Kurt Shintaffer observes that certain experiences that prepared him for a CFO role were acquired in an unlikely place.
“Farmwork got me really comfortable with hard work and and, as you know, being a CFO can be a real grind,” recalls Shintaffer, who grew up on a farm in Washington state.
He didn’t stay on the farm for long. After graduating from the University of Washington, he accepted an offer with Ernst & Young LLP as a senior auditor. From there, he went on to spend 7 years with Pacific Edge Software as vice president of finance, a role to which he was hastily promoted after a colleague retired. It was, in his words, a “sink-or-swim moment.” With the help of coworkers, he was able to stay one step ahead.
Now, as CFO of Apptio, Shintaffer has helped the company to raise $136 million in venture capital and played a part in taking the company public in 2016 with a $110 million IPO. He’s also had a hand in executing a $144 million convertible note offering in 2018 and closing an acquisition deal with Vista Equity Partners to take the company private in 2019.
When the pandemic arrived, like many finance leaders, Shintaffer first focused on employee safety—but the fluid workforce mind-set within business has kept talent top-of-mind for Apptio’s finance leader.
Shintaffer: Everyone knows that it is costly to recruit. They know how much it costs to lose an employee because it’s just so hard to backfill them and the productivity loss. We are now focusing a lot on figuring out which investments we can make in our business to positively impact recruiting. If recruiting is a lagging indicator, what are the things that we can look at to predict where recruiting is headed?
We are also now looking at employee engagement surveys, which is essentially taking a pulse of the employees, asking them questions like, Are you motivated by our vision? Do you see yourself working for Apptio in 2 years? Do you get the support that you need from your manager? We consistently see that managers are in the best position of anyone in the company to make sure that their employees are engaged, and the insight here is that engaged employees stay with the company
The question then becomes, How do we make sure that our managers are really good at this, and how do we ensure that our employees feel like they’re getting the support that they need? One of the things we’ve chosen to do is to invest a lot in manager development—lots of training, lots of focus on making sure that we set up all of the appropriate structure so that managers can have the right conversations with their employees.
The number one reason why people leave in our business and most others is that they feel that there’s not enough career growth opportunity in their current job. Whose job is it both to make career opportunities known to employees and to then enable these same career paths? It’s the managers’.
This is an example of where finance could weigh in. As a benefit, somebody might say, “We could choose to get catered lunches every day.” Maybe that’s a way to retain people, but we might weigh in and say, “No, no, no. The engagement survey data says that career development is the reason that people either stay or leave, so let’s put money behind that.” This is the partnership that we have with HR and the entire executive team.
“Managers are in the best position of anyone in the company to make sure that their employees are engaged, and the insight here is that engaged employees stay with the company.”
– Kurt Shintaffer