In the present business market, finances and creativity come hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to remote financial management. CFOs need to apply original methods of managing financial teams or getting investment for the company. If you struggle with this, today's guest got you covered.
Ken Kaufman is the Chief Financial Officer at Community Dental Partners, led by a mixed team of dental and business veterans working together to solve the needs of today’s modern dental professionals. CDP was designed for dentists by dentists who recognized the need to partner with responsible business experts.
Welcome back to CFO Weekly where we’re talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy and ultimately get results with your host Megan Weis. Let’s jump right in.
Megan: Today, my guest is Ken Kaufman. Ken thrives as an executive in high growth organizations. In his current role as the CFO of Community Dental Partners, since 2016, Ken has played an integral role in helping the company grow while building an entirely remote FP&A team and shoring up the accounting processes, systems and teams to deliver on monthly closed deadlines, quarterly covenant and board reporting, annual tax and audit compliance, M&A support, and hands-on support to each member of the executive team.
He is a sought-after speaker and thought leader in the dental industry, and recently founded the Dental Finance Forum, the first mastermind of its kind that exclusively supports finance leaders of group practices and Dental Support Organizations. He earned a business degree from BYU and MBA from University of Georgia in finance & entrepreneurship, where his peers selected him as the most outstanding student.
He and his wife have been married for 23 years and have eight children. Ken enjoys serving in his church and uses whatever free time he can find to engage in cycling, mountain biking, and an occasional triathlon to keep himself humble. Ken, thank you very much for being my guest today.
Ken: Thank you so much, Megan. I’m very excited to be here.
Megan: Yes. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at your career and discussing some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way, and I’m looking forward to learning from your experience and sharing some of your tips with our audience so let’s get started.
Ken: Sounds great.
Megan: First let’s start with you. Tell me a bit about your career journey and how it is that you ended up where you are today.
Ken: Sure. I’ll try to make this as brief as possible. I did an undergraduate degree in business and I actually started a business coming right out of college and it failed miserably and it was a great, amazing learning lesson. I then got involved with a really high growth company that in about five years we grew to almost a hundred million in revenue, and I just found this passion for business and for finance and that actually motivated me to go back and get an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship.
Then I’ve been out of school a couple of years and I landed in my first CFO role and that was in 2004 and then have just had opportunities a period of time where I just did consulting. I wasn’t in one company, I was helping maybe five to 10 at a time and then I went back into single company or in the industry. I’ve just primarily spent my time in lower middle market companies.
Megan: Sounds like you’ve had varied experience. It’s very interesting.
Ken: Yes, there’s something about growth, right? When you’re in high growth companies and when you’re growth minded those new opportunities, the opportunity to maybe jump to a different industry or jump to a different set of challenges that’s always motivated me in what I’ve chosen to do with my career.
Megan: Yes. High growth companies are always an exciting place to be.
Ken: That’s right.
Megan: I guess not for everybody, but for me also. As you look back on your career, are there any particular stories that stand out in your mind as real turning points?
Ken: Yes, there are. I’ll start with the first one. In my first CFO role and we exploded growth, meaning doubled revenue within a matter of months, not years but months. Having taken finance classes and having learned how things are supposed to work and how the working capital and cash cycle works I had never actually seen it in that intense of an environment where we doubled revenue within a few months. I watched this amazing process happened where performance, we were just exploding. Our margins were going up. Everything looked phenomenal, but cash was disappearing.
I had a business owner who was feeling extremely nervous about what was happening. I had others who were questioning and didn’t understand that cash generally goes down when you’re in that high growth mode, especially that fast and it was just exhilarating to see how, what I’d learned about and studied and have other micro experienced around at such a high velocity. You could see exactly how the working capital cycle works and what it takes for it to normalize out and why there’s a short-term disappearance for investment of all that cash into working capital and then ultimately it all ended up great on the other side.
I had a business owner there who was so nervous and I was able to talk him down off the legend. Ultimately, he made more money in that year than he had the prior 20 in the business with the amazing growth and with the way we capitalized on the opportunities in the marketplace at the time. That was a real shift for me, where I really thought how everything all came together in the entire cycle.
