My job affords me the opportunity to speak with many amazing CPAs and learn from their experiences. I’m hoping to share as much of this as I can. Emma Lyndon, CFO of skyrocketing startup Canopy Labs, was kind enough to share some of her top insights with me, and I know many will find it valuable!
Did your time in audit help set you up for your success?
“Absolutely. My audit days gave me exposure into how different finance teams operate. It’s rare to get an opportunity to see that level of diversity in such a short period of time.”
What was is like being at eBay Canada in the mid 2000s?
“It was a magical time. When I joined there were only 25-30 of us in the Canadian office. I learned a ton. I had the opportunity to work on the launch of the French Canada site and was responsible for the project’s budget. This gave me an amazing window into how different components of a business run and fit together.
“What I love about finance is it gives you permission to ask about and dig into any aspect of a business.
It allows you to learn quickly about the business as a whole and make an impact.”
So what was the most important thing you took out of that experience?
“Everything is about trade-offs.”
“Everything is about trade-offs. How do you measure the impact of hiring one more sales person vs one more engineer vs one more designer? These decisions can be make or break, particularly in the agency and start-up world, so you need to ensure you understand the business drivers and are tracking the right KPIs.”
It seems that you’ve mixed operations and finance throughout your career, any thoughts on that?
“You have to really understand the business, and how it works. Armed with this, finance leaders are positioned to connect the dots and picking up on non-obvious insights into the business. This information is crucial to understanding the strengths of the business and strategically position a company to take advantage of them.”
You’re now at Canopy Labs, a Customer Journey Analytics startup that is scaling extremely quickly. What can you share about people management in this situation?
“Communication and transparency are absolutely key.”
“Communication and transparency are absolutely key. Everyone views change through a personal lens, and it’s up to you to communicate what changes mean to each employee. You can’t overdo this. It is equally critical to listen carefully. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing, especially when not everyone will agree, is crucial and lays the foundation for future success.
Finally, when a company is small everyone is doing several jobs. As you scale, and people start taking on more specific mandates, the lines of responsibility can easily get blurred. Ensuring that everyone has clarity around changing responsibilities during this period is a must.”
Any last thoughts for future finance leaders out there?
“For me, finance plays an important role as a strategic partner to the rest of the business. In order to play that role effectively, you need to build trust and rapport with the rest of the company so that they are confident you are a partner looking to help them succeed rather than hold them back.”