Kent Elmer has over 25 years of accounting and finance experience including significant time spent at the executive level of both publicly traded and privately held technology companies. He then held various positions at IQ Software Corporation, a publicly traded software company, including Controller, Vice President of Finance and ultimately Chief Financial Officer.
After IQ Software, Kent held the Chief Financial Officer role at a number of early growth stage technology companies including CareCentric Solutions (sold to SCHI), RF Solutions, Inc. (sold to Anadigics) and Digital Furnace, Inc. (sold to Broadcom).
In 2003, Kent founded TechCXO, an executive level professional services firm focused on providing fractional “C-level” services to high growth companies in the technology industry. Through TechCXO, Kent has assisted dozens of companies achieve their financial and operational goals. TechCXO clients have raised in excess of $4 billion of debt and equity capital.
In this interview, Kent shares his experiences in past and present companies outlining the traits that brought him success. He also shares where his expertise lies and the importance of adding value to clients. When you're done absorbing Kent's interview, be sure to follow TechCXO on Twitter!
His advice to entrepreneurs out there:
Find something that you love doing and are passionate about, don’t do too much and treat your business as a career change and not a job change.
How are you doing, Kent? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what TechCXO stands for?
I am an accountant by training with a background primarily in the technology vertical. I started my career in public accounting with Arthur Andersen & Co and have been the CFO of several technology companies ranging from start ups to publicly traded.
TechCXO is an executive management consulting firm focused on providing outsourced management services to companies within the technology and life science verticals.
What does TechCXO do that makes it better than the rest? In other words, how did you find your competitive edge?
Our people are our advantage. We are not a staffing firm. We believe that if you have not done something for at least 10,000 hours, you are not an expert at it. We focus only on the industry verticals where our partners are experts. This experience allows us to quickly add value to our clients.
As one of the partners at TechCXO, what is your greatest fear and how do you keep it under control or harness it?
I guess my greatest fear would be that we would fall short of meeting our clients’ expectations. We spend a lot of time and effort in our partner recruiting process to ensure that every person that joins our firm shares our high standards of performance and ethics. This allows me to rest assured that the service that we deliver will be top class.
Where do you see TechCXO in the next 5 years? Any new products/services in development?
We are continually searching for additional ways to add value to our clients. I am sure that we will add additional service offerings over the coming years that will allow us to do so. Our goal in the next 5 years is to be a truly national firm, having partner resources covering every major tech city in the country. We will continue to grow organically as that is the only way to ensure a consistently superior level of quality across our partner base.
What is the biggest business mistake that taught you a powerful lesson? Would you mind sharing how it changed your business?
Business arrogance kills. I have found that in periods when I rested on my laurels and thought that we were in the cat bird’s seat, bad things happen. At TechCXO, we incorporate an attitude of always learning. If we are not at the top of our game, others will come along who are and they will take your business.
In your experience, what is the best way to find your ideal customer? Are there any mistakes that our readers can learn from?
The best way for us to find our ideal customers is to focus on what the customers need, as opposed to what we think that we can offer. To many companies get caught up in what great product or service they offer and forget to find out what their clients really need. It is also extremely important to know who the stakeholders are who are most likely to be in a position to recommend your offering, and market to those people.
Your days no doubt can be pretty crazy. What one thing would you say motivates you to keep pushing forward?
I love working with really smart people and getting to be involved in helping to accelerate their businesses. That is what drives me forward.
What does a typical day look like for you? Is there something you make a point to do each day?
Every job is a sales job. We stress with our partners every day that no matter what they are doing, they have to be selling. I spend 75% of my day delivering on client engagements; the other 25% is split between firm administration and selling.
I strongly believe in reading. Do you have a book that you highly recommended Startup Savant readers and I grab a copy of?
'Winning the Zero Moment of Truth' by Jim Lecinski
What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give someone starting a business in Georgia? What do they need to know from the beginning?
1) Find something that you love doing and are passionate about – if you are not having a good time doing it, it is not worth doing;
2) Don’t do too much – most businesses fail because they try to do too many things for too many people;
3) Treat your business as a career change and not a job change – there will be many times in the early years that you will be convinced that you made the wrong decision to start a business – you have to have a long term view in order to be willing to do what it takes in the short term to sustain success.