10 Questions for Wave Software CFO Walter Willey
-- Name: Walter Willey
-- Age: 47
-- Time with company: 3.5 years
-- Education: Salisbury University in Maryland, CPA and certified fraud examiner
-- Company headquarters: Orlando
-- Number of countries: 15
-- Number of employees total: 15
-- Number of employees the CFO oversees: 2
-- About the company: Wave Software provides early data analysis, legal hold electronic data discovery, and litigation project management technology for global corporations. The company website is http://www.discoverthewave.com.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I received a bachelor of science in accounting, so I took a fairly traditional route and started out in public accounting at a firm called C.W. Amos & Co. During that time, I had on a client in Rhode Island related to the failure of credit unions in that state, so I became involved in forensic accounting and litigation support. I really enjoyed that kind of work so I left the public accounting firm, became a certified fraud examiner and started my own consulting business, specializing in forensic accounting and litigation support. I worked on various cases for the next 15-plus years, with a stint as a CFO in a public charter school that came out of mediation. In 2004, I began working on a case in Washington, D.C. I was put in charge of document production and by this time, the need to understand the production of electronic documents really become imperative. While working on this case, I met the owner of Wave Software. Wave was one of the first developers of products needed in the eDiscovery industry, including the initial version of one of our flagship products, Trident Pro, that is still a go-to product in the marketplace today. At the end of that case, the owner asked me to come work at Wave Software. It seemed to be a great fit as I was able to understand our client's needs and challenges, having worked on the other side as a user of the type of software that we provide.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
That's a bit of a tough one for me because I've worked for so many different kinds of people. I've worked with lawyers and litigation specialists at all levels. I'm a person who really draws on all those experiences. I've learned my management and leadership skills from a wide range of people. I try to learn from all different aspects of my life and try to bring that to work with me.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
I can't speak for all CFOs, but I think in this kind of atmosphere the biggest challenge is to manage growth. It's a challenge to manage all aspects of the growth phase. This is especially true in a growing company like Wave Software, where there is a constant challenge on how to allocate resources. A lot of CFOs have had to go back to the basics as far as forecasting, budgeting and long-range planning -- it has been a challenge in this economy to control budgeting and forecasting.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
I think a good day at work for me is really when the company is having a productive day, when all the cylinders are hitting, when I can get to budgeting and forecasting and long-range planning for the company. For a growing company like us, that's essential.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
I think I'm a very approachable, open, easy-to-work-with person. I work very hard and I expect people to do the same, but I've never believed in that yelling, screaming approach to professional situations. I feel all problems can be handled without that happening. I also think I've become in my career a "glue" sort of manager and by that I mean the glue that keeps everything together. People know they can come to me. I've been in the business a long time. I think that's what makes my position unique -- I'm able to guide the whole team.
6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?
They have to be in a place in their career where they're looking to sign on for a vision and not just a job. It's not a 9 to 5 -- if a client needs us to work on a Sunday, we have to work. It's a very exciting and fast-paced environment and that's not always what people are looking for. You like to see that excitement in them, that they'll really jump in and be as excited about this as we are.
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? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
When I think of questions like that I always think of the crazy interview questions we used to get like, 'If you could be a tree what kind of tree would you be?' I don't ask those kind of questions. My style isn't ask and answer, my style is a very open interview technique. Obviously, I'd want to know what they'd been doing in their previous job and why they left it. I'd want to know, are they going to be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment. It may be crazy, but I like to hear something like, 'I'm kind of bored in my position, I've done all I can do and I'd like to do more.' That suggests they're going to be willing to jump in and ask questions and help the company and be part of the team. Body language and attitude at the interview are still very important elements in determining what type of employee a person will be.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
I think it's because of the kind of company we are -- a growing company in a growing marketplace. We're just in our sixth year of business and the market is huge. Wave has experienced tremendous growth since day one and it's very challenging.
CFOs often get pigeon-holed, but having worked on the other side of litigation support as a person who has used the very products that we offer and faced the challenges of the marketplace, I have a unique opportunity to be more involved in the sale and development of products beyond just the financial aspects of the business.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
I'd be lying if I didn't say that a glass of wine is often a part of that equation. I live in Florida, so I'm able to walk out to the pool and be outside and listen to my favorite music and try to let go of the workday. I like to stay active, relaxing with my partner and my two miniature schnauzers. I also enjoy quiet times, spent with friends or a good book.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
I think I'd still be working in the field. I'd probably have continued in my consulting business as a litigation consultant. It's an exciting field. I dream of a job on a Caribbean island, but reality usually trumps that dream for the near future.