Another one was because I spent a little period of my career, about five years doing consulting where I wasn’t the CFO of the company on a full-time basis, but I was helping some lower middle market companies with some different challenges and things. I decided actually, because one of them, their board approached me and asked me to come on board on a full-time basis and it was just the right time to do it.
It was just so fun to get so deep back into one company again and that’s just been how I’ve been in my career since then. I just really love focusing on one company getting deep and really helping drive growth and maximize value.
Megan: What did your stint as a consultant teach you? What were the important lessons that came out of those years?
Ken: Oh, that’s a great question. It’s so powerful when you do the consulting because you get to look at multiple companies and multiple industries. Really quickly I learned that 80% to 90% of what happens inside one industry is completely transferable to the other industry, but there’s 10% to 20% that differs. It was fun to jump into those nuances and learn those differences, and ultimately, I feel like it was a phenomenal education. I can see why some people who, for example, go into accounting specifically, and then go and work for where they can work on multiple companies.
It gives you so much experience and the breadth. Sometimes you can’t get quite as deep, but the breadth of looking at all these different businesses, all these different industries really powerful way to get an education very quickly. That was probably one of my favorite parts, and then obviously, showing up to a brand new client and just diving in and figuring out what’s going on. I always love the challenge of that.
Megan: Switching gears a bit, your current organization, Community Dental Partners what is it that they do?
Ken: At Community Dental Partners, we are a dental support organization, which means we affiliate with dental practices and provide various non-clinical services to help the clinicians be as successful as possible in diagnosing and treating patients. The doctors have the autonomy to do all of that but they love being able to outsource and hand off a lot of those other functions, like I said, we affiliate with and we’re a dental support organization. As of today, or I should say by the end of the year, we’ll be supporting about 70 dental practices throughout the US.
Megan: I was just at the dentist this morning. [laughs]
Ken: Oh, wow. Okay.
Megan: Maybe it was one that you support.
Ken: There we go.
Megan: How long have you been there? [crosstalk]
Ken: I have now been here for six years.
Megan: Okay, and what are your proudest achievements since joining that organization?
Ken: Oh, they are so many, but it’s really hard for me to try to take the credit for myself because it is such a team effort in order to obviously build and grow an organization. I think what I’m probably the proudest is at the time that I joined the organization, we were just growing from seven locations supported, breaking into the teams and being able to say, “Here we are,” six years later, ending the year 2021 and we’re to 70 locations at 10X growth from seven to 70, it’s crazy, it’s fun.
There are some days where you wonder if you’re going to make it, other days where you feel like you can conquer the world. There’s all those ups and downs through the process. I’m really proud of the team and the organization and thrilled for the fact that what this means is we’re now supporting dentists that are seeing and treating and working with and making a difference and having an impact in the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients every year. It’s really an incredible business to be in.
Megan: Do you support dentist offices across the country or do you focus on a certain region?
Ken: We do. We got our [unintelligible 00:09:51] in the state of Texas, and that is still where majority of the practices are that we support, but we have expanded this year into a couple of new states and looking to continue to do more.
Megan: You touched on this a bit and it also says this in your LinkedIn bio, that you thrive as an executive in a high growth organization. What aspects of working for a fast-growing company and industry excites you the most?
Ken: There are several here. I’m certain I won’t be able to name all of them as eloquently as I want, but the first one is that in a high growth company, opportunities abound.
What I found when I was in the high growth company, just shortly after trying to start my own business out of college, and then getting involved with a startup, what I found was is that if you show up, you work hard, you try to do a good job and be honest, and try to make a difference that you can find all sorts of opportunities, because as the company’s growing, they’re going to continue to need help, and they’re looking for people that they can trust. I was given probably way more responsibility, and way more opportunities for growth than I’m certain I deserved, just because I showed up and worked hard.
The opportunities are just incredible in growth companies. That’s one thing I love. Another thing is you just always get this exhilarating momentum from knowing that you’re forging new ground, that you’re pioneering into some new territory that hasn’t been figured out yet. Also, you might think I’m a little crazy for this Megan, but I do get energy, like we build our company and grow to a point where we have to start breaking systems and processes and rebuilding them. That’s pretty energizing and exciting.
