10 questions for Scala CFO Anthony Maddalone

Name: Anthony Maddalone

Age: 50

Time with company: 5 years

Education: Combined Master's and Bachelor's from State University of New York, Buffalo; licensed CPA in New York and New Jersey

Company headquarters: Exton, Pennsylvania

Number of countries: U.S., U.K., India, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, with a sales office in Germany

Number of global employees total: 120

Number of employees the CFO oversees: 10

CFO's areas of responsibility: finance and administrative functions; accounting, facilities, legal & HR, product fulfillment, IT

About the company: Scala is a global digital signage company that provides software and advertising management products for a wide variety of industries.

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

After graduation from college, I was recruited to work at the then-accounting firm Ernst & Whinney, a predecessor firm to today's Ernst & Young. At the time this was one of the "big eight" accounting firms, which today is referred to as the "big four." Starting my career there was a great experience. It provided me exposure to a wide range of industries and excellent training and experience to start my career.

After several years, I moved into private industry and eventually started my own practice for accounting. During the five years of managing my own accounting business, I developed a relationship with a software entrepreneur named Ben Cohen, who had founded a company called Logic Works, that marketed data modeling software and related services. We hit it off and as his business continued to grow he required more services from my company. Eventually, he convinced me to sell my practice and join Logic Works.

At the time I joined Logic Works, it was a small software company generating approximately $4 million in business. Keep in mind, the timeframe was the mid-'90s. Logic Works was a very interesting and exciting company and it was a life-changing experience for me. The company had experienced approximately 175 percent compounded annual sales growth rate -- this was back in the heyday, to the point where we drew interest from a number of venture capitalists. I was an integral part of the management team that managed the company through its IPO in October 1995.

At the time there were a number of reasons to target the technology sector from a career standpoint. Not only was the work challenging and intriguing from a professional standpoint, but it also proved to be worthwhile from a financial perspective as well. After the company went public, there were some challenges to deal with in Europe so I spent approximately three years living and working overseas, split between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. This time in Europe provided me tremendous experience in learning and understanding how business operated outside the US, not only from an operating standpoint but also from a local and cultural viewpoint as well. Even today, I rely on my personal experiences from this time when working and dealing with our foreign operations.

In the timeframe of the '90s, successful companies became acquisition targets. Logic Works was eventually acquired first by Platinum Technology, which was later acquired by Computer Associates. After the acquisitions, I returned to the United States looking for greener pastures and relocated back to Princeton, New Jersey. Through my contacts, I was introduced to a company, Broadbeam, a wireless middleware software provider. I joined that company as their CFO and remained there for about six years until that company was acquired. I wanted to stay in the technology sector to expand my skill set, whether it be managing an IPO or to be involved with mergers and acquisitions.

After Broadbeam was acquired, I moved to First Index. This was an e-sourcing company, matching buyers and sellers of custom manufactured parts over the Internet.

After that opportunity, I was recruited to join Scala, for a number of reasons. I believe my previous experiences with the IPO process and the fact I actually had international experience were factors that interested the CEO, as Scala was and remains an international company. I was informed that it was rare in the United States, at least in this region, to have people who have been exposed to overseas/international work in that capacity. A majority of the executives at Scala have had foreign experience in one capacity or another.

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

I would say that I've learned from every manager that I've had in my career, whether that was an accounting manager, an accounting firm partner earlier in my career or the CEO, vice president or the board of directors that I reported to. I think you're able to learn from everyone you interact with about management and leadership, some traits you will want to replicate in your career and others you will not.

I would say first and foremost, I learned to treat your subordinates as you wish to be treated. Secondly, a phrase common in the industry is "under promise and over deliver."

I've worked for a variety of managers, some very hard-nosed and some very laid back. They're each unique situations, but you learn from them all.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

Challenges CFOs have today will vary based on the nature of the industry they're working in. That being said, I would say that in today's environment we are all facing a common challenge which is the global economic situation and how that all plays out overseas and in the U.S. markets.

There are a number of strange reactions in the markets that I would say are not the results of economic-based decisions but are the results of more political-based decisions at this point in time. These market reactions range from effecting foreign currency transactions to pricing commodities and things of that nature. When looking back at historical economic trends, today's markets seem to be irrational from an economic standpoint.

