Never stop learning. Know your business inside and out — from the key industry players and latest trends to the customers you serve and your competitors and your company’s business model and how it fits into the ecosystem. Keeping up to date with this knowledge will strengthen your overall business acumen in the long run and make you a go-to resource at your company. I apply this even today. I continue to study innovation and how to implement disruptive technologies successfully like artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the impacts of culture on company performance.
I had the pleasure of interviewing CFO Dana Tunks. Dana oversees financial reporting, treasury, corporate development and more for Broadsign, developer of the leading digital-out-of home (DOOH) marketing platform; she is also a member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Board of Directors of the Data Center. Before Broadsign, Dana served as a CFO and advisory board member for other leading organizations and spent 23 years at Ernst & Young as a Senior Partner, where she rose through the ranks at a time when less than 10 percent of partner promotions were given to women — while also raising a family. Appreciative of the guidance she’s received throughout her career, Dana pays it forward, acting as a mentor to young professionals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a teenager, mathematics and problem solving were two of my strong suits, so my parents encouraged me to consider a career in accounting. I was fortunate to have family friends in the field who took time to share their stories with me and show me the different paths an accounting background could offer. Eventually I pursued a business degree while at university. After graduating, I began what would become a 23-year career with Ernst & Young LLC. While there, I worked with a number of global technology companies, forged strong professional connections and gained valuable experience that helped lead me to where I am today. Though my career began in financial statement auditing, I quickly expanded my skillset by consulting and leading a number of business transformation programs for some of E&Y’s largest global accounts, and continue to use that experience and knowledge as Broadsign CFO.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In 2017 Broadsign went through the process of becoming SOCII and ISAE 3402 compliant. SOC II and ISAE 3402 are audits designed to ensure that SaaS service providers are securely managing data in the interest of client privacy. It’s critical from a customer standpoint because it shows we’re committed to implementing strong business practices and controls that ensure the safety of customer data.
The reason I find this story interesting is that we were able to go through the audit process for the first time without any exception, which is pretty remarkable. The audit firm even complimented our team, sharing that they had never seen a company go through its first audit without any exceptions.
The certification process touched all aspects of our business from our team to operating procedures, governance and technology, I believe we were successful because of the diverse cultural makeup of our team and their level of engagement. Our employees are devoted to their work and want to ensure we do things right. We celebrated their hard work in achieving this milestone with a party.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While not exactly funny, one of my earlier mistakes was investing in a company that turned out to have “Founder’s Syndrome.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, also known as “founderitis” (yes, it’s a real thing), it speaks to the difficulties an organization faces when one or more company founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of a company. In this instance, the passion and charisma of the founder(s), while sources of the initial creativity and productivity of the organization, became limiting and destructive factors that ultimately prevented the company from succeeding. To this day when evaluating the acquisition potential of a company, I look for signs of Founder’s Syndrome, and it’s not just me; VCs vigilantly keep watch for it too, as they’re aware of the negative impact it can have on an organization.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Broadsign is a diverse company focused on solving some of the industry’s most pressing challenges. Regardless of any difficulties we face, through collaboration, the Broadsign team always finds a way to address complex problems in a simple way; it’s one of the main reasons digital-out-of-home publishers continue to join Broadsign’s platform and grow with us. Our platform is used in 52 countries and counting, and we celebrate our own team’s diversity, which spans more than 25 countries, by hosting annual activities that highlight different cultural backgrounds, customs and foods.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At Broadsign, we’re using our expertise in workflow automation to develop tools that help digital-out-of-home (DOOH) publishers scale and operate their networks reliably, securely and cost efficiently. By building a programmatic exchange and automation tools that are designed to help DOOH publishers capture digital media revenues from digital media buyers, we’re streamlining the sales and inventory management processes. From where I sit, it’s very exciting to be a part of bringing these capabilities to our customers and the market.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Surround yourself with a strong, diverse team with a wide range of skillsets. Clearly lay out your vision for the company’s business plans and outline the steps to achieving those goals. Equip each team member with the tools, knowledge and support for continued professional development and celebrate their achievements.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Managing a large team is no easy feat, and requires critical thinking, patience and the ability to read and motivate a diverse group of individuals. One of the biggest teams I’ve overseen was comprised of 300 global professionals working on a finance transformation project to streamline new processes, roles and technology. I was coordinating efforts across multiple time zones while also trying to be mindful of cultural differences and individuals with different levels of experience and knowledge. Based on this experience, I’d offer the following advice:
- Develop a vision and mission statement that clearly communicates the project’s purpose to your entire team.
- Establish a leadership structure within key geographies to develop your plan and engage stakeholders early on. In this instance, it allowed me to ensure there was consistent understanding of the project objectives, and plan details.
- Meet in person as often as possible. I brought the global regional leaders together for a week-long schedule of meetings on this project, which allowed them to get to know one another and connect as a leadership group.
