Webinar: Moving Forward in the Shadow of the Pandemic
May 14, 2020
We discussed why companies should be are hiring, and why now is a time to be exploring new jobs.
Nkrumah Pierre:This session, we'll discuss why companies are hiring CFOs and senior finance accounting professionals over the next three to six months, and we will discuss how you, the candidate, needs to present yourself, why you should be examining opportunities now and go to the market with a chance to make a great move. We'll cover both sides of the equation, and we encourage attendees to come with questions. So we'll get to the Q&A portion at the end of the conversation. But feel free to add the questions in the platform currently. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce my esteemed panelists. We'll start with Don Zinn. Don?
Don Zinn: hank you. Thank you, Nkrumah and good morning, everybody. Just a quick background check on me. I've had a business career that has spanned two pretty broad chapters, and I have a confession to make to you. I'm a reformed serial entrepreneur. Yeah, over the first 30 years of my career, I started seven companies, I raised over 30 million in venture and private equity capital. I've had three liquidity events and two pretty bitter failures. On my count, we've gone through six economic cycles. This isn't the first one, including a recovery from every downturn. And I believe fundamentally that recovery is inevitable. It's only a matter of time and making sure we're positioned to emerge in the very best way possible.
My companies were tech companies mostly. I'm not the tech genius, but I was the guy that built the business around the tech geniuses. What does that mean? I ran the go to market and I got to put the puzzle pieces together. I built the teams. 15 years ago, in 2005, I had the chance to think about my own chapter two. What did I want to do with the rest of my career? I realized that the part of the work that I loved the most was putting those puzzle pieces together. And I also realized that most times that I hired search firms as a CEO, unfortunately they let me down. They were transactional when I needed strategic.
I've now been doing search for 15 years, building my approach around the concept that from middle market companies in particular, the hiring of leadership level executives is a unique chance to create real and substantial change, strategic change, and search needs to be the tool to enable that change. Now, not all search people embrace that, but I'm not a recruiter. I really am a management consultant who works to find win win solutions, creating strategic change by hiring the right leaders.
StevenDouglas, my firm, is a national boutique with over 100 employees in 17 U.S. cities, over 60 million in annual revenues and our lane is the middle market, funded companies, family office companies, private companies, and family enterprises of scale are our main clientele. We're large enough to have scale and real expertise on a broad geographic basis, but small enough so that senior people still do the heavy lifting. We're a great firm that I'm proud to be a member of, with values that reflect the true respect for people and creating those win win situations. And in that space, I do a significant amount of CFO work. I currently just finished the CFO search for a healthcare company in Atlanta. And I'm working on three other CFO searches, in addition to a president's search and a CHRO search right now. I'm pleased to be here today, and I'm looking forward to sharing my thinking with all of you about why companies are looking for great CFOs today and what that compromises and how to present yourself as a candidate, if you're seeking an opportunity today. Thanks, Nkrumah.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome. Thank you, Don. And we're going to also get into each of the panelists' perspective on the market on both sides a little bit later. I'd like to go next to my colleague, Alan Wink.
Alan Wink:Thank you very much, Nkrumah and once again, I hope everyone is safe and sound this morning. These are truly extraordinary times and it's my pleasure to join Don and Nkrumah this morning on this panel discussing how we're going to move out of this pandemic situation. It goes without saying the business downturn that we're all experiencing now and over the last two and a half months, has been challenging to every company. And like Don, I've also worked with a tremendous number of tech companies. And I think, even though the economy looks to be in a really bad position right now, I think a lot of great businesses are going to start, and a lot of great businesses are going to grow right out of this.
I think everyone on this call who's in a C suite financial position, this COVID-19 pandemic has forced CFOs to face challenges that no one has ever seen in their careers. And these challenges are changing by the minute, by the day, by the week. It's just been absolutely incredible. And as I probably neglected to say, I run capital markets for EisnerAmper, and I certainly talk to many, many CFOs during the course of my week. And I think over the last eight or 10 weeks, what I've gleaned from many of the CFOs that I've spoken to is what are they beginning to focus on, and I kind of narrowed it down to five things where CFOs are spending their time today.
Certainly forecasting and financial modeling under many, many diverse scenarios, I'm not sure anyone really can predict what this is going to look like six months from now. Certainly the area of cash management, determining your working capital needs and liquidity requirements. And I'm going to address that in a couple of moments relative to some of the stimulus programs that the government has put out there for us. I think every company is looking at cost containment, especially as revenues are declining. Managing talent in a virtual environment, even though many companies were well equipped for their employees to work from home and work virtually, I don't think anyone thought it would be lasting this long and maybe several months beyond this, and I'm sure there's going to be some significant changes in how businesses operate in a normal fashion going forward.
