Cameron Hyzer is the CFO of ZoomInfo, a B2B database seeking to revolutionize the sales & marketing process. With over 2 decades of experience, Cameron is expanding the role (and importance) of CFOs in growing companies. Cameron joined me to talk about the evolution of today’s CFO, the best mentalities for success, and how ZoomInfo is changing go-to-market motions for good…even during a global pandemic.
1:24 - The many roles of a CFO
Numbers are just the start. CFOs are a critical link between growing companies and their investors.
“I think the CFO's role is really being the steward of the company's both business model and capital, as well as the bridge between the management team and shareholders. As the CFO role has evolved over time, there is a lot that gets bundled into that. Everything from the ability to report and understand drivers of the business, to helping the management team itself improve and grow. As well as really working with the capital markets and various different transactions, whether that's acquisitions or sales or fundraising. And finally, making sure that investors understand where we're going and are excited about that.”
2:57 - Profits first
Cameron cautions against losing sight of the basics, like profitability and shareholder returns.
“I do think that the transactional orientation of a CFO is really important: knowing what happens in an acquisition, whether you're acquiring or being acquired, understanding how to fundraise, and make sure that your capital structure is as efficient as possible…You don't want to be entirely focused on just capital structure and transactions, but that is ultimately what drives returns for shareholders. So having that point of view is important along with the ability to help the company grow and mature, making sure that you're making the right investments within the company to power growth or profitability over time.”
4:50 - Driving sales with better data
Cameron’s company, ZoomInfo, provides in-depth data to give sales teams critical insights into potential leads.
“ZoomInfo helps sales and marketing teams, and recently we've rolled out products to help recruiters as well, understand the world around them and their prospects and customers. We do this by gathering data from literally millions of different sources, normalizing, and bringing the quality up of that data so that customers can identify their next best customers…We provide information about companies, everything from how many employees that are what's the revenue within that company to org charts within that companies and what technologies they use and what they’re planning to buy over the next 1, 3, 6, 12 months. With that information, a salesperson can identify who to talk to and figure out when, how to prioritize the different prospects that they have.”
8:27- Pioneering the data trend
Businesses have started recognizing that traditional sales & marketing need a modern overhaul, 14 years after ZoomInfo’s vision began.
“Before the pandemic people were looking for better ways to engage with their customers... making their sales and marketing teams more effective and more efficient. And the natural way in our minds to do that is to use data to make better decisions. High-quality data drives better outcomes. And that's been our mantra for the last 14 years. So as companies got more acclimated to the environment, they started to determine that maybe they shouldn't be worried about conserving cash at all costs and actually looking to grow the business.”
9:11- The ups and downs of 2020
After the stalled markets of early 2020, ZoomInfo saw a surge in sales as traditional sales tactics disappeared.
“That secular trend that we'd seen of people trying to improve their go to market motions became a much starker relief when you can't go to a conference and collect business cards anymore to figure out who to talk to when you can't take people out to golf outings or baseball games in order to get the inside scoop from the company when you can't shmooze people at dinners to meet other people in the company. Our platform allows people to do all of those things from their desk or home or whatever else. So we're really excited about that acceleration that we've seen of that trend in the second half [of 2020].”
11:21 - Cameron’s key to navigating crisis
Cooler heads prevail, as does a long-term focus that can see past today’s hurdle.
“I think that the most important thing is that you need to be long-term focused. You can't be focused on what's necessarily happening right now and panic about whatever. You need to look past what the current hurdle is and understand what you are going to do to overcome that hurdle that isn't just a quick fix, but it's going to actually drive value for the company in the long term. Being calm in the face of pressure and being able to have that long-term view, no matter what's going on is the most important aspect."
13:14 - Lessons from the pre-internet bubble
Cameron’s early years in the workforce showed him that profit beats popularity.
“I've had the luxury of seeing a lot of different things over time. Among the probably most formative things, I graduated from college in the late nineties and went into the workforce and worked for an investment bank that focused on technology companies in 1998, which was like the huge rise of pre-internet bubble, fast growth, multiple software companies changing the world. And I think that living through that era where everything was changing, everything was fast, everything was super valuable. And then going through the collapse of the internet bubble and always having a view that valuation isn't about how many eyeballs you make, but ultimately about how much money you can make in the long-term.”
16:03- Two success mentalities
The best CFOs are always learning new approaches and willing to get hands-on to solve problems.
“I think that the most important thing that I see of CFOs that I really admire or are high quality is that they're always looking to learn something new. They're not just focused on ‘this is what I learned and how I approach it.’...Putting yourself in that situation where you're not just relying on someone else to solve it for you, but actually solving that problem. I think that that makes for people that are able to weather a bunch of different situations and able to drive value through the unknown. There's always going to be twists and turns in the road and you want to make sure you get to the right place at the end of the day.”
18:35 - Growing with a high-growth company
From early-stage startup to public company, the CFO needs to continually develop new skills to keep up with changing business needs.
“If you think about an earlier stage company, that's building the company and is probably more likely to be venture-backed, it’s going to require someone who's a little bit more internally focused. A builder of processes and a builder of teams...as you grow, you end up driving more complexity, whether that's complexity in the business, whether it's complexity around capital structure, whether it's complexity around potential acquisitions and growth through various different factors. That complexity starts to mean that you do need to round out more of that curiosity aspect of things. That you're able to articulate that curiosity and manage it in a way where everyone feels comfortable with the risks that come along.”
21:26 - Building a winning team
Hire for personality as well as expertise to build teams that excel.
“I often look for team members that complement me and complement each other. Obviously, you're always going to want to find people that have a specific skill set that meets the needs.
But I think from a personality perspective and from a background perspective, finding people that aren't just like you is what ultimately makes for a better team. One of my prior controllers was a very outgoing, very team-building type person. That was actually a great complement for me because I tend to be a lot more analytical and thinking about how to move pieces on the chessboard as opposed to trying to get the team as excited as possible. I think finding those personalities that can complement the team overall is part of the most important thing about building a team and making it as successful as possible.”
23:24 - ZoomInfo’s next steps
Over the next 3-5 years, ZoomInfo has big plans to expand its service and client base.
“We rebuilt a whole new platform that took our service from being something that was more of a lookup tool to find information about companies or individuals and change that to a real engine to drive your go-to-market motion, to take signals from the world outside, whether that's intent or people changing jobs or getting funding or being acquired. All of those signals are important things for a sales or marketing person…If you sell security software, as an example, if a company has hired a new VP of security, that's a really good signal that you should go and talk to them.”