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What It Takes with CFO Aron Susman from Ro

Founded in Tech Episode 8

What does it take to be the CFO of one of New York’s most successful high growth companies? What does it look like to transfer from a Big 4 firm to the private market? And what does it take to build up a finance team from the ground up?

Aron Susman from Ro joins today’s host Dave Garvey to discuss his career path and some of the great insights he’s gathered over the years that are beneficial to up-and-coming CFOs and CEOs in the technology industry.

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This podcast was transcribed through a third-party application. Please disregard any misrepresentations.

Dave Garvey:
Welcome to this episode of Founded in Tech, brought to you by Withum, and today’s host Dave Garvey. With today’s episode, I am joined by Aron Susman, chief financial officer at Ro, where we will learn more about his interesting path from a big four firm to the world of startups and where he currently leads finance and accounting at one of New York’s most successful high growth companies. Through getting to know Aron over the years, it is clear that he has a lot to offer finance and accounting professionals in tech, as well as venture backed founders and CEOs, and now for a warm welcome. Thanks for joining us today, Aron.

New Speaker:
Thank you for having me.

Dave Garvey:
Great. So I’ve been pumped about this for a while. Looking forward to all the ground that we’re going to cover maybe before we dive into, uh, your, your past, at least from a career perspective, can you tell folks today a little bit about where you are right now, which is RO.

New Speaker:
Yes, so, I’m currently the CFO of RO. Most folks are probably familiar with how Ro started, uh, as Roman, which initially focused on men’s sexual health, but are surprised to learn that we’ve evolved into a vertically integrated primary care platform. Um, we treat over 20 conditions end-to-end, we have a cash pay mail order pharmacy with thousands of generics, and we’re able to send providers to patient’s home for diagnostics. We’re actually the only healthcare company that seamlessly integrated virtual care, online pharmacy and in-home care. And so with a nationwide provider network and in-home care API and pharmacy distribution centers, we’ll have about 10 by the end of the year. Uh, we at Ro seamlessly connect tele-health diagnostics and pharmacy services to provide high quality affordable health care without the need for insurance. We’re about three and a half years old and we’ve facilitated over 6 million digital health visits and help patients in almost every county in the U.S.

Dave Garvey:
Yeah. Which is quite impressive. Uh, thanks for sharing that by the way. All right. So let’s go back to kind of the beginning, right? This is at least from a career perspective, like I said, you’re, um, you know, so you finished school, you’re in Texas and you join a big four firm. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like, and then maybe just link it to some of what you learned there, which has benefited you now in more recent years where you’re working with, uh, these more startup type companies.

Aron Susman:
Yeah. So, uh, like you said, I grew up in Texas and I’m proud Longhorn. They have a five-year master’s program where you get your master’s in public accounting, as well as CPA. And so I naturally, um, wanted to work in an accounting firm, you know, post-graduation. I started at Deloitte, I was in a niche group. We were doing private equity, M&A tax. This was 2007, 2008. And so it was an interesting time back then with a lot of leverage deals, especially being in Houston with oil and gas. And I think what was important to me is I worked at Deloitte early in my career. I really felt like I was learning the building blocks of business. I really understood the metrics by which everything else was judged. And I thought by understanding those metrics and those building blocks, it would help me become ultimately a finance professional, something I always wanted to do. I always wanted to try to lead a finance organization, really help a business, build instrumentation to be able to take the business where it wanted to go.

Dave Garvey:
Definitely. Yeah. And I can relate to even those same fundamentals and the building blocks. And so, all right. So then you found your way into working with startups, right? You even had some of your own entrepreneurial experience.

New Speaker:
Yeah.

Dave Garvey:
Uh, maybe if you could share a little bit about what that was like, the transition, and where it’s kind of brought you to present day.

Aron Susman:
Yeah. So I moved to New York in 2013 as a co-founder of a company called the square foot. Square foot is a venture backed what people now call it proptech firms. So property, uh, technology, um, you can think of it like a compass, but for commercial real estate, um, still operates in New York city today. And I think what I learned about moving from accounting to a startup is sort of the idea of operationalizing a lot of the things that you were learning, right, as you’re at a big four firm, a lot of the work you’re doing is really not operational in nature. And so you are learning about the difference between kind of the accounting, closing the books, making sure that everything on the P and L and balance sheet are accurately reflected, um, versus operationally using the cash and the capital you have to drive metrics, whatever those metrics may be. And that’s quite a different charter, uh, between those two career paths.

