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Tackling Growth: Real Stories of Success

In this Interview with CFO of Zendesk, Elena Gomez, we focus ongrowth organizations. We cover some key concepts, including strategies for top employee retention, dealing with in-flux operations,a shift in the accounting function, and advice for growth situations.


Defining Your Growth

Growth companies can be defined in many ways. Growth could be referring to revenue, employees, customers, or anything else that fits the context of the company in question. For Elena, the measure of growth is about competition. She asks herself: When compared to similarly sized companies in the same market, is my company growing at a rate that is quicker than the competition? If the company is growing quicker than its competitors, it can be defined as a growth company.


Excitement or StomachTurners: How Your employees Feel When Stretched!

When someone is a part of a growth company, they will likely see fast-paced changes happening, allowing them to do new and interesting work that they may have not expected just a few months back. The potential for changes in a growth company allows for new opportunities to arise for its employees. The strong possibility of change may give employees the chance to change the daily structure of their job, an opportunity that would excite millions of workers around the world. In addition, growth companies often give employees greater access to senior management than more mature companies do.


Proven HR Strategies That Inspire Your Employees

Not compromising on talent is one of the most important strategies for any growth company. This is especially important in key roles. Patience is a virtue when it comes to attracting top talent. Retaining top talent is equally important. A growth company should establish and communicate its methods of who and what they are hiring in the various departments. Sharing this information withyour employees gives them both a sense of directionas well as knowledge on how to avoid hiring the wrong colleague. Harvard Business Review claims that 80% of a business's profits comes from top performers!

When the talent is identified, the company must decide if they are in the role where they will be most effective. If they are not, the company must be willing to give those employees stretch assignments. This allows for greater employee retention due to the feeling of fulfilment when the task is finished. Another important HR strategy is to preserve the culture of a growth company. From having fun to working hard, the valuable elements of a company's culture should be preserved, no matter how rapidly the company is growing.


High Fives, the Dab: How to Recognize Your People!

Everybody appreciates being recognized for their achievements. This recognition can be shown in many different ways, whether monetary or not. While bonuses or gift cards may be nice, a simple recognition through email or a company meeting can be very valuable. Especially in accounting and finance roles, which are usually done behind the scenes, it can only be helpful to reach out to strong performers to recognize their talent.


Appreciating the Accounting Department

In the business world, some department heads may not view the accounting team as having a vital role when it comes to the decision making process. Elena believes that this perception can be changed when members of the accounting team step out of their comfort zone and try to understand the business from a different perspective. Building relationships with members of other departments and being able to tell the story of the company are great ways to build credibility and comradery with fellow employees. Once those relationships are established, the accounting department can begin to change from being viewed as a "cost center" to playing a vital role in the decision making process of a company.


Advice for a Growth Situation

If Elena could travel back in time and give her past self advice about a growth situation with a company, she would tell herself to learn about what specifically was driving the growth of that company. Whether it is marketing, a new product, a new service, or any other major componentof a company, it is vital to understand what the main driving force of growth is. When it is identified, it is important toevaluate what is being invested in that driving force. At the same time, it is important to identify investments being made on something that is not driving growth. When identified, the company can decide how to best minimize or eliminate this roadblock.


Intellectual Curiosity

Many employees do not ask questions when workingout of their comfort zone, because they are nervous about not knowing something.Elena emphasizes the importance of always asking questions, a quality that can help someone work more efficiently throughout their career. Equally important is the ability to be curious about the functions of other jobs. To be a truly effective professional, Elena feels that it is important to understand the work of other team members. This will allow a professional in any field to be the best partner they can be.


About Elena Gomez

With an unparalleled knowledge of the SaaS business model and proven ability to build teams and partner with business leaders, Elena has been inviable to Zendesk as the company CFO. Prior to joining Zendesk, Elena spent 6 years at SalesForce, where she helped build a world-class finance department.  

Throughout her two-decade career in finance at Fortune 500 companies, including Visa and Charles Schwab, Elena has built a track record of strategic financial leadership.   

Elena holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California, Haas School of Business, and is a National Board Member of the non-profit, Spark.