“Fantastic work culture” with Mike Whitemire of FloQast

Jason Malki
Oct 9, 2019 · 7 min read

As CEO and Co-Founder, Mike leads FloQast’s corporate vision, strategy and execution. Prior to founding FloQast, he was part of the accounting & finance team at Cornerstone OnDemand, a Software as a Service company in Los Angeles providing talent management software to Fortune 500 clients. He was the 5th accountant brought on to the team to help prepare for their IPO, develop a month-end close process and manage a rapidly growing accounting department.

Mike began his career in the audit practice at Ernst & Young in Los Angeles where he performed public company audits, opening balance sheet audits, cash to GAAP restatements, compilation reviews, international reporting, merger and acquisition audits and SOX compliance testing. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Syracuse University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Both of my parents were entrepreneurs. My dad was a tax attorney turned author who has published a number of books about very specific tax legislation. My mom was also a nerdy accountant. She runs her own small bookkeeping firm in Los Angeles, so you might say I had no other choice than to try the whole accounting entrepreneur thing for myself.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’m naturally a very transparent — and blunt — person. In the past, I’ve been described as an asshole, but I think it’s just brutal honesty. As a company, we’re very open about our metrics and our financials. We talk about the good and the bad. That has actually been a very good thing for our culture, and people really seem to appreciate knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s kind of been nice to get to be my open — and blunt — self and have that be viewed as a very positive thing for our company.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m writing a book right now. It’s taking a look at the role of the corporate controller and how emerging technologies have drastically impacted their responsibilities. We recently conducted a study of a few hundred controllers and the results were very interesting, so we’re quite excited to publish a one-stop shop to understand how both controllers and financial professionals can advance their careers.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

The numbers are so high because so many employees end up working monotonous jobs where they’re not engaged by the company. I think a lot of that has to do with transparency within the organization. If you don’t know what’s going on, you’re not going to have bought into what the company’s mission. That’s when it becomes just a 9-to-5 job. You’re going to show up every day and work as little as possible just to get your paycheck. No one wants to be in that situation. That’s why I argue a lack of transparency is a big cause of so many employees in the U.S. being dissatisfied.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

There’s a ton of studies that show unhappy employees aren’t as productive as employees who are actively engaged in what they’re doing, and ultimately, productivity drives bottom line. That’s why so many of the great companies really focus on culture and having happy employees because they’re what drive better profits.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

Give people to do what they want. Shockingly enough, dress code actually plays into that pretty aggressively. Being able to go into work wearing almost anything you want fosters a level of creativity and engagement that is ultimately better for FloQast. When I was an auditor, I had to put on business casual to go to work every day, and I really, really hated it. I just don’t see why it’s even a thing in society, really. We’ve applied that notion to FloQast, and it’s been awesome to see that everyone feels comfortable showing up in jeans, t-shirts, hats, or whatever and still bring that level of seriousness and productivity that we expect.

I would advise leaders to be themselves. Every year, I give a speech at our holiday party that I get pretty excited about. Basically, I rewrite the words to ’Twas The Night Before Christmas based on what’s going on at FloQast in that year. It’s a fun alternative to the standardized, end-of-the-year speech, and people seem to really enjoy it. I try to like be myself; I try to be natural and inject some humor into it. I think it makes it more engaging.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

The more forward-thinking tech companies are really pushing the issue here. It all started with Google, right? Doing the ridiculous. They were the first ones who came out with the idea of attracting the best talent by making the workplace fun and engaging. Google set the bar high, and other companies were forced to play catch up. Now, there’s a natural shift towards really focusing on employee satisfaction and employee engagement. I would argue that this mentality is driving a societal change that’s happening right now. The future of work is having to engage those types of employees, which requires a lot more than just a paycheck or you know, free lunches or whatever.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I like to communicate what I want to do. I like to get stuff done; get things done quickly with accountability. With a lot of CEOs, there’s this mentality of almost a servant leadership situation where they step back and let all of the executives make the decisions. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. I think that for me, I’m a team member with all of my executives. I want decision making to be collaborative where we discuss, come to a consensus, and execute. to be collaborative with them and seriously be collaborative on decision making and come to a consensus, and let them execute. I don’t believe in the notion of a CEO hiring people and leaving them alone. I prefer to be more hands-on than that.

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?

I learned basically everything about leadership from Rob Meinhardt. He’s a great CEO in his own right and has helped me learn how to communicate, how to establish a north star for the business, and pinpoint long-term goals. This has influenced how we operate greatly. Our North Star is $100M in recurring revenue, which is an IPO, and, ultimately, we want to fully automate the month-end close. Those are very long-term visions; they’re several years out. But that’s the expectation we’ve set and everyone knows what they working to reach those goals.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m not doing charity or volunteer work or anything like that, but I try to give back to the people who were in my shoes maybe five years ago.

I know that not all FloQast employees are going to be with the team in five or 10 years. I think that if we invest in our teams, they’re going to do great things for us, and really, we want to put them in a position where they can look back at their time with FloQast as a career springboard. We want our employees to make a big impact on the LA tech scene at large.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Explain the why.” — Simon Sinek

The “why” motivates everything and does so by providing that end goal you’re looking for. The “why” leadership style is more about explaining why something matters than simply delegating tasks.

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. :-)

That movement would be leadership truly caring about their people and their customers. I wish that businesses — especially within the software industry — were more customer-focused. Most organizations are focused on sales and that is a detriment to the customer. We founded our company to be the complete opposite of that. I think everyone would benefit by SaaS applications focusing more on benefitting the customer and being honest about their strengths and their shortcomings, equally.

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Jason Malki

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Jason Malki is the Founder & CEO of StrtupBoost, a 30,000+ member startup ecosystem + Flex5, a startup investor relations, marketing, and design agency.

StrtupBoost

StrtupBoost is a 30,000 strong community of Entrepreneurial and Established Company executives who come together for startup presentations, investor nights, business development networking and learning.

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