The 90-Day CFO Launch Plan with Dr. Veronika von Heise-Rotenburg of everphone
“When you start working at a growing company, it’s hard to understand or drive every topic. But I believe that personal trust enables the CFO to come in, once something is burning or close to burning, and to help solve it.”
Dr. Veronika von Heise-Rotenburg is a digital finance expert and startup CFO, with extensive knowledge and experience in both the automotive and IT sectors. Having led finance at Cluno, Cazoo, and now ‘Device-as-a-Service’ company everphone, she’s found a niche in asset-heavy businesses, debt financing, and building highly efficient finance operations.
In this episode of the CFO Yeah! podcast, we discuss Veronika’s behind-the-scenes role in the acquisition of Cluno (a “Car-as-a-Service” startup) by Cazoo, her 90-day plan for any new CFO role, and the best practices and experience she gathered from working on a large exit deal.
Moving from automotive to IT & four-year job cycles
I didn’t come from a classic accounting background. I studied law and economics - with a focus on law. I'd say I'm more of a strategic finance expert than accounting-based.
I also like to describe myself as a CFO and digital finance expert, which means to be open to new technology and to find whatever possible ways to digitize processes and controls. And eventually, to make our daily finance work reliable, fast, and really fun to do.
Throughout my career, I’ve mostly been working in asset-heavy businesses and industries, with a focus on efficiency in finance operations, as well as asset-based debt financing. I’ve held various positions in the automotive industry.
I recently joined everphone, a Berlin-based device as a service company. I’m CFO, heading the finance and legal department. We're working with a team of roughly 20 in finance and legal at a company size of 280, supplying major German and international clients with phones and tablets.
I always have job cycles lasting about four years in my career. I believe that's a good timeframe to judge if your work has been efficient and to have grown your team, to have introduced new things, and then passing the baton to other people who are maybe better in conserving things instead of building up.
The finance function at everphone
The vast majority of our team works in accounting, because that's usually where the finance function starts. We have the traditional teams: accounts payable, accounts receivable, along with two team leads who facilitate monthly closing ahead of accounting. We’ll also start working with a tech specialist and with a consolidation specialist shortly.
On the corporate finance side, we have a Head of Corporate Finance who is expert in both equity and debt financing, working with a smaller team.
I'm also heading the Data department, which is quite new to me. I’ve been learning a lot of new things about data setup, data warehousing, data tools...
Legal isn’t a team yet for us. But I'm looking forward to welcoming our first hire, our Head of Legal pretty soon. From there, we’ll build up a real department, but right now we're working with a lot of external help.
Veronika’s 90-day plan for any new role
I usually have a 90-day plan whenever I assume a new position. I’d say the most important thing is to understand the business and the industry. For instance, in my case with everphone, it’s the first time I'm switching industries, so this is really important for me.
I'd give myself probably two months to understand the industry, to understand our budget, our planning, and form relationships with the team and with our investors. Which means I start “working” officially in the third month.
Then, I build up some new reports, intensify relationships with external partners such as banks, potential new investors, suppliers and the biggest customers.
I don't think within 90 days you can achieve a lot, but the aforementioned is feasible. I would want to understand most of it, and then deliver a six- or nine-month plan outlining what I plan to have achieved by years’ end.
Besides understanding the company in-depth, one of the challenges within the first months is to make oneself known. You need to establish trust with the founders, the investors, the leadership team and the company as a whole. Then, you can start working your way slowly down.
When you start working at a growing company, it’s hard to understand or drive every topic. But I believe that personal trust enables the CFO to come in, once something is burning or close to burning, and to help solve it.
Cluno’s acquisition by Cazoo
I was one of four people - the founders and myself - who knew about the acquisition project. It was a pretty intense discussion! We received the term sheet on Christmas Eve, so that’s when we started negotiating. We were done by New Year's Eve, and started due diligence on the first day of the new year.
This is actually a good time in one way, because you have a closed year of data set to disclose. On the other hand, you don't have any audited accounts. You have to do everything quickly, to finish due diligence and the deal within the timeframe given to you.
One thing the founders hammered into my mind from the very first day onwards was to always prepare for due diligence. You need to be due diligence ready within a few hours, and to have your contracts named according to convention. You must have the budget ready, a budget introduction, and all accounting numbers whenever they’re needed.
Choosing and installing an ERP
We're right now in this scoping phase for an ERP at everphone. This involves making a list of necessities based on the company and our business model.
This will likely include:
The system needs to be cloud-based
We need to manage and administer thing ourselves
It needs all the certificates to work on the German and US GAAP
Multicurrency is very important
We’ll make the list and then send that out to providers. And then probably narrow it down by cost and by understanding what they generally cover and what would be an individualized suggestion.
We obviously have specific needs around our devices. The ERP should follow one device from being bought, to being depreciated, to being potentially replaced during a rental, to being sold off. We need to see switch to customers, how easy that is in the system, how the reporting looks, and the like.
The last time I did this, we had a three month scoping phase where we got to know all the system providers. We had a kickoff in November, and we started on the 1st of May. So a five month period in total. And I'd assume that a six month period for introduction after the decision would be reasonable. But it also depends on the supplier, on the implementation provider, and on the staff they have available.
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