Overcoming Financial Data Silos with Josh Beaver of OverlayAnalytics
"There's wartime leaders and there's peacetime leaders. I'm definitely a wartime leader. That's where I'm comfortable."
Every CFO knows the pain of trying to consolidate data from a wide range of sources. A mix of legacy systems and new processes only complicates things. So we spoke with OverlayAnalytics COO Josh Beaver - also a CPA - about how to make this less of a juggling exercise.
OverlayAnalaytics gives leaders a unified overview of their organization and eliminates data silos, thanks to plenty of good automation. Josh also serves as the VP of Corporate Development and CIO at Advocate Publishing.
Before OverlayAnalytics, Josh spent 10 years at Deloitte, was a partner at PwC, and held numerous CFO and executive finance roles.
We also spoke about his background in strategic consulting, his work in the publishing industry, and what makes him a "wartime leader."
Life as a founder
Coming from a previous life in M&A and consulting at global firms, a new career as COO in a 12-person startup is quite a shift.
“Most of my background has been in large organizations. This is the first time in my career where I'm spending a lot of time thinking and working with marketing folk, working towards HR, and other aspects of the organization. These are things I've taken for granted - there were large organizations around me and I was crystal focused on what I was doing.
“But at the end of the day, it's largely still the same. We're still a client delivery- and timeline-driven organization. We’re helping CFOs bridge their data inadequacies. And so it's still very much a client delivery focus.
“And my focus on product mainly stems back to my background. I've spent 15 years being a CFO and working with CFOs, understanding the type of information they need, and the type of assurances they need so that they actually trust the analysis that they're getting.”
What makes a CFO right for a founder position?
“I don't know that that sort of migration towards operations or something outside of core finance is right for every financial professional. I like to think there's two types of accountants out there. There's those of us that end up as CFOs - we're not necessarily the strongest technical accountants.
“And then there's a lot of very good, strong technical accountants who love things to balance. They love doing the reconciliations every month. End process is their jam. But that's not me.
“So for me, the transition hasn't been overly difficult. And part of that comes back to what I was doing at the firms. The first years of my career, I worked in corporate restructuring. Working with large private equity firms who were buying companies out of chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US and doing a number of bolt-ons. I was in operations as much as I was in finance.
“I would say the biggest challenge for me personally is you're working with a different type of colleague. Moving towards product and working with designers, working with developers, all of that has been a mindset change for me. The way that they tackle problems, the way they see the world, and their perspectives on timeline versus quality - all very much still a work in progress for me.”
Fintech startups vs traditional publishing companies
Josh also devotes part of his time to working with Advocate, a more traditional publishing business. So how do the two roles compare?
“One is FinTech, which is pretty high growth right now. The other is commercial print and publishing, which is a mature industry that requires change for us to maintain relevance in the market today. I'm helping the office of the CEO. I do help a little bit in the finance department with things such as budgeting, and implementing tools to help them with some data analytics. But I’m really serving as a key advisor to the CEO.
“He wants to diversify his holdings and figure out where to invest next. Or where to divest next? I play that role with them as well.
“It's a very nice balance for me. One's a family business; one's a venture-backed tech startup. They run at very different cadences, so it keeps things interesting for me. And the owner of Advocate’s, a phenomenal human being who does a lot for the community. Just a great group to be a part of, but they don’t need my skill set for 40,50,60 hours a week.
“Occasionally both businesses peak at the same time. Those are busy weeks, but for the most part it's been very manageable.”
What motivates him to take on new roles
“I've had a lot of roles. I like to chase challenges. That's part of my background in restructuring. So I really enjoyed that for a long time.
“I think Churchill was famous for saying there's wartime leaders and there's peacetime leaders. I'm definitely a wartime leader. That's where I'm comfortable. When things are sort of falling down all around me, that's the environment I like to be in.
“That's not to say that in any way that's what OverlayAnalytics is. But for Advocate, for Scotsburn, and some of the roles I've played in the past, they were heavily distressed. And so I've gone after that, knowing that I'm here for a good time and not a long time. I usually know we're going to try and do something really hard in 12, 18, 24 months. And hopefully at that point, it settles out and I'll move on to whatever that next challenge might be.
“I've always taken roles that people think maybe I'm a little bit crazy to walk away from - moving from a blue chip role towards something that's a lot more risky. But that's sort of the stuff I enjoy doing.”
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