I think because when you’re growing, it’s just constantly trying to figure out how do we maximize the value we can bring to the customers so that they’re willing to part with their hard-earned dollars. Or in the case, they have insurance, they’re willing to select our providers to provide care for them, and the third-party payers, obviously are involved in at least some of the cash that changes hands there, but figuring out how do we bring more value? How do we do more?
The interesting thing in our business today in Community Dental Partners is these clinicians are really our customers. It’s figuring out how can we support them as best as we can, so that they can be as successful as possible, treating their customers, which are the patients. All of these things come together that just makes working in a fast-growth growing company, just really fun.
Megan: I like your comments about breaking processes and fixing them. How do you know when it’s broken and then how do you go about rebuilding it?
Ken: That’s a great question. I’ll add this, and I’ll jump back to your question. It’s also about prioritizing which ones get fixed ahead of the other. Getting that right is the hardest thing to figure out. Generally, we see systems breaking when all of a sudden, employees raising hands, “Hey, I’ve got a question here. I’ve got a concern here.” I have a habit now, Megan, when I meet with my team, when I interact with anybody inside the organization, I’d like to ask the question of what are you the most concerned about? What are you worried about? What’s currently frustrating you in your day-to-day role?
Generally speaking, when I’m listening to their answers, that usually starts to point us to where something has broken or is about to break, and we’ve got to figure out a new process or system.
Megan: Once you’ve identified that it’s broken, I’m always interested to find out what is the process for rebuilding?
Ken: Here’s how we think about this inside of our organization. We believe there are three types of people in the world, the people who make it up, the people who make it real, and then the people who make and keep it recurring. The make-it-up people are generally your executives, your directors, your leaders inside the organization.
Then you obviously have a lot of employees that are taking on tasks that are recurring in nature and that middle group that I mentioned, the people who make it real, and turn it into a recurring process that say a $12, or $15, or $20, an hour employee would be executed on. Those are project managers and project coordinators.
We’ve built out a project management organization inside of our company that allows us when we see that something needs change, first of all, allows us to identify what are the projects or the key areas that we want to start to change. Then through the project management process or through the team that’s in charge of making it real, we go through identifying what the impact is going to be of the changes that are needed.
How do we prioritize each one relative to each other and get the entire project list turned into a set of what we call playbook projects that we renew every year, and say, “These are the things that we are going to dedicate all of this project management time and energy towards with the leadership team supporting.” Then with obviously going to what’s called gamba or going to where those reoccurring employees are at, and working with them to make sure that we’re going to bring them something.
Not that you’re in the ivory tower somewhere, somebody thought was a great idea but wouldn’t work in practice, but actually turning it into something that really is going to have the impact that it needs to whether it was a broken system that now is getting fixed and updated, or it’s a completely new system. Because we’ve just completely transcended anything that existed before and we’re taking things to an entirely new level. That explanation helped?
Megan: Yes, definitely. Thank you for that additional detail. Not too long ago on LinkedIn, you were offering a $3,000 referral bonus to your circle within LinkedIn for new hires. Tell me a little bit about what went into that decision to do that and how that worked out because I know every organization in the United States right now is struggling to find talent.
Ken: That’s a great question. It definitely is extremely relevant in today’s market. What happened was about the end of last year, when I looked at what was coming up, and the challenges we had to take on, I realized that my FP&A team was very underdeveloped and understaffed relative to what I was going to need to support the business moving forward. We started on a journey, where we brought in a director of FP&A and then we started to look at our current staff and their skillset relative to what we needed, and with the director started to build up the right FP&A organization and it’s interesting, this director just past his one-year mark.
When I listed that position, it was because we had finally gotten through several pieces of building his department and we got really clear on what we needed. Which by the way, great hiring always starts with being massively clear about exactly what it is that you need, from the position. It comes from a skill set, you’ve matched up with, obviously, what their job duties, and their responsibilities are going to be on a day to day basis, but also culture. We can jump into that to whatever degree you want to.
When we posted this position, we were at a point in time where we needed to make several hires and I knew that with the market being the way it was, we were going to need to probably do something a little bit unique or different. That’s why we made the offer of the $3,000 signing bonus and we do have one person that earned it.
