We’re thrilled to welcome our new CFO, Earl Charles, to GuideSpark. Earl brings more than 30 years of experience with him. Prior to joining GuideSpark, he served as the CFO of Bromium where he was responsible for corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and infrastructure. Before that, Earl was the CFO at AOptix, eMeter, and XenSource. We’re excited to start working with him and get to know him better, starting with this short Q&A.
Q: What attracted you to GuideSpark, and which aspect of your job are you most excited about?
A: “I was introduced to GuideSpark through one of its investors—Meritech Capital. They’re a late-stage venture capital firm that only invests in companies they believe have a bright future. I know from experience how challenging it can be to secure them as an investor, so their investment in GuideSpark was a telltale sign for me. Then, as soon as I started talking to the people here, I was struck by how great everyone is and how enthusiastic everyone is about the opportunity in front of us.
I’m most excited to get GuideSpark in a position to control our own destiny. The key to getting there is getting our go-to-market plan right, so we can evolve into a standalone business. My job is all about realizing that potential and creating that value, and I’m excited to get to work.”
Q: Right now, the role of CFOs is expanding, and we’re seeing them have a stronger influence on company culture. What are your thoughts on how the role is evolving?
A: “I think a company’s culture is incredibly important, and it’s really curated at the top. A strong, positive culture can create the environment everyone needs to be successful. To create that type of environment, a company’s vision and values have to be understood and championed by everyone. It’s about ensuring that every employee—no matter their role—knows how the work they do helps solve a specific problem and serve customers. To build a world class organization like that and ensure everyone trusts in the future of the company, we all have to share a value system that’s built on transparency, high moral and ethical standards, and really good character. That’s the type of culture I want to foster here at GuideSpark.
Q: What’s your best advice for keeping your team motivated and engaged during times of uncertainty and/or complex changes?
A: “We have to stay focused on our goals and objectives. I learned how crucial this is while serving as the CFO at XenSource. When we started, we had great technology at our fingertips, but we’d never built a product before. We didn’t want to be one of those companies that never got a product out the door, so we put a stake in the ground and said, one year from now, we’re going to ship a product whether it’s perfect or not because software’s always going to change.
We were rocking and rolling in no time because everyone at the company knew what our goals were and stayed focused on them. Nine months after meeting our core objectives, Citrix bought the business, and everyone—the employees and the stakeholders—made money. At the time, it was the best return on any portfolio investment one of our venture capital firms had made. The moral of the story? Focus on your goals and objectives, and good things will happen.
Q: What are some methods you use to communicate with your team and stay aligned with other departments?
A: “I like to sync up with people weekly or biweekly to ensure everyone’s on the same page and operating on the most up-to-date information. I encourage everyone to share their opinions and ideas, so that everyone is heard and we’re able to move forward together. By keeping lines of communication open and active, I can readily respond to what people need and ensure they know what I need, too. I find out what’s important to everyone and regularly ask how I can help, so I can build trust and strong working relationships within my team and across the organization.
My experience coaching high school baseball for ten years taught me a lot about the value of this approach. On the field, you know that every player has a different job to do, and everyone has to be in sync. If there’s a runner on first base planning to steal second, the catcher, pitcher and middle infielders all have to know what play is on and be in sync to execute the play. To get everyone on the same page and working together like that, you have to communicate and prioritize teamwork, and it’s no different in business. When we all stay in sync, we can achieve our shared goals and foster the type of collaborative spirit we need to be successful.”
Q: How do you ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
A: “First, I meet and talk to as many people as I can to ensure I never stop learning. I like to find out where people are coming from, how their background has shaped their experiences, and what’s brought them success. It keeps my mindset and perspective fresh. Next, I read a lot of good books, so I’m constantly exposed to new ideas and perspectives. I recently read Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So you want to talk about race? and reading about her perspective on racism opened my eyes and helped contextualize recent events. It helped me appreciate that I can be an even more well-rounded, effective leader by seeking out different perspectives and applying what I learn from experiences unlike my own.
I also recently read The Boys in the Boat about the University of Washington crew team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. It’s a phenomenal book that highlights how powerful determination and teamwork can be. All of that’s to say, continuing to meet and learn from people and read lots of great books gives me opportunities to broaden my perspective and grow as a leader, so I can be better prepared for whatever comes next.”