Finance at the Foundation
Tools to Guide Everyday Decision-Making in Real Time
Agility and resilience aren’t just abstract goals a business should aspire to. The tools, tactics and processes that enable organizations to nimbly respond to economic events – good and bad – should instead be ingrained in company’s foundational operations methods.
For most, this starts with finance teams having a large influence throughout the entire organization, says TraceHQ CEO and co-founder Mike Gonzalez, whose company has developed a platform that functions as a service desk for finance.
“It’s not just about the numbers anymore,” says Gonzalez. “There is an expectation that CFOs and their teams are providing more operational and strategic impact, and helping people throughout the organization with day-to-day decisions.”
Trace, which launched in March with an $8.3 million Seed led by Greylock, builds workflows and analytics that help finance teams collaborate with the business around capital-intensive activities like purchasing and hiring. The platform allows teams to immediately see how their financial decisions impact their budget. It then gives finance the committed forecast – a real-time financial plan.
“Trace allows people to make adjustments in-game,” explains Gonzalez. “You’re going through the month and making decisions, and maybe you want to pull forward this project, or double down on this project. We need to be able to see how these kinds of day-to-day tactical decisions are going to impact us financially. And that’s exactly what our product allows people to do.”
Gonzalez – who previously worked at Zenefits during the company’s restructuring and developed a deep empathy for the problems faced by finance teams – says Trace was born out of a mission to make it easier for companies to instill the kind of discipline and collaborative processes across teams needed to make smart financial decisions.
“The challenge is being able to instill this discipline and drive these processes of good operations, because the incumbent toolsets are so heavy,” says Gonzalez. “You realize that from a compliance and controls perspective, you need the workflows, you need the approvals, and you need the data to support making sure that every financial decision has its checks and balances. And that’s why Trace wants to make it really easy.”
On the latest episode of Greymatter, Gonzalez sat down with Greylock general partner and Trace board member Sarah Guo to discuss how Trace was developed, why financial leaders should be more deeply ingrained into day-to-day operations, and what companies should do to be prepared for whatever the future presents.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Sarah Guo: Mike. I’m so happy to have you here with us on Greymatter. Welcome.
Mike Gonzalez: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
SG: Congrats on getting Trace launched! Please tell our listeners a little bit about you and your company.
MG: Thank you so much. I’m the CEO and founder of TraceHQ. Trace is the first service desk for finance teams. We build workflows and analytics that help finance teams collaborate with the business around things like purchasing, hiring, and analyzing the performance of their budgets.
Trace is a bit like JIRA for finance teams, and how we help people with the workflows that they need to execute is similar to JIRA. JIRA will help tell you how your project is going to perform in the future, how long it’s going to take to get things done. Trace uses the information and its smart workflows to tell you how those decisions will impact your financials and into the future.
SG: And this was really a company idea that was born out of your own experiences, Mike. What was the problem you were trying to solve when you and Martin and Matt came up with this?
MG: We’re finance [people] building for finance. So I’ve spent my career building systems at companies like Facebook. And then I transitioned to more of an operator role and became VP of Finance at Zenefits through hyper growth – we grew from 500 employees to 1,800 employees. I also had to have some tough restructurings and terminate over a thousand employees. And through all that experience, I think we learned a few key insights that are kind of driving our product strategy.
The first is like as an FPA organization, you spend all this time building financial plans. And then as soon as you say, okay, this plan is done. It just sits there and collects dust. And then all this work happens. People in the business go do their things. They’re managing their projects. They’re hiring, they’re running marketing campaigns and the finance team just waits for everything to get added up in the accounting system.
And then you compare how those two things like, you know, you compare your plan against what actually happened, and then you tried to make sense of the difference.
What I’ve learned in my experience is that what really matters is finance helping collaborate with the business, and working with your business partners to help them execute. And I think what the role of finance is going to be is to help people make fast, informed decisions, to collaborate with people as they execute, and then to really understand the real-time impact that those decisions are making on the business.
