As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2019 Issue
WITH HIS COMPANY IN THE MIDST OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE, CFO BRENDAN GILBOY IS TAKING A FRONT SEAT IN DRIVING TODAY’S STRATEGY AND TOMORROW’S VISION
Founded over 100 years ago, Oak Brook, IL–based Chamberlain Group (CGI) is a leader in access control solutions with its Lift Master and Chamberlain garage door openers powered by myQ connectivity. Earlier in the year, this household name in homes (and businesses) around the globe joined forces with Amazon to provide package delivery into the garage, whether or not anyone is home to hit the clicker and open the door. And, like most things these days, it all happens in an app and on a phone. “Th e world is changing rapidly,” says CGI Chief Financial Officer Brendan Gilboy, “and trying to stay ahead of that change is really the most exciting part of my job.”
Gilboy, who’s been with CGI, a privately held company with more than 6,000 employees worldwide, for just over a decade, “developed the original financial model that was used to frame the discussions about what a win-win proposition looked like from a CGI perspective.” As for Amazon’s viewpoint: “Based on our experience,” he says, “Amazon looks to partner with folks who enable their vision of being the Earth’s most customer-centric company. Packages delivered safely and securely to the garage is truly a customer-centric solution.”
Gilboy is proud to have played a role in this new-to-the-world innovation, and believes a CFO can make the most significant workplace impact as a business partner and co-visionary to the CEO. “Continued focus on being a key element of setting company strategy is an important aspect of the ongoing evolution of the office of the CFO, moving from a numbers-only game to the position of the CEO’s right hand.”
But, with companies like Amazon disrupting the pace of business, such a partnership is not without its challenges. “You have that tension of making sure things get done right while moving quicker than the rate of change in the world,” notes Gilboy. It’s akin to speed walking on a tightrope, he says, but it’s all in a day’s work.
According to Gilboy, “the biggest challenge for any CFO is—and should be—actively supporting and, most importantly, guiding the company to support creativity and innovation focused on end consumers, while driving shareholder value creation by ensuring mind share and resource devotion is focused on greatest impact.” However, that doesn’t mean, he continues, that every good idea can be pursued.
“One of the most beneficial contributions a CFO can make at his or her company is to drive a day-to-day leadership strategy in which a culture of honesty and critical thinking wins the day and emotion does not.” Gilboy explains that such a culture is achieved when attention is focused on an honest assessment of what the data portrays. “This leads to tough, but objective, decision making, and it ultimately forces the team to pivot and move on to the next thing, instead of chasing ideas that aren’t going to pan out.”
Gilboy says the office of the CFO can foster this type of culture by maintaining a stance that “every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes,’ ” and by openly celebrating successes and “ideas that stick” so people feel good about being part of a winning team. And, most importantly: “By leading a team that clearly articulates a vision, and then a mission, of how we’re going to pursue that vision, so people can start with what the
bull’s-eye looks like and go from there.”
Gilboy, who spent two decades in public accounting at KPMG before sett ling in at CGI, believes he’s been able to propel his position to that of strategic and visionary “right hand” by forever focusing on being part of, and then building, great teams: “teams that were very performance focused, that understood what the goal was, and that went about achieving it.” Gilboy suggests CFOs zero in on people, and on trying to hire the best team possible. “At the end of the day, it’s a war for talent, and you need to build a team that makes the company better.” Th e CFO needs to lead that team to demonstrated results. “Not just financial results,” he notes, but “accomplishing
whatever the objective is.”
Furthermore, considering so much time is spent on data-driven insight, CFOs can seize the opportunity to play a more active role in shaping the next best move to create shareholder value by “shepherding the emerging trends of big data and predictive analytics in that context.” Gilboy recommends CFOs get up to speed—yesterday—on how such capabilities can add value to a company and how to build them into an organization. “In today’s world of rapid change and increased efficiencies, you have to work hard and smart.”
The End Game
As a strategic and visionary partner to the CEO, Gilboy is playing an active role in keeping the Chamberlain Group one step ahead of the times as it takes “access solutions,” a space where the company has a tremendous legacy, and redefines what that really means. “As a result, we’re transforming CGI from a manufacturer of products for the past century plus into an Internet-of-Things solution provider.” That, he says, is “very exciting.”
Although he’s far from retirement, Gilboy, 54, says the success he relishes the most is watching people he’s hired develop in their careers. “Seeing them flourish, starting their own consultancies and businesses because I gave them the opportunity, or coached them, and they rose to the challenge, it’s a tremendous compliment.”
And knowing that, eventually, their new flat-screen TV will be safe and secure in the garage, instead of out in the rain on the front porch—or worse, in the back of a getaway car—is just the icing on the cake.