Dave Garvey:
Yeah. So, and like present day you’re at Ro. Right. And you, I remember talking to you actually, when you first, you know, you shortly after you joined there, um, it was maybe right around when that large series a was going to be announced, which, I mean, remind me if that was maybe the, one of the largest series A’s ever, or if it was maybe the largest in consumer are definitely in New York, it was the largest series a, but you were there, you were the solo finance and accounting hire at the department. Maybe before we talk about things from a finance and accounting perspective, it would be great to hear, you know, some of what led up to you deciding that Ro was where you wanted to be. You know, you had conversations with the co-founders and Zack, the CEO, you know, there were things that you learned that founded it, that you decided this was compelling and you needed to be there.

Aron Susman:
Yeah. So I actually don’t know if it was one of the biggest series a at the time. I do know we were one of the fastest growing consumer companies ever. Um, but yeah, I came in kind of right at the, a-round, uh, the company had launched in November of 2017 and very quickly found product market fit. We started having discussions in early 2018 and I joined that winter, uh, right as we, um, raised a series a from First Mark as the lead. And, um, yeah, I remember, you know, meeting Z our CEO at a coffee shop, we, uh, introduced through a mutual friend and I was just kind of blown away by him and his ability to sort of squint and see the future. He was really clear about what he was trying to build. This was not about just building a company that did online diagnosis to delivery of medication, but really what he was trying to build was a new healthcare system, where everyone was at going to be able to access high quality affordable care.

Aron Susman:
But he also understood that that couldn’t be the initial pitch, right? You have to build something to build the infrastructure, to earn the right, to do those things. And since he experienced ED, he wanted to use ED as what we would say, a book’s to Amazon or DVDs to Netflix. It allowed us to hit product market fit, bring members into the platform, show them the experience and the quality of care that we could bring them through telemedicine. And that allowed us to build the digital doctor’s office. It allowed us to build the pharmacy network and build scale to go treat other conditions. And those are things that he always talked about from day one. And I was just kind of blown away at that sort of clear vision into the future. Also, you know, you meet a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in New York city. And some of them just kind of have that charisma or X factor.

Aron Susman:
You really think of them as a leader and you want to really be their partner. He really wanted a thought leader and a partner, you know, at the time company was under 10 people. He could have hired someone to just close the books, but he really wanted a peer and thought partner to help him think through the levers of the business. He was willing to be told a contrarian take. In fact, he wanted to hear a contrarian take the conversation we had is that ultimately might disagree and commit. Right? I could, he could ask me about an opportunity. I could bring him my analysis and we might say, yeah, that’s a lot of risk. I might not do that. And he might say, I hear that, except for, you know, in order to be a big business, you have to be contrarian and right.

Aron Susman:
And therefore I want to move forward. Right. But then if it didn’t work, we all kind of own that together versus, you know, bringing someone a plan that just meets with what they want to see. And so I thought that was a really mature way of thinking about things. And also he wanted to invest really early in the finance stack. I think my Deloitte and early career really taught me that I think oftentimes when a finance function isn’t scaling, um, or an accounting function, isn’t scaling it’s because there’s a lot of like of technical debt. So just like they talk about engineering, if you band-aid things for a long enough time, it will break and does not scale. And if things are moving really fast and things are breaking the ability to go back and fix them is very difficult. So we thought about things and a cheesy perspective, uh, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And he was willing to invest the time, money, and resources to get these things right. And so I was just kinda blown away that, you know, one, he had the vision, two, he wanted a thought leader and wanted someone to really pressure test and play devil’s advocate. And three, he was really willing to put the time, energy and resources into the accounting function. So you lay those three things on top of the fact that digital health really hadn’t been cracked yet. And it had a massive Tam. It just felt like a right opportunity.

Dave Garvey:
Yeah. Well, and kudos to you for, for being able to see the vision at that time. I mean, that’s a hard vision to see. So from where, you know, Ro had started out when it was Roman Health, right. And so, you know, what you did was, you know, you were obviously in a great spot, um, but you, you went forward and it’s, uh, you know, as we can see today where Roman, where Ro is now, uh, to it’s an amazingly successful company. And so, um, we could get into more of that, but let’s talk about some of the, some of the salsa now. So now some of the accounting and the finance. Right. And so, you know, so you’re at Ro and you are, you know, like we said, finance and accounting hire number one, you are the department. What could you say about, you know, what the playbook should look like when you come in there and it’s, and it’s just you.

Aron Susman:
Yeah, it’s tough. I think, you know, oftentimes it really depends where your skillset lies, but I think ultimately you need to find someone who you think you can scale with at least for the next 18 to 24 months. Um, and you need to find someone who can think strategically, but also is wanting to get their hands dirty. And so when I started at Ro, I was cutting checks. I was doing journal entries. I was building the model. I was building the board decks and the CEO was a partner with me in that. Right. And helping me and can do those things. And so I think you really have to find someone who has intellectual curiosity and really wants to learn and scale the business and be part of that initial team that helps really understand how do we grow this business and what are the levers of this business?