And probably the largest challenge that any executive is facing today, and it's not just the financial types is how do we reopen our businesses and how do we reopen our factories, our manufacturing facilities? I think every person is struggling with this. We don't want to do it too early. There's health implications. There's how we work implications. And probably least important, there's economic implications. No, we don't want this to go on forever. When we talk about what's going on in the economy, there are some bright spots. But our economy has certainly taken a punch to the stomach. But I think we all can admit that the U.S. economy is certainly resilient. I remember the recession of 1987, 2001, 2008. Maybe the severity of this is a little greater because of the health implications, but we have a resilient economy. It's still the strongest economy in the world, and I'm sure we're going to come out of this stronger than we have in the past.
I think the most incredible thing that I've heard in the last eight weeks, I actually was part of an interview with Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate, and Andrew said he's seen 10 years of changes in the last 10 weeks. And that's an amazing thing. I think from a technology perspective, a lot of the changes that we're seeing now would have happened over time, but they're certainly happening much quicker than we would have imagined. We all know our lawmakers have spent all of March, all of April, really passing legislation intended to shore up businesses, states, cities, households. The first phase was almost a $3 trillion stimulus package called The Cares Act.
I'm not sure I consider it a stimulus package. I think it was probably more of a stability package, a stabilization package. I think as we go along further into the year, there'll be additional packages that will truly be stimulus. I read yesterday, the House Democrats are seriously considering another $3 million stimulus bill to address health and economic effects of COVID-19. In terms of what's going on in the economy, unemployment rates have certainly surged. They were 14.7% at the end of April. Payrolls dropped by over 20.5 million people in April. I think they're down 32 or 33 million people since this first started. The U.S. budget deficit grew to over 1.9 trillion for the year ended April 30th, which was primarily due to pandemic spending, previous tax cuts that we passed in the Trump administration and certainly revenue and tax declines.
Good news, so the April consumer price index was down eight tenths of 1% in April, biggest drop since the 2008 recession. Business closures and work at home have certainly created cheap oil, falling prices for travel, clothing, car insurance and other goods and services. On the other hand, the price index for food, largest monthly increase since February of 1974, much Expected since we're all not eating out as much. We're getting to the supermarket hoping to find the shelves stocked. We buy whatever we can. And as I said, we are sheltering at home and spending more time at home. So from an economic standpoint, I think that's where we are.
Nkrumah Pierre:Alan, thank you. And I wanted to say a few quick points and I'll pass it back to Don. We have a lot of CFOs and comptrollers and accounting professionals on the line. Do you guys hear an echo? Okay, sorry. I hear an echo. We have a lot of CFOs and comptrollers and I want to get a feel for what we see in the market Don from a hiring standpoint, what are companies doing and advice that you have for candidates?
Don Zinn:So thank you, Nkrumah. So I've got sort of two parts to my commentary, one from the company side, and then secondly from the candidate, from the individual side, the person seeking the job. So from a market perspective, why are companies today in hot pursuit of the right CFO? Well, as Nkrumah said earlier, face it, the last eight years of growth and good times creating an abundance for all. It was relatively easy to be a smart CFO. When all the alternatives are good, it's much simpler to achieve a high batting average. So growth like we've experienced recently has the ability to number one, mask inefficiencies, doesn't require powerful risk management and tends to result somewhat at least in organizational bloat, too much infrastructure.
Face it, in 2017, the biggest question was, would we grow by 15% or 30%. So you grew your team by 25%. And that was fine because even if you over hired, the company would grow into it in the coming year, but turnaround's a very, very different time. And they require very different skills than pure growth markets. Now, efficiency is as important as is effectiveness. Risk has been redefined. It will never quite look the same as pre-pandemic. We need a CFO who can quantify and qualify risk. There's a need to be smart when obvious answers are not the right ones. And smart is an interesting word.
Companies need a CFO who is business smart, not just finance smart. Staffs will likely have to be reduced. We'll have to do more with less, and reductions usually hit the middle. So the CFO will have to be more hands on in filling those gaps too. Leaders in general will need to shift seamlessly between practical and strategic. Everyone will have to do more. The CFO will need to decide who to cut, will need to actively develop talent, will need to develop processes, utilize technology to maximize effectiveness, streamline business processes to make things actionable, evaluate, reevaluate, sync, and act.
Those companies that have developed powerful BI, business intelligence tools to model their businesses in even these circumstances will be far ahead of the pack. Those companies that have not developed solid BI are far behind and those that can't create BI, well they're doomed. Cash and liquidity will be at a premium. Time horizons for planning will change and opportunities will change. Change is compounded by change And accelerates the next change, which is very Darwinian. You're about to witness survival of the fittest. And that means it's the difference between winning and losing, surviving as a company or going under is having the right CFO. And it may well be, there's an extreme need for turnaround talent. If you're a company that needs to find an effective CFO that can accomplish what we've just discussed, waiting until the dust clears in September is not likely to produce the optimal result. The CFO talent grab in the middle market has already begun.
