CHIKPEA GEARING UP FOR GROWTH: The First 100 Days, An Interview with ChikPea CFOO Stephen Deason
ATLANTA, Feb. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — There are a few critical tasks that all finance and operations chiefs must tackle in their first hundred days. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, surveyed 164 CFOs of many different tenures, on the most critical activity during a CFO’s first hundred days, and according to more than 55 percent of respondents, it comes down to an understanding of what drives their company’s business. These drivers include relationships within the company, value propositions set forth by the company, sources of growth, operational improvements, and changes in the company’s business model.
Last November we sat down with ChikPea’s Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Stephen Deason, to discuss his new role. We recently caught up with him again to get an update after his first 100 days with the company.
CN: You’ve been on board for a bit now, and you have a bit more experience with our team. What’s been the most interesting part of your job thus far?
Deason: I often find myself acting as a sounding board in my partnership with our Founder and CEO, Adam Kleinberg. I have a lot of fun in this process because a large part of the CFO role is in playing “Devil’s Advocate,” while a large part of the COO role is in the execution of Adam and Bhaskar‘s (Founder and CTO) vision. Overall, we’ve developed a strong working relationship in which we respectfully challenge one another from different points of view, and I believe that is a hallmark of successful teams. In fact, a number of members in the investor community have expressed surprise that we’ve only been working together for a few months, and not years.
CN: What is something interesting that’s come out of these discussions?
Deason: The CFO’s role, and a great deal of my training, focuses on driving value creation throughout ChikPea. One important realization over the last few months is that our Founders focus more on stakeholder, rather than strict shareholder value creation. As an organization, we balance shareholder value maximization with our Founders’ stakeholder-centric view. Without getting into the underlying economic definitions, this is exciting because of the way it impacts our corporate culture, our focus on the success of our customers, our employees, and constituents in addition to our Founders.
CN: You mentioned investors, are you seeking funding?
Deason: <laughing> Chris, you’re going to keep pushing me on strategy, aren’t you? No, we remain confident at this time that we are able to meet our operational needs from current resources in the near term. What I will say is that I believe it’s best to begin building relationships well before the need to ask for capital. As we continue to transform ChikPea for high growth, we will continue to remove risk from our company. Once I am satisfied we’ve accomplished that sufficiently, then we may look to push more fuel in terms of capital through the engine. That said, capital is only a part of the value that comes from the investor community; it’s the relationships, networking, guidance, and other intangibles that will really help drive tremendous success for us with ChikPea.
CN: What are some of the risks you’re trying to remove, and what have you done to address those at ChikPea?
Deason: There are a lot of commonly-recognized risks that we’ve already removed, among them product and market viability, first customer acquisition, long-term contracting, reference-ability, profitability, stability, etc. A top priority over the last 100 days has been to develop depth in our US-based team to extend our reach, and that’s well underway. We have attracted a stellar board of advisors, added key people who have driven startups to high exit values, gone through a significant strategic definition and alignment process, targeted a growing and still fragmented market, created extensive competitive analyses, expanded our US operations, documented compelling ROI statements from our current customers, and we just recently signed our ISV agreement with Salesforce. In effect, I’m quite pleased with our progress, and I anticipate solid results in terms of further developing our winning mindset and the processes to support our value proposition to our customers throughout FY 2018.
CN: Have you seen any results yet?
Deason: Well, it’s early in this process. Even so, we’ve already seen a spike in new customers over the comparable quarter of 2017. We’ve also had multiple long-term contract renewals from some of our key customers, and I’ve had some rather positive and remarkable conversations with my peers at those firms. All that said, discussion of the details underlying these points is more Adam’s prerogative than mine.
CN: So, are you happy with the outcome to this point?
Deason: Chris, I’m never happy with the outcome, not on more than a transitory basis. I take some satisfaction in that we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve. We have done a great deal in a short period of time. What I am happy with is the performance of the ChikPea team. We have amazing people on board, and we have a wonderful group of colleagues who have stepped up and performed admirably over the last few months as we’ve made tremendous progress toward our objectives.
CN: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Deason: I’d like to repeat that we have a tremendous group of colleagues here at ChikPea, and I would like to thank Adam and Bhaskar for this opportunity as well as our colleagues for their hard work and dedication. We look forward to continuing our growth and progress throughout 2018.
Started in 2006 by senior project managers and business analysts in the telecom space, ChikPea was created to provide mid-tier telecom companies a scalable alternative billing and order management solution over homegrown or rigid legacy tools. We are the first subscriber retention specialty firm on the Salesforce platform that builds the flexible software tools to allow telecom companies to use all aspects of Variable-Price-Modeling (VPM)© and order management to win and gain market share.
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SOURCE ChikPea Inc.