Sharing the Road


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q3 2019 Issue


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.


Office Culture
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.”


Top Teams
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.

Partnering with IT


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q2 2017 Issue

-By Michael Rist, Chief Financial Officer, VIP Petcare


As the role of the CFO continues to evolve, finance executives must continually augment their knowledge of technology and how it impacts the continuing operation and strategic direction of the company. This starts with open and ongoing dialog. The CFO needs a good understanding of how the IT department is positioned in the context of the overall strategy of the company. Below are five key questions to ask your CIO regardless of industry or company size.

How is the IT strategy aligned with the corporate strategy?

Asking this question allows you to gauge where resources are being directed within IT and if they are yielding returns that exceed the hurdle rate. You need to make sure there is a viable business case for every material project in the IT portfolio that supports the corporate strategy. It’s important to note that not every project will translate into an easy-to-calculate ROI, and qualitative measures must therefore be in place to ensure that shareholder value is created.

What risks are you already planning for?

The answer should include testing, firewalls, critical system failure, anti-virus, spyware, anti-malware, etc. If you are holding credit card information, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and keep that compliance up-to-date every day. Not doing so may expose you to hefty fines and the risk of losing the authorization to process payment card transactions. The goal here is not to eliminate or minimize risk but to manage the risk exposure to ensure the right level of risk, in order to effectively pursue the strategic goals of the company.

What scares you? (If he says nothing, that’s a problem!)

There are numerous things every CIO should be scared of, from zero-day vulnerability to social engineering or phishing, which has become more and more sophisticated over the last couple of years. Key here is that the CIO makes you aware of these without all the technical details.

What is the security around our data and systems?

Not all data is equally sensitive. A plan must ensure that the most critical data is safeguarded. This plan should be a collaboration between IT and the rest of senior management.

What is our response plan for an incident?

Not every organization has one of these, and that’s OK, provided there is a clear plan of crisis response. Some organizations have generalized response plans for crises of varying types (critical system failure, natural disaster, power outages, weather, strike, etc.) with cyber incidents just another form of occurrence to be managed under such a plan. Senior management should run a process review on an annual basis.

Being a technology-savvy CFO doesn’t mean simply having the latest and greatest technology or knowing the latest cyber fad. It means being able to advance your organization’s growth or improve its competitive position by asking questions that identify key constraints holding back the organization from pursuing its goals.

A Strong Story


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q2 2017 Issue

-By Jerome D. Kern, Vice President & CFO, Flexi-Van Leasing, Inc.


You’ve just sat down in the big chair. You’re a new CFO. Congratulations! If you grew up on the accounting side of the house, investor relations may be new to you. Here’s what to keep in mind about this significant, new responsibility.

Investor relations is how a company communicates and interacts with external parties to ensure that your company’s financial story is being told accurately. While it may be a department reporting directly to the CFO, it may also be part of a corporate communications department. In either case, however, the CFO plays arguably the most crucial role for the company’s investor relations effort.

While investor relations is obviously important for public companies, it can be equally important for private companies, as even private companies may have to deal with equity owners and debt or credit analysts. Ensuring that external analysts have an up-to-date and solid understanding of the company allows the market system to work.

Timely and Fair

Remember that your goal in investor relations is not to prop up the stock price of your company. You’re not a salesperson. Don’t measure success in investor relations by stock price. Your goal is to ensure that information about the company — positive or negative — gets to outside parties when it is needed and in an appropriate way. Timely communications that follow the rules (the SEC’s Regulation FD, for example) are crucial to controlling news about your organization.

How do you get information to outside parties effectively? Press releases, earnings calls, presentations at conferences, and one-on-one analyst meetings are your main tools. What you’ll likely find is that there is a somewhat limited set of analysts that cover your industry or company size, allowing you to identify them and build a rapport. Remember, when developing these relationships, the kindergarten rule of “honesty is the best policy” holds true even here. You can be expected to present the company in a good light, but you must also present the company in a fair light. Don’t hide negatives, but be sure to present them in the right context. You wouldn’t be the CFO of a company you didn’t believe in, so make sure the people you’re talking to know the reasons your company will prosper — even in bad times.

When you’re talking to outside parties, the main rule of communication is: Know your audience. Different people will be focused on different things. An equity analyst or a portfolio manager may be looking for a growth story. That will get them the capital appreciation they crave. A fixed-income analyst will be looking for cash flow, either through dividends or debt coupon payments. A credit analyst wants to make sure you can repay your obligations. Tailor your comments to the person to whom you’re talking.

Overall, you should take on the persona of a professor. Teach people about your company. Be sure to not just be a numbers guy, though. Relate the numbers to nonfinancial metrics and build a story line. Stories are remembered. Numbers are forgotten.

Copyright 2017