That's from the company side. Then I asked the question what about individual thinking in the shadow of this pandemic and what, not who, are companies hiring and how do you qualify yourself for those opportunities? Well, every company will derive their own must have list of skills, experiences and behaviors. If they don't have one now, they will be in hot pursuit of the right CFO, and the market is hopping right now. Decisions are taking a bit longer, because we're learning new processes and virtual hiring's not easy, but we're busy. So if you're good, and see the definitions of smart we just discussed a minute ago, you'll be busy too fielding opportunities. So if you're called for an interview, you need to communicate what makes you a great CFO.
And I can tell you that from 90% or more of the CFO resumes I read, that simple idea doesn't come across. What makes you a great CFO, why? Most CFO resumes communicate features, not benefits, their long list capabilities and features are your capabilities, but the benefits are the results. You need to show that you can produce results. So ATR, always think ROI and we can talk about that concept, always thinking ROI, more in the Q&A session. They're shifting sands now. Turnaround experience is different from growth experience. So when you're interviewing, you need to lead with cost cutting initiatives. As my president Matt Shore says, "The key to being a great CFO in these challenging times is having the instincts to cut fat deeply without hitting too much muscle or bone."
Make sure you have examples of making difficult and unemotional decisions. And yes, sometimes King Solomon actually does have to cut the baby in half and make impossible decisions. Emphasize decisions you made that were necessary for your company to survive and return to profitability. Emphasize your role as a fiduciary to the business and investors. Demonstrate exceptional communication skills with examples about both managing up and managing down the organization.
And it isn't just about negotiating now. It's about having strong negotiating skills and renegotiating skills that include renegotiating debt, renegotiating banking relationships with covenants, renegotiating vendor contracts, leases and concessions, raising capital and maintaining liquidity. Be able to portray an optimistic outlook based on facts, not wishes. A strong CFO will have evidence that they've done it before, and that they will be able to chart that optimistic course.
In closing, for the candidate who's interviewing, be truthful. Are you a turnaround CFO? Why are you in the market? Different answers to the following. Are you employed or are you just looking? Are you out of work? What happened? You better know how to communicate these. What is your unique selling proposition, your USP? And again, remember ATR, always think ROI. And then you need to position yourself. We live in a world where companies worship at the altar of the SME, the subject matter expert. So position yourself by industry, by size of company, by phase of business, by FP&A versus accounting or both, by people development, by leadership skills, by operational aptitude and experience with examples. If you communicate results, ROI, and have examples of how you made a difference, you will get interest and you will get attention and the rest is fit. And that's up to you.
Nkrumah Pierre:Don, thank you. So you made a bunch of awesome points. I really love ATR, always think ROI. It's interesting. So I lead our Friends of the Firm program and a number of CFOs and comptrollers have come to me and said, "Nkrumah, are people actually hiring?" And Don, the answer is absolutely yes. They're not hiring like they used to, but the work still needs to get done. And if you don't have your value proposition tight and ready to go when speaking to a potential employer, you have a very small window to make that lasting impression. My mom always says, "You only have one opportunity to make a first impression." And that couldn't be more true in this current environment. A couple of questions that kind of come to mind and Alan, I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well. So I mean, right now as you mentioned, unemployment is near 15%. Over 20 million people are unemployed in the market. And as a hiring company or hiring manager, a lot of folks might say, "Okay, well, there's a lot of talent out there." I can take my time with this process, this virtual interviewing process, but my question to both of you, Don, we'll start with you. Do you find this high unemployment as an opportunity to hire quality talent?
Don Zinn:Look, meaning no insult to anybody who's out of work, the rule of thumb, I believe, continues to be that most really good CFOs are still working, which doesn't mean that there aren't really good people that are out of work. But 15% unemployment, first of all, I don't believe that that's indicative of unemployment within the sector we're talking about. I think unfortunately, that's in the services industries and tends to be more at the labor level than it is at the So I think the answer to the question is, is that the strategy of saying, "Hey, let's wait until September or October when everybody goes back to work.", doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have a better choice then. In fact, there's a voice in the back of my head that says, "If there are good people that are out of work, the time to find them is right now.", because those companies that made the wrong knee jerk reaction and got rid of good people and talented people because they panicked, that's going to pass quickly and those people are going to be gobbled up. So my sense is if you're a company that needs a CFO or a strong comptroller right now, now's the time to find that person and it's not going to be a leisurely market at all and we're busy.
Nkrumah Pierre:Thank you, Don. Alan?
Alan Wink:Nkrumah, I'll just add a couple of things to that and I haven't seen any data to support this but even though the number of unemployed or people filing for unemployment are record numbers, I'm assuming this is going to be a temporary phenomenon until businesses begin to open up again. And I can't agree with Don anymore. I think most strong CFOs are really playing important roles in their organizations today. And I think people who are unemployed have to do a really good job explaining to their future employer what happened. Because I think there is a talent grab right now. But I think it's happening slowly. Something else that I've heard over and over and I actually did a webinar a couple weeks ago with venture capitalists about how the VCs and private equity firms invest during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as you'd expect, they're not stopping.
