Certify from the CFO’s perspective

Certify from the CFO’s perspective

At Certify, we spend a lot of time talking with company CFOs to understand their expense and spend management challenges, and the best solutions to overcoming them. Of course, helping financial professionals solve these critical issues is our core business. So, it’s not often we get the chance to turn the conversation inwardly to speak with our own CFO about the pressures and opportunities we face as a fast-growing SaaS company.

Today, we sit down with Chuck Armstrong, Chief Financial Officer for Certify, to learn more about what it takes to manage growth while maintaining control over company finances.

Thinking about the tremendous growth of the company over the past several years, how would you describe your collaboration with co-founders Bob and Alan Neveu? What have been some of the critical elements of your success?

My personal and professional relationship with Bob goes back over twenty-five years. Having that background and familiarity with each other really helped when I joined Certify as CFO in January 2014. What’s been critical to the company’s success and working with Bob and Alan has been their openness and willingness to share ideas and thoughts among the team. It’s the way they run the management team and run the company, it's about having very open and honest conversations. Bob and Alan are always willing to listen and are respectful of everyone’s ideas, and they are willing to take chances. This is especially important as a smaller company. Our collaborative management style has given us the ability to pivot when necessary to capitalize on business opportunities. It's really been a big part of our success here.

CFOs are driven to achieve financial visibility and control, which happen to be chief among the many benefits of our software platform. In this sense, how has your experience with Certify helped you become a better CFO and strategic partner for our customers and prospects?

Well, I could really feel their pain, particularly around expense management prior to joining Certify. We use Certify internally, and with management teams and employees in separate locations around the country, we’re able to save time and money on processing. As the company grows and the number of expense reports grows, it doesn’t require incremental or dedicated headcount to manage. It's a very scalable solution. I’ve got the ability to look at any expense report and any receipt with the click of a button. I can run reports to see travel and expense trends, and I can easily track any policy exceptions. I found that to be a very powerful tool to help me audit and quickly look only for exceptions that are falling outside of our policy. It also helps me understand what the right spending policy levels are for categories, a dinner in San Diego versus Portland for example. It’s made me a better CFO because I can spend my time on more strategic issues knowing that expense management is taken care of with Certify.

Certify fundamentally believes culture plays a critical role in the company’s success and we invest a good deal of money in our work hard, play hard culture. While some of these “soft” investments can make some CFOs a bit nervous, what kinds of dividends have you seen pay off from this approach?

Working with Bob and Alan in the past I knew that culture was big and that these kinds of investments are things that we're going to continue to do at Certify. For example, it’s very important for us to get everyone in the company together once or twice a year to keep that cross-pollination of culture going between teams on the East and West Coasts. And it’s truly a soft investment, which can be hard to quantify. Where we at Certify see the return is in employee retention and employee happiness. The culture is all about having happy employees that in turn make for happy customers. Those are both areas with favorable metrics we can point to, and our focus on culture is a big part of the reason why.

Tell us about the finance team at Certify and how your department has kept up with the company’s growth and success. What have you enjoyed most about building and working with your team?

When I first started with the company we had one bookkeeper reporting to me, and lots of people throughout the organization sharing lots of different administrative responsibilities. Now, we’re defining roles in finance and administration, and the team is growing across accounting, human resources and contracts management functions. Our group is spread across three locations, so we’re also utilizing technology to keep up with the company growth while keeping our team at the appropriate levels. Ultimately, being decentralized has helped me understand that we have to be able to communicate well with each other and trust one another even more so than if we were all in the same location. And it has really given me a great opportunity to be a mentor for my team members. I have over twenty-five years of experience primarily in technology companies and I find a lot of enjoyment in paying it forward by sharing what I’ve learned. When I was going through the ranks I had managers who shared a lot with me which helped turn me into the business professional I am today. So, I look for any opportunity to do the same, to help my team improve in whatever way they want to improve and grow in their career.