In The CFO Journal we talk to Chief Financial Officers from diverse sectors and backgrounds about their insights, experience, and advice for other professionals and aspiring CFOs. In this installment, Giulia George tells us about being a female executive at a fast growing Sydney startup.
The CFO Journal “Who Is”
Where: Local Measure is an independent software vendor (ISV) offering a customer experience platform tailored to the tourism and hospitality sectors. The Australian startup, founded in 2013, allows venues to gather information from customers based on location data or connections to their public wifi networks, and digitally engage them. Local Measure recently partnered with Cisco to upgrade the wifi network at the Sydney Opera House. Their platform allows the SOH marketing team to better identify and connect with visitors. Other partners include IBM, Salesforce, Facebook, Instagram, and Sina Weibo.
Joined: June 2017
Based: New South Wales, Australia
Qualifications: A bachelor of business from the University of Technology at Sydney. Giulia has over twenty years of experience, primarily in the IT industry, both with high-tech multinationals as well as SMEs.
Formerly: Financial Controller at Infra Corporation, EMC Infra Pty Ltd, and AV1; Financial Controller and VMware Service Manager at VMware; CFO at Alembra.
In Her Own Words
1. To start, what are your primary responsibilities? What is your day to day like and how has that changed over time?
I have direct responsibility for accounting, finance, forecasting, strategic planning, budgeting, cash management, tax planning, and statutory reporting, as well as company secretarial matters. Working closely with the CEO, COO, and a talented finance team, our current focus is business process improvement, across all areas, but with particular emphasis on collections and budgeting. As I have expanded the team locally, I have been able to focus less on transactional, day-to-day operations, and more on adding greater strategic value to the company, working more closely with the VPs in different regions to support them in achieving their goals.
2. Has there been a moment in your career that you consider a turning point?
Yes, completing my CPA really helped take my career to the next level. Holding that qualification gave me the confidence to put myself out there for more senior roles. I have gained invaluable experience in some most challenging and rewarding responsibilities in areas I hadn’t previously been exposed to.
3. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Not to take short cuts – do it once, and do it correctly. The information you are producing must be reliable if you are to gain any credibility. And always ask yourself why you are doing something. That helps to focus on the output and on how the information will be used.
4. What would you say is the greatest internal and external challenge you and your team are facing right now?
We have hundreds of customers in many different countries, and numbers are growing each month. Our biggest challenge is working out how to deal with this scale as we grow. A related challenge is managing collection of outstanding invoices, especially as the volume increases. We also face regulatory challenges. For example, dealing with tax regimes in different countries. Internally, we had to restructure so that we could better handle the workload. Building the right team and optimizing resources to enable us to handle the increased workload in a highly dynamic environment. We are also working with the product management team to build features within our platform to help manage billing/collection, to future-proof the process.
5. What has your experience been like as a female executive?
I am very fortunate, I can honestly say I have never actually experienced issues of gender bias in any of my roles to date. I know it exists, but it has not been my experience. Perhaps I have just worked with more progressive, inclusive leaders! I think that the most important thing anyone can do is to win the confidence of your peers. Demonstrate through your work that you are the right person for the job, then gender just doesn’t figure.
6. Finally, what is something you’re excited about in the coming year?
Local Measure is growing quickly. We have a laser-sharp focus on adapting to changes in the industry and building out our product suite to not only cope with those changes, but to stay ahead of the curve. There is a real sense of excitement across the team, and it is very rewarding to work with such a clever cohort. With all the work we are doing in building our channel partnerships, it feels like the year ahead will be one of leveraging those relationships to launch us to a whole new level in the market.
Industry Rundown: Mastering the CX
Intelligent and effective use of customer data via experience platforms offers a huge opportunity for businesses in 2019. Today, consumers expect their interactions with businesses to be seamless, relevant, trustworthy, and valuable. Customer experience (CX) platforms like Local Measure aim to offer just that, which could explain their non-stop growth. A quick Capterra search for CX software brings up 240 vendors alone!
A recent study by Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to CX. With the positive impact that this technology has on sales and revenue, it’s no wonder. A PWC survey found that 65% of consumers find a positive experience with a brand more effective than great advertising. 63% would be willing to share more information with a company that offers a truly valuable experience.
However, to put that statistic in context, 43% of respondents initially said that they would not give companies permission to collect their personal data for more personalized customer experiences. The funny thing is, most consumers already are offering up this information, and they may not even realize it. Today, customers give countless apps and networks access to this information in exchange for free apps, rewards points, or wifi access.
Therefore, even as the demand for CX software grows, so do calls from lawmakers and consumers to regulate data protection. The sector will need to struggle with these challenges in the coming year, and learn to draw the line between personalization and privacy invasion. What’s more, they should weigh the benefits of data collection with the value of consumer trust.
Local Measure, for example, has acknowledged having to compromise platform functionality in order to maintain user privacy. “Our user privacy must always trump any individual product feature. These are the sorts of exchanges required to operate ethically within a changing privacy environment,” Local Measure CFO Jonathan Barouch writes. In light of growing consumer concern, this mentality will likely prove to be more profitable in the long-term as well.
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash