Amy Wood, chief financial officer for Intelligent Waves, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about how her approach as a CFO in the federal landscape may be more uncommon than other CFOs to drive the company’s financial performance as well as the most significant macroeconomic threats that government contractors face today during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Amy Wood below.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you discuss your financial department’s performance over the past few months? What initiatives did the business undertake, how did finance support those initiatives, and what were the actual results?
Amy Wood: “I became CFO in June, having previously served as the company’s SVP Finance. I used my first year at Intelligent Waves to settle in and figure out what people, processes, and systems are. How do we measure the quality and consistency of the company’s financial reporting, relationships, and ability to support the firm’s long-term strategy?
My organization’s output directly impacts the company’s ability to deliver, invest, compete, and diversify. I’ve always believed a proactive finance group is better than a reactive/reporting posture.
If we can implement systems and processes that deliver valuable and accurate information timely, then we are helping the business. Our efforts and outputs become an integral part of the growth strategy. I like to think of Finance as a trusted partner to the other facets of the business.
As Intelligent Waves moves forward, we’re transitioning from a small business into a mid-market company. The role of our financial department is changing throughout that transition. The team is moving from a reporting or forecasting purpose into providing a lot more analysis and aspects like supporting our growth, products and operations teams.
How do we invest in the company to support our growth? How do we ensure that we don’t have problems like overextending ourselves? We want to have that piece of growth in the bag before we start spending money we don’t have.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time ensuring we have the proper organizational structure and talent necessary as we move to the trusted partner role. I’m really proud of our team and our accomplishments to date.
This also shifts our focus from reporting the numbers to offering greater hands-on help to our clients and gets me thinking about where we want to drive IW as we continue to grow and drive our mission.
The last Quarter of 2022 is preparing for growth in 2023. We have confidence in our numbers, systems, and reporting. Our realignment in some areas has really solidified our ability to be timely and accurate. Now it’s all about supporting the company at a strategic level. And that is a new dimension for us; we’ve had to challenge ourselves and the broader leadership team to focus on the things that will drive enterprise.
ExecutiveBiz: What attributes make you a strong leader and a Govcon CFO? What is the one thing you do that is not common among other CFOs that has contributed to your success?
Amy Wood: “My background is somewhat different from the traditional financial leader track. Leading to the role at IW, I have run a business as a General Manager, driven enterprise growth, and managed delivery teams. I think that gives me somewhat of a unique perspective. I look at the business holistically.
For me, the answer is not ‘no,’ but how can we (Finance) help you move the business forward? I tend to focus on the end result, and work from there- risk, return, revenue, people – all of it is important. I find that focusing on the end result yields a better “end result.” Our CEO Tony Crescenzo has been really clear about his expectations to grow our company.
We have a lot of great products and services here that we provide for our customers. I feel that my job as CFO is to always ask “how” and never start with ‘no.’ Brainstorming ideas with the leadership team is essential. Remaining open-minded and focusing on the result is key. Together, we can get to the how pretty quickly.
We’re working hard to create a perspective where everyone on our team is considered a partner to someone else within the organization. Obviously, this approach has created greater collaboration and communication among all of our different teams.
I learned early on that being a good partner in the business is essential. Our job is to support revenue generation while building enterprise value. We can’t do that in a vacuum. That approach has created much value across the staff at Intelligent Waves. Our team must understand their role and their value to the organization.
At Intelligent Waves, anytime you have someone who feels valued, they’re quite willing to go the extra mile to help the company and their team. Our people feel like they’re part of IW. They feel like their input is genuinely valued. I think that makes all the difference in the world, especially in our business.”
ExecutiveBiz: What is the most significant macroeconomic threat or opportunity for government contractors right now? How would you mitigate that threat or respond to that opportunity?
Amy Wood: “Unfortunately, we have to deal with the talent gap in our industry as every major company or CFO understands it’s a sector-wide concern for every organization. When I started, my team was understaffed for no other reason than to support organizations that usually have fewer resources whenever people start watching their costs.
It’s a huge challenge to continue our momentum and growth while maintaining our ability to hire and retain good people working on government contracts. Talent begets talent, and we’ve got some good, talented people. We try to work with our current staff to utilize our networks.
I’ve been in this game for a long time and have worked with many people. Leveraging those informal channels can make a big difference in a company’s ability to recruit and retain. I believe roughly 50 percent of our new hires over recent months have directly come from referrals. Good people like to work with good people. ‘A’ students hire ‘A+’ students, and so on.
Most people also rarely refer someone to their current employer or recent one who isn’t an exceptional talent. Referrals are just a great recruiting tool, and it’s an initiative that continues to grow our team and make people feel like they’re a part of IW. That drives our culture here at Intelligent Waves and is one of the best ways to solve the talent issue.”
Those referrals also help build that mutually dependent ecosystem I talk about. Having a friend or loved one who pulls with you daily is a powerful force and a differentiator for the business.
At Intelligent Waves, we definitely have a lot of conversations around recruiting and the creative ways we can bring people on to work with us. We are proud of the culture we’ve created and firmly believe that a career at IW is far more than just a job along the way. That’s a big part of what makes IW special. But we remain part of an ecosystem constantly competing for good talent.
We need to be very creative about our offers to future employees. What are the benefits of joining our team? How can we offer things outside salary to bring different people to the table? I like to show people how we can enhance and enrich their career experience differently than our competitors.
One of the most significant aspects of this conversation is that Intelligent Waves has always been a forward-thinking and innovative company. We also look at some of our contracting difficulties as we address these talent recruitment challenges in the industry and across the GovCon sector.
Fitting qualified and talented people into service contracts with predetermined rates, labor categories, and the like is not easy. As an industry (including our federal partners), we need to be more thoughtful and creative on an individual level to attract and retain the talent we need.“