As CFO of Recommind Inc., Anne Kroger likes to credit her experience from yet another middle-market tech firm — Concur — with having supplied some of the financial know-how required to manage the finances of a high-growth firm. Yet, according to Kroger, the world of her earlier employer has never seemed more distant.
“The business dynamics were just so different back then. We took Concur public on a lot less revenue than what Recommind is doing today, and with huge losses, which was pretty typical of a company that was going public in the late ’90s,” explains Kroger, who joined Concur as a comptroller in the 1990s when it had roughly 60 employees — a fraction of the 2,000-plus workers who populate the software firm today.
Kroger arrived at Recommind 6 years ago, when the so-called e-discovery firm had only 10 employees within the United States and 30 employees globally. Today, with more than 400 employees, privately held Recommind’s fast-growing business is perhaps somewhat reminiscent of Kroger’s earlier tour of duty. Or maybe not.
“Today, companies have trimmed their costs and are mean and lean. We have to be delivering on much larger revenue targets than companies did back in the ’90s, and we’re profitable,” observes Kroger, who says that rapidly evolving opportunities for Recommind’s offerings have required the company’s management to more or less live in the future.
“We are really focused on where we want to be 3 or 4 years from now and how to execute the plans that will get us there. So, for us, looking out 6 months is really viewed as very tactical,” says Kroger, when asked about her priorities over the next few quarters.
While the market dynamics may be far different from what Concur experienced in its early years, Recommind’s ambitious growth trajectory is no doubt reminiscent of what Concur once surveyed during its early days. And while Concur’s pioneering expense management (SAAS) offerings may appear a world apart from the enterprise search capabilities that Recommind is touting today, Kroger has proven to be an effective proselytizer for both companies.
“What we’ve done is taken a core technology and built a platform, and on that platform we’ve built certain applications. This might be enterprise search applications or a very valuable review and analysis tool, and what we’ve done is position a lot of these applications in a way that they solve real problems for corporations. So, for example, our review and analysis application is actually being used by multiple industries. Whether they be oil and gas, financial institutions, pharmaceutical — every industry can use it,” explains Kroger, demonstrating some of the verve that she uses to boil down complex software offerings — a prerequisite for most high-tech CFOs.
Focused very much on the future these days, Kroger is now determined to augment Recommind’s planning and forecasting best practices.
“Now that we’re over 400 employees, there are a lot more managers who want to be involved and should be involved in the planning cycle. This is certainly going to be made easier by rolling out a little bit more of a structured platform to them rather than just sending them Excel templates, which is basically what we’re doing today,” says Kroger, who adds that when it comes to forecasting, the firm is currently evaluating a number of “user-friendly” technologies that should require less time to roll out.
“This kind of takes me back to my experience at a large retailer, where I was a product manager and had to forecast the business on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and every-which-way basis. It really honed my skills and helped me to understand that a forecast is an iterative process,” she notes.
It seems that when it comes to measuring the future, Kroger can’t help but look back.