Get Up and GO!

Get Up and GO!

From a young age, I always had a lot of “get up and go.” I was constantly on the move in work and in life; it was instilled in me by hardworking parents who were a true inspiration. My first real job at 12 years old was a paper route that required predawn wakeups seven days a week. A few years ago, while in New Orleans I came across this sculpture called Go! As you can see in the picture above, it is a porcelain-headed, handmade figure, delicately balanced on a wheel on a downward incline, which gives the sense that he is about to GO! (Kudos to the extremely talented artist Cathy Rose who created him.) Go! is the first thing I see every day when I wake up in the morning. He always puts a smile on my face as I say to myself it is time to get up and go!

Fuel for the fire

What is it now that fuels the fire to get up and go every morning? Many things, but two are the driving force. The first is to provide excellent service to my clients and candidates, which I deliver by “putting good people with good people.” In one of my first roles as a recruiting manager, my trainer was pacing me through the qualities the firm looked for in new hires. She said: “When you ask someone why they want to be in the recruiting industry, and they reply, ‘Because I like people, I’m a people person.’ Do not hire them.” After 30+ years in recruiting I still think this is true. Liking people has little to do with what recruiters do day in and day out. For me, the benefit of being in this profession as long as I have is the ability to be selective with whom I work. Many of the relationships I have built over the course of years have manifested many additional searches – the experience of a search may be transactional, but the essence of successful search is all about building relationships and repeat clients. The result of putting good people with good people is that great things happen. By working with good people, even when a search gets challenging, ultimately the results are predictable, and the process is enjoyable. That is the real fuel for the fire.

The second thing getting me up in the morning is mentoring a few select folks to help them make their way up in the recruiting industry. This has been an unexpected joy in my professional life the last few years. Working on my own can sometimes be a bit isolating, despite all the client and candidate calls I make. And mentoring has actually increased my focus on client work because it has rejuvenated my sense of awe in what we do in search and confirmed my passion for the work itself. It is interesting, while I think I am the mentor, it is very much a two-way street, and I have learned as much as I have offered! While I have no ambition to become a full-time recruiter coach, it is truly fun and an honor to be able to share some of the lessons learned in my lengthy career as a self-employed executive search consultant. It is said that giving back is more rewarding than anything else, and it has been true for me. This sentiment is elegantly expressed by Cullen Hightower, who wrote: “The true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.” I hope to continue to do this pro bono work for many years to come.

A match made in…

When I first decided to become a recruiter, I was only a couple of years into my finance career. My parents had helped me financially to attend and graduate from Loyola Marymount University – a major investment. I was so nervous when I was getting ready to call my parents to let them know I would not be pursuing a career in finance – but of all things I was going to be a recruiter! I thought they would be so disappointed. Ha! The opposite was true. They laughed and told me that they had always been “match makers” and had put many couples together. They said recruiting is all about match making and that it was in my DNA. They encouraged me and believed I had discovered a true path to happiness. And I did.

Ultimately the end of a successful search process results in a good match. One of the most important matches of all in a company is between CEO and CFO. As I have blogged more than once, it is not unlike a marriage, and I would wager that CEO and CFO may spend more waking hours together than with their respective spouses. If it is not a good match it is lose (CEO), lose (CFO), lose (Company). Attaining the technical elements of what a company needs in a CFO is not the hardest part in my work anymore. The magic and value creation I provide is making a good match. And it is more than in my DNA – it is earned from almost 30 years of putting people together. What I am most proud of professionally is not having to employ my 12-month guarantee because of a bad match in the history of Arnold Partners! We measure the good matches by enterprise value creation – IPOs, Market Cap, M&A exits, which all added up is now in the 10s of billions of dollars.

What is your get up and go motivation? How do you sustain it? I’d love to hear from anyone on this topic.

Cheers, Dave








“Mr. Irrelevant”: The Brock Purdy Hire

“Mr. Irrelevant”: The Brock Purdy Hire

As we gear up for Super Bowl week, it strikes me that there is an obvious lesson staring us in the face about hiring for success in the Brock Purdy story. Brock was drafted by the 49ers as the VERY LAST pick of the draft in 2022. Not only the last pick of the 49ers, but the very last pick of all teams in the NFL. Here we are, two years later, and he is leading the team into the Super Bowl. His competitor last week on the Detroit Lions was none other than Jared Goff, the VERY FIRST pick of the 2016 draft. What can be learned from this in terms of hiring?

In my many years of helping Venture-backed and Public companies attract exceptional CFOs, the mix-up of optics about a certain candidate’s skill set happens more frequently than one would think. When investors are looking to hire a CFO (or probably anyone into the C-suite), they look for certainty and reduction of risk. If the candidate is coming from a well-known or brand-name company, they must be certified as top-tier. Conversely, if the candidate is coming from a company that has had a hard time of it, the candidate must somehow be held accountable. I call this hiring for optics. It is not the way to assess talent, fit, drive, competence, or anything else. Being at a high-flying superstar company does not make the individual a superstar. In fact, it could even hide weaknesses. Being at a struggling company does not make the individual the scapegoat, in fact, working through adversity probably makes the employee stronger for the next battle. Going up and to the right on the growth chart is the easiest thing in business. Facing daily struggles can build up character and tenacity. Just like the stock market, previous returns do not guarantee future returns. We need to invest in people like Warren Buffet invests in companies: hire what you know, hire for upside, and not for what happened in the past.

So, did the 49ers really see a superstar in the making when they drafted Brock Purdy, or did they just get lucky? Maybe some of both. Clearly, the success in his young career is not luck. He has skills that match the complexity of the 49ers offensive scheme. He makes lightning-quick decisions. He executes on those decisions with a precision that makes other quarterbacks look on in envy. He hits the short pass and the long pass, he scrambles and throws on the run with the best of them, and as he proved last week, he can use his legs for long runs when the opportunity presents itself. These skills did not magically appear in the last two years. Certainly he was thrust into the role of starting quarterback because others ahead of him got hurt. And indeed, once in this leading role he has received an exceptional amount of coaching. But he had to have an underlying base of skills to reach this level of athletic competition. Beyond just physical skills, he has the mental aptitude and toughness to execute at the highest level.

How can we take this incredible hire from the bottom of the heap and apply it to executive hiring? May I suggest we first not judge the book by its cover. We need to dig deep on the people we evaluate on a number of fronts – not just the optics of their previous employers or Ivy League degrees. What matters is what happens in the trenches. What matters is character. What matters is poise under pressure. What matters is doing the right thing when no one is looking. What matters underneath the resume is the person. This type of hire was outlined in Moneyball by Michael Lewis and explored further in an earlier blog by yours truly:

I am not suggesting that someone who has never had success is a good hire. To get to the NFL, you have to be top-notch. To get to the conversation about a CFO role with an Arnold Partners client, you have to be top-notch as well. But the skills in evaluating what makes someone top-notch in their profession should be left to someone who knows what that means and not be based on optics of the past. If you want to explore this further, give me a call, I am happy to discuss.

Go 49ers! Go Mr. Irrelevant!
– Dave

I Got the Inside Scoop on SaaS

I Got the Inside Scoop on SaaS

Interview with Erick Mersch

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Mersch, a partner at FLG Partners. His firm is the leading boutique CFO consulting organization for technology companies, the market segment that is also my bailiwick. I have known Eric for 15+ years, and we have collaborated numerous times to deliver high-value CFO leadership to CEOs and Boards.

Eric and I had a lively conversation about his new book, Hacking SaaS: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Software Success. It is based on his 10 years of experience exclusively focused on helping SaaS (Software as a Service) companies drive and measure growth. You can watch a short video of this interview at this link on my website. The video will go live on September 19th.

He and I had a lot to talk about because of our shared interest in the wonderful world of SaaS. Arnold Partners has placed CFOs at numerous SaaS companies, including Houzz,, OpenGov, Talend, Adaptive Insights and Visitpay. During our talk, Eric and I discussed the nuances of SaaS – Vertical vs. Horizontal, B2B vs. B2C, Enterprise vs. SMB, etc. With this overlapping knowledge of the industry, the chat was both reaffirming and educational.

Getting down to the real nitty-gritty of SaaS

Eric’s book focuses on both technical and business aspects, equipping readers with a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to thrive in the competitive world of SaaS.

It combines practical advice, strategic insights and real-world examples to guide readers through various aspects of SaaS management, from driving sales through Go-To-Market strategies and customer engagement. It is geared to a wide range of professionals including investors, entrepreneurs and business executives working in the SaaS industry.

Key in his book is an extensive glossary of SaaS-specific terms, their meanings, how to create and calibrate the various SaaS metrics. Some will be familiar to folks outside of SaaS such as CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), Net Retention Rate, Lifetime Contract Value, etc. But Eric goes deep on all these measurements; he shows the reader the way to implement them, their meaning and how to improve them to drive SaaS success. The book is a valuable reference resource for any finance professional.

