10 Questions for Freeborders CFO Paul Machle
Name: Paul Machle
Time with company: 6 years
Education: MBA from the JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University
Company headquarters: San Francisco
Countries of operation: U.S., Canada, U.K., China, Hong Kong, Sweden, Malaysia
Number of employees total: about 1,000
Number of employees the CFO oversees: about 30
CFO's areas of responsibility: Finance, accounting, IT, metrics, some quality and strategy work
About the company: Freeborders provides consulting, technology and outsourcing services and products for Internet-based companies.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I started my career at Ernst & Young in Palo Alto. I worked there as a staff auditor for four years and then decided to go back to Northwestern University to get an MBA.
After obtaining my MBA, I first joined Sybase, then the software company Kanisa Inc. I then joined the Exigen Group, a global business process solutions company, which has a combined services and outsourcing model. Working at Exigen exposed me to the services side of the business. After one year, I was offered the opportunity to join Freeborders as the CFO. I like Freeborders' unique approach to delivering IT services, quality of its investors, management team and clients. The company applies an IT services model that has been perfected by the tier 1 Indian outsourcers to the hugely talented technical labor pool of China.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
My most influential boss was Jerry Kennelly, my manager at Sybase. He taught me the basics of P&L reporting and how to report across geographic P&Ls. He also taught me about management. Jerry went on to become the CFO at Inktomi and then co-founded Riverbed.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
The life cycle in today's companies is much shorter as companies are now Internet-based businesses. We have a SaaS model. In addition, the market changes very quickly. You can't have a five-year strategy. You have to monitor your strategy almost quarterly and move quickly. It's a much more compressed time cycle that doesn't fit the planning models that CFOs are used to historically.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
A good day is when we close a nice deal. I often get involved in contract negotiations and work with our sales team on pricing initiatives and with our clients on sales contracts.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
My style is empowerment. I like to hire great people and then let them run with their priorities and their projects. I tend to be fairly hands-off in what people do and expect them to perform at the level they're capable of.
6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?
We look for people who are self-motivators and can work independently. Strengths we value include the ability to take initiative and run with whatever given project or assignment. My team members are usually people who fight for opportunities to take challenges and risks.
I look for people that can work independently, that like to be challenged and aren't looking for somebody to tell them what to do on a daily basis. I really look for people that will take the initiative and will run with whatever project or assignment is given to them.
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?
So far, I've been very fortunate in my hiring decisions. The people who joined my team five years ago are all still with the company. From my perspective there was no doubt about the candidates' capabilities. There was also a personal connection that we established during the interview process. Two of my senior team members are like mind readers, they always know what I'm thinking. More importantly, they also know how to make finance extend into other areas of the company.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
As a CFO of a medium-sized, privately held company, I have more freedom and flexibility than I had working at billion-dollar companies. I get very involved in the company's strategy from the very beginning. I can help decide what markets we want to be in, how to target those markets, how to build organizations and scale what we want to do from a strategy perspective.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
Have fun with my kids. As I've got three boys, it can sometimes get a little crazy. After getting them to sleep, I enjoy playing a late-night tennis match.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
If money were no object, I'd probably be coaching high school baseball.
I like being part of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley community and working on new and emerging technologies.
In the past five to 10 years, SaaS computing and mobile technology have become more important. Now there's the emerging social media technologies market. I've kept close to all of those -- what we've done at Freeborders is to incorporate all of those emerging technologies into our strategy.