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Meet John Bailey of Boston Startup CFO in Cambridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Bailey.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My career early on was fairly typical for a finance and accounting professional. I went through the normal progression from accountant to various management roles, and ultimately CFO. My first employer was Thomson Reuters (formerly Thomson Financial) where I benefited from tremendous training programs in finance and reporting systems that helped accelerate my progression.

Later, I spent a number of years in management consulting working with Fortune 500 clients to startups, in various industries during various life cycles. I really enjoyed the diversity, which kept things fresh. Note I’d much rather stick a hot poker in my eye than endure a boring finance job. But the biggest takeaway was gaining a unique perspective on the inner workings of all these companies, and being able to apply lessons learned as best practices going forward.

I’m a very driven professional and my next goal was to become a CFO at a prestigious company. I knew the best way to compete was to get my MBA from a top school. This was not an easy call (or task) in my mid-forties, but I earned my MBA at Cornell University. I absolutely loved it and also made new friends for life.

Something clicked for me when I first started my job search. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit (I started a couple of my own companies) and enjoyed being around the passion of startup founders and teams. After some networking, I discovered a need for startups, started my firm, and haven’t looked back. I even had the “THIS is what I was meant to do” moment, which was an amazing feeling. Now I’m able to help multiple companies simultaneously, as each CFO will manage 3-4 clients at once.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Our main challenge is that startups don’t know to look for a CFO. The general misconceptions are that “it’s too early” or “we can’t afford one”. So, our company vision is to “change the way business thinks about Finance”, and our mission is “to inform and empower entrepreneurs”.

For first time or inexperienced founders, there is a lot of trial and error with so many things that can go wrong. Having a senior finance presence (that has been in their shoes before) to guide them just makes so much sense. We’ve found that only a few hours a month can make a huge impact on a business, which many of our smaller clients can attest to.

Boston Startup CFO – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We help transform startups into successful growing companies. How? We provide part-time CFO’s to early-stage companies that can’t afford a full-time resource.

What does a CFO do? I knew you would ask. It’s really all about helping a company measure their business, so they have the latest and most accurate data to make informed decisions. Another element is a business strategy, where we help a company understand its identity, direction, and goals. This helps us determine what resources are needed to achieve the strategy and grow the business.

Then we help them with gaining access to these resources through funding from operations, banks, investors, or even going IPO. A good way to visualize this is picturing a startup as an airplane. If you are flying without a windshield (not measuring your business – like only booking half the seats), or if your gas tank is approaching empty (running out of resources), your business is simply going to crash. If you prefer a more nautical theme, we also help determine if you’re “gonna need a bigger boat”.

But what you are truly getting is senior finance experience that has been through the bootstrapping to IPO process themselves. Simply providing direction and helping companies navigate around common pitfalls as they grow will save precious time and capital. It’s a tangible competitive advantage.

Our pride stems from watching our clients grow beyond expectations. It’s also a privilege to be associated with a number of startups in life sciences and patient care industries. If they are ultimately successful, they will change lives. Our CFO’s also take pride in providing mentoring for startups at MassChallenge, Venture Café, MIT Enterprise Forum and other organizations to help early idea stage companies get to market more quickly.

We’re different for a few reasons. We only focus only on startups and early-stage companies. We understand the unique challenges and bring the right level of trusted partners and resources. Understanding company culture is a critical element of what we do, as we also become a valuable and long-term team member. Our online dashboard provides ongoing company performance at a glance, which provides critical data needed to make informed decisions (no more broken or complex spreadsheets).

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Ultimately I think the measure of success is your level of happiness in what you do. In terms of criteria, I would start with effort, pride, and respect. If you are enjoying the effort, you’re far more likely to crush it. I think it’s similar with pride as you would hold yourself to a higher standard and raise performance. Lastly would be respected, where others view you as being good at what you do.

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