Where to purchase Hacking SaaS: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Software Success

Hacking SaaS is available on Amazon in eBook, paperback and hardcover formats. For more information about Eric, visit:

To learn more about Arnold Partners’ and and our recent SaaS placements, visit CFO Placements, Venture Capital Relationships | Arnold Partners and scroll down to recent placements.

Join us October 4, 2023 for an Arnold Partners Webinar on Executive Presence

Please be on the lookout for an upcoming invitation from me to join a webinar on Executive Presence that I will be hosting with Karen Tiber Leland, founder & president of Sterling Marketing Group. It will take place October 4th at noon PDT and limited to 100 participants. If you see this note and want to be included, please email me at moc.srentrapdlonra@divad with subject line: Webinar. Thanks for your interest, looking forward to seeing you soon, Dave

CFO role greatly expanding; what’s the impact on hiring and retention?

CFO role greatly expanding; what’s the impact on hiring and retention?

There has been a sea change in the role of the CFO over the last few years. The CFO is a business partner to the entire C-suite and a co-leader of the company, leading enterprise-level change initiatives that touch on every aspect of the business. Think of systems implementations, use of AI, pricing, change of business models, etc. The CFO of today understands the vision of the founder/CEO and helps crystalize that vision into a culture and a workplace that make it a reality. The result is an enterprise that is in a stronger position to empower and enable the company to achieve its goals. As we face increasingly choppy economic waters and higher cost of capital, these are important changes that will affect both hiring and retention of CFOs.

Direct quotes from the last three Tech CEOs who engaged us to find them a new CFO: From a manufacturing company: “We need an operationally oriented CFO.” From a tech-enabled service company: “The CFO will run all the traditional finance and accounting functions, but we will also have them running our business operations unit where the majority of our headcount resides.” From a robotics company: “I need the CFO to run all the finance functions as well as Investor Relations, but just as important in need them to drive sales ops and sales support.”

Enterprise risk management under fire

CFOs are taking a leadership role in several areas not traditionally associated with finance and accounting including risk management, I/T and sales operations. One of these areas undergoing significant change is enterprise risk management. Risk is generally something that a CFO has had exclusively under their domain. However, as the definition of risk has changed, as within cyber security for example, the CFO must now take an active role with the CIO to mitigate this type of risk – and report to the Board about what actions are being taken to keep the company safe from data breaches, maintain customer information security, protect intellectual property and avoid ransomware threats.

Supply chain entanglements

In the recent past, the whole area of supply chain was an afterthought and humdrum, but not anymore. A purchasing manager would likely bring issues to the CFO’s office in very rare cases. However, the supply chain issues that hit very hard year two of COVID definitively affected the role of the CFO. They are now actively dealing with suppliers and securing supply certainty. When key components cannot be acquired, or when work from home negates the ability to produce goods, the CFO is going to be front and center. This may be just a blip in time, but the importance of securing supply chains has become a more prominent bullet item on the CFO’s checklist.

A recent real-life example of this shift shared with me by a CFO client: Pre-Covid, a chip the enterprise uses in their telecom equipment was generally less than a dollar. During the height of the chip shortage, the only place they could purchase these components was on a spot market for $1500 apiece. No purchasing manager is going to make that decision! The CFO and CEO purchased the parts. Certainly, the chip market has returned to some sense of normal, but the lesson has been learned.

Accounting becoming its own beast

Another change in the CFO’s organization is the constantly demanding and shifting world of accounting and compliance. We are seeing companies hire Chief Accounting Officers much earlier in their growth cycle than ever before. Why? Because the role of the CFO is becoming more operational; Boards and CEOs do not want their CFO getting bogged down in accounting minutia. This is coupled with the growing body of compliance issues (ESG for example). The CFO now needs a really strong accounting/compliance team earlier than ever. Rule of thumb used to be a company at $1B revenue would hire a CAO; now we are seeing these roles hired in pre-public ~$100MM companies.

Employee issues exacerbated

Another expansion in the CFO role is within Human Resources. Employee issues have been exacerbated by work at home, hybrid work environments and current tech layoffs. The efforts to keep employees content, engaged and motivated to fulfill the mission of the company can no longer fall to HR alone; these efforts need to start at the top with the CEO and CFO. The CFOs I work with are constantly on the front lines of employee retention, recruitment and overall job satisfaction as well as being a standard bearer for company culture.