- Build communication and reporting protocols that include daily calls and weekly team reports, so that everyone has visibility into the project and can turn to one another when running into road blocks.
- Instill confidence in your team leaders, allowing them to manage the way they see fit.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to encounter several mentors who have taken me under their wing, providing invaluable coaching and advice. They listened to me as I worked through difficult situations and provided insightful counsel. I’m still in touch with my mentor from E&Y Kitchener-Waterloo, and we get together a few times a year. While retired, he’s still an active board member for a number of Canadian public companies and I continue to value his guidance.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve always had a penchant for solving the seemingly impossible; the tougher the challenge, the more appealing I find it. Pollution, for instance, has plagued the health of communities, economic stability and the environment for decades, if not centuries. Six years ago, I was introduced to scientists who had developed patented technology to reduce hazardous emissions for the automotive and industrial industries. The application of the technology was not disruptive to the manufacturing process, which would make its adoption easier than other disruptive technologies. I leapt at the opportunity to collaborate on the project and help reduce harmful emissions. I was able to apply various lessons learned throughout my career to help set up their solution for success and turn an idea into a commercial reality.
First, I surrounded myself with a range of experts. We found the world’s best scientists in emissions technology to work alongside our team and brought automotive commercialization experts onto the Board of Directors. I then sought my mentor’s advice on commercialization paths, and he guided me in overcoming a number of management hurdles. The company has since become the trusted partner of a major global automotive company because it delivers on its promise, and continues to thrive today, maturing the technology alongside the industry. I’m proud to have been part of the journey in guiding some great scientists in turning an idea into a reality.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. You can’t do it alone. Recognize the strengths of others, invest the time to build a smart and diverse team, and keep them engaged. Teams with a purpose and encouragement tend to be more content and motivated to excel. The finance transformation project I referenced earlier is a great example of this advice in practice.
2. Core skills are key. Develop and refine your capabilities with your dream job in mind as these will form the “building blocks” of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for tough assignments or to take on new opportunities. It will help you become the best marketer, salesperson, human resource professional, accountant etc. that you can be. Find mentors you admire and use them as a resource.
I started my career as an auditor, but extended my core set of skills by expressing interest in working on a range of projects in other areas of the company from corporate restructuring to process re-engineering, mergers & acquisitions and strategy. At times, I felt out of my comfort zone in terms of experience but embracing these learning opportunities helped me become a more well-rounded professional.
3. Never stop learning. Know your business inside and out — from the key industry players and latest trends to the customers you serve and your competitors and your company’s business model and how it fits into the ecosystem. Keeping up to date with this knowledge will strengthen your overall business acumen in the long run and make you a go-to resource at your company.
I apply this even today. I continue to study innovation and how to implement disruptive technologies successfully like artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the impacts of culture on company performance.
4. Learn when to lead. Rather than always taking charge, sometimes it’s more productive to listen and be a team player.
As a CFO, you have to be a leader and team player. As a team player at Broadsign, I support our sales, product, development and operations teams to make them successful. Supporting them means ensuring they have the right tools, resources and information they need to meet their objectives and key results.
5. Establish trust. Follow through is equally as important as outlining detailed plans. When things change, be up front about it and empower your team to contribute at every stage.
For example, over the last 18 months, we implemented a quarterly business review (QBR) process. Our leadership team discusses results of the prior quarter compared to our initial plan and upcoming plans for future quarters. It’s essentially a deep dive into our business plan execution and gives our team a better understanding of where we’ve exceled, our shortcomings and how we can improve moving forward. A success so far, we’re planning to embed the process across our entire team more formally by embracing an OKR framework (Objective, Key Results) in 2019.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The quality and cost of elder care is a huge, yet often overlooked, issue facing modern society. I’ve experienced it first-hand over the years, navigating the health care system to help my parents obtain the appropriate level of care related to health issues in their later years. Not only does the current lack of access to quality care pose challenges for our aging population, but also for their family members, who often make personal and financial sacrifices to ensure their family members receive the quality care they deserve.
As the population continues to age, cases of Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, cancer and more will only grow, as will the need for safe communities where elders battling these afflictions can get access to the care they need while living their lives safely, independently, and with dignity and respect. Today, the infrastructure isn’t quite there to make this happen, so if I could inspire a movement, I’d have to say it would be one geared toward affecting positive change in this arena.
Please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”. Share how that was relevant to you in your life.
If I had to sum up my experiences in a life lesson quote, it would be “Passion and perseverance can take you a long way in achieving your professional goals. Without passion, a career becomes a job. Without perseverance, reaching new career heights may seem insurmountable. The combination is truly powerful.” I’ve made this a guiding principle throughout my career. I put forth 110% percent effort into the companies I work for and with passion, perseverance and great teams, I’ve been able to achieve the unachievable. It’s helped me live my professional life loving what I do.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m active on LinkedIn.