Doing What Needs Doing: A CFO as Sales Boss

A software firm's finance and operations chief puts himself on the front lines of customer interaction. His other passion: carefully nurturing the company's ESOP.

Amid the constant switching of hats that is a big part of life for most small-company executives, formal titles mean little next to doing whatever has to be done. At TeamQuest Corp., a $25 million vendor of information-technology-optimization software, Terry Wisner is not only CFO but chief operating officer as well. But his biggest priority isn’t the books, the capital markets, or operations. It’s maximizing the revenue stream.

At a time when many customers are short on cash, there is an especially keen need to keep them happy by negotiating flexible contract terms, and Wisner helps with that. Engaging leaders of his customers in discussions about TeamQuest’s product and positioning strategies also helps keep them connected to the company. And, for this CFO, no time is better spent than attending trade shows and talking with customers, and prospective ones, about their IT management needs. The company’s Americas sales team, in fact, reports to him.

The revenue focus supports TeamQuest’s finance “strategy,” such as it is. The company is in pay-as-you-go mode. It has never taken on any debt, not even to buy back shares from investors in the privately held company in order to build an employee stock ownership plan.

Wisner counts the ESOP as one of his top achievements since joining TeamQuest as finance chief in 2000. He came over from RSM McGladrey, where he had worked on the TeamQuest account from the time the company was spun off from Unisys Corp. in 1991. He added the COO role four years ago.

An edited version of CFO.com’s interview with Wisner follows.

What is TeamQuest’s business about?

Customers license software from us. We primarily have two kinds of tools: performance management and capacity planning. By performance management I don’t mean the kind of software that’s focused on financial metrics that most companies use. Our software manages the performance of the IT structure and data center, the operating systems and the devices that are connected to the network. It gathers metrics on their performance and monitors them to make sure they’re working at the optimized level.

Wisner“We’ve never gone out and brought on a bunch of capital or people just to see what happens.” — TeamQuest CFO Terry Wisner

For capacity management, we have a unique modeling technology. Let’s say you’re a CFO and the IT guys come to you and say they want to buy more servers. Our tool tracks the capacity of the existing servers and plays what-if scenarios so you don’t buy new ones until you actually need them. It lets you avoid server sprawl, where you’ve got all these boxes running one application. Where would it make the most sense to put the apps based on the infrastructure you have? If you bring more apps on board, what’s the impact going to be?

What is your finance strategy?
The strategy is pay as you go. That’s been our core competency for years. The company was profitable from day one, and we have no debt. We finance our acquisitions, if we do any, with excess cash from operations. We’ve always been a growing company, but it’s controlled growth. We’ve financed our growth of employees through our own operations, too. I frequently get calls [from lenders who say], “I’ll give you all the money you want. Just tell me how much you need.” But we’ve never gone out and brought on a bunch of capital or people just to see what happens.

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