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10 questions for InnerWorkings CFO Joe Busky

10 questions for InnerWorkings CFO Joe Busky

Name: Joe Busky

Age: 45

Time with company: 4 years

Education: Bachelor of Arts in accounting; MBA in business administration from Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore

Company headquarters: Chicago

Revenue: $634 million for fiscal 2011

Countries of operation: 40

Number of employees total: 1,100

Number of employees the CFO oversees: About 50

CFO's areas of responsibility: Functional areas -- accounting, finance, HR, legal

About the company: InnerWorkings is a global marketing supply chain company with corporate clients across a wide range of industries, including retail, financial services, hospitality, nonprofits, health care, food and beverage, broadcasting and cable, education, transportation and utilities.

1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?

My first job out of school was in public accounting at Price Waterhouse in 1989. I was in Baltimore, that's the city I'm from.

It was a great place to start. Back in the '80s it was the place to start if you wanted to be an executive in accounting and finance areas.

I really enjoyed the experience because I had a chance to work with executives such as the CEOs and CFOs at very large companies at a very young age. Perdue Farms, T. Rowe Price, Sun Microsystems -- these are the clients I had. Having the chance to work with executives at the quality of those companies had a huge effect on me. I knew at a very early age that's where I wanted to be -- those guys were great role models.

What I loved about the culture of public accounting then was that it created really sharp business executives. You had to perform. It was very competitive. That's changed, but back then you had to perform, you had to do well.

2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?

By far, it's a guy named John Duffey. He's currently the CFO at Six Flags. He was the CFO at Dade Behring, which is where I worked prior to coming to InnerWorkngs. I worked for John for eight years and I was being groomed to be his successor as CFO at the company. He was working me through all the various roles starting as assistant controller. He was the controller and I was the assistant then.

I worked through the roles of controller and treasurer, VP of financial planning and analysis, and then chief accounting officer. I was about 24 months away from being his successor and we got bought by Siemens. It was a great deal for the shareholders and for the company. That was in 2007.

It closed the door to being CFO and when that happened, I started looking for another gig and that's how I landed at InnerWorkings.

John was certainly a mentor and a role model for me. He gave me tons of feedback and training. The most important things I learned from him were to treat people with respect and develop people through cross-training.

One of his lines that I remember is "you don't need to know the answer, you just need to know where to find it."

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

Specific to InnerWorkings, we're a global print management company, so to me it's finding quality talent around the world that can be eyes and ears in all corners of the world in accounting and finance. As a growing global company, that's probably one of my biggest concerns and challenges.

More generally, it's the tactical versus strategic view. It's so easy to get sucked into the day to day -- it's something we're comfortable with. CFOs have grown up through the various stages of their companies -- I've run accounting, I've run HR -- I can get sucked into those areas day to day. But you have to stay strategic. It's almost a weekly battle.

4. What is a good day at work like for you?

I am probably like a lot of CFOs in that I am a creature of habit. I've got a routine that when I get out of I get out of sync. The day starts with a 5 a.m. workout to get the blood flowing. If my days don't start with that workout, I feel out of synch. Then, I like to have an early morning touch base with Eric [Belcher], our CEO, and then I like to have lunch with someone in my group or in sales to see what's going on in the company.

What also makes a good day is having some impact on the business, either through a process or a decision I've gone through.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

We're a growth company. We've been growing 30 percent on the top line last year and we expect to grow a similar amount this year. That requires somewhat of an entrepreneurial culture and style so I try to stay with that culture and adopt a hard work-hard play mentality. We're trying not to be a clock watcher, but I do expect everybody to put in a full day and take on additional responsibilities as time goes on.

The other point is -- and this goes back to my mentor -- I try to focus as much as I can on staff development, succession planning to replace me and any of my direct reports over time.

6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?

I make an assumption that my HR recruiting folks will bring me the best of the best. I assume that's a given. If someone gets in front of me, I make the assumption they're smart enough for the position.

My focus is generally on work ethic, how hungry they are, what's their competitive edge, and I look for someone who looks like they can come in and really make a difference through their attitude and work ethic and just really work hard. It's those people I value most because I can move them around over time. It helps them, but it also helps the company if I need someone to fill in somewhere in the company even if it's outside their comfort zone.

7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?

First, asking open-ended questions and letting them speak a lot so I can tell if they're good on their feet and they communicate well and have a good presence.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I give candidates real-life examples of issues I'm dealing with and see how they react and how they would address a certain issue. I've even asked people to put together a written report about how they would deal with an issue. Most of the time, if they really want the job, they'll do it. If they don't [want the job], they'll do a shoddy job and that's a red flag.

Besides that, if someone doesn't ask intelligent questions about the company, I know they didn't put the time or the effort in to understanding the company. That's just a huge red flag for me, if they're not prepared.

8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?

It has to be the fact that we are a growth company, with 20-30 percent top-line growth the past several years and we're expecting to have similar growth going forward. It's the growth and it's the entrepreneurial culture of the company and managing that growth.

CFOs, I think, have an easier time in a slow-growth company, because you're managing cost, you're cutting costs to hit numbers. We're in a very different situation, we're growing and managing. That growth is what keeps me here, it's exciting.

9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?

I'm from Baltimore and I'm still an avid Baltimore Orioles fan. Even when they were awful the last 10 years, I was a big fan. So, I like to catch a ballgame or take a walk with my wife just to clear my head.

10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?

By nature, I'm a pretty risk-averse guy, so I would never do this into semi-retirement age, which will be years from now, so I'd really like to run a small business. Not a restaurant, that's a little too hectic, but a health club would be something that would be very interesting to me.

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