They're doing due diligence virtually. They're talking to management teams virtually. And they said during our webinar that certain entrepreneurs might present much better in person than they do virtually through a WebEx or a Zoom call. And I think the same thing could be said for candidates interviewing for jobs, because the probability today is you're not going to have a face to face interview. You're not going to be sitting across the conference room table from a CEO or others members of management team, and you have to be effective communicating your skills and your strong points while you're talking virtually like we are this morning. And I think people have to be trained to do that effectively. So I think the hiring process is definitely going to change considerably in the next six months. And I hope after that, that we'll be back in offices, maybe not in the large numbers, but we will be interacting with one another in person again.
Nkrumah Pierre:Alan, thank you. So to our listeners, I encourage you to use the widget, the ON24 widget Q&A, to ask us questions. I actually see the first question pop up, which I'll propose to our panelists. So thank you, John, for the question. The question is finance departments have already been gutted by downsizing. The question is how does a CFO avoid becoming a comptroller and staff accountant for 95% of his or her time, which is not the best use of a CFO's time. So the question is how did the CFO basically avoid doing the tasks of his or her comptroller and or staff accountants? Don?
Don Zinn:Look, I think there's sort of a middle line that has to be met there. I think you have to be prepared to become more hands on now. And that does mean tactically, you have to be able to fill whatever gaps are there in your organization. On the other hand, it doesn't make sense for you to become an AP clerk on an ongoing basis. So I think there's a big difference between having a willingness to go out and make a journal entry if you need to close the books and there's nobody else there who knows the right answer, versus that becomes a part of your job. But economically, it doesn't make sense to be paying $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 a year for somebody to be making journal entries on a full time basis.
So I think the answer to that is you need to have a realistic dialogue with the CEO on what the size of your organization can be cut to. I used a quote before about the skill of a great CFO and a turnaround time like this is about making cuts in the fat but not hitting muscle and bone. And I think this question is sort of indicative of overreacting and making cuts that go way deep into muscle and bone, and then you're causing damage to the company and you're handicapping the company. And I think a wise CFO is able to provide counsel on how far we can cut and beyond which becomes damaging to the company.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome, I agree. Alan?
Alan Wink: Nkrumah, I would add a little bit to what Don said, and I think since these times truly are so extraordinary, I think everybody, no matter if you're the CEO, CFO, CTO, I think everybody has to leave their ego at the door. And this is about survival and doing whatever we can do to ensure the survival of the business in the long term. And as Don said in his earlier remarks, I think CFOs have to be more than just financial people today. They have to be true business leaders. And not only do they have to protect the assets of the company, they also have to look for other opportunities for business growth.
And I'll tell a real interesting story without giving the name of the company. We actually host a CFO Affinity group in our New Jersey office once a quarter. And these meetings are typically dinner meetings. And as you can imagine, our last two meetings have been done virtually and we had one last night, and one of the members of this group, fairly nice sized company, actually manufactures windows. So what do they know? They know how to bend metal. They know glass, they know Plexiglas. And they actually developed a new product during the last eight weeks called their Sneeze Guard, that they're selling to businesses as a barrier between cubicles in offices.
And since they manufacture commercial windows and manufacture high quality product, this is also a very high quality product, not what you'd see in Home Depot or Lowe's. And as you can imagine, they can't produce enough of this. So in these crazy times, they developed the product, they were able to source material, they're able to price it effectively, and they're actually seeing business growth. And it's a new product that is going to be around for a while because everybody's retrofitting their offices. So here a management team found a way to make lemonade out of lemons. So now one of the bits of advice for all CFOs, think beyond your office and think about ways that maybe your business could be repositioned, and even grow in other areas.
Nkrumah Pierre: Alan, that's an awesome point. I actually saw on the news a couple of days ago that makers of Plexiglass are up three, four or five fold because of the pandemic. So that's an absolute absolutely accurate fact. On another point companies that are kind of pivoting right now, so Benjamin Moore, as we know, a company that we do business with, painting company, they've actually transitioned to making sanitizer. So again, to your point, companies are pivoting during the pandemic. We have a few more questions that have come in. One of the questions that popped up, and Don, I'll start with you. Can you give any advice for CFOs and or comptrollers who are interviewing virtually? Any tips on what they should be doing. And then also on the other side, what have you seen that have been egregious mistakes or things that they're not doing properly?
Don Zinn: Look, I think interviewing is interviewing and so I think you still have to be on your best behavior. Some of the fundamentals are the same fundamentals as you have for any kind of business meeting you're doing. You don't want to have all sorts of distractions around you. You want to be in an environment that's conducive to having a conversation. I think beyond that, perhaps we need to, as New Yorkers, we tend and dominant example is we tend to talk fast and get excited. And so in a virtual lane, you maybe need to talk a little bit slower. But at the same time, I think that one of the really important things that people get out of an interview is the passion and it's harder to communicate passion over a virtual type of a link up because they're not quite seeing the light in your eyes as well or the gestures as simply and other things.