I've been able to confirm this based on my discussions with some of our more senior board members who have experience managing organizations through the second World War through today and they have not seen anything like this in the marketplace. Many markets, the stock market, the foreign exchange market, the commodities markets are all reacting strangely when you look at the historical trends, so I think that's the biggest challenge we all face -- how is the global economy going to resolve itself and what is the impact on each of our organizations?

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

A good day at work for me is a busy day. I don't think anyone likes to have a lot of free time on their hands. Being busy, which is not too difficult for me to do here, and being able to accomplish something tangible is important. This can take a variety of forms -- making progress on a contract negotiation, assisting with a contract that results in a sale, a strategy meeting where we're setting the direction of the company. I would say a good day is a busy one and when I can cross an item off my to-do list.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

I would say my management style is more of a mentoring style. I believe management style should be based on the people who work for you. If you bring in people who are knowledgeable and experienced, you should not have to micro-manage. While I'm a hands on manager and I want to know what is going on in the world in my various departments, I am certainly not a micro-manager.

I want to have my staff be able to improve from a professional standpoint either in technical knowledge or by exposing them to areas where they can gain more experience so that they'll be successful in their positions

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

In any situation once you get a resume you're trying to match skill sets of a candidate with your needs. The resume is the start of a vetting process to make sure the person has the skills you're looking for. I would say that some things I look for are their experience and dealing with finance -- there might be some designation they have received, whether it be a CPA or some other designation.

I also look for stability. I'm looking for someone who is interested in staying with us for a period of time. This may be more difficult today because of the current state of unemployment, but maybe deeper in the resume you can see that someone has had stability in several jobs in the past.

So, questions I ask are do they have the skill set I need or looking for and is there a sense of stability? You really don't want to hire someone and invest in that person only to have that person decide to leave your company shortly after joining it. As a result of today's economy, people may have changed jobs frequently out of necessity, so that may skew the process. But if you have the skill set and stability, you'll probably wind up getting an interview.

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, I like to make sure a candidate did a little bit of research and I'll ask what do they know about the company based on their searching the Web or with whatever other means they've used, whether talking to a recruiter, etcetera. Also, during an interview, you can get a feeling about a candidate's general knowledge regarding certain technical issues and if they have the skill set but discussing those issues or by reviewing some examples.

For somebody in the finance group, for example, we all work with Excel extensively. If someone says they have Excel skills, we'll talk to them about pivot tables, for example, because we use pivot tables extensively. You'll get a feel for whether someone knows what they're talking about.

If you can communicate, if you can generate a rapport with your interviewer, that's what we look for. We want someone who can be themselves in an interview. If you're hired, you're going to be spending a lot of time with that person, so we want to make sure the person we hire is a good fit within the organization.

Once we've vetted the resume and the person has got an interview, it comes down to whether a person is a good fit for the organization and for your team. A lot of this is based on the type of questions they ask, the rapport, the answers, to see if it's a good personality fit. Obviously, you will ask a candidate if they have any questions -- if they have no questions about the position or the company, that's a red flag for us.

Our organization is a team and is going to be spending a lot of time with one another and there needs to be the ability to work with people in the group. That's an extremely important dynamic we look for.

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

I think Scala, as a U.S.-based technology company, is unique in that our shareholder base and our board are heavily influenced by European, and specifically Norwegian, involvement. That's based on who founded the company years ago, who happened to be Norwegian, and where the source of the investment money at the time. That's unique. The way privately held companies operate in the United States is different from how they operate in Norway.

For Scala, considering that we have approximately 100 employees and offices around the world, we are truly a multinational company. We are not the size of an IBM or an SAP, but we certainly deal with all the same issues as those larger companies. That makes for a very interesting, challenging and rewarding experience in this position.

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

After a hectic day for me, it's just a matter of going home and spending some quality time with my wife.

My children are also an extremely important part of our life. I have one son who is a sophomore at Gettysburg [College] who plays lacrosse and I have a daughter who is a three-sport athlete in high school in Connecticut. We spend a lot of time travelling to see them play sports. It's a three-hour drive to watch either my son or daughter play. As a parent, you invest much time and effort in your children, and for our family, sports has always been an important part of our life. Our kids like the support of seeing their parents at their events and then you get some quality time afterward.

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

From a realistic standpoint, I would like to think that I'd be the CFO for another enterprise software company in the region. From a fantasy perspective, I would love to be a lacrosse coach. I find it a fascinating game -- the fastest game on two feet.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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