One way to think about this is to imagine creating a project in Asana, and then imagine not using Asana again until the project was over. And then somebody sends you a slide saying, “Here’s how you did.” That’s actually the current state of how finance is today.
SG: That seems less than ideal.
MG: It’s not a great experience. And then there’s me, sitting in the VP of Finance seat, having to collaborate with our CRO and our VP of marketing and our CTO, and I realized that there has to be a better way for us to collaborate with the business; to make them successful, to empower them to do what they need to do.
And so we call this category finance service management. “Service” is a very big part of the name of the category that we aspire to build. We think it’s most analogous to IT service management, which has built wonderful companies like Service Now and Atlassian. And it was really that those companies were built around a pretty simple concept of a ticket. If you need anything from IT, you submit a ticket. That doesn’t really exist with finance. You need something from finance, and it’s like, where do you go?
So, if you go to Trace, you’ll submit a request in Trace and we’ll facilitate all the services that finance needs to provide to the business.
SG: So this is a really new concept for financial teams, because as you said, I don’t think the idea of a service desk is obvious for finance yet.
What are some examples of services that business should expect from finance? What should you be potentially offering to your business partners between planning and that slide at the end?
MG: Oh, that’s a great question. I think it really comes down to a few core things that the business needs to do. And so people in a business have a budget: they pretty much purchase things, they hire people, and they manage projects. Those are kind of the fundamental building blocks of any operating plan. And so Trace helps with those core workflows.
Let’s start with the purchase workflow, for example. It’s a pretty complex workflow. And it’s actually probably one of the more challenging workflows in the business because there’s so many people that have skin in the game.
So, if I’m a director of marketing, say, and I want to buy a piece of software, I might need to go to FP&A to make sure I get budget approval. I need to make sure that my CMO is aware that I’m making this purchase. If it’s a software vendor that has access to sensitive information, my security team has to get involved. There’s a contract, so legal gets involved, you have to pay this person, so accounting gets involved… It’s a lot of different information, a lot of different stakeholders. And so Trace will coordinate all that activity and give the requester – the person who needs to buy – a one-stop-shop, one single place that they need to go to execute those things. And then we bring all those different people together so that they can have efficiency in the process and just get work done.
SG: That really goes beyond finance, even though finance might be primarily responsible for something like approval of a purchase. As you said, there are a lot of stakeholders there and services already being delivered, but it just might not be thought of as a service.
MG: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And so of course this work is getting done, as you say, but there ends up being a lot of silos.
And so in a lot of businesses, when we were doing research, what we found was that requesters (or, the person who wants to buy something), they go ping FP&A. They go reach out to their manager, they create a JIRA ticket with security. They go to another system to get the contract done. And so it’s a really bad experience for them. It’s really slow and efficient for everybody involved.
SG: So you very recently launched the product. You raised a relatively large seed financing, which we at Greylock were happy to be a part of. Can you talk a little bit about your co-founders and the journey of the company to date?
MG: Yeah. I’m really fortunate to have incredible co-founders. Our first co-founder is our CTO Martin Destagnol. Martin is a serial entrepreneur. He sold his last company to Box and then led product and engineering teams there. So it’s very rare – he was responsible for both product and engineering. Martin is a designer. He’s an architect who does backend and he does frontend. He’s an incredibly talented guy. And he’s also just a really good leader.
Now, when I met Martin, I talked to him about some of the problems that I experienced, and he experienced it from the other side: He had budget responsibility at Box. And so when I told him about some of these problems, he was like, “Literally, some of the finance tools that I had to use were my least favorite tools that I’ve used in the business. It was not a great experience, and this is a problem that I would love to go and solve.
Our other co-founder is our VP of Sales. And he’s also my brother. So I’m really, really proud and fortunate to have a true family business. Matt joined me at Zenefits. He ended up taking our payroll product to market. He built a small team, helped us grow that product from nothing to product-market-fit and over $1 million in revenue. And then Matt went to another early-stage company. After that he was VP of Sales at Vector, took that company from the very early stages to product-market-fit and go-to-market fit and scale, and he helped them do a big financing. [At Trace], this is the third time that he’s taken a product to market and found product-market-fit. I’m very, very fortunate and proud to be working with my brother.