And so you don't want to censor too much of it and come across as an automaton either. You want to be comfortable, you want to be yourself. I think, look, the closer you can make it to a real experience, and the good news is, we can so much practice with this right now that it's becoming comfortable and it's becoming the new way. So I think other than that, what you say and how you answer the questions, I mean, nothing is different. You are who you are, you have a story you need to tell. And I think you have to just get comfortable and tell your story.
Nkrumah Pierre:I agree.
Alan Wink:Nkrumah, I'd add a couple of things to that. And I think you want to make it to a similar experience that you do have if you were in someone's office, so you want to make sure you're dressed appropriately, your hair is combed. Put a sign on the door to your home office, interview in process, please do not disturb so your kids and the dog aren't running in. Make it seem as real as you can. Try to clean up your desk, there's not a lot of clutter around and just be prepared and present yourself like you would in front of someone in a conference room.
Nkrumah Pierre:Agreed. And I think one thing that I would advise people to do is just don't panic. The other thing that Don said is we're all human. So he mentioned to be your authentic self. If something does go wrong, like I've had my son jump on my bed during these conversations, these webinars, don't panic. People also are judging you to see how you deal with conflict and adversity. So it could also be a way that you can show, listen, you can keep your cool during a super stressful time and kind of still work through the interview. So we have a few more questions that jumped in.
All right, so this one is finance related. So I'm going to start with Alan on getting his perspective. But I'll start with the question. So what are you seeing from the investor sentiment towards new and existing investment funds? Have they pulled back into a wait and see approach given the uncertain times? And since there's no way of determining how long the impact will ultimately last, what are you seeing from an investment standpoint? So Alan, I'll go to you.
Alan Wink:Nkrumah, it's a great question. And we actually, being the Managing Director of Capital Markets for EisnerAmper, I see an awful lot of clients who come to us who are thinking of going through a capital raise, whether it's a venture capital backed company or even a private equity backed company. And we were receiving so many of these calls about a month ago that we actually did a webinar similar to this for about 400 people. And we attracted five venture capitalists from around the country to talk. And the initial question I asked was very similar to this question. How are you guys spending your time right now? There's a tremendous amount of capital out there, there's a lot of dry powder that has to be invested.
And when you ask the VCs and I would assume the same goes for the private equity firms, their first concern today is how do they preserve their portfolio companies they've already invested in, and they're meeting religiously with those companies, trying to figure out what their liquidity requirements are, how can we satisfy them. And once they got through that, the next part was we're going to continue to invest. For us, business is no different. The only difference is that we're forced to do things virtually. So they're meeting with entrepreneurs on a virtual basis. As the discussions progress, they're doing due diligence virtually. And I'll be honest with you, a lot of them have actually consummated transactions that might have started before COVID-19. But once again, the last part of the deal, which would usually take a lot of face to face time, is now being done virtually and those deals are closing. So of the five VCs we spoke to for that webinar, unanimously, every one of them is actively investing. So if you are out there looking for capital today, this is no different than it was six months ago. It's the same level playing field. I advise you to get your materials together. Make sure you have someone reputable introducing you into any of these potential third party funds. And it's the same process, no difference. There's a lot, you're going to see a lot of investment activity taking place.
Nkrumah Pierre:Got it. Don, would you like to add anything to that?
Don Zinn:No. I think this is Alan's purview more than it is mine. But I think that the only point I'd like to make is that the word normal is subject to interpretation. And I think normal, we all have to get comfortable that normal is what we're doing today, and that we've got to figure out ways for it not to paralyze us. And I think that's the answer for every piece of the business process. This is how we're doing business. I heard yesterday on the news that Google and Twitter are talking about this might be permanent for them. They may never require people to come back to their offices. And so this really accelerated change. And thank goodness the technology is at the level it is today because even 10 years ago, I don't think we could have functioned as effectively as we do today. But I think it's completely possible to function on all cylinders for most businesses in this environment. You just got to be a little creative.
Alan Wink:And also Nkrumah, I just want to add one other point to that, I said earlier we've experienced 10 years of changes in 10 weeks. And a lot of those changes are going to be permanent. I think as Don said before, I think people are going to do business differently in the future. I think people now are much more confident with WebEx and Zoom and other video technologies. They realize they can effectively communicate with people around the globe. Maybe the necessity for business travel is going to be far less. You read the press about New York City, New York City's concerned that the demand for office space is going to drop dramatically. People are concerned about being with large crowds. People are concerned about the transit systems, and also the wear and tear in terms of commuters and they realize now, "Maybe I don't have to be in the office five days a week, I could be there two, or one." Or maybe as some of the tech companies are saying, "We're going to work virtually forever." I think you're going to see dramatic changes on how business operates. And some of those changes are going to have dramatic and positive impacts on the bottom line.
