFO Summit on May 19th, Lever’s CFO, Eileen Treanor, spoke about the challenges of finance at a mid-stage company. Lever is a software based recruitment company based in San Francisco. Below is her address.

More from the Summit:

To see Slack’s Allen Shim in a fireside chat with Carta’s CFO click here

To see Stephanie Gantos at our CFO Summit click here


I’m the CFO of Lever, and if you’re not familiar with Lever, Lever is a five-year-old Saas-based hiring software company based here in San Francisco. And we’re kind of the core applicant tracking system hiring companies such as Netflix, Eventbrite, Quora, and KPMG. But that’s enough about Lever, I’ll stop plugging it now.

I’ve been looking off my career, I spent nine years in audit, that company’s a firm such as PwC and EY, and then I was fortunate enough to have various finance roles at Yahoo, Virgin America, then Wiki and now Lever. And I wanted to talk specifically today about how we scale the business. Because, you know, a middle-stage growth company, what gets us here won’t get us to the next stage. And it’s really important to CFOs or senior finance leaders, we’re kind of uniquely positioned in the company, to really identify what problems are preventing us from scaling, and fixing them. So how do we do that?

Well, I think we need to be more operational. And we have to think more like a COO than a CFO, and don’t be too scared to get kind of dirty in the details. I joined a company a few years ago, and I was only there a few weeks, and I was like, “Hey, guys, what’s our system of record for sales?” And they were like, “We use a Google spreadsheet.” So as an auditor, I nearly fainted, and I immediately skipped off a project and replaced this Google spreadsheet, and allowed the company to scale. And the problem with this Google spreadsheet was, all our sales operations, people were spending the entire month reconciling millions of dollars on a Google spreadsheet, and not really showing any insights into the business. And it took us a year to replace that Google spreadsheet. So even if you start now, it’s still gonna take you six months to a year, so whatever is slowing you down now is probably gonna stop you tomorrow.

So these are really great tools, but it’s how we use them is what matters. And I think that we can all extract data- interpret anything that comes from one of these tools, but how are we gonna be interacting with each other? How are our various analysts at the organizations extracting data from them? Doing multiple hours extracting data from the same tool, so it’s really important that we really understand these tools and how they all interact with each other. And I wanted to focus on best practices. So what I see for business operations, function as an organization scales, is that it’s important to have a central source of truth. We’re all planning to be singing off the same hymn sheet in terms of data, and data hygiene is so important because it really gives data integrity, and we have to go deep in the weeds. We really have to understand how the data is working, and how it’s right for the organization.

So, do we have a central source of truth? I mean, we’ve all seen this happen, I’m using Salesforce as an example, Salesforce is a great tool. But you have three or four different functions, taking the data, interpreting the data, and then three or four different reports going to the CEO, and then we all spend our time reconciling after each other’s reports. It’d be much better if it looked something like this. We centralize our business operations, they can interpret the data, and then they distribute the data to the various stakeholders.

Data hygiene. Again I’m gonna use Salesforce as an example. Sales people just love updating Salesforce. It’s very difficult to get that data integrity out of a tool like Salesforce, or even QuickBooks or Concur, because you have to make sure you have controls in place. Otherwise, in the case of Salesforce, it turns into a very expensive Rolodex. So it’s important that you have data integrity, and that you can trust the inputs. So I think it’s important that we have access controls, input controls, and process controls, because it really allows us to to build trust in our data, especially as we scale.

And then it’s really important to kinda go deep in the weeds, to really understand what’s going on in the organization. It can be scary sometimes when the CFO is kind of trying to work with the various functions, but it’s so important for us that we can really identify what’s wrong with the business and help fix it. And I think it’s important for us that we kind of end up in a place, the intersection of where we want to be, which is the intersection of finance, sales, product. Thank you.

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