Geoff Brannon, CFO of San Ramon, California-based Rootstock Software, has been with the provider of manufacturing cloud ERP solutions for about a year. And a key focus of his efforts since then has been supporting sales.
Brannon spoke with StrategicCFO360 about why sales is key to his strategy, what he thinks about AI and the kinds of experience future CFOs should look for.
What specific initiatives are you spearheading with the goal of ultimately accelerating Rootstock and its customer growth?
I joined Rootstock Software in January 2023. And yes, since that time, our key goal has been to accelerate the growth of our company. To help achieve this, I’ve been focused on investments that continually support the expansion of our sales pipeline.
First, we helped our sales and marketing teams invest in a market intelligence tool, which gives them the information they need to focus on the right types and quality of leads. Second, we’ve invested in our sales leadership and sales staff. For example, we’ve been nurturing a team of sales development representatives to help us generate and qualify leads.
And third, we’re focused on fostering the right partner relationships—such as with Salesforce and Deloitte Digital—to help us sell and implement new customers.
How do you see technology shaping the way you and the modern CFO work right now and in the near future?
For the modern CFO, the biggest way technology is helping is through AI and automation. If we look back to 2017, 47 percent of large organizations were using AI-powered automation in their accounting function. Today, that has increased to 94 percent, so it’s really taking off across the finance and accounting world.
For Rootstock, we’re now using an AI automation tool to help speed up the efficiency and accuracy of our monthly financial close process. This solution has shaved days off the close timeline and is enabling us to report our results faster. We’re also exploring a solution that can scan our collections portfolio and predict which customers will likely pay on time versus those who will pay late. Instead of it being a manual process where we must remember to follow up with customers at various times, the tool will automatically tell us which customer payments are increasingly late and actually tee up follow-up emails for us. So, there’s already a lot of AI and automation that’s in play and more to come in the future.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career in enterprise tech on the path to a CFO role?
For anybody who has their sights set on becoming a CFO in the enterprise tech industry, I’d recommend spending time in different functional areas. For instance, time in an accounting or a controllership role will, of course, help hone your accounting skills. But you should also try to spend time in financial planning and analysis, which will allow you to engage more closely with the overall operations of the business. In addition, spending time in treasury will help you understand cash flow forecasting and credit agreements. All three areas are key to one day taking on the CFO role.
The other thing I would recommend is to form strong cross-functional relationships with other people in your company. If you have a buddy in product development, you can spend time with them to better understand how the company’s products are being advanced and improved. If you have a friend in sales, you could ask to sit in as a silent listener on a sales call. Same thing with marketing and professional services.
By forging these relationships, you get to look under the hood at various aspects of the business. The more time you can spend in these different functions, the better off you’re going to be, as you’ll be a more well-rounded executive.
What are three things you wish you knew about the evolving tech landscape before becoming a CFO of a successful company?
First, I wish I had known more about cybersecurity and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation before I moved into a CFO role. Data security is a concern you deal with from a legal and compliance perspective, so it’s important to learn best practices early.
Second, I wish I had known more about the financial planning and analysis tools that are available. The “old school” way of doing things was to leverage Excel. Financial professionals might say they have a great spreadsheet to do all their budgeting, forecasting and analysis, but that’s a manual, labor-intensive method and prone to human error. So, it’s good to always be looking at the most modern solutions.
Third, I wish I had joined a financial executive or CFO peer group earlier in my career. These groups can provide you with an instant community of your peers. You can ask questions and get opinions from people who hold similar positions to you, and because they’re part of this group, they want to help one another. With local groups, you’re able to attend in-person meetings and events, but there are also larger national groups that offer webinars and online meetings, which are good to have access to. The main benefit is that you’re able to meet, network and share knowledge with other financial executives, which is a huge benefit if you’re trying to progress to the level of CFO.