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Tech Head: A day in the life of a tech-based CFO

A FEW FRIDAYS AGO I met up with Financial Director editor Kevin Reed for a coffee and got talking about everything finance, tech and career-related. As a result of this I am delighted to be writing a regular blog for FD from the perspective of recently-appointed finance chief in a start-up environment.

I have lots of things I am passionate to write about but first thing’s first, let me provide a little bit of background about me. I qualified with ACCA and historically spent my time in large organisations in the banking and transport sectors. I learned much of my trade in these roles and gained a broad amount of experience in leadership, change management and different cultures.

However, last year I wasn’t feeling the passion in my work any longer and I came to a natural crossroads. I thought back to the reasons I wanted to be a finance professional in the first place, which was to feel real purpose and value in my work through running a business or supporting someone else running theirs.

Somewhere in my career progression I had lost sight of this, but realised I wanted to do something on a smaller scale where I could measure my impact every day. That became my compass to find my next challenge.

After about six months of networking I had a stroke of luck and met the CEO and chairman of digital analytics company Klood. We hit it off and I have been supporting the business as CFO ever since. What a difference a year makes.

So now you know a bit about my background here is a brief insight into a day of my life being CFO of a tech start-up business.

6.00 am – 7.00am
Try to exercise everyday (Training for coast to coast cycle event!)

7.00 am – 7.30am
One of two rules I try to stick to everyday – to have breakfast with my two children.

After this I will work for a short period at home to check the company bank transactions and our previous day’s KPIs. I am genuinely excited by this to see who has paid us, how our cashflow is performing and whether the metrics are moving in the right direction.

After this I will have a quick scan through my emails to see if anything urgent has come in overnight. I have to say this daily habit goes against the productivity tip of hitting your big items first of all each day but I’ve found in the world of a start-ups it pays to be on the pulse and be one step ahead before you move onto the big items of the day.

7.30am – 10.00am
Drive through the sunny countryside of Northamptonshire to Long Buckby train station and board the train the London Euston. I work on the train reviewing some business case proposals looking at how different pricing scenarios and product features would drive revenues and PBTs.

Challenging assumptions and reviewing cost drivers to ensure operational impacts of proposals are taken account of. This is the work I relish being involved with. Looking at plans and really trying to test it from a physical sense in a fully operational way.

10.30am – 12.00pm
Meeting with a large firm of accountants in the City to discuss ideas and options to raise funds to expand the business globally. I am greeted by three generations of accountants, the trainee, the newly-qualified and the experienced MD. We share stories and have an enjoyable in depth conversation about the options available and the best approach for the business.

We move onto how digital is changing everything at such pace and I give the three of them a quick guided tour around our cloud based accountancy package Xero. We discuss how new digital products are automating a number of standard and analytical tasks and how this is starting to drive a different kind of accountant with more time and emphasis on strategic direction and influencing.

12.00pm – 2.00pm
Hop on the tube. Arrive at a vibrant and busy coffee shop in the West End to meet a potential client who I have been introduced to by a mutual contact. This is certainly out of my comfort zone but I relish the chance to develop a broader skillset and drive the business forward. There’s no better way to learn about your products than to show them off and talk about the features.

The meeting lasts for an hour and a half and as I need to shout above the noise and start to warm up I feel closer to closing the deal. We leave with a handshake and a sign up to a 14-day trial period. Not a paying customer, but certainly a step in the right direction.

2.00pm – 5.30pm
I catch the tube and head over to thriving Shoreditch in East London where I spend the afternoon working in our London office in the basement of an old warehouse. Think of bare brick walls, industrial lights, trendy trainers, 20 start-ups on a floor and six people crammed on a row of desks – you get the picture.

Apart from the challenge of finding somewhere private to make a confidential call the environment is very creative and I love the contrast of working there compared to days when I am working in solitude in a quiet space.

I meet with our software development team to see what is being prioritised in their pipeline of work and discuss the cost benefit of adding additional people to the team. I then spend a few hours with our CTO reviewing our funding plans and business case assumptions before he flies back to Calgary, Canada where he is usually based.

5.30pm – 7.00pm
I catch the train home and catch up on emails. After a day of interesting meetings in London I plan a day of detailed tasks for tomorrow working from home in the morning and then in our Milton Keynes office in the afternoon. The list for tomorrow looks long and varied but then that’s the joy of working in a small business. I reflect back on the contrast of my day and on my role as CFO of Klood and can certainly say I definitely feel alive again.

7.00pm – 8.00pm
Finally I arrive home and I am greeted by my family. I follow the second most important rule I try to stick to everyday – put my children to bed.

Now you know a little bit about my background I look forward to writing some future posted about the things I am passionate about and believe other CFOs will be thinking about.

Gavin Street is CFO of digital analytics business Klood. He will be blogging about things technology, finance and career-related for Financial Director

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