Aron Susman:
Um, I think that’s the most valuable you can be to a CEO, right? They are trying to think about all the different things they can do to grow in scale and hit those metrics. And if you can unearth insights, bring them plans and help them strategically think about, and really bring numbers to the conversation in a thoughtful way, that’s how you can actually become invaluable to your CEO. And then over time, you know, it’s just about scaling. And I think for us, because I was fortunate enough to have an accounting background, I actually hired a director of accounting first, before I hired an FP&A person. And I think generally companies tend to hire the FP&A person first, I think because I have a skill set and in most finance folks will on the modeling side, I decided to just keep doing that myself right. One was that I knew the only way the business scale, the only way that I would earn the credibility to keep advancing myself at Ro was to forecast accurately, bring good projections and really help the business understand where every dollar was going and how every investment was going.

Aron Susman:
And I didn’t feel comfortable in that unless I was in those weeds, doing that every single day. One of the hardest things I ever did as we scaled was give up that model, um, because I had to feel really trusting in every number that we were looking at. And every number of your reporting and forecasting it’s, especially because we are raising VC money, but because I knew that oftentimes FP&A doesn’t work, if you don’t have good historical data and you definitely don’t have that, if you don’t have great accounting and great books. And so that would be a harder thing for me to scale with. And so we hired a director of accounting. Um, she came in, she was our first hire and she, you know, started closing almost immediately. And we started scaling that team first. And I think having order putting rigor behind and really having methodology behind how we were going to close our chart of accounts, um, and everything that went into our, our accounting process is what has enabled us to scale in the way we have today.

Aron Susman:
I mean, I think we’re very fortunate, but we are, we are audited by a big four. We have net suite, we had an inventory management system. This is only our third year in business. And, you know, I like to think that we have a really smart, capable crew and we do. But also think a lot of that came from the fact as we started that in our first year. Right? Most businesses wouldn’t think that way. And I think we thought if we put this in, now, it will be infinitely easier than if we try to put it in that scale. Um, and where a lot of folks talk about how difficult an audit processes, which it is and how difficult a NetSuite processes, which it is if you do, if you are fortunate enough to have the resources, to put that in early, it will be infinitely easier. And so we always tried to invest early in the finance stack, and I think it has, you know, payed a lot of dividends for us over time.

Dave Garvey:
You know, I remember back then to when you were talking through all of this, and, you know, when I think back to what, what Ro was at the time, it was a very early stage company. And I remember you’d hired Jessica as the, as the director of accounting. And so, and she’d come down from, I think it was upstate New York. Um, and then you were talking about the audit and net suite and, you know, which is all of what someone in your position would, would need to be thinking about, but some of them would, you know, maybe postpone it or kick the can is as much as they could on. And I remember you just being steadfast about, no, this is going to happen in the early days here. And you know, it’s not, everybody’s willing to do that. It’s, it’s a, it’s a lot of effort to do them, especially with sort of how close you did them to each other. And so, you know, kudos to you for doing that. I’m glad that is something that you said. It’s something that I just believe in my experience, more people definitely need to hear that. You know, what about as you were, as you were scaling that, right, you started with, with Jessica, started to hire more folks, maybe a little bit about just how you envisioned and encountered the type of build that, that you needed for that team. Maybe some of the order of operations type things that are just important to pass on to folks.

Aron Susman:
You know, on the accounting side specifically, I think we actually had someone who even predated me who was like a part-time consultant on the books. Um, he had the historical institutional knowledge and brought him on board as well. And then with Jess, you know, just try to find someone who I thought of as myself a few years ago, who could think strategically, um, but also would get into the weeds, right? She had to do the implementation and she had to close the books, she had to get in there and do the day to day. And over time then as that started to scale, wanted to make sure that I provided her the same resources that Z provided me to make sure that she was able to get leverage. And I think one of the things we believe on accounting and FP&A and I, and I think people typically think about this more on FP&A than accounting is that my goal was not that their entire week was completely filled with the day to day.

Aron Susman:
I wanted breadth and room for them to be thinking about where we needed to go in 3, 6, 9, 12 months, and actually be spending time on that. Right. And I think ultimately that’s not always efficient. Like we could go down a rabbit hole, things that ultimately we figure out don’t actually work for us. And some people think about that as lost time. I thought about that as paying for education. We want to make sure that we have the ability to strategically think on the accounting side. Right. You know, as kind of SPAC mania started earlier this year, we wouldn’t have even been in position to think about something like that. Although we obviously didn’t do it. Had do we not build the rigor around the accounting team to have the financials available for that process and for our fundraises? And, you know, I think a lot of people think about those at the champagne problems, but I think we always assumed that we were going to achieve big things and, um, we didn’t want blockers.

