Amy Garefis on Scaling Accounting from Startup to Wall Street
Amy Garefis, Chief Accounting Officer at ZipRecruiter, discusses the stages of scale for accounting teams from Series A to a public listing and explains how to build business partnerships that increase accounting's strategic value.
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Amy Garefis on Scaling Accounting from Startup to Wall Street
It is common for accounting and finance teams to work together. However, for a business to grow, it is important for executives to create a culture encouraging partnership between all the departments.
Although accountants are not perceived as the most creative people in an organization, their expertise and unique perspective can help other teams, including marketing, to build sustainable business models.
In this episode of The Role Forward, our host Joe Michalowski chats with Amy Garefis, the Chief Accounting Officer at ZipRecruiter. Amy discusses the stages of scale for accounting teams from Series A to a public listing and explains how to build business partnerships that increase accounting’s strategic value.
Amy was the first accounting hire at ZipRecruiter, scaling the team over the course of 9 years from Series A to the company’s 2021 public listing. She now oversees a team of about 40 in accounting. Prior to joining ZipRecruiter, Amy was an accounting manager at Sony Pictures and Controller at Wedbush Securities.
- Startups need people who are willing to adapt quickly to changes — even in accounting.
- Finding the right people takes time and is a skill unto itself.
- Partnerships between accounting and other departments are critical for business growth.
Episode Highlights from Amy Garefis
2:40 — Stages of Growing an Accounting Team
“When I came in 2013, I was the first accounting hire. We had a finance team, which was my boss, the VP of finance, and one other analyst. The accounting functions at that time were operational. It was payroll, making sure bills got paid, working with our tax coordinators, and making sure clients were paying us.
Since I was the first one, there were no direct reports. So it was an interesting job because I had been a controller at a broker-dealer before, which had a ton of direct reports and a bigger scope in terms of volume.
So it was satisfying to work, pay bills, run the payroll, and all that. And the scope grew at the same pace that the company was growing. So, as we had more revenue come in and there were more responsibilities — I was able to absorb those.
And then, as I needed to make my first hire, [I had to] figure out what they were gonna do. And then, when I make my second hire, figure out what they’re gonna do. And so, over nine years, it’s scaled — as I said, we’ve been a public company for over a year now — and we have a real accounting department, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of that growth story.“
14:25 — When Choosing Tools and Creating Processes, Focus on Mitigating Risks
“[When] working in tech, revenue is the most important thing in terms of scaling, but what investors look at also tells a big part of your growth story. And we’ve all heard from an accounting perspective that there have been horror stories about companies having to restate financials late in their S-1 process because their revenue was wrong.
The way I approached it, coming in pre-series A, we had homegrown systems to calculate billing. We had Excel spreadsheets to calculate revenue, and it’s too risky to be able to scale. And we’re small. Our transaction size is small. We’re not doing huge transactions. So the margin of error is small per transaction, but it can blow up into something awful. So I looked at the highest risk and made sure that those processes were automated so that they are the most bulletproof.
And then also, what are the biggest time sucks? When we got to a mid-stage startup, where we wanted to formalize our month-end or quarter-end close process more, doing even simple things like moving from an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Calendar checklist to a Flowcast-type thing to automate your checklist.
It sounds so simple when you say it, but it saves hundreds of hours in stress and organization. So looking at where your biggest risk is and where your biggest pain points are and tackling those first.”
22:15 — Accounting Should Partner With Other Departments
“A lot of us have been at companies where accounting was an obstacle that different departments needed to get around to complete their objectives. So going into this role, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t seen as an obstacle and that I was a strategic partner.
I love accounting. I’m an accounting nerd, but I like to be involved in the business beyond just accounting. So, making meaningful relationships with the legal, product, and HR teams was beyond me wanting to have somebody to hang out with in the break room.
It was knowing what they’re working on and what their strategies are. What’s important to them helps me, as a leader of the accounting team, drive strategy and my team and guide what initiatives we might wanna push that might impact other departments.“
Amy Garefis Introduction
[00:00:00] Amy Garefis: It’s easier to start building partnerships from a position like mine, where the company was so small and you can easily talk and meet everybody.
[00:00:09] Joe Michalowski: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Role Forward podcast. My name is Joe Michalowski. And this episode is brought to you by Mosaic, a strategic finance platform that transforms the way business gets done. And today my guest is Amy Garefis, Chief Accounting Officer at ZipRecruiter. Amy, thank you so much for joining.
[00:00:48] Amy Garefis: Thank you so much for having me, Joe.
[00:00:50] Joe Michalowski: Awesome. So, I’m actually a little excited. I have, I’m gonna go off script a little bit because this is like podcast royalty, uh, ZipRecruiter Kings and Queens of podcast sponsorship. So, maybe someday in the future, when our podcast gets a little bit older, we can join that crowd, but regardless excited to have you here.
[00:01:09] Before we get to kind of the main topic that we’re gonna do today, do you mind just giving the quick, you know, two-minute background who you are, the work you do and, and how you got there?
[00:01:17] Amy Garefis: Yeah. Thanks again for having me. I’m Amy Garefis and I’m the Chief Accounting Officer at ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter is an online marketplace where we bring job seekers, so people looking for jobs, and match them with employers who are hoping to find employees to fill the jobs. I’ve been at the company almost nine years, so it’s kind of a dinosaur for the tech industry and, um, you know, we’ll get into it.
[00:01:41] But when I started, I was the first accounting hire and now we’re, you know, 1300 plus company. And, we went public last year.
[00:01:49] Joe Michalowski: Wow. Crazy. Well, I mean, as, as you said, I don’t know if I would’ve said dinosaur, but I appreciate that you referenced like the long tenure. ‘Cause when I was like looking up the background, I was like, “Wow. This is probably the only time that I will have somebody from like a startup kind of role that has been in.”
