Mark Gandy: The Nomadic CFO
Up next in our expert spotlight, we have one of the best financial consultants in the business, Mark Gandy. For some quick background information about Mark, visit G3CFO.com.
Want the nomadic CFO on your team? Check out how Mark’s “finding, getting, and doing” philosophy can help your business!
Q: Can you tell us what you did before G3CFO?
Around 1992 or 1993 I completed a fairly large consulting project while holding down a full-time internal audit position where I was already working more than 55 hours a week.
Before and during that gig (which I don’t recommend you do at home), I found that selling came relatively easy and doing the work was more than satisfying. When I wrapped up, I felt really good with the outcome in spite of my limited experience.
It was then that I realized I’d like to package or productize a service offering by helping other business owners using my unique skills and talents. I just didn’t figure it out till about 10 years later when I went full-time in June, 2001.
To address the other part of your question, I’m a trained accountant. I obtained my CPA certification while working for KPMG Peat Marwick in St. Louis (where I once saw the late Jack Buck in our office).
I’ve held controller, CFO, and other accounting/financial management positions before and even during my time of running G3CFO.
Q: What made you want to be a nomadic CFO?
While I partly answered the question above, I’ll add that I’m very unemployable. Really.
My peers look at me and say, “No way. He’s the workaholic guy.”
I like projects. I love learning. I can’t be bored. Accordingly, the life of a nomadic CFO fits snugly.
Q: What is a normal day in the life of Mark?
Normal? What’s that?
At each month-end, I pull out my calendar and look ahead to see what needs to be done for each client I serve.
Every client is living and growing in their respective seasons of life. So when out-of-the-ordinary types of events pop up, I’m called on to help, support, lead, encourage, or sometimes just watch.
Examples include acquisitions, divestitures, ERP rollouts, post-estate transition planning, bank financing, and the list goes on.
For the day-to-day type of work, I pore over scores of financial and management reports, sit in on management meetings, provide input where needed, and play the role of friend at all times.
So maybe this nomadic CFO life is normal after all.
Q: What is the biggest impact you make on bottom-line at PFSbrands as well as any company you work with?
Holy moly chicken guacamole. I’m not sure I can even begin to answer that question.
Remember Andre Agassi’s great comeback after he hit rock bottom? The dude was already a superstar, a great player—tons of talent. But he latched on to three (new) coaches when making his comeback. Not one, not two, but three.
No one knows their names. But we remember Agassi’s rise back to Number 1 in the world of tennis.
Before I was invited to participate in the incredible growth (albeit a small role), PFSbrands was already great. Plus, they never were close to rock bottom. The owner/founder already knew the path to excellence. I was just one of those Agassi coaches no one even knows about. And that’s the way I want it.
You could say I opened doors that were already ajar and opened a few shades in a partially lit ballroom. That’s all. The CEO/Founder, the leadership team, the entire staff—they did all the work.
And since then, I’ve been watching and applauding on my feet.
Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other CFOs and how do you shift the traditional paradigm?
That’s somewhat hard to answer because I never market myself and rarely if ever find myself selling. When I meet new CEOs who are looking for someone like me, I just ask lots of questions.
There are only three parts to a business, just three—finding, getting, and doing. That is, marketing, selling, and fulfilling. And that assumes you are a king or queen at value creation. Without that, there is no finding, getting, or doing.
And that’s where I focus my questions. Cash problems are not accounting problems. Cash problems are the result of poor finding, getting, or doing activities. I just happen to know the financial impact of those problems.
So I perceive that CEOs who hire me sense I care about their businesses. But I wouldn’t call that setting myself apart from other CFOs. I call it being normal.
Q: For the newbie business owner, what are some financial tips or overall tricks that you would recommend to scale-up?
I’m sorry to inform everyone that there are no tricks or secrets that will lead to successful scale ups. Plus, some owners simply don’t have the personalities, skills, or leadership abilities to do so.
But for those who do, there has to be a relentless pursuit toward implementing and maintaining strong systems and processes leading to customer success, delight, or satisfaction.
In one of my CEO mastermind groups, I use the term on-field, off-field activities. On-field activities are the ones where our customers see us. We can be committing errors, getting sacked, or striking out. Instead, we need to be scoring big on the field with and for our customers.
But off the field is critical too. If our off-field infrastructure is wobbly and can’t support those on the field, it will harm our top lines too.
There are no shortcuts. Great people running great processes supporting great customers have to have flawless off-field, on-field performances every single day. Do that now, and scaling up gets easier (but never easy).
Q: How do new owners go from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of rapid growth?
Do I get a lifeline so that I can call Peter Diamandis?
Looking back, I’ve never served a business where year-over-year growth exceeded 30 or more percent. So my answer may not have the impact you are looking for.
Having said that, if a company is serving a market with ample demand with a desire to grow, cash should readily be available internally and from external banking resources to fund rapid growth. The key is retaining the right amount of earnings, a percentage that has to exceed the company’s growth rate.
I believe the scarcity mindset kicks into high gear if not hysteria when the sales and asset growth rates are far exceeding the retention rate of earnings.
While this is a serious dilemma with potentially catastrophic consequences, read Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog where cash was scarce until the day Nike went public. He stayed the course. He kept a growth mindset while cash was scarce every day. That’s hard to do, and he was even a CPA himself.
Great question, and one that’s hard to answer in a few lines. While I’m biased toward greatly minimizing risk, I’d lead the person’s mindset toward, systematic and structured growth and then prove with pencil and paper how it could be done.
Q: I know you are big into personality assessments. Why is this important and how can we leverage it?
Can I answer this one with 10,000 words?
I’ve been studying the Kolbe Profile™ for more than 10 years and ultimately took the assessment in 2008 which clearly and succinctly tells me how I go about doing my business when my work-mode button is flipped on.
For example, I’m strategic by nature. I need facts, lots of them before I act. But I’m not done then. I then structure and systematize my findings if that’s part of my job. Need a plan? No problem.
Some people are Quick Starts as you mentioned in your question, one of the four Kolbe Action Modes™. Quick Starts by nature take risks, are decisive, and can be spontaneous. Quick Starts are innovators.
And then Implementors are natural with tangible items and protective of craftsmanship and quality.
So why do I care about these conative traits [i.e. psychological traits] in others? Jim Collins wants the right people on the bus. Patrick Lencioni tells us who the ideal team player is and how to identify them. What both gifted writers miss is the conative gifts and talents needed for a particular position.
I know some highly-gifted people with wonderful personalities who are simply burned out in just 40- to 45-hour a week jobs due to stress—the kind where their conative abilities are not in alignment with roles required of them. That’s why I take this area extremely seriously.
Great minds, great personalities, strong desires to learn and grow, and conative profiles matching the roles in need of their action modes—that’s a recipe for business success.
Q: What’s new that you have going on now that you are excited about?
A lot. Earlier this summer, I started my first CEO mastermind group with the help of another client. I’m awed at some of the young CEO talent in Columbia, Missouri. My goal is to launch 2 more such groups in 2017.
As of this writing, I have a new website about to launch built around an eLearning course which is geared for bookkeepers, accountants, and even controllers of small businesses.
And finally, I’ve been working on a launch for nearly two years called Free Agent CFO™. Content creation has taken all of my spare time and then some. This venture will be for nomadic CFOs like myself where I teach them The Business of CFOing™. I may need a CFO. Know where I can find one?
Q: Anything else we didn’t cover you would like to share?
I’d love to be the CFO for just one day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Know anyone who knows someone who can make this happen? I’ll even pay my own salary that day.