Aron Susman:
I think my ultimate kind of north star is finance never be a blocker for the business scaling and, you know, that’s how we started to hire. And then we brought someone else in from a big four, um, you know, hired a few people underneath her. And then, you know, recently have hired someone who is much more well-versed in the kind of documentation, SOCs, um, internal controls perspective to make sure again, like right now, is that the thing that’s holding back Ro? No. Right. But could it pull back Ro in 12 to 14 months potentially. And we don’t want to be working on those things when opportunity strikes and we want to be ready for opportunity. And I think oftentimes accounting can be the thing that holds people back from up what’s going to need. They just don’t really realize it until it’s much too late. And so we want to make sure that’s never the case here at Ro.

Dave Garvey:
Yep. Well, especially if they’ve started it too late, which is something you can definitely take credit for making sure that, that did not happen. No. So speaking of goals, which you mentioned on a more micro level, you know, you, you know, at some point you decided, you know, that you wanted to be a CFO, right. And so you’ve, you’ve achieved that now you’re at Rowe, which is, you know, like we’ve said a wildly successful company, you’re, you’re in an awesome spot there as CFO. Right. What would you say was important on your path to becoming that? And then I’d love to follow it up with, you know, what do you, what do you continue to look at and pay attention to and make sure you’re committed to so that you continue to become a better and better CFO?

Aron Susman:
Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I think my goal was to become so invaluable to the company and to the management team that that progression, you know, would be natural. I think the only way you can do that is just through like hard work and grit and determination. And I wanted to be involved and helpful in everything I possibly could. Right. I think about finances and infrastructure. I’m not a blocker. And I think being a partner to the management team through our five or six fundraises really helped me develop that rapport and chemistry that, you know, you develop that implied trust, right. They trust me that I’m going to always have the numbers available, always going to bring the insights. I’m always going to let people know what’s going on. Um, I think that has been really important. I think over time, I think sort of you think about high level as you earn the right.

Aron Susman:
Right. I think when I came into Ro, I didn’t say like I have to be CFO. I started as the VP of finance and it was ultimately like, can Aron scale with the company to earn the right to, to be the CFO. And I always looked at that as my challenge is how do I make sure that I am doing all the things I need to make sure that the company believes that I can take that path and the board as well, right? The board had to feel comfortable that I had the ability to raise capital for the company and provide that what I would call instrumentation to take the plane where it needs to go, and they need to have ultimate trust that’s going to happen. You know, we have first time or second time entrepreneurs on the Ro team. And so I also have to be there to help really guide the path.

Aron Susman:
And I feel like if you just continue to earn the right, prove, um, through hard work, determination detail, um, and you also have to be able to put together accurate numbers, right? The end of the day, you have to be willing to assess the business, understand where it’s going. I kind of hate the saying, see around the corner, but I think you kind of have to have that innate ability. Um, and then you also have to be able to build an amazing team. Right? I couldn’t do this alone. Like if we didn’t have the finance team that we had, I wouldn’t have been able to get leverage. And so I think a lot of it too, is being able to hire amazing folks. And that’s something that I think I had to learn over time. You don’t get to be the CFO of a company like Ro because you forecast it well.

Aron Susman:
Or because you put in NetSuite or because you, you got audited. You get to be the CFO because you’ve shown over time that one you can scale with the business. Um, and two that, you can hire an amazing team. And I think for us, as I said with Jess, uh, on the FP&A side as well, we always try to hire people that would have been my peer, right. Can I convince someone who was my peer and smarter than me to come work for us and do amazing things at Ro. And without those people, I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I think there is a soft skill side around just like being a leader. Can you get the trust of the rest of the management team? Can you earn the trust of the company? Can you hire well, can you earn the trust of your own team?

Aron Susman:
And then, you know, a bunch of hard work and then, you know, be fortunate, right? Like we always knew we were building something special, but ultimately you have to continue to kind of make your own luck and put yourselves in great opportunities. And so over time, it was really, I think about the attitude of just earning your right. And I continue to try to keep earning that next level and not coming in thinking that I deserve anything. And I think that puts you kind of in the right mindset to want to do the best you can to serve the company that you’re, you’re fortunate to be the finance leader of.