[00:02:06] You know, there’s no job hopping. There’s no anything like that. You’ve been at ZipRecruiter for a lot of your career. And so, it kind of leads us to our main topic, which is starting up and scaling accounting teams. You are the chief accounting officer and really unusual for you to have been the first accounting hire and get all the way to where you are now.
[00:02:25] So to get into this topic of like scaling accounting teams, can you just like set the stage for like starting point as your first, like, as you being the first accounting hire and kind of the stages of how you got to where you are today?
[00:02:39] Amy Garefis: Yeah. So when I came in in 2013, um, like I mentioned, I was the first accounting hire. We had a finance team, which was my boss, the VP of finance and one other analyst. But, you know, the accounting functions at that time were really operational. It was payroll, making sure the ba bills got paid, working with our tax coordinators, um, making sure clients were paying us.
[00:03:04] So it was very operational. And at that time, since I was the first one, there were no direct reports. So it was a really interesting job to take because I had been a controller at a broker dealer before, which, you know, had a ton of direct reports and just a bigger scope in terms of volume. Um, so it was really satisfying to actually like do work and pay bills and run the payroll and all that.
[00:03:27] And the scope just kind of grew, luckily, for me in my career at the same pace that the company was growing. So as we, you know, had more revenue come in and there were more responsibilities, I was able to just absorb those. And then as I needed to kind of, you know, make my first hire figured out what they were gonna do.
[00:03:46] And then when I make my second hire, figure out what they’re gonna do. And so yeah, over nine years, it’s scaled to, like I said, we’re, we’ve been a public company for over a year now and we have a real accounting department and I’ve been fortunate enough to, to kind of be part of that growth story.
[00:04:01] Joe Michalowski: Wow. Uh, a real accounting department. You were really even in the early
[00:04:04] days. How many people is it now? How many do you have on the accounting team today?
[00:04:09] Amy Garefis: Probably about 40.
[00:04:10] Joe Michalowski: 40. Wow. Especially like for, you know, the, the companies that we serve as, as Mosaic, are very much like Series A to D startups, so like very much in that first stage where you were kind of just getting your feet wet and you were hitting the ground doing all that operational work at, at Zip.
[00:04:27] But, now like 40 people on the accounting team, we have, you know, a ton of customers and a ton of people. We talked through that. You know, they’re lucky to have four people in total for the whole finance function. And that would be like you being the one accounting person doing it all. So really cool to have that perspective from you
[00:04:41] just beginning to end. So I, I want to dig into, to more of that. Can you tell me a little bit more about the differentiation of the roles? Like it’s cool that you kind of grew into each role as, as Zip matured, but is that really all the function was, like controller, very operational to your senior VP of accounting to chief accounting officer?
[00:05:00] Like what does that progression look like for you specifically outside of just like, you know, getting more direct reports, which I’m sure you were thrilled about?
The Evolution of Accounting at a Startup
[00:05:08] Amy Garefis: Yeah, so scope, volume and like breadth of responsibility definitely has increased just as a function as, as the company grew, but also as like, I wanted to evolve in my, my career and what the company needed. So I think when I first joined Zip, you know, the role was very operational and tactical, just there were things and deadlines that needed to be met and filings that needed to be done.
[00:05:30] So we just got them done. But as I was able to kind of get my hands around what are the logistics and tactical things that we needed to do, and eventually hire support to help with that, then my role, you know, continues to evolve into a more strategic role where I’m not just meeting the deadlines and making the filings, but I’m partnering with different people throughout our organization for,
[00:05:54] for initiatives that impact the organization broader than just the accounting team. And so now in my role as chief accounting officer, I have a controller that kind of manages all of the operational and tactical things. There’s a couple of operations like tax and payroll that still report to me,
[00:06:10] but for the most part, the operations is run by the controller. And my job, not only to, you know, supervise and oversee that, but also, like I said, partner with my legal counterparts and my product team to cross functionally kind of build out the function.
[00:06:25] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. I’m, I’m really excited to get more into those partnership conversations because that’s, you know, we, we talk about being like a strategic finance, podcast and company. And it’s really more, you know, we talk to a lot of like FP&A folks and people who have traditionally had that forward looking side.
[00:06:41] And so getting to talk to people like you, we’ve had a someone named Temi Vasco on before. She was the con or she is the controller at Gem, another startup. And, so I always really enjoy getting the perspective from the accounting side, because hearing how you take on that role of like, not just like in the back, like, you know, like you said, doing payroll and kind of getting those operational things done,
[00:07:01] it, it’s really nice. So we’ll get into more of that for sure, but I want to talk a little bit more about the nuts and bolts of, of kind of scaling that accounting team. And so, in the early days, I’m sure that it’s a little more of a focal point now, but how did you balance like hiring for an immediate need? Like when you only had like maybe one or two direct reports versus trying to plan out what you might need three months, six months, like a year down the road when you knew the accounting function was gonna get bigger.
[00:07:29] Like how do you strike that balance?
[00:07:32] Amy Garefis: Yeah, so that’s really hard and it’s something I still, I mean less, too less sticks that now, but I still struggle with, which is like, I have problems I need to solve now, but I also wanna make sure I can scale with this higher or this role. And so I think it was a little bit more challenging when we were super tiny, because I just didn’t know.
[00:07:51] Like I said, when I joined, we were Pre Pre-Series A, so I didn’t even know what the endgame was gonna be. I mean, I knew what I wanted it to be, but I didn’t know what it was gonna be. So early on, definitely focused on hiring people that were comfortable with the startup environment, which is, you know, changing priorities every 20 minutes, able to pivot, able to figure out, you