There was somebody that was referred, it was actually a family member and we hired that individual because they were just a fantastic candidate for the role. Spending that $3,000 was one of the best things we’ve ever done. We found a phenomenal employee, and already had a family member that had, quote-unquote, drunk from the Kool-Aid in terms of really like our company and how we do things. That was a huge success.
Megan: There are those referrals, I find are often some of the best employees.
Ken: They are. The interesting thing about it is when we first did that, I mentioned it to our HR team, then they didn’t send it out to the company, meaning we published it on LinkedIn and other places and I said, “Hey, why aren’t we sending this with our regular newsletter that goes to the employees to really let them know what positions are open?” They said, “Nobody else in the company, except for your departments can really focus on finance and those sorts of things and we didn’t think anybody would be interested.”
I said, “Your point is true but they have relatives, they have friends that are in finance, and that live in this world.” They resent it out in any way it’s grateful they did because we ended up finding a great employee from it.
Megan: We’ve talked about this a bit, but Community Dental Partners is incredibly fast-growing. When you’re hiring, how do you make sure that you find the best talent for each role? You mentioned having a clear description of what’s needed, but in some of the new roles, maybe it’s gray or not clear what exactly will be needed yet.
Ken: Yes, Megan, you’re so intuitive here. Your question is brilliant and I need to start by just saying, a lot of times we get it wrong. In a growing company, you really try to anticipate, but then sometimes things shift and change and what you anticipated becomes completely different. That’s one issue. You may come up with this great job description, but then it turns out two months after you hire them, you need them doing a whole bunch of different things that weren’t ever in that job description.
The second part of it that we just have to own is sometimes we’re creating a position that’s never existed before inside of our organization. When we look around as a leadership team, we say we’ve actually never even hired somebody to do something like this before. We often don’t know because we don’t have a lot of experience on how to get the right person hired for that specific role. I’ll give you an example. At some point, our company is going to get big enough and we think it’s sometime soon where we’re just going to need to hire an in-house general counsel.
I’ve done it once in my career and nobody else on the leadership team has done that before. How do we make sure we get that right and we’re clear on the position and then we’re clear on the type of person we need and how they want to feel motivated obviously to be successful in the role because sometimes we just miss. We like to say in our organization, there’s only two outcomes. We either get it right or we learn.
Sometimes the first hire just, we miss and they miss too in terms of getting the right fit because we just don’t have all the experience. I have to own both of those in a startup company. Both of them are hard. Getting that job description right and having that stay stable to the person you’re hiring but then also knowing sometimes we’re creating new positions that are new to us. We sometimes make mistakes on who we hire. I hate to say that.
When we do make mistakes which we do the best we can to repurpose them because by high growth usually there’s other opportunities. It does sometimes cause frustration on both sides. Sometimes people ended up exiting the organization, but that generally when you’re in high growth it’s usually about people saying, “Yes, no, I don’t really want to be a part of this. I want to go take my time in services and use them elsewhere.”
Of course, we always wish them the best on way and hope the best for all of them. I don’t know that I answered the question, but I want to put that there so you can ask me any follow-up question.
Megan: No, that’s definitely great. I’m sure when it’s not a fit, it’s felt both ways from the employee and from you guys. It’s great. Like you said, high growth you’re able to repurpose a lot, but sometimes we just have to admit mistakes and move on.
Ken: Yes, that’s right. I couldn’t, in good conscious joke and say that we get it right all the time because no, but we’re learning in the process that then we’re getting better and better all along the way.
Megan: You’re a 100% remote CFO. I’m sure not unlike a lot of companies these days. Talk to me about running a remote finance team and how you keep your employees engaged and some semblance of a culture.
Ken: When you say a 100% remote, I do travel on sites where our support center is located but not that often. I’m mostly remote. There are a couple of tricks to this that we found, and it’s been a little bit of a journey to learn this and try to figure it out and try to get it right. If I jumped back three, four years ago, maybe five years ago, my FP&A manager needed to move about five hours south from our support center just for some family reasons and it was a good thing for him.
Initially, he found another job and I went and found a replacement for him, but kept him on part-time just to help out with projects and help train the new person. He was willing to do all that. After a couple months he said, “Hey, I’m not really liking my new job.” I said, “Hey, I’m not really liking the hire I made. What do you say we try to get back together?” He was really concerned about, “I’m not going to be there on-site. What am I going to miss out on? How about I can travel every six weeks, I will come up on-site.”