Dave Garvey:
Thanks for that, Aron. I love, love the humility. It’s usually one of those things that you kind of can’t say yourself, like as soon as you say, you’re humble, you’re not, but, uh, you know, we get guests on this podcast that, um, are humble and it, and it makes a big difference in, in how they are successful and just how they look at the world. So definitely a hat tip for that, um, about you. Uh, so you did actually touch on some of, uh, where I wanted to go next with this. Um, so you talked a little bit about like being a good partner to the CEO, as well as board relations and investor relations. Can you talk a little bit more about how important that is and maybe some of what you learned about the best way to go about doing those?

Aron Susman:
Yeah, I mean, it is one of the most important things. You have to have the trust of the CEO and you have to have the trust of the board and you have to make sure that you’re operating and also have the trust of the management team and the trust at the employee base at large. I think for us, we’re really fortunate. We have like an amazing board with some pretty amazing people. Uh, Rick Heitzman, of First Mark, Hemant Taneja of General Catalyst, Alexis Ohanian, Tony west of Uber. And they are visionaries all of them and their different specific domains and they have a long-term vision of what we’re trying to achieve. And so we are just make sure that we’re always on the same page, right? I think ultimately we use them strategically. We’re open and honest of the highs and the lows. And I think you develop that trust over time where they trust that like they want the same way that Ro wants to be a patient’s first call.

Aron Susman:
The board wants to be our first call, right? If we’ve hit a blocker or something’s not going the way we want, right. The board should be the first call because they’re there to help us, they’re there to support us. And if you develop that trust over time, it’s really important. And I think, you know, again, when you have a founding team, not just Z, but our founder, Rob Schutz, Saman Rahmanian, they are really, we are a founder led visionary team, or they have an amazing vision for the future and what health care could be, and that’s supported by the board. And so when you’re able to earn the trust of a founding team that the board really believes in and has continued to execute, that also helps you earn that, that right with the board. And I’ve also tried to make sure that, you know, I also have dialogues with members of the board and making sure that I understand what they’re looking for out of me, what can I provide for them?

Aron Susman:
What can I do better? What can I answer for them, uh, over time? And also like I have to give credit to them. They are willing to bet on me since the early innings and continue to put trust in me as well. I don’t know that that’s always the case, but I think we just have a board that understands that who we all are and what we’re all trying to achieve. And it’s much more, uh, there’s a greater mission that we’re trying to do. We all believe we can be, uh, not only just a really big public company, but we can change the way healthcare is accessed to the United States. And they all believe in that as well. And so I think, you know, over time, it’s just about you, you can only, we say this a lot at Ro, but you earn trust through frequency, right?

Aron Susman:
And the only way that you can earn that trust is to be frequently available to the board and frequently execute on what you say you’re going to do. And if we continually do what we say we’re going to do, they will start to trust that that’s going to happen. And so that’s how we’re always honest and open about what’s happening, why it’s happening and what we’re going to achieve, because I think this is the same as true for public company CFOs. Like once you lose that credibility, it’s really hard to get it back. And so there’s really no reason. There’s no incentive to, you know, say you’re going to achieve something you don’t think you can or potentially kick the can down the road or potentially obfuscate what’s going on. We’re always open and honest with them. And that has developed an amazing trust. And I think over time, if you develop that trust and institutional knowledge of the company and the culture you’ve really ingrained yourself there. Um, and that’s what I tried to do over a long period of time, is just continue to earn their trust and prove to them, you know, how badly I want to be in the seat and continue to make sure I’m earning the right to sit in the seat as well.

Dave Garvey:
Sure, definitely. Well, I mean, part of earning that trust too, is, you know, having your house in order properly, right. And one, one important component to that is, you know, all the data and the different dynamics there are within your department. Right? And so, uh, always love to talk about KPIs and metrics. Uh, in fact, it was awesome. You and Zach had co-authored that one article that was on medium about a year and a half ago about all the different KPIs and metrics inherent to, you know, especially your D2C business, but it was laid out very well and simple about just, you know, it started with customer acquisition cost and then it worked its way down the funnel with conversions and looked at things like average order value and things like that. And obviously the retention and that sort of thing. And also how that article is used when you onboard new folks at Ro, awesome way to put people in sync and get them all on the same page, even if it’s new content for them, it gives them just something to talk to their colleagues about, right. To learn more about it, but critical that they understand all that stuff. But, but with KPIs and metrics, obviously, you know, you’ve had to come up with a way to, to architect and to share that data in a way that is appropriate for the audiences, including the board and, uh, and leadership. So can you talk a little bit about what went into architecting that, and, and just maybe some of your style with how you like to deliver it?