SG: How long have you guys been working on the product? Why raise such a large seed?
MG: Well, we’ve been working on the product for a couple of years now. I think it takes a long time to build high quality, scalable software for the segment that we want to build for. You can’t move fast and break things when you’re building software that touches finance systems and finance data. So we’ve been really thoughtful about things like security, being SOC 2 compliant, our data model, how we handle permissions, the scalability of our workflows. We’ve been really investing in developing a very high quality product.
SG: Trace is already working with some customers. Can you talk about who the product is for – what scale, what type of company, and who the buyer is?
MG: Our sweet spot is growth stage businesses up through early enterprise. Some of our customers that we work with are like Fivetran out in Oakland – this is a 500-person business, growing fast. Lattice, a 250-person company, and also growing pretty fast. We just closed our first enterprise deal with a 1,400-person fintech. They’re going to be over 2,000 employees at the end of the year.
So the ideal point that we want to get a VP of finance or Head of FP&A is when they start to understand that they need to provide these services to their business partners, and to really start to deliver a portfolio of offerings to their budget donors. We want to capture them at that point and then grow with them over time.
SG: And for your early customers, what should they expect? What impact are you having on them?
MG: We have a variety of impacts. I would start with just being able to provide scalable infrastructure. And so we’re able to get a ton of things done in terms of productivity and efficiency gains, but also the absolute time it takes somebody to submit a request and to get that request approved, they’d then be able to execute.
Since we help with spend management, we’re also able to drive savings. And so once you get started with Trace, you have 100% visibility into all of your key contracts. You have your material contracts. You know when things are going to renew; you’re getting notifications. So then you can make sure that you’re sourcing the right things, you’re negotiating the right things, and you’re driving that hard dollar value of savings.
And there are some newfound benefits of using Trace. You know, we’re solving the workflow problems, and these are things that businesses need to solve. But the way that we use that data to give finance teams – the committed forecast, where they have visibility into how these requests and decisions are going to impact into the future – this is something finance teams haven’t had in the past. They’ve been in the dark. And so this will drive a ton of efficiency for FP and FP&A. People want to be strategic business partners. They want to be future, forward-looking partners. They don’t want to be spending a lot of time trying to forecast how this one piece of software is going to impact them in the future. Trace gives them the answers to the test. They can just feed that data right back into the model. It’s a new source of data to provide to FPA practitioners that can make them more accurate and faster at creating clients.
SG: Obviously, you didn’t have a solution like Trace at Zenefits. What was it like trying to get to a committed spend number, or to offer projections to your business partners when you were there?
MG: We used a combination. It was like, you know, it was duct tape and glue: If you want a contractor, submit this Google form. If you want a piece of software, submit this Google form, and then we’re getting all this data in a sheet and we can do approvals, and we can kind of check those boxes.
But at Zenefits, when we did the restructure, that’s when the rubber really hit the road. I worked with our board to say, “Roughly, top-down, here’s what I think the business should look like.” And they said, “This is right. You’ve got three weeks. Go get it done.”
And so in an exercise like that, you’re trying to understand all of your commitments: What have we already committed to? What can we get out of? Where can we cut? And when you have financial parameters, every single dollar of non-payroll spend means you’re potentially saving somebody’s job, and you’re solving within those constraints.
And so we were digging through literally every single piece of spend. We ended up saving millions of dollars, which translated to saving dozens of jobs. Our team felt really, really good about that. One of our major investors brought in a bankruptcy expert whose job it was to come dig through our financials and figure out what we could say. He didn’t find a single dollar that my team hadn’t found.
