From family owned rural commerce, and banking into the world of SaaS. Sally Bruce, CFO & COO at Culture Amp talks about her learnings and serendipitous career path which led her to running a global company building people performance software servicing over 5,000 international customers.
Reflecting on her journey so far;
“Some of it is by chance. I have developed a reputation as someone who will think laterally and will do something unexpected and is not frightened to do so. Chance gives me those opportunities because people think to ask me about things they might not otherwise.”
It’s never so much about the industry, as it is about “Helping people make money the right way”. This philosophy has provided a North Star for how Sally is carrying forward her experiences to help steward big changes across multiple industries.
Here on The Good Money, we’re dedicated to understanding the needs and demands of the modern CFO. Tune in to hear Sally’s insights on some of the biggest issues keeping CFOs up at night.
Running a scale up is difficult. What makes it easier is if your workforce is bought into the vision. At Culture Amp, to ensure full organisation alignment with the future trajectory, the picture is painted as to what the organisation is going to look like in 2025.
“We looked at a series of goals that would ladder up to the 2025 vision. Once we knew what had to be true, we reviewed that every 6 months. What are the objectives and key results? When we get to 2025, the picture is not just a lovely story, but it is who we are. It has to meet [the employees] in their heart and mind.”
Without a clear understanding of the long term strategy, keeping employees engaged over a longer period of time may prove difficult.
CEOs are looking for their CFOs to act and behave like CEOs. Sally stresses that the CFO/CEO relationship must be one of trust. Sally's mentor, the previous CFO at AMP, told her;
“CFOs and CEOs need to rely on each other in order to keep the business on course.”
The CFO Program identifies four faces of the CFO as strategist, catalyst, operator, and steward. Sally explains that historically the CFO was mainly seen as an operator and steward, taking control of the financial operations of the company. While today’s CEOs expect CFOs to have strong financial skills, they place a lot of value on the CFO as a business strategist and catalyst for momentum.
What resonated with Sally’s current CEO was Sally’s stance, “I’m going to run the business like a CEO. I’m going to think about everything like the business owner.”
‘Reverse fitting’ a new set of sustainability systems and operating principles into an established organisation can prove cumbersome. Having sustainability at the core of Culture Amp’s DNA from inception made the journey to B Corp all the easier. “There is an admin layer that we carried early on in the belief that they are good investments for showing people how to make money the right way”.
Sally has made it clear that how you make money matters. One example she shared was;
“If you are BIPOC, you get 38% off our wrap rate, because they typically earn 38% less.”
How Robust Communications can Pandemic Proof your Business
“We work out loud,” was how Sally described the way in which they overcame the challenges of a global dispersed workforce. “Teams will hand off to their counterpart overseas who continues the work through the night. I love to review a document at the end of the day and send it out into the ether. The fairies then come and ‘magic’ it into something that has evolved.”
This combined with recording meetings to ensure no one ever misses out provided a robust grounding when the world was sent into a pandemic induced spin.
Business Performance and the Diversity Correlation
It comes as no surprise that when businesses are as diverse as the very world they operate in, they outperform their peers. Culture Amp analysed data from 400 countries and found that;
“If you have an organisation that rates high on 'belonging' from a D + I perspective, we can prove that you will outperform on the ASX 100, the NASDAQ, and the FTSE.”
The lesson for CFOs is loud and clear. If you are operating in a CFO role and have little to no understanding of the diversity of your organisation, nor do you have a strategy for enhancing diversity, then you are doing your organisation a disservice.
Driving Inclusion for Women in your Workforce
It’s clear that challenging the norm and going against the grain is Sally’s unique point of difference. Gender inequality unfortunately is the norm, but a norm that Sally is not prepared to be a bystander without action.
“Respect is everybody's business. One in Five will experience sexual discrimination. It typically lasts longer than 12 months and it typically targets women. Victims are more impacted when they are young, on work visas, people of colour or LGBTQIA. This impacts the health, well being, the retention and productivity of a workforce.”
Sally advocates for creating a workplace that is absent of sexual harrasement and creates a positive obligation as part of safe workplace practices.
Sally’s one piece of advice is to visit https://respect.cew.org.au/ where business leaders can access a tool kit of resources to create a safe environment. You do not need to reinvent the wheel, as all resources are available for free.
Though Sally’s surrounded by growth and change, she makes it a priority to focus on giving back. She genuinely cares about her community and doesn’t shy away from hard work. Sally explained she has a “deep belief that life is not a dress rehearsal and every moment is precious, I want to do it well and for the greater good”.