Nkrumah Pierre:Agreed. And Alan a few points, so Don, you mentioned large companies like Twitter and Google that mentioned the stay at home might be for forever. You have companies, I recently read companies such as Barclays, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, are completely rethinking if they're going to have these professionals, tens of thousands who work in Manhattan come back to the office. Even us as a firm, we overnight in essence became work from home. And we're still able to conduct audits and tax returns and things of that nature on time. So even our leadership team is looking at our staff and saying, "Okay, we can make some decisions as well."
Moving on to the next question, it's with regard to more of the junior candidate. So I'm 36 years old. I saw 9/11 when I was in high school. From a working standpoint, I went through 2008 2009 working in banking in M&T Bank, and for me, I have not seen that many downturns. There are also professionals, recent college grads who this is their first ever downturn that they're seeing, pandemic, market uncertainty. So we have people who are graduating with their economics degrees, their marketing degrees, their internships that they had last year. So we made them a full time offer. That offer has been rescinded. So my question to both of you and Don, we'll start with you. What type of advice can you give that recent college graduate?
Don Zinn:Nkrumah, look, there's no disguising it. It's a tough environment. It's a tough environment to be pursuing a first job for sure at early stages. I think the answer is remain optimistic. Don't panic. It doesn't matter if you're remote. Interviewers can smell panic the moment you have it, and it's the worst feature for you to feature when you interview. I think you need to be confident and look, and this may be a generational saying but I think you have to be willing to say that, "I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to help you succeed, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes." And I think that's the attitude. It may not be convenient. It may not be easy. But if you need someone who's just going to raise their hand and say, "I'm here, I'm with you, I'm going to make it happen.", then I think that's the spirit that you have to portray if you're out there interviewing for a job. You know what? My own personal experience suggests that in times of trouble and change like this, your ability to portray leadership attributes have nothing to do with what level you're at. Leaders remain optimistic. Leaders portray confidence. Leaders have a can do attitude. Leaders go out and help to get it done. And you can be 26 or 66 and you can take that to heart and make it a part of who you are.
Nkrumah Pierre:I like it. Alan, I actually have a question directed at you that just came in. And we've been talking about this quite a bit. So we're talking about dry powder, private equity, we're talking about portfolio companies. And one of the big things that keeps coming up time and time again are valuations. So if you did a valuation three months ago, that valuation pretty much the following month, the following day even might become irrelevant. So what are you seeing from a valuation standpoint? Are you seeing an uptick in valuations that are expected before a deal actually happens?
Alan Wink:Well, it's interesting, Nkrumah. When you go back to the last recession the lower end of the market, smaller venture capital backed deals, seed and series A deals, actually saw an increase in in valuations. The larger deals, the series D deals that were raising hundreds of millions of dollars or $50 million or $60 million actually saw a decline in valuations because those valuations were so closely tied to the public market comparables. But still today, this pandemic hasn't changed the amount of money that VCs have in looking for transactions. That's capital that has to be invested. Institutional venture capital firms raise money from limited partners. And those limited partners expect to see a substantial return from the venture capital activities. So once again, because of the amount of capital, there's still a great demand for deals. So good deals are still getting funded. I think, a company that was a good deal for a VC six weeks ago or six months ago is still a good deal today. There are certainly areas that VCs are spending more time on, therapeutics for the pandemic, technologies that deal with remote learning, remote education, remote business operations, those companies are going to do very, very well. So I don't think you're going to see a tremendous decrease in valuations.
Nkrumah Pierre:Okay. Got it. Next question, this is a question that I've had to field personally for some of my colleagues and some of my friends in the industry. So when we finally are able to go back to the office, and we're starting to conduct meetings or trying to get people together kind of going back to the office, what are your thoughts around the people who are just not comfortable? They say, "Listen, I'm not going back to the office until there's a vaccine.", or there are going to be people who say, "I'm not interested in getting that vaccine." How do you deal with that as someone who's in management, leading a business, leading a company? How can someone opt out and not be reprimanded or had that hurt them with regard to their review or their bonus? There's so many moving parts. And of course, you may not have all the answers today. None of us are lawyers, per se, but I just want to get a feel, how do you manage your staff that is truly just not comfortable going back to the office? Don, if you want to-
Don Zinn:Just waiting for you to determine who you wanted to take the first try. Look, I think that the hesitation from both of us, I think is indicative of the fact that this is a really tough question that I don't know that we really know the answer to it yet. I don't see putting a gun in somebody's head and saying, "You have to be at the office." I also don't want to, we want this to become an excuse. So somewhere in between. I think realistic concerns need to be met and managed. And I think you're seeing that happen today. I mean I think businesses on the whole, at least what we're experiencing are being very careful to make sure that they're not putting their people in harm's way and that individuals are being given the opportunity to contribute in the best way that they can.
Look, what happens in an office is community gets built. It is very hard to replicate community virtually because it tends to become more series of one on ones and one on ones is a mini community but it's not a fun community. Over time though, we have to evolve. And the group Zooms are incredibly effective and impactful. And you can't forget about that because it is that community that creates the culture that embodies the values of the company, and we need to perpetuate those no matter what. But we've got to find ways to make that work without putting people in jeopardy, without putting people at risk, and with allowing the individual to make that assessment for themselves. And it's a tough one. I mean, we're seeing the debate go on in MLB right now. I mean, Major League Baseball's trying to figure it out. And how do you deal with the risks? And I don't know that we know the answers yet.
