10 Questions for VBrick Systems CFO Paul Hallee
Name: Paul Hallee
Time with company: 3 years
Education: B.S. in Accounting, Bentley College; MBA, Babson College
Company headquarters: Wallingford, Connecticut
About the company: VBrick Systems provides products and services for enterprise Internet Protocol video for the creation, publishing and distribution of rich media content. The company has more than 9,000 corporate, education and government customers and 60,000 installations worldwide. Its website is http://vbrick.com
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
Out of college, my first job was with a large manufacturing firm. The firm was growing fast and very successful -- and I learned a lot about finance and management over my 10 years there. But I felt lost in the crowd and began working with smaller companies where I could have a greater impact helping them grow and mature. Eventually I got involved with early stage, venture capital-backed companies for the same reason. This led me to my position today as CFO of VBrick Systems, a long standing and leading technology company providing enterprise IP video.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
My first job as a CFO I worked for a friend of mine who happened to be the company's CEO. He was more sales-oriented and was very adept at deal making while keeping a great rapport with people at all levels. Most importantly, his knack for rallying individuals around a strategy or deal taught me that it takes a team to be successful and everyone has to play a part in an organization's success.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
The overall economic climate has been a challenge for the last couple years. It has put a real damper on [an] organization's ability to invest in technology, whether those are government institutions or corporate enterprise. I worry about the steps governments will need to take in coming years to recover from the financial crises of the last few years and what impact those decisions will have on economic growth. Additionally, CFOs are challenged in today's economic times to determine where to allocate a company's spending -- specifically where to invest in new enterprise technologies like unified communications coupled with live streaming video, a trend we see still hot for 2011.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
A day where I feel I've made a positive contribution to our success. That could be something I've personally done or, more importantly, when I've helped someone else be more effective.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
I would describe my style as one of cooperative empowerment. My goal is to make the people that work for me feel empowered to take initiative, but also feel comfortable coming to me to discuss ideas, make suggestions or ask for help when they need it. I don't hover over shoulders watching everything my employees do and I don't chew them out when mistakes are made. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as the intent was in the right place, it should be a learning experience.
6. What strengths/qualities do you look for in job candidates?
Ambitious, honest, loyal, unselfish and a positive attitude. Of course, they have to be technically competent as well. But I've found over the years that if you can't trust someone or believe that they have the organization's best interests in mind, it's going to be a short relationship. Not to mention, a positive attitude can help make it a better place to work for everyone.
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company?
Other than probing their professional or technical competence, I always ask two questions: What do you like to do? What do you not like to do? Most people think I'm asking about work things, but that's not necessarily what I'm looking for. I'm trying to find out more about their personality and what makes them tick. For example, I once had a sales candidate tell me that she really didn't like initiating contact with people. Needless to say she didn't get the job.
8. What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
Bad-mouthing former employers, companies, bosses and/or fellow employees. If a candidate can't hold themselves accountable for what's happened in the past, that's not an individual I seek to work with. That just tells me someday I'll be your next excuse. It's also surprising how many people don't answer the question they've been asked in the interview. Anytime I hear someone beating around the bush, it's a red flag for me.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
I like to read. I usually have a couple books going at a time -- one for enjoyment and one for professional development. I also enjoy just relaxing at home with my family watching one of our favorite TV shows or a movie.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would be doing?
I'm sure I'd be trying to help another early stage company somewhere. But I've been in finance for 15 years and really enjoy it. And sometimes I even think I'm good at it!
(Paul Hallee is the chief financial officer of VBrick Systems, a leader in Enterprise IP Video. He has more than 25 years of experience in finance and operations at established and venture-funded technology companies. As CFO with Boston-Power, he secured US$18 million to drive the company's manufacturing expansion in China. Additionally, he CFO for Sandburst, where he helped to guide the sale of the company to Broadcom in 2005. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hallee was CFO at FutureTense, where he was central to directing the company's sale to Open Market for $125 million.)