We figured out an arrangement and after about six months of this, he’s like, “I don’t really need to come anymore. I’ve realized I can just do everything I needed to from home.” He and I had gotten into a really nice rhythm and cadence and that was the first stage of me starting to realize, “Hey, maybe there’s a way to do things remotely.”
Then the need for my family to move came up about a year after we had gone through this experiment with my FP&A manager and I ended up moving out of state and figured out how to do it all remote. Then all of a sudden, when we needed to add some new positions to our FP&A team or to the accounting team, I started to say, “Actually borders don’t have to be boundaries anymore for us? Why wouldn’t we look and consider just finding the best talent wherever they’re at and allowing them to work remote,” which then allowed us to start thinking about offshore.
We’ve ended up with a nice blend of hiring people that are local to our support center, hiring people just in other areas in the United States and then hiring an offshore. My accounting and finance teams are now covering three continents, because we’ve been able to allow our minds to be expanded and opened up to what’s possible if a 30 to 45-minute driving radius around our support center is no longer a boundary for us.
Megan: That’s really eye-opening for a lot of people that not everybody does have to be on-site. It was good that you guys figured that out before COVID hit. Realizing that you can have-- [crosstalk]
Ken: I mentioned this, Megan, what I found is there is a little bit, still like-- I’ve been doing this for a few years now and there’s still a little bit of [unintelligible 00:26:19] with the team when some or all of them are remote. What I’ve realized and I’ve been experimenting with this, but I’m honing in on what’s needed. I’m doing a two to three-day summit with my FP&A team and then with my accounting team separately once a year.
That means we bring them all in, even those from offshore if we can arrange the travel on things. We bring them all in and we do two to three days of personal development, team building and development, and some other training. We have some fun. We always work a really cool community-based service project into it. That’s closed that final gap to where the team really coalesces even better once they do that, and once they know, “Hey, once a year we’re all going to be face-to-face and connecting and continuing to build our team.” Does that make sense?
Megan: Definitely. That’s a brilliant idea. Has that model worked with brand new hires out of college? I’m always interested in how do you incorporate someone who’s brand new into the workforce in a remote environment?
Ken: It really comes down to, the way we found success with this is, it is either the director manager spending a lot of just open Zoom time with them to be-- sometimes they’re not even talking to each other, they’re just parallel working, but that new employee knows, “Hey, I can just ask the question as if I’m sitting the next desk over.” It’s just, you’re on Zoom together. It’s a lot of that. We did have some success when we were hiring over the summer.
We did hire somebody amazing, amazing person, straight out of school, though, with very little real-world experience in finance. That’s what our FP&A manager has done is just spent a lot of open Zoom time, answering questions, working through things, and he has progressed really nicely. If he were on this podcast with us, he’d probably tell you, he’s thrilled with this choice and feels he’s learned a ton in the last six months since he joined our organization.
Megan: That’s awesome. Realizing that the world is now open up to finding employees and executing on that, and I guess this is probably somewhat challenging. How did you first go about offshoring some of your workforce?
Ken: I really appreciate this question. The way that we approached it was we met a group that had some connections and was building up an organization in Africa, the country of Zimbabwe specifically. They were talking about the talent there. They speak the Queen’s English. They’re very well-educated. We said, “Hey, why don’t we just give this a try for a couple of, more of the entry-level positions and let’s see how this works.”
Actually, our RCM or revenue cycle management team made some of the first hires for an entry-level billing or biller type of a position. Those are barely dipping our toe in the water right at first and then we found that it worked pretty good. The technology seemed to-- the latency wasn’t really existent so we were able to real time keep up with everything. There wasn’t a lag and we just continued to move on to where I ended up hiring a controller from Africa, from Zimbabwe.
Then we started to make some direct relationships. We actually went over and visited because I wanted to learn and put my hands on it, so to speak of how it all worked, and how the structure worked. That was very eye-opening to travel there and meet these people face to face and meet their families and engage with them as well as work through time zone differences and those sorts of things, and understand what the challenges are related to that. That was our very first foray.
Then we’ve made some direct relationships in the Philippines in other places in Africa. We also have done a little bit of hiring from Mexico.
