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10 questions for Box CFO Dylan Smith

Nancy Weil | Dec. 20, 2011
I think some of the bigger challenges are really in trying to play the balance between hitting this quarter's numbers -- you really need to be thinking about the now in meeting the numbers -- but also investing in long-term growth.

-- Name: Dylan Smith, co-founder and CFO

-- Age: 26

-- Time with company: 6 years

-- Education: B.S. economics, Duke University

-- Headquarters: Palo Alto, California

-- Number of countries: Sell globally, with one office in Palo Alto.

-- Number of employees total: 300+

-- Number of employees the CFO oversees: Four direct, with about 30 who report to them.

-- About the company: Box offers an open, secure content sharing and management platform.

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

I got my start in finance on the job at Box. But in terms of entrepreneurship in high school, I started a little tutoring company with a couple of my friends and ramped that up, and I found that finance was what I liked doing. I went to school thinking I'd be a pediatrician, but I realized that entrepreneurship is what I like to do. I think my relationship with [co-founder and CEO] Aaron Levie has really been influential in solidifying that career path as well. [Smith and Levie met in middle school.] Math has always been my strong suit, so I really always liked numbers. I was the type of kid where in 7th grade I took a bus to the high school every day because they ran out of math classes for me.

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

Never having had an actual boss, I've never reported to anyone -- I have my board of directors who have been very, very valuable in shaping me as a leader. But I think in terms of shaping me, our COO Dan Levine has been influential. He's helped me in thinking about performance management and building an organization. I think the single most important person in helping shape my management and management style would be Dan.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

I think some of the bigger challenges are really in trying to play the balance between hitting this quarter's numbers -- you really need to be thinking about the now in meeting the numbers -- but also investing in long-term growth. One challenge I don't see a lot of, but that I hear about just in talking with my peers, seems to be positioning the CFO as a real strategic leader and a partner, and not just managing the budget and being the bean counter, but really managing the company structure and helping the others in the management team develop a strategic mission. Another one for me is navigating all the new rules and regulations especially as we gear up to become a public company. There are a lot of things that aren't actually related to growing the business or being successful or allocating resources on that front. I don't have a deep background in that area, so just being mindful that we're not putting the company in a difficult position.

 

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