Aron Susman:
Yeah. I mean, I think we’re a little bit of nerds, you know, and we really enjoy KPIs. We really enjoy metrics and we found it over time. It was interesting how many different ways that they’re defined. And some of these things I think can be really useful for folks. Aren’t always well-defined and we really want to put something together because we wanted to share what we thought was our knowledge with people who would find it interesting. And it was just actually kind of fun. You know, I think not only do you have to have like a great business relationship with the founding team and the exec team, but you also have to have a personal relationship. Like you also earn trust through personal relationships and being vulnerable. We’re all humans, especially coming through this pandemic, I think is even more highlighted. And when, you know, when we are all more familial, have that chemistry built some personal bonds.

Aron Susman:
That is really what allows us to get through the tough times, right? The easy times are easy. The tough times is really when that trust comes from. And a lot of that can be built, not just at work, but personally. And that was something that Z and I undertook because it was both really interesting to us. And we, we thought it would be fun and it really, you know, got our brains working. And we learned a lot writing that piece and wanting to put some things out there and see the response, which was awesome. And so that’s where kind of that came from. In terms of, you know, data in general. I think one thing we’ve tried to do is make fundraising a product. So we’ve been through fundraising quite a few times and ultimately new investors are coming in because one you’ve executed previously, but they want to understand, I think a lot of due diligence is just about like understanding is your house in order, how clean is the data?

Aron Susman:
How do you look at it? Can you pull it at your fingertips? Do you have instrumentation to make changes when necessary? And I think we always tried to make fundraising a product in and of itself super organized, very visual backed up with lots of data, such that when people were viewing the data, they felt like, oh, wow, like this group really has their stuff together. It’s really clear. It’s really concise. I understand what they’re looking at. I understand why I don’t have to dig 30 levels deep to figure out what’s going on because we sort of say that for instance, like investors are self-selecting pool, if they don’t believe in the long-term vision that we’re trying to build, or just in KPIs or metrics that we don’t really look at, we think sometimes maybe there’s not the right investor for Ro, because over time we want to look at the metrics we think are going to build a long-term very big, uh, healthcare company.

Aron Susman:
And so we have tried to make our data collection, our due diligence and our fundraising pitch a bit of a product such that it’s, uh, it really shows off how well we’ve done that. And I think for what it’s worth, we talked about earning the trust of the board. And I think that comes from there as well. Right. One, when you’re three years old and you tell the board and we’re going to go get PCAOB financials when they know you have netsuite and you’re able to go get big, big debt facilities from major banks, when really big growth stage investors, um, are complimentary of the process and the data and the rigor that went behind it, all that sort of external feedback also built a lot of confidence within the board. And so, you know, I think that’s more of a, a positive symptom of all the work you’re doing initially, but it’s really hard for those things to happen if you don’t have that rigor upfront.

Aron Susman:
And so oftentimes for us, it was just thinking about, and again, it proves to the board and your management team that Aron or the CFO is thinking about what are we going to have to do in a year or two years, that’s going to allow us to unlock X, Y, or Z. Right? There are a lot of really smart people who can do the day to day where people tend to get confused. And I had to learn this over time. Is that being really smart and having a table stakes and just like the, kind of the skills to do to get the job done in the moment you’re in, unfortunately, that’s kind of the easy part. The hard part is thinking about how do I make sure we’re in the right spot in two years? How do I prioritize those assets? How do I build the trust to get there? And how do I implement them today while also scaling the business? And that’s the softer side that you don’t really learn. You don’t learn at least, you know, I was only in public accounting for a handful of years, but that’s not something you learn necessarily in professional services firms, especially when you’re a junior, that’s something you learn over time, you know, as you operate. Um, and that’s just a skill that I’ve had to continue to work on extremely hard, um, so that I could scale to be in a position I’m in today.

Dave Garvey:
Sure, definitely. I couldn’t agree more like the, you know, there’s, you know, each of us in our, in our roles, we have to come up with strategy and, you know, it’s a, it’s something that can’t be done without, you know, all those critical components, like, you know, knowing what the necessary activities are to achieve any of these goals that are part of the strategy and obviously the exercise of how to prioritize those and then, you know, the flexibility to reprioritize if necessary down the road. Um, maybe more than once. So, uh, definitely with you on that. So we’re, we’re going to get into the final sort of innings of this episode and it’s been awesome. Uh, you mentioned before about being human. And so it’s part of why I like to ask this next question, but, uh, what would you like to say, just, you know, you’re at a great spot in your career. Um, you’re, you know, you’re still got a lot ahead of you. Uh, what would you like to share that is important for you to achieve either boxes you want to check or just experiences that you want to have now, either on a professional or personal level? Uh, we’d love to hear you share some, some examples of that.