These are a few examples of the expansion of the influence and responsibilities CFOs are taking on. All on top of the regular finance, accounting, treasury and tax roles traditionally under the CFO’s domain, which makes for recruiting and retaining these special professionals a veritable challenge in today’s highly unpredictable marketplace. Recruiting becomes more difficult because the list of must haves just keeps growing. Retaining these folks becomes a matter of balancing a strong team to support the newly added responsibilities as to not burn out a hard to replace executive.

As always, if you have comments about this, I welcome your input. Please comment on LinkedIn or register on my website. Cheers, Dave

About Arnold Partners, LLC

Arnold Partners is a retained executive search firm specializing in the placement of CFOs and Audit Chairs. Arnold Partners serves the technology industry on a national basis, both Venture Capital-backed and publicly traded companies. With 100% success rate in completing our CFO search assignments. In addition, our placed CFOs have well beyond the average tenure in their new roles. More information can be found at:

The Tech CFO Employment Market For 2023

The Tech CFO Employment Market For 2023

Anyone familiar with my work may note that I recently mused in my last blog in early October about trying to read the economic tea leaves. But as we flip the calendar once again, it is already time to reevaluate the Tech CFO marketplace for the coming year.

As fast as the economy seems to shift, this may indeed become a quarterly analysis – so, many factors seem to be at work, and global, federal and local economics all seem to shift the outlook from day to day. If the CFO market had a volatility index, it would clearly indicate we are in a very volatile market.

Optimism for CFOs In The Tech Market

My overall assessment for CFOs in Tech remains very bullish. Why? For one, there are not enough CFOs to meet the demands of the marketplace. As the role of the CFO continues to become more complex and broader in scope, it only puts increased pressure on companies to attract the talent they need to execute.

Secondly, even in an uncertain macro-economic time, the need to have a solid CFO in place is clearly more important than ever. Two items in the news recently brought this point to bear. One was the sentencing of Elizabeth Holmes to Federal prison for 11 years for fraud. The second was the instantaneous meltdown of the crypto exchange FTX.

What both companies had in common:

  • Very poor internal controls
  • Non-existent Boards
  • No CFO

These may be easy outliers in the larger picture, but when A-level investors who were invested in FTX get burned, you can count on the diligence into new investments going up and the demand to have a CFO coming earlier and louder from the investment community.

The CFO is the keeper of the assets and demand will continue for this critical role. Given the large amounts of dry powder the VC community has to put to work, they will likely be coming back to the investment table – just with a higher bar for corporate integrity and compliance.

For CFOs, Caution May Be Prudent

CFOs should be extra cautious in today’s finance and accounting job market. The valuation issues I discussed in October are still in play. If you are a CFO making a critical choice about where to spend the next several years of your life, do your due diligence to ensure the new opportunity is stronger (overall) than your current role and make this decision carefully.

The Tech Market Wins Long Term

What constantly amazes me is the level of ingenuity and reinvention in the technology field. If you sit back and look at what has happened across any element of human endeavor, you will see technology at work, constantly improving and changing the way we live and communicate.

There are big bets playing out that will either become major wins or epic failures. Twitter’s transition, for example, and Meta’s big bet on virtual reality is bold—but only time will tell on how much success they see. These companies provide a number of insights we can glean from the recent tech layoffs as well. Overall, the tech industry finds a way to reinvent itself repeatedly for the better.

And in the biotech and medical device areas, we are at the forefront of game-changing technologies that are scratching the surface of the market opportunities.

Software development is happening faster and faster and solving ever more complex problems. Tech may see some hits and the stock market has certainly seen better days, but I would not bet against the sector long-term. Bottom line? The need for CFOs will not be going away.

So, What To Do…

Many CFOs are hunkering down right now – the fear of change may be on the high side. If you receive a recruiting call, it is always my recommendation to return it or at least gather more information on the company seeking a new hire. Trust in this environment is paramount: trusting the recruiter, trusting the CEO and trusting the investors are all critical as you evaluate a possible change of seats. 

Perhaps your own company is underwater on its valuation – not hard to believe when we saw private rounds priced at 100x revenue in 2021. True, these valuations will probably never come back, but that should not be the sole reason to run for the door.

Perhaps the next round will be more down-to-earth, and options will reset. We are starting to see this happening. If you are in a good place, your CEO and executive team are in good shape and have a reasonable path to success. Perhaps 2023 is just that: a time to hunker down and improve the position you have.

