Month One as a Company’s New CFO

Getting a new job is risking the adventure that allows me to rise up to new challenges and meet my potential, but also the possibility of failure. I bet on the company, the position, the team and the ups & downs that are part of the change.  The entrepreneur bets on me.

It has been a few months since I started at TandemLaunch, and one of my coworkers asked me to write about how my first few days went. I thought I would describe my first month at TandemLaunch my way – chronologically – hoping that it will inspire some other risk-takers who believe that jumping into the unknown is one the most wonderful risks we can take in life.

Day 1 minus 3: It has been a couple of weeks since I signed on with TandemLaunch and there is not one single day where I have not been talking about my new workplace, how proud I am to be part of a team who truly believes that betting on young entrepreneurs is the key to success. I went out for dinner with a friend of mine who mentioned a contest based on innovation launched across Canada. Armed with my enthusiasm and carelessness, I registered one of our entrepreneurs and managed to create a video for the project proposal. As if starting a new job wasn’t a challenge enough, I consciously signed up to lead a project that required half of the company’s employees! When I woke up that morning, I honestly wanted to cancel the whole project, but remembered how important it is for a new leader to accomplish and fulfill their deliverables. What I just said is crucial, especially within your first few weeks working with new people. A new leader only has a short period time to gain the trust and respect of their team and the management. Trust is all about consistency between words and actions. And ‘Remember your colleagues’ names!’ I kept thinking to myself as I visualize each of their faces in my mind. It is Friday afternoon; the office is now a movie set. Talk about an entrance!

Day 1: The day. I climb the 2 flights of stairs to the office. I am a bit nervous since it’s my first official day. My agenda is wide open, except for a meeting or 2 in the afternoon. Every time I have to start a new job, my worst fear is not having work to do. To avoid that, I always plan 2 or 3 tasks in advance that I can do on my own with minimal support. I plan to meet my employees and read the financial statements to get a better understanding of the company. I walk in my office to find everything set up for me, but I can’t open my emails with the password that I have. First obstacle: understand the IT system. Coming from mid-size and big companies I instinctively try to get some help from someone in the IT department. I was told, with a smile, that here I am the IT department! I smiled back and took a mental note that from now on, I have to forget what I’m used to. Apprehensive, I wonder in what mess I got myself into. Upon reflection later that evening, I conclude that the key to success is your ability to adapt to your new environment.

Day 4: As a CFO, one of my functions is to represent the company during corporate events. I see that as a huge challenge. I am young, but I also look young! The energy, authenticity and joie de vivre that people see in me are key factors to my success, but can be perceived negatively as not fitting the typical CFO profile. I had not even spent a week at TandemLaunch yet and I was going with Helge to an event organized by Capital Innovation in Montreal. Before TandemLaunch, I was working in the technology world, but only on the operational side. Furthermore, it is the first time that I’ve worked for an investment company. Here I am mingling with several financiers from the City of Montreal and players from the industry way more experienced than myself, explaining a unique business model that generates a lot of interest… and questions! My action plan is simple: ‘Just focus on not saying anything stupid.’ I’ve seen new employees too often in my career join a company and try to impress others by talking without taking the time to listen. Whether it is internally or externally, you have to analyse, understand organisational dynamics, and other people’s challenges, in order to sell your ideas within a short time. I went home relieved that I was able to talk about the company and its vision with enough confidence. I felt the same satisfaction of a student who just passed their first exam.

Day 10: 2 weeks have passed since my first day at TandemLaunch. I’ve been in several meetings and my responsibilities are increasing more and more. Did I mention that I started on April 4th and that our fiscal year was end is March 31st? Silly me, thinking that I was not going to have enough work to do! During the last few days, I reorganized the project management department, worked on processes, hired a new employee, and started the year end process. I work hard but I see every day as a new learning experience. Today, Helge is leaving on vacation for the next 3 weeks and left me in charge of the company’s operations, and it is the first time in TandemLaunch’s life that the CEO is leaving for such a long time. Even if I describe myself as a risk-taker, so is the entrepreneur! But when you start a new job, you count the points, not the hours. I believe that leadership is an inner talent, but it can also be developed fast with the right amount of judgment and the ability to seize opportunities as they come.

A blur: The following 3 weeks were a real roller coaster of emotions. 8 active projects, one presentation to prepare for a client, a leadership role to fill and a bunch of financial, organisational, and operational decisions to make in a completely new environment. TandemLaunch is the live version of Aerosmith’s “Living on the edge” for me. But when I trip, I get back on my feet and I consider these 3 weeks a success. I was able to accomplish what was most important in a management role: getting to know your colleagues, develop strong relationships, gain co-workers’ trust, and be perceived as one of the team.

Day 30: I climb the 2 flights of stairs to the office. Yesterday’s papers are still lying on my desk. The post-its where I write everything I can’t forget have crept across a wide section of my desk. I open my computer, and remember my password. I have a 3 hour-meeting in the morning, a meeting with an employee, 3 deliverables by the end of the day, and 50 unread emails. I’m overwhelmed, but happy. I made the right choice. The next 100 days will all be different from one another, unpredictable and filled with successes and failures. When I think back to my first day, I can’t help but think to myself ‘and to think it has only been a month’.  It feels like I’ve been here for 2 years already.  This is when I realize that I have won my bet.

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