The mid-December conference call was 45 minutes old, CFO Brad Kinnish says, when he began to feel edgy.
One of the company’s biggest deals of the year had yet to close, and the specifics behind its commission structure (or lack thereof) had led a number of the call’s participants to begin to flag potential snags.
As time passed and commissions continued to dominate the discussion, Kinnish found he could no longer remain on the sidelines.
“Hey, look, team—I think we’re spending time on the wrong thing here. I think we need to be spending time on closing this deal and getting it done. I need you to trust me that we’re going to pay a commission that’s fair to the sales leaders, fair to the sales reps, and fair to the company” are the words that Kinnish recalls saying as he charged the group to not begin waving red flags outside of the mechanics of the specific deal and to put their trust in him.
“I needed to rely on the fact that I had built relationships with these people and had built trust and could get them to refocus on what needed to get done in order to win the deal and close the quarter,” recalls Kinnish, who uses his story about “the mid-December call” to help close the loop on a CFO leadership journey that began with a job rejection.
Years earlier, Kinnish remembers, when he was interviewing for his first CFO role, he scored well during his management interviews only to receive a thumbs-down from the company’s board. Later, a board member confided to Kinnish that he focused too much on his accounting and analytics experience.
“In my mind, what she was telling me was that finance and accounting knowledge is foundational—that the question that you needed to answer was how else you could influence and lead,” explains Kinnish, who believes that the board was looking for indications that he was ready to muster the type of leadership that he so confidently summoned forward on the mid-December call.
As for the call’s outcome, Kinnish reports: “It worked. We went back and focused on the deal. Won the deal. Closed the quarter. Made our number and paid the commission on the back end.” –Jack Sweeney