If you are in a VP role and hoping to find your first CFO role, perhaps it is an excellent time to take a thorough inventory of your skills and experiences and make a resolution to fill some of those gaps in 2023. My belief is that, barring some catastrophic event in 2023, the tech employment market in general-and specifically for CFOs-will be very strong by fall if not sooner. Happy New Year!

Reading the Economic Tea Leaves and What It Means for Tech CEOs and CFOs

Reading the Economic Tea Leaves and What It Means for Tech CEOs and CFOs

Reading the economic tea leaves and what it means for tech CEOs and CFOs

“It’s the economy, stupid.” That’s the line we always hear about elections and what matters most to the voting public. But hey, to CFOs, who are anything but stupid, it’s the economy itself that may matter most. Or does it? If the Fed continues on its rate-raising campaign, what will the impact be on the tech sector? So many things to factor in, here is my take.

Soft landing vs. recession?

Can the Fed pull off the intended soft landing they are aiming for? Or is the US economy headed for a full-on recession? From the looks of it right now, a recession next year is looking more and more likely. Europe is clearly already there, and it is going to be a long, long, cold winter with Russia squeezing the fuel lines. China is hurting in many ways, which does not help our tech sector at all. So, no matter what the Fed does, our largest trading partners across each ocean are pulling us down. Even if the Fed can pull off the softer landing, it still feels as if macro factors beyond our control will have negative effects on US growth. The rational expectation theory also comes into play. If all the business leaders say we are headed to a recession, as Jamie Dimon did this morning, it is can very well happen that it becomes a rational expectation and thus, a reality.

IPO drought, new funding and valuations in flux

The projected 74% decline in IPOs from 2022 to 2023 is testing the enthusiasm in the VC world. According to NVCA SmartBrief, There were $43 billion in venture capital startup investments in the third quarter, marking a nine-quarter low, a preview of the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor report showed. Tho few VC-backed companies actually make it to that goal, the lack of a robust IPO market dampens overall funding. Talk of paring the portfolios is real, and winners and losers are certainly being chosen. While we rarely read of the start-ups on the cut list, they are out there, and layoffs will ensue. Clearly there are many private companies with valuations set in 2021 and 2022 that cannot be seen as realistic anymore. This creates a pause in the ability to raise additional equity capital for some of the unicorns that were the darlings of the pack just a few months ago. With the IPO market stuck on pause, some companies will clearly need to take down rounds to stay afloat. Almost no one wins in that scenario.

Major impacts for CFOs

The first thing that comes to mind is this is indeed the most critical time for tech companies to have the utmost confidence in their CFO. To navigate macro-economic headwinds, tech-specific funding challenges and potentially demoralized employees, it is no time to have a CFO you are second guessing. The CFO and CEO need to work in lockstep to manage these forces with a well-thought-out game plan and commitment to success. When everything is moving up and to the right, even a mediocre CFO can look like a hero. It is when the going gets tough that the truly exceptional CFO will show their worth. The best CFOs are also critical in the messaging to customers, investors and employees about the financial health and stamina of their company. The CFO must engender a sense of confidence about both the short-term and long-term prospects for the enterprise.

Time for pruning and right-sizing

Sadly, some of the hiring that took place in the frenzy of the last few years was probably not all successful and may now need to be pulled back. The CEO and CFO need to take a hard look at the organization and prepare it for what will most certainly be leaner in the next few months. The best CFOs do this decisively and with compassion. While rightsizing the organization to survive and thrive in a slower economy is not as thrilling perhaps as an ever-increasing headcount, it is what needs to be done. Having seen some companies slowly react with layoffs over a long period of time, it does not seem to be the best way to do it. Better to take the lumps and move on with a decisive and carefully crafted plan.

A silver lining

The positive news for CEOs and Boards is for the first time in many years, there is a softening in the labor market. This is affecting the CFO talent pool to some degree. In some private conversations over the last few months, some CFOs have confided in me that they would be open to new opportunities precisely because of the valuation issues mentioned above. Not to say that recruiting an exceptional CFO has gotten easy, but I can say that the call-back rate is noticeably higher this fall than it was last year. While economic uncertainty can cause some folks to hunker down, others may see the opportunity to make a strategic change.

Next up, the hybrid office – or not.

If you are seeking a CFO for your VC-backed or Public company, please feel free to reach out. I also welcome your comments on my blog.
Thanks, Dave

Dave Arnold