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Understanding What Drives Numbers

Guest CFO: Justin Crotty  Anaqua

Props to Anaqua CFO and COO Justin Crotty for allowing us to first zero-in on his early career chapters when the economy showed no mercy. Crotty, who joined the leading provider of intellectual property management software and services about three years ago, launched his career with a tech consultancy at the height of the era. In his mid-20s, he took on the role of project lead for a prickly client that all of his colleagues ducked (a professional development approach that he advocates). Crotty says that he “wound up failing pretty miserably … I drove the project into the ground.” But the failure steered him to dust himself off, get the project across the finish line, and devote himself to mastering project management, expertise that serves him extremely well in his dual role. These skills “have been a key part of my success. I still conduct daily stand-up meetings with my team and ensure that we’re getting things done, managing our plans … and focusing on delivering good experiences.” This candor and relational creativity probably should be expected from a finance executive who points to the flick Slumdog Millionaire for a career-development comparison. “Throughout that movie, the protagonist has all of these experiences that come together in ways that he wasn’t expecting— and ultimately for the better,” Crotty adds. “That’s the way my career has unfolded.”

CFOTL: Tell us how your role has become more operational over time.

Crotty:  I’ve been here two and a half years. And over time it just made sense to start working with other parts of the business that were relatively closely related to finance. So I started working with sales operations; we decided that that made more sense anyway, for controls purposes, to have that report up into finance. So sales operations, we moved over. And then legal; obviously, we’re a contract business, so having legal report up to me so I could partner with our GC and our contracts attorney – it made sense to do that over time. And then HR we added in as well here. I mentioned the global compliance earlier. Obviously it’s a global business and expanding rapidly internationally – a lot of compliance questions for setting up global entities, payroll, etc. So HR, I started working with them. And then also what we call cloud operations, which is our IT and hosting. It’s a key part of our business, critical for our customers, with a lot of contractual complexity. At some point over the past year or so, I started working with our CIO on that business. So it was more about these areas of the business that sort of fit with what we had been doing in finance and strategy. And then the title sort of came more recently just to be reflective of that fact.

CFOTL:  What are your priorities as a finance leader over the next 12 months?

Crotty: Obviously, first and foremost is achieving our financial objectives – delivering the benefits on the investments that our owners have made in the business….
Number two, I would say, is building the team and establishing sustainable processes. Working in a growth business, a growth environment, is hard enough. That really compounds if you don’t have the right people and processes to make it manageable. So we’ve done a lot of work there. Looking forward into ‘19, establishing sustainable processes and making sure we have the right people in the right roles is really a key focus for me.