Nkrumah Pierre:Got it. Thank you, Don. Alan?
Alan Wink:Don, I'll disagree with you on one thing. From Major League Baseball standpoint, unfortunately, it's probably more about the money than it is about the health risks. That's a discussion for another day, on how the players get compensated for this. But it's funny, I think so much of this discussion really falls on the shoulders of companies in terms of how and when they decide to reopen their offices. You listen to the news, there's so many conflicting opinions of when the right time is to stop the shelter from home, allow people to get involved with other human beings again, and I think it's companies who have to have their employees understand that they've taken every step possible to ensure their safety.
I know EisnerAmper as a firm and I can't complement our management team any more. They've done such a great job of addressing the pandemic. And I think we closed earlier than most companies, we took the necessary steps. And we have a team that's working on the reopening of our offices. And they've basically said, "We're going to wait 30 days past when everyone else starts to do it because we want to observe what's going on. We don't want to put any of our people in harm's way." And I think that's a great way that our team has handled this. And I think you want to get to a point where everyone is comfortable coming back. There could be a couple of outliers, but I think everyone feels totally safe and they see the pandemic in their rearview mirror. And I think if companies begin to open this summer or fall, and there is a reoccurrence next winter, I think companies are going to know the steps to take immediately to get back to sort of sheltering at home and remote work that we're all experiencing now. So I think it's really companies having great plans and execution available to deal with the situation.
Nkrumah Pierre:Alan, absolutely, and I definitely second that with regard to our management team. They've done a phenomenal job with regard to one, being super conservative and making sure that we stopped travel many months ago, just kind of shutting things down for our safety. So I think that's amazing. Don, this is a recruiting question. So I also come from the executive search world, did temporary staffing for 10 years. And there's always this battle between temp staffing and full time hires. And during a recession typically, since companies don't have the headcount to hire full time employee, they make use of consultants. So I wanted to get a feel from you for what is the appetite for temporary staff, fractional CFOs, fractional controllers in this environment.
Don Zinn:It's a great question and I can answer it because we're actually experiencing this. As a company, we are positioned pretty interestingly. We have two sides of StevenDouglas. I'm on the executive search side. We have another side that does project work at the CFO, comptroller and CHRO level with a group of about 200 employees of our company full time who are out on project work and we are seeing huge increase in demand on the project.
Alan Wink:Let me take up his stream of thought a little bit. And I think we are certainly seeing greater demand for the outsourced CFO, the fractional CFO. And that started before the pandemic, let's be honest. I think especially in the tech space, a lot of companies realize they don't need the services of a CFO five days a week. Maybe they could do it with 20% of that person's time and they're getting effective decisions, effective information. I think, as a result of the pandemic, I think you're going to see companies move even quicker into that aspect of they're going to do what they do well, and they're going to outsource everything else. Anything that's not core to the business, they may consider outsourcing. And you're seeing it in the pharma business all the time. We're in the business of discovering drugs, producing medication, selling them. We're not in the information technology business. So we're going to outsource our IT resources. And I think it's just good business. And maybe this virtual world is even going to expedite those types of changes.
Nkrumah Pierre:Yeah. And Alan, we're seeing even on the Friends of the Firm side, so Friends of the Firm is a free, in essence, recruiting service for CFOs and comptrollers, for our clients and prospective clients, and we've had clients who had jobs, again, pre=pandemic, where they were looking for a CFO or comptroller, and in essence, just couldn't find that person because pre-pandemic, it was almost like a candidates market. A candidate could say, "You know what, I'm okay, I want $200,000. I'm going to pass on that opportunity. You're not paying enough." So now of course tables have turned but if a company is unsure if they'll be able to make payroll, right and they don't want to have that full time hire with a big salary, they may have to move to that outsource accounting or something like cloud accounting with John Delalio's team. We're seeing companies say, "You know what? I won't hire the full time person right now. We'll get back to that. But if you could have a cloud accountant or a cloud accounting team, almost like your fractional CFO or comptroller for the interim, I'll consider that."
Alan Wink:Once again, it's about whether it's on a fractional basis or cloud accounting solution. At the end of the day, you want to give the management team timely financial information that they could use to make decisions. That's the key. That's what every good CFO does. And if a CEO of a company could do it, and do it much more economically by outsourcing it to a firm like EisnerAmper, it's a very, very good solution, especially right now where you're really not sure where the business is going to be a year from now. And even attracting, if you had the financial resources to hire a quality CFO, a lot of CFOs might look at the business and saying, "I'm not willing to take this risk right now, because I'm not sure if this business is going to be here long term. And I want to join, I want to join a company and make a difference and move on with the success of the business. And that's why I think the cloud accounting solution that we provide to our clients has gotten so much traction recently.