Megan: That’s awesome. Let’s switch gears a bit and we’ve touched on this a bit, but growth investments are critical, particularly for high growth companies. Of course, when you’re making those investments, they’re driving down your EBITDA. You’ve been able to convince lenders to give you a credit for some of your growth investments and add that back to EBITDA. What are some of your tips and tricks for accomplishing this?
Ken: I love this question and it’s so relevant and I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with other finance folks, around this topic. I’ve become fairly passionate about it. I’m not going to say an expert, but definitely passionate about trying to figure it out and learn it and talk to others about it and brainstorm.
Here’s the basic premise, when you look around your industry, whatever industry you’re in and people have expectations, they say, “Hey, the EBITDA margins should be at 7%, 10%, 15%,” whatever it is, understanding that and understanding the model in your industry. Then looking at your OPEX and saying if I break my OPEX into two buckets and if I have one bucket that’s called maintenance. The purpose of the maintenance bucket is I put all employee costs, vendor costs, everything goes into that bucket from my OPEX that it would take to just run the business.
If I stopped all my growth initiatives, if I stopped trying to be inquisitive or open new locations, whatever the business model is if I was to just go to steady-state on this business and maintain what are the cost to accomplish that. You peel out all of the growth stuff, then you look and you say, “Okay, if I just had that OPEX, what would my margin be?”
Then you can start to learn and you can get really comfortable with explaining to anybody internally or externally, “Hey, we would be at that 7% or that 12% or 15% EBITDA margin, whatever it is, we would be there because this is what it takes to run the business. This is the OPEX, and that gets me right to that margin.”
Everything else we’re doing is, and I can use lots of terms here, it’s a growth of an investment. It’s an R&D investment. There are lots of things to call, this other bucket, but knowing that, and we even within our accounting system, we’ve chosen to create buckets for OPEX so that on the G&A side, we can see exactly from general administrative costs, how much is going toward maintenance and how much is going toward growth.
Sorry, I’m rambling here, but there’s a lot to unpack. The monthly variance meetings with the business leaders always go through their maintenance work versus growth OPEX. That gives us the opportunity to continue to update us and the opportunities for us to continue to understand is that person, or is that cost being used to sustain the existing or maintain the existing business or is it being directed to growth activities and growth initiatives? I’ll stop there, Megan. If you want to unpack that further, I’m happy to do it.
Megan: No, I think that’s brilliant you’ve broken them down into two buckets, that can be examined separately. I’m sure it has to be a balancing act for a lot of companies that are trying to grow and trying to look good to lenders and investors. I think that’s a brilliant idea of how to convince someone that the money you’re spending and driving down EBITDA is actually for future growth.
Ken: That’s right. Another thing I’ll add on, we live in a world of the five-year model. We all want to have an updated five-year model so we can look and see where are things going and where are we going to get to. My strategy specifically when I’m talking to potential equity partners is when we’re discussing the five-year plan. I want to show them two versions of it. I want to show them the version that say year two or three, we start to peel back the growth investment side, the EBITDA that’s being expensed out for growth.
I want to show them, “Hey, if we were to go into maintenance mode here, this is where the business gets to.” Then this also helps you identify what really is your growth potential and what is your growth engine really worth.
Then I want to show them in the second version of the model, if I don’t get rid of that growth investment, and it does depress EBITDA, where will we be at the end of that fifth year relative to at the end of year five when you cut those costs around year two or year three, and you lean the business out and go into that maintenance mode, and you really know you’ve got a great growth business and a great growth story.
If you can show them, “Look, keeping this growth investment is actually going to improve or it’ll be better than the other model, if at the end of five years,” because the other model, the one that is focused on the-- going in a maintenance mode, it’ll be up to a certain value, but your growth will have slowed.
In the other one week keep that growth cost in that growth OPEX. At the end of that fifth year, can show them, “Look, your equity value’s going to be more.” If you say, “Hey, let’s keep that growth OPEX. Let’s not lean this business out and prepare it to sell, and some reason, let’s just keep on the growth trajectory.”
That’s when you know you’ve got a great growth business, and you’ve got a great story to be able to tell that people can buy into and really believing. That’s from an equity perspective. Then obviously the lenders will follow suit.