Aron Susman:
For myself personally?

Dave Garvey:
Yeah. Yes.

Aron Susman:
I think, yeah. And I think like one, I’ve always had a dream of being a public company, CFO, you know, I think some kids grow up dreaming about being a baseball player for whatever reason that’s what I wanted to do. And so that is a big goal of mine in life is to be able to do that one day. And so hopefully that happens. And then I think for me, I just want to, I have two kids, I have a two year old and I have an eight week old son, both sons. My father passed away a little bit earlier in my life, in my late twenties or early twenties, excuse me. And, um, being a father, um, and being kind of just around, present, part of their life as they grow up is very important to me. It’s one of the unfortunate positives of the pandemic, uh, or, you know, unfortunately for the pandemic, one of the positives have been get to spend a lot of time with my family and it’s really important to me.

Aron Susman:
Um, just be an amazing dad and for my kids to think of their father, the way I think of my father, that’s something that I also want to continue to achieve is just how do I be a great partner to my wife? How do I get to be a great father to my children? How do I can get to continue to learn and be part of this amazing rocket ship at Ro One day, maybe I will, um, don’t understand what I’m asking for, but be a public company, CFO. Um, those are sort of the two things that are really important to me. And then, you know, over time, the other thing I would love to achieve is I love traveling, experiencing culture and, um, want to get to continue to do that, uh, over time as sort of a personal goal of mine. Yeah. Those are like kind of the two or three things that are really important to me. Um, but I get to do it as I scale and grow professionally and personally.

Dave Garvey:
Yeah. Good. Well, I mean, what you say about the public company CFO, I mean, it wasn’t that long ago where, you know, New York and its, and its maturing process from a venture tech ecosystem perspective, you know, we could, you know, we could easily go 12 months without an IPO here. Right? And then have one and then go another 12 months plus. And so it was only a couple of years ago where we started to have them with some sort of regularity. And so, you know, the good news about that obviously is, you know, we’ve got more CFOs now that are public company CFOs and they’ve been through that process. We’ve got a couple of people that have been through it a few times now at this point. And so, uh, you know, those are people that I know, I’m sure you’re getting to know them. Um, and obviously there’s folks on other coasts on the other coast too, but it’s awesome to see that in New York, it’s hard to not be proud of that.

Aron Susman:
And it’s amazing too because they have a pay it forward mentality. You know, they’ve all been in the same position at one point in their careers and they just have an amazing pay it forward mentality where, you know, they want to be as helpful as they possibly can as the same way as like I want to be as helpful to anyone that I possibly can. And I think, you know, that mentality is quite amazing. And to get, you know, as you said, there’s just so many more now that I’ve been through it, especially with all the different iterations that exist today, um, that it’s really awesome to be part of that New York City community. And one of the things I’m really excited about as we get back to the office here in a few months is just to get back to the city, that energy, that people, those connections is something I really did miss over the past year and a half.

Dave Garvey:
Definitely. Yeah, for sure. Cool, man. Well, so there’s a, there’s one part of this that we always like to try to close out on and some of what you’ve already touched on, but just to articulate maybe a few of the lessons or any wisdom that you’ve acquired along the way, you know, in your journey and all the, all the different opportunities you’ve had to be, uh, the chance to be a part of, you know, what would you like to pass on to either, you know, the folks that are like in finance and accounting that are, you know, trying to map things out, or, you know, you’ve been to those maybe earlier stage venture backed, uh, CEOs and founders that they have not made that first important finance and accounting hire yet, or they’ve made it and it’s maybe not the right one.

Aron Susman:
Yeah. On that. On the early stage, you know, CEOs or founding teams, I think bringing in a senior person to sort of own and scale the, the finance function will make your life infinitely easier. If they’re the right fit, they can be a partner to you in a way that I think will free up your brain to do the things that you really want to do. And I think will become an invaluable resource as you scale and be one of the more important and critical pieces of the company over time. And I think it’s never too early, honestly, it’s just, it’s really hard to do it without that expertise. You will hit a wall that will make the next phase just really difficult. And I think, I would say I would be hard pressed to find someone who’s like, yeah, that person was amazing, but it was just too early for them to, to be part of the company.

Aron Susman:
I don’t know that you’d ever find someone who would say that. All right. I never have, in terms of others in like the finance or accounting space, I think one is like, you know, I guess it depends like when you’re at a public accounting firm and you’re kind of on that like safe trajectory and you feel kind of like, there’s like the structure, or even at a fortune 500 company inside that accounting function, even finance function, it can be really scary to go to a startup. One, you don’t know everything, right? You’ve sort of probably at a company like that, that is mature, there’s processes, there’s protocols. You’re kind of doing similar things on a daily basis while you’re slowly kind of learning and scaling. And there is a benefit to that. But if you really have an inkling to go do more, I’d say don’t be scared by not knowing everything.