So we were super proud about that, but it just goes back to [the need to] systematically track this information: What is my committed spend? Where can I cut? What can I save? What’s coming up for renewal? Where is there some fluff? And then just making sure that if you operate with discipline, that there is no flux, and that you’re always optimizing for the financial health of the business and all stakeholders.
It’s not just your investors. Your employees have a ton of skin in the game. The people that you go to work with every single day have a ton of skin in the game. So, how can you make sure, as a finance organization, that you are thinking about all those people during every single financial decision, and allowing those people to take care of each other? By making sure that they’re making good, sound financial decisions for the business.
SG: Yeah. It’s an incredible story. I think that experience has clearly left a deep impression on you.
It’s always struck me how early on in a company’s life – and in my own role as a board member – a company establishes financial discipline and agility. Because as you said, you know, hopefully the rubber doesn’t meet the road for these high-growth companies during restructurings. But as companies begin to think about being public companies, and presenting their financials to the world and talking about profitability (not just growth), then the rubber meets the road for everybody at some point.
One of the things that I’ve seen is that companies can take entirely different attitudes towards spend early. Even as an FP&A leader totally focused on enabling growth, having the workflows and processes that will allow your company to scale in a healthy way is relevant all the time.
The COVID pandemic is probably a good example of that. A lot of companies took a very hard look, including in our own portfolio, at what their spend looked like in March of last year. And it was probably pretty tough to do that for companies operating on duct tape and glue and Google forms.
MG: Of course. Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more.
You know, I think when you start to think about getting IPO ready, (which a lot of businesses do even two to three years before they start going public), you realize that from a compliance and controls perspective, you need the workflows, you need the approvals, and you need the data to support making sure that every financial decision has its checks and balances.
But when people don’t invest in these processes – and really, this operating discipline – from the beginning, it gets really tough to change behavior at scale. That’s why we encourage businesses (especially early finance leaders who are at their first time doing the job), to invest in this.
We see CFOs that are like, It’s early for us, but I’m going to instill this discipline in my organization, because once we get down the road, it is just so tough to come back from that.”
So the challenge is being able to instill this discipline and drive these processes of good operations, because the incumbent toolsets are so heavy. They bog people down. They’re such a pain to implement. And that’s why Trace wants to make it really easy. It’s super easy to get set up. We already have predefined workflows where if you’re not even sure how they should work in your business, Trace can just give you best-in-class, world-class operations right out of the box. And that is scalable infrastructure that people can carry with them to IPO and beyond.
I think with COVID, there was probably a four-week stretch where everybody felt that pain of a “Black Swan” event. Like, “I need to cut 20%. Or do I need to cut 30%? How do I do that? It’s a scary feeling as a finance executive and as a finance leader, not knowing how to quickly answer those questions and solve those problems.
That’s the experience that I went through with the [Zenefits] restructuring, and I think we want to give everybody that visibility. So they never feel like some of those Black Swan, outlier events or are going to put them in a spot that they don’t have immediate control over, and that they can’t handle with ease. And I hope that there are no more black Swan events or negative things that occur for any business. But that’s just the reality of business, so people need to be prepared and to be thinking about those things.
SG: Yeah. I do believe there is this attitude like, “Hey, new stock market highs, plenty of capital, light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines…hopefully.” But the idea that any one of the businesses that we work in needs to be more agile and more resilient for whatever the next event is – good, like IPOs and such, and bad, like global pandemic – has really changed people’s attitudes about what they need to know and how they need to operate their business with agility.
So tell, tell us a little bit about where the product is today.
MG: Yeah, absolutely. We started with the purchase workflow, and it’s because that was one of the more complex workflows in the business, where we saw a lot of opportunity to make an impact. So that’s our most mature product.
So, as I mentioned, we’re also introducing workflows for things like hiring requests. And when you think about it, the reality for the businesses that we’re talking about here is that 60% to 70% of their spending is on headcount and workforce planning.And in my experience, [you are dealing with] a lot of spreadsheets – HR has a spreadsheet, you’re creating a spreadsheet for finances; it’s just a massive collaboration. And so I think there’s a lot of good that we can do to help in terms of workforce planning.