Megan: How do you convince them that it’s not just a pipe dream, that those investments are actually going to pan out as you expect they will?
Ken: That’s a very fair question. We, to a bit agree you have documented proof that you’ve been able to do it so far and that your growth plans are reasonably based in assumptions that should be able to be comparable to your past performance that tends to buy a lot of credibility.
Megan: Lastly, as a CFO, what is keeping you up at night these days?
Ken: What’s keeping me up at night? That’s a great question. There are actually lots of possible answers to this. Inflation is one, the rise of virtual currencies and the stability of the dollar in general. Soft labor market, COVID variance and the continuing changes in regulatory and compliance requirements. What’s happening now is just insane with what business leaders are having to react to and implement.
Actually, I’m not going to say any of those to answer this. Here’s what is keeping me up at night, can I figure out how to become the best leader possible for the business and where am I missing? What do I need to be changing about my mindset, about my view, about the way I’m approaching things, about the way I’m leading my teams, about the way I’m interacting with the business leaders and our external and internal stakeholders?
The thing I’m the most worried about is can I be that person and what do I need to be doing to get myself to the next level and continue to grow? Because, if you’re in a growth company, you have to grow, if you want to keep up individually as a person, as somebody working inside that business. I’d say, that’s what I worry about the most actually is how am I going to be that person and how can I improve myself?
Megan: I love that answer. There’s so much in the world that we can’t control, but that is actually one thing that we can control is transforming ourselves and growing, and continuing to be successful and whatever it is that we’re doing.
Ken: That’s right. Couldn’t agree more.
Megan: Ken, thank you so much for being my guest today.
Ken: Thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure, Megan, to spend this time with you.
Megan: I really enjoyed speaking with you and hearing about your experiences and all of the results and insights. I appreciate you taking the time to be here with us today and I wish you and Community Dental Partners all the best.
Ken: Thank you so much. Of course, all the best to you and I’m hoping for great success for your podcast on a community basis.
Megan: Thank you very much. To all of our listeners, please tune in next week. Until then take care.
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In this episode, we discuss opportunities in high-growing companies, how to efficiently manage a remote finance team, tips on finding the best financial talent, and maintenance versus growth OPEX amongst other interesting topics.
Opportunities in High-Growing Companies
Ken states that in a high-growth company, opportunities abound. You get this exhilarating momentum from knowing that you're discovering and learning something new. Furthermore, there's this ongoing cause of constantly trying to figure out how to maximize the value you can bring to the customers.
''There's something about growth. When you're in high-growth companies and when you're growth-minded. Those new opportunities, the opportunity to maybe jump to a different industry or jump to a different set of challenges. That's always motivated me in what I've chosen to do with my career.''
Dealing With Struggles in Finding Talent - Remote Financial Management
Anticipating the new company's challenges, Ken realized that his FP&A team was underdeveloped and understaffed. The company needed to make several hires and find great talent. So they came with something unique and offered a $3000 referral signing bonus to his circle within LinkedIn.
To make sure you find the best talent, you first need to set up clear expectations of the role. Even so, organizations may struggle with failures. That's the moment when you need to learn from mistakes and adapt to the challenges.
''Great hiring always starts with being massively clear about what you need from the position.''
Running a Remote Finance Team
As a CFO, Ken mainly works remotely. Though it's challenging, the company started hiring offshore, and now it has finance teams covering three continents.
''Borders don't have to be boundaries anymore for us. Why wouldn't we look and consider just finding the best talent wherever they're at and allowing them to work remotely?''
Managing EBITDA and Investing in Growth - All You Need to Know About Remote Finance Management
Growth investments are critical for high-growth companies. But when you're making those investments, they're driving down your EBITDA. To convince lenders to give credit for growth investments and add that back to EBITDA, Ken suggests breaking your company's OPEX into two buckets. One bucket is the maintenance, and the purpose of the maintenance bucket is to put all employee costs, vendor costs, and everything that it would take to run the business. Understanding the difference between maintenance and growth OPEX allows focusing on growth investment and business sustainment.
''We always go through their maintenance versus growth OPEX. And that allows them to continue to update us, and the opportunity for us to continue to understand is that cost used to sustain or maintain the existing business, or is it directed toward growth activities and growth initiatives?''
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