There were two fundamental things that stick with me to this day that Jim taught me. One is just how to manage a business. He went back to his roots in gas-station accounting for that. We did billions of dollars in finance and loans in different states and all he came back to every day was gas-station accounting. What he taught me was that you know how much money you have in the bank when you start each morning, you should know how much it costs you to turn on the lights every day, so at the end of the day, if you have the same amount of money or more in the bank, it's a good day.
I learned very quickly that profit is an opinion, but cash is a fact. Managing a business through cash became a fundamental principle through which I operate.
On the leadership side, what I learned is that it's fundamentally how you treat people. We were all associates at JM Family -- we were not employees. Jim always believed that you come to work with people, not for people. That sets the tone for how you think of yourself as a leader.
It's an old cliché, possibly, but I think it's very difficult to hire people who are smarter than you and get out of their way and let them do their job. Be proud to work with them and be associated with them, but get out of their way. Don't lead by fiat. It's about empowering people and supporting them to do what they need to do.
The last principle I learned is that good news should travel fast, but bad news should travel faster. If those problems don't come to light until the end, you're often left with not enough time. I think it's important to encourage people to bring forth bad news, not just good news.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
Part of it depends on your definition of a CFO. There was a Harvard Business Review article written about this and it talked about the changing role of a CFO and I think the CFO role has changed dramatically to be much more strategic and much less nuts and bolts. As a result, I think the biggest challenge a CFO has in any organization, ours included, is assessing risk, whether it be market risk, external factors or internal risk.
I've had a lot of experience in an investor role and I think another huge challenge in the CFO space is to assess the skill sets that someone has against the role that we're putting them in. We look at them, we watch them and then when they fail we say they can't do their job. But on the front end we didn't properly assess that person or give them the right opportunity to learn those skills. I think risk internally is all about execution so that you have the right people in the right seat, doing the right thing at the right time.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
One [example is] looking inward and one is looking outward.