You can start bringing all these things together. When I think about a purchase, like if I’m buying Zoom, I’m buying a Zoom license for maybe everybody in the business, or everybody in these departments. So when you bring together hiring and purchasing together, there’s so much synergy there because so much of the purchasing is headcount-driven. And so there’s just a lot of cool things that we can do there to be more predictive and more automated around purchasing.
You know, since we’re also going to have this workforce planning data in our system, and then we’re going to continue to invest in things that make it easier for people to give us this information, and then maximizing the use of that data. The old world of submitting purchases and then sending it to PO so they can approve it, it’s just a waste of this great data that we’re collecting. And so what we say at Trace is like, if we’re going to collect this information, it’s not just for approvals and AP automation. We’re going to give you the committed forecast and we’re going to give you levels of analytics that you haven’t been able to get before.
And so an example of that is when Trace helps you come up with your forecast and your plan.
We handle the workflow that connects the dots for opportunities to get approved all the way through the record and the transaction that happens in your ERP system. And so when you’re able to go from plan to a record and a transaction, you can tie back that initial request.
So much of the reconciliation that people waste time on is trying to make sense of these different points along that chain. The way that takes effect in the product is like this: Say I’m an FPA person, and I’m doing a classic budget first actual analysis. And then I start trying to drill into the variance that I’m seeing and comparing those two numbers. When I start drilling into a typical system, I come to a dead end. In Trace, you go from 50,000 foot VBA all the way down the lowest level purchase. And I can see the contract, I can see who can repay, who requested it, who approved it, you know, when is this thing gonna renew? And so being able to give that information to a person and as they do analysis is a super power for finance teams.
SG: Yeah. I am – just as an investor – very interested in things that have value to the end user. Both from a DNA perspective of you and Martin having worked in consumer and more pro-sumer companies like Box, and with the idea that I have never, as an individual, gotten value out of something like an approval workflow. I’m like, “Okay, somebody in finance needs this. But the idea that that’s actually super valuable data, and it’s going to come back to the business somehow and users understand why it’s useful to have that data, beyond just compliance – then that actually is going to be a much nicer product to use as an end-user versus some of these traditional, you know, ERP related systems.
I also think that there’s a broader ambition with Trace in terms of the customers. It’s not as if company’s financial leaders reject financial discipline because they don’t want to be disciplined. The Silicon Valley and fast-growing tech companies all over the world kind of delay financial discipline because the tools are terrible.I think the rethinking of just how quickly and easily we can get people onboarded to a process that’s actually easier for them – or better for the business – that is something employees will accept. I thought that was a refreshingly different take on financial software.
MG: Absolutely. I mean, the days of waiting three to six months to actually get value from a system are hopefully behind us.
I also completely agree with the idea that there needs to be value to the end user. You can’t just have them give you this information. The analogy that we like to use is Salesforce: salespeople really don’t like data in Salesforce, but the managers and the leaders in sales get all these valuable insights. The old school finance technology is just having people enter data into the system and not getting all those benefits from it. So Trace is trying to complete that model: let’s collect that information and let’s make it a lot more valuable for all these kinds of different stakeholders. And then you kind of get that feedback loop where there’s an incentive to enter that information into the system, we continue to get smarter. We continue to have those feedback loops where we’re delivering value to budget owners and decision makers and hiring managers – the people who have responsibility.
SG: Yeah. Now, let’s talk a little bit more broadly beyond Trace and the exact problem you guys are solving for. When talking to your peers and other finance leaders, what do you see changing? How do you see the role of the CFO, or the head of FP&A changing?
MG: That’s a really good question, and I think it goes back to the way that finance is increasingly having more and more influence throughout the organization. And I think they’re happy that more scope and more responsibility is falling on them.
I think that it’s not just about the numbers anymore. I think there’s an expectation that CFOs and their teams are providing more operational and strategic impact and helping people with those day-to-day operational decisions. And so the days of finance teams just building models and then just closing the books are behind us.