Nkrumah Pierre:Absolutely. So we have about three minutes left. Hopefully, Don can come back after he resets his internet. But one of the things that a lot of candidates are asking is, "Nkrumah, where do I go to find my next job opportunity or find a job opportunity?" And of course, LinkedIn is huge. And of course you recommend LinkedIn. The second thing is platforms like Friends of the Firm are great. But going back to your network, and your actual strong relationships, in my opinion, is the best way.
Alan Wink:Oh, Don, I see your back. Yes, you're back. Can we hear you?
Don Zinn:I hope so. Sorry about that. That is the difficulty from working from home. My internet went down for a minute, so sorry about that.
Nkrumah Pierre:It's all right, the TV timeout, man, it's okay.
Alan Wink:Hey, Don, quick question. If that happens during an interview, what do you do?
Don Zinn:Panic? I tried dialing in, the dial in didn't work either. So I just remain calm and tried to make it work. And here I am. I'm back.
Nkrumah Pierre:Listen, man, you're cool as a cucumber, I like it. Well Don, we only have a minute left. We'll probably go a little bit past. But you were in the middle of talking about what you're seeing in the market from a full time hire standpoint versus consultants.
Don Zinn:Yeah, I don't know where you dropped me because I kept talking and only then realized that I had lost things. So the bottom line on that is I think companies are going to do what they need to do, and that if you're a candidate, you should be exploring both sides of it. Our company does both sides of that equation. We have a fairly significant fleet of interim CFOs and comptrollers, as well as HR leaders that are very, very busy. And we're seeing incredible growth on that side. But I also think the demand for full time people will remain significant and will certainly return as this becomes business as usual again. I mean, people still need the leaders that we talked about, and I think the attributes though have changed, as I talked about in my earlier comments. I think clearly, being able to represent yourself as someone who has skills in a turnaround, in times of struggle and travail become that much more important. So I think it's a good idea as a candidate to be open to both kinds of relationships, either full time or in form of a project and take advantage of the opportunity to keep busy and to build up those skills.
Nkrumah Pierre:Excellent. So gentlemen, first off, I want to say thank you, we're going to move to closing remarks like a lightning round, 30 to 45 seconds, if you could, I want to say a quick few things before we get there. One, in terms of trying to find that next opportunity, I think nothing can replace the relationship that people have. So letting your network know that you are looking for your next role, speaking to people often, having more of these WebEx virtual conversations. A lot of people now are doing the virtual cocktail, the virtual networking events. Join them. It's free. Go on those virtual platforms, present yourself well, have your 30 second elevator pitch down pat to the point where people can understand in a digestible format what you do, what your value proposition is and how they can help you. So with that, I'll move to Alan and then Don for final words.
Alan Wink:Thanks, Nkrumah and great job this morning. I think you mentioned the word networking before and I don't care if we're living in the shadows of COVID-19 or we're in different times. Networking is always so key to someone's career and advancement, et cetera. And I think the interesting thing about now, since everybody's working from home, everyone is so much more accessible. And I can't tell you, I don't think I've been turned down for a meeting in the last eight weeks once. People have the time. They're not spending two hours commuting to the office. They have other responsibilities, whether it's child responsibilities or household responsibilities, but they're certainly available, and they're willing to talk to you. So renew old friendships, keep in contact with your friends. Don't be afraid to ask for things. It's an interesting and different time. And I wish everyone good luck in these crazy times.
Nkrumah Pierre:Awesome, Alan. Don?
Don Zinn:I would agree with Alan. I think that you sort of have two choices and you are the judge of how you spend your time these days. Nobody is watching over you. So I think you can spend afternoons watching Family Feud, or you can take advantage of the opportunities and so I think the wonderful thing is I agree exactly with what Alan said. People are hungry for human contact, and as a result, I'm getting to build relationships now. So my mindset is, I may not be picking up as many deals now. That deal flow may become a little slower or whatever. But I'm going to utilize my time to maximum efficiency and I'm going to plant seeds.
And to a certain extent, I think all of us need to be Johnny Appleseed. We need to be out there planting seeds every day. And those seeds really take form in a relationship and so connect with as many people as you can. Create those relationships, utilize this time in a unique and different way to make those connections and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know a lot of people and what goes around will come around. I think the last thing is, lead with how you can help somebody else, not with help me. I think now is the time when that needs to be our focus. And for me, I'm letting clients and people I know that I'll help in any way that I can and that is there's a search attached to it, that's great. But if there isn't, that's okay too. For now, I want to do whatever good I can do to help people. And I think if we if we take that attitude and push it forward, what goes around will eventually come around.
Nkrumah Pierre:Absolutely. Alan and Don, I agree with you both. I mean, each of us need to authentically connect and add value. So I want to say thank you for your words of wisdom and for your advice. And thank you to each of you for tuning in.
It was fun. Thank you, Nkrumah.