Aron Susman:
I’d be honest about that with the people you’re interviewing with and say, “Hey, like, I don’t know at all, I haven’t done that before, but I want to learn it. I will do everything in my power to be good at it. And I will take it onto myself to, to become excellent at that skill” and mean it. Right. So be honest about it, but also don’t be scared because you can, you can learn it. And half the time learning is by doing. And two is that like, depending on where you are in life, like it will just get harder to make that leap. You know, when I made the leap, I didn’t have a family. Um, I do now. Doesn’t mean, it doesn’t preclude you from it, but it’s harder, right? It becomes harder and harder over time, especially as you get more ingrained in your career to make that leap.

Aron Susman:
And so when I made the leap, it was scary, I think, 12 years ago, but people thought it was crazy to leave a great job at a big four on a great trajectory. It was so secure. You know, I knew where to go and I knew what I was doing, I knew how to achieve the things that would put me on a positive path, but it didn’t feel great. I didn’t, you know, again, I was in a position where my father had died. So, I was having a little bit of a quarter-life crisis, but I didn’t want to have regrets. And I think what I learned is that if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back right now. You may be a few years behind others, but I think it’s worth it in terms of the opportunity it may provide you and you know, life is short.

Aron Susman:
So you might as well do something that really stimulates your brain, you enjoy, you have fun doing, if possible, you don’t think of his work. So I would just try to make the leap. And the other thing I would say is like, you can, you can stage that risk, right? You can go to a three person company and be the finance leader. You can go to a series C company and being the Lieutenant, um, to the VP of finance. And I guess the last thing I would say is if you are thinking about making that leap, one thing we always talk about on my team, and I think at Ro in general is that you want your manager to be someone who’s going to understand your goals and help you achieve them. Hopefully at the company you’re at, but anywhere. And what I mean by that is that if our VP of FP&A, wants to be a CFO and she thinks she’s ready and I think she’s ready, but it’s not available at Ro.

Aron Susman:
I should be championing her and giving her the skills to make that happen. Even if it’s a big loss for us, right? Because ultimately you’re trying to lift other people up and that’s when you get the best work out of them. And you want to make sure you have a company that’s devoted to that. So if you’re an accounting firm or you’re at a finance firm, you’re like, Hey, my goal is to be a VP of finance and run a finance department. And you’re going to go in more in a, you know, a manager type role, make sure you’re going somewhere that understands where you’re trying to head. You know, it’s going to take time and that will give you the opportunity and the resources to learn the skills necessary to get there. And if you can find that, you know, again, I’ve been fortunate that the, the, the risks I’ve taken have worked out, but I think, you know, typically they, they can and they will. And if they don’t, those secure kind of fortune 500 company, big four firm jobs will always exist, but it just might, you know, might lose a few years on your track. But I think over time, it’s probably worth it. Um, if you think that that’s something that you might regret not doing, if you don’t ever take the leap.

Dave Garvey:
That’s right. In fact, I mean, at some point it might even be where the tables are turned on the way that the risk is understood, like where, you know, it seems too risky to not make the move where at some point it might become too risky to actually stay. In all places nowadays. Uh, there’s, there’s a lot changing fast, right? And so who knows what stability really exists in terms of the way it used to look. Right? Definitely.

Aron Susman:
I think a job at a big company is a little bit of a fallacy. It’s a construct in our mind, like the job you got to perform, you know, things can go, well, things can go poorly. I think sometimes big corporate jobs may feel more secure, but I’m not sure that’s always truly the case. When you go into the details.

Dave Garvey:
A hundred percent in agreement on that. And a perfect way to, to wrap up this episode, definitely want to thank you, Aron, for joining us. And I look forward to keeping in touch and just want to say, thanks again, to all of our guests and our audience, we are to creating content that that brings value to all of you. Having someone like Aron Susman come on the show is, is huge. And, uh, glad that he was able to share what he did. Please feel free to reach out anytime if you ever have ideas for future episodes, or if you just want to be a guest. And in the meantime we hope you enjoy. And that you’ll be well. Aron, thanks again for being with us today.

Aron Susman:
Thank you for having me.

Dave Garvey:
Alright, take it easy.

Music:
Outro music.

Mark Eckerle:
Thank you for tuning in. If you liked it and want to hear more, you can follow us and subscribe and we’ll see you next time on founded in tech.

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