I think what future finance leaders need to do is to get ingrained in the business and help people with those operational problems. And that starts with understanding the data and then helping them make decisions.
And really, finance leaders need to have a seat at the table. I used to tell my FP&A team that one of the best signs of success when your business partner wants you in their weekly [meeting]. If you have a seat at the table – and they actually want their business partner to join the weekly meeting with their leadership team because they have an opinion and they’re helping to make better decisions –that’s a great place to be. And I think finance teams are going to increasingly find ways to do business partner collaboration.
One of our mutual friends was an SVP of FP&A at a big $30 billion company. We were talking about technology and finance transformation. He’s like, “No, our finance transformation goal is better business partnerships. Actually, it’s our only goal.” And it’s of course enabled with technology (and you need technology to solve some of these problems), but it’s really a people problem. It’s an organizational problem and finding ways to work better together.
SG: Yeah. I was talking [about this] to Gautam Gupta, who is a friend to both of us and used to be the CFO at Opendoor and used to lead finance at Uber. And then, I was talking to the former CFO at Instacart yesterday. You know, there’s an increasing set of businesses that I’m personally very interested in where the product and the financial decisions for the business are deeply intertwined, because you’re managing margin very actively with a new business model. I’m not saying that’s every business – even if we go beyond Silicon Valley tech companies, the number of companies that are trying to transform themselves and are suddenly doing e-commerce as well as their real-world business, and they have more complex, blended business models. I think there are an increasing set of companies where the finance partnership with the business is intensifying. It feels very real to me. And those are super interesting businesses.
MG: Absolutely. Going back to Gautam and his experience at Uber: Uber sort of built their own financial software, you know what I mean? They ran their ERP. And [they were] one of the most sophisticated players out there – one of the biggest, most advanced technologies out there – and yet there were still gaps in how they can get closer to the businesses, how they can get closer to their markets, and how they can get more real-time information to make better decisions. So they said, you know what, we’re just going to go start building and solving these problems ourselves.
At my time at Facebook, it was a lot of the same thing. Facebook ran on mega ERP, the biggest financial software player in the world. My manager Anthony Wilson has since gone on to build like a 2,000-person enterprise engineering team. And they’re building all sorts of great technology inside of Facebook, but specifically for finance. I think they identified problems in getting finance closer to decision-making and getting more real-time information. And so they ended up building a lot of their own custom tools.
Some of the mental models that we have at Trace – and how we think about solving these problems – comes from that understanding and we’re fortunate to be bringing some of those people who have built those solutions inside of Facebook to join our team now. It’s exciting that we’ve seen that happen and that we can now introduce some of this into the world with our product.
SG: Yeah. I’ve heard you and Martin talk about real-time finance before, and even more broadly than the sort of business models that we were just talking about, like the Instacarts and Ubers of the world. If you just think about companies that are increasingly online, I’m sure it benefits any business. Any software business, any advertising business, like Facebook – they have real-time visibility into what’s happening in the product and all of that has financial impact. And you could see a better decision loop happening with the right tools. Reporting or compliance tools built for quarterly and annual reporting and compliance needs are unlikely to get us there.
MG: One of my favorite quotes is from Elliot, he’s the head of finance at Ironclad. And he has a tweet that I absolutely love, talking about how the future of finance tools need to be more real-time. And he said that the current finance toolkit is like a coach who can’t make any adjustments in game, or it has to wait for the game to be played before he can make any changes, which I think is a really, really good analogy. And I think what Trace allows people to do is to make adjustments in-game.
SG: Yeah. Awesome. I love it.
All right. Let’s finish up by talking a little bit personally. I’m sorry to surprise you with these questions, but that’s how we get the real stuff.
What’s been hardest in your journey so far as a founder?
MG: I think the early days may have been the hardest. When I decided to leave Zenefits, I was going to work with one of our best VPs of engineering. Then, like a week before we decided to quit, I found out that he decided to go work with his former co-founder. They had gone through YC together and had a successful exit, so it made total sense. You know, they were also both interested in something in the real estate space. And so I had a big decision to make, and I could have gone on the path of being a VP of finance. And now I’m seeing some of those companies that are like $5 – or $10 billion-company, so I’m like, well, maybe I should have done that. But no, absolutely not.
I was kind of set on my path to be an entrepreneur and really to build tools; to solve problems for finance teams. So I stuck with it, and I spent over three months trying to find my next technical co-founder. I finally found somebody and we had really good rapport. We worked together for about six weeks and then he ran into some immigration issues. He had to go back to India (it was the time when they were really tightening down on those things). And so then I was back to the drawing board trying to figure out what I was gonna do next.
I taught myself how to design in sketch, and I was, along the way, doing that for a couple of years. I showed up to design the initial trace product. And I just decided to be a solopreneur at that point. I didn’t want to go back to the drawing board on finding another technical co-founder. So I hired an engineer and we started to build, and at this point, you know, I’m almost like a year into it. I was at Facebook late, post-IPO, and Zenefits wasn’t exactly the outcome that I was looking for. So I had a nest egg, but not a big nest egg. I was at the point where I was paying for an engineer where I actually had to borrow money from my brother, our co-founder. And so he wrote me a big check to keep me going – thank God for the little brother, who is the VP of sales. He carried the team on his back. And so that was a low for me, for sure, to be at that point and to have to grind and persist through that.
But I think everything happens for a reason. I got to a point with the product that I was building, where we felt comfortable saying, “Okay, we’ve got a product almost ready. We have customers. Now I need to go prove I can recruit.” And so then I started talking to people again, and then I met Martin through that exercise. And that’s really where the story begins for Trace – that meeting with Martin and where our relationship started. But the time before that was definitely, definitely very, very rough
SG: Third time’s the charm.
Last stuff here. Quick take: Is there a book you’ve read in the last year that you recommend?
MG: Right now, for the second time, I’m reading “Working Backwards,” the book about Amazon. I’m a big believer in that philosophy as well. The working backwards concept is when you’re thinking about some investment or some initiative, start with that end goal in mind. [For example], what’s our dream press release? What’s our dream article? And then just work backwards from there. I love that and I love just a lot of their operating principles; how they think about things, their financial discipline. It’s big.
SG: Yeah. I guess Amazon’s probably the best example of how financial discipline can be a huge competitive advantage for a company that aggressively grows.
So, there’s that shout-out to Matt for saving your behind. Any other shout-outs to someone who’s been a hero in the past year?
MG: That is a good question.Personally, I just have to give a shout-out to my family. I come from a very tight-knit family and it’s been really, really tough this past year not being able to see my parents. Most recently, it was like 15 months since I saw them. And so a lot of my motivation and my drive and my ability to persist comes down to wanting to take care of them and to provide a better opportunity for all of our family. So that’s my driving force. They’re the ones that keep me going. When I’m working nights and weekends, I’m thinking about them. So I will always have to just give a shout-out to them when I have an opportunity.
SG: That’s great. And what about just persisting through the pandemic and trying to lead a team – Is there a habit you’ve picked up, good or bad? Anything you’re doing to stay sane?
MG: I am a creature of habit and I think discipline is the biggest key to my success, so I stick to a very disciplined routine. I wake up, and I try to do the same thing every single day. The gym is like my sanctuary. I wake up at 5:00 AM, go to the gym, and that’s my peaceful spot. So not having a gym was a major bummer during the pandemic, but I found ways to stick through it and do home workouts. I ended up having a mini gym by the end of it, just collecting whatever I could find to build my gym. Discipline and having a good routine is what I would recommend.
SG: Love it.
All right, Mike pleasure to be a pleasure to be with you on the podcast. Thanks so much and congrats on the launch with Trace.
MG: Thank you so much, Sarah. It’s a pleasure. Take care. Bye. Thanks.