What’s it like to be the CFO of a payments company?
It means wearing many hats, thinking strategically about investments, and working closely with every department of the company. It’s a cog in the wheel that keeps the company running on a day-to-day basis. But what does that really mean?
As part of PYMNTS’ Commander In Chief Series, PYMNTS spoke with MineralTree’s CFO Bill Price to get the inside scoop on what his job entails, including the challenges, the misconceptions about the role, and how he manages to wear so many hats while keeping the financial wheels of the company turning.
What does a day in the life of a Chief Financial Officer look like?
It’s hard to say, since no two days look the same. For me, the best and the most challenging part of being a CFO at an emerging technology company is the opportunity to get involved and influence lots of different aspects of the company. It has been a great experience to work at a technology company that produces a solution right in my wheelhouse, and is “purpose-built” for folks like me (CFOs and CPAs). I’ve come to pride myself on being more than just a finance guy who knows how to keep the score, but instead someone who is helping the organization put points on the board.
I work closely with every department at MineralTree. Recently, I’ve worked with the marketing team to help build out their marketing program strategy, I’ve helped the sales team build out proper sales comp plans, and I’ve worked with the development team to make sure we have the proper resources necessary to build and support our products and customers.
But on a typical day, I’m in the office around 7:30 a.m. before most people have arrived, and before I have calls and meetings to get to. For example, today I have a meeting at 8:30 a.m. with management, a team staff meeting at 10 a.m., and an 11 a.m. check-in call with our recruiter. I spend a surprising amount of time on contracts – negotiating them and sorting out terms with our vendors. I’d even venture to say that I spend more time on contracts than accounting stuff, which is fine. I like dealmaking. I have a great staff behind me that can handle the accounting stuff on their own. Sometimes I feel more like a lawyer than a CFO – and that’s a compliment to lawyers!
What is the most difficult part of your job, and why?
While I love that being a CFO affords me the opportunity to wear many hats, it constantly challenges my time management skills as priorities shift.
Everything – every project, every opportunity — has a deadline, and the toughest part about my job is managing those deadlines. I’ve lost count of the number of times a department head has come to me and said “I needed this yesterday!” Everyone wants things delivered real-time or seemingly faster these days.
The one thing we all want is more time to do our jobs. So we’re always looking for ways to streamline and automate processes, and using the MineralTree product certainly helps with that. Because of our accounts payable automation, I spend a lot less time approving invoices, executing payments and answering vendors’ questions.
For example, if a vendor calls me with a question about an invoice late on a Friday afternoon, MineralTree allows me to get right back to them in real-time with an answer. Whereas in the past, without MineralTree, I’d have to send my AP person an email, follow up with them, and then five touches and likely a few days later, I’d hopefully have an answer. It also eliminates that stack of paper invoices that would be dropped on my desk every week for approval and signatures. Now I can approve them in real-time, no matter where I am, and on any device.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
I’d like to spend more time with the sales team because even though I am the CFO, I’m also a customer with hands-on knowledge of our product, which I use every week. I love to join sales calls because I can relate to a prospective clients’ point of view and help them understand how it can change their life and their company’s productivity for the better. I think prospects get a lot out of that conversation and relate to me since we have a similar job and speak each other’s language.
Our sales team rarely reaches out to me since they know I am busy and tend to always have a lot on my plate, so I’ll take a look for opportunities to jump on calls with them. I’ll check their calendars and if they have a prospect call coming up, I’ll check with them to make sure it’s OK if I join the call and then hopefully help streamline the sales cycle.
I also wish I had more time to educate employees about finance and the business decisions and concepts, and to learn about their jobs and departments. I believe that when people understand why decisions are made, they’re much better at their own jobs. A lot of people don’t know much about the business’ finances, such as department funding, budgeting, contract details, etc. and I like to teach. Likewise, it’s important for me to understand some of the challenges other departments face, as it helps me do my job better.
What is the biggest misperception about your role?
Most folks probably don’t realize how strategic the role of a CFO can be. My dad was a banker and he once told me, “if you’re in finance, you may not be the first person that knows what’s going on, but at a minimum you’ll be the second, because everything revolves around money.” That was very good advice. Most conversations regarding strategies and executive decisions involve money, and so I’m often a big part of those conversations.
You can’t think of spending money, you have to think of it as investment – and the expected return you’ll get out of that investment – and that can come in many forms. It may come in forms of revenue, reduced expenses, increased productivity, streamlined operations, or it may be hiring a rockstar engineer who can really help innovate your product. As I said before, it’s not just about keeping score.
What is the one thing that has changed how you do your job over the last two years?
More than anything, it’s the time and financial investments companies have made in systems to help automate high-volume functions. Ten years ago we didn’t have Salesforce or Marketo, and now we rely on these systems to help us identify which investments are paying dividends. And we’re starting to see tools that can be integrated to allow one system to communicate with another — that’s key. Departments within organizations are less siloed as a result.
For instance, MineralTree has 18 Salesforce licenses spanning across a company with a few dozen employees. This means that those licenses exist well beyond just the sales team – sales has some licenses, marketing has some, finance has some, support has some and execs also have some. Lots of people across the company are using the system to gather the information they need to help them make decisions.
I’d absolutely categorize MineralTree as an example of how automation has changed the way I do my job over the last few years, too. A great thing about MineralTree is that you don’t need to buy additional licenses to use it, our SAAS solution is email-based. For example, an approver of an invoice will receive an email request to approve the invoice. Once approved, it comes back into the system — all without costing you a penny for additional ERP licenses.
Does your job bleed into your personal life? I.e., do you find yourself attempting to negotiate deals at restaurants or the hardware store?
Yes, you often find yourself attempting to stay connected even while you’re at a restaurant or a grocery store.
But in all seriousness, the influx of smartphones has made it tough to separate personal and work life. It requires discipline to remain connected while, at the same time, not allowing work to overwhelm your personal life.
Communication is near real-time and because everything is moving a lot faster, we always need to be well-informed in order to do our jobs. And here lies the constant challenge of keeping that Chinese wall between your personal life and work life – staying informed, but having time away from work.
Being connected 24/7 is definitely a double-edged sword. It helps companies and individuals increase efficiency, but you have to be disciplined in how you use it.
Bill brings a history of successful financial leadership at high-growth companies to his role as CFO of Mineraltree, a company that provides accounts payable (AP) and payment automation solutions to finance professionals at growing organizations. As CFO at an emerging technology company with a solution built for finance departments – and a user of the company’s products – Bill has been instrumental in building MineralTree. With a leadership role that stretches across departments, Bill’s direction helps drive many facets of the company’s business.
Prior to MineralTree, Bill served as CFO at Zoominfo, a business information SaaS company. He also served as SVP Finance & Administration and CFO at MarketSoft (acquired by Unica/IBM), and before to that, worked as CFO at NextPoint Networks (later acquired by NetScout Systems), and CFO at MediQual (later acquired by Cardinal Health). Before MediQual/Cardinal Health, Bill worked as Senior Audit Manager at Arthur Andersen.