Day 3 of Host Analytics World 2016 kicked off with another round of inspiration, this time from the men and women who live the finance rockstar life.
Andre Lafayette, Host Analytics Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, moderated the panel of experts that included:
- Patricia Freeman, VP of Finance for EarthLink
- Janet Golla, VP of Financial Planning & Analysis, Capitol Petroleum
- Matt Ackerman, Chief Financial Officer of Kranz & Associates
- Ian Charles, CFO of Host Analytics
In his quest to find out what makes for a finance rockstar, Lafayette peppered the panel with questions while asking the audience to respond to a handful of polls about their experience in finance. He led off by asking the panel how the industry has changed.
"We're not just number-crunchers anymore," says Golla, sparking a chorus of nodding heads. "We're giving [executives and department heads] the data and drivers behind the numbers in order to make better decisions."
Hoping to get a better sense of what these better informed finance executives were being asked to do, Lafayette sought stories of the "craziest" asks made by chief executives and peers.
Charles told the story of a CEO who literally pounded the table in the conference room they were in, demanding that Charles effectively invent "a couple of million" in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in order to make the numbers look better for an IPO. Golla explained how she managed herself out of a job while Freeman found spirituality in a frustrating team-building exercise. And Ackerman was asked by an assistant to retrieve an executive sequestered in the bathroom.
As they answered, a poll asked audience members which title they aspired to in their finance career; 36% responded "VP." Both Freeman and Ackerman advised those aiming for that level to be careful with politics. Forge relationships, they said, but also communicate clearly and effectively.
Lafayette's other questions ranged from what makes a high-performing finance team to memorable excuses - to advice on communicating. On this point, Ian Charles replied that it's crucial to "take the time needed to think through" the answers to big questions and issues. Immediate, off-the-cuff responses can sometimes cause more harm than good, especially in email or texting.
Importantly, 37% of the audience responded that they loved their finance job when polled during Lafayette's session. He followed that up asking the panel for their best insights. What's the secret to becoming a finance rockstar? Freeman said the best advice she received wasn't so much about the numbers as it was about leading.
She'd attended a seminar while still at Frontier Communications, attendees were told to "never take yourself out of the game." Let your superiors say no or kick you off a project, but never, ever volunteer defeat. Freeman says she still embraces this philosophy both at work and at home, where she pushes her kids to go further and do more.
As she spoke, nodding heads once again made their way across the panel and through the audience. Lafayette used the goodwill to ask for a parting piece of advice for those who'd spent three days thinking through complex strategies for navigating change. Charles responded with a simple refrain: "Keep calm, and buy Host." Look for the tee shirt soon.
Or not. We're still deciding on tee shirt slogans for next year's conference. So what can we tell you about Host Analytics World 2017? Check back soon; our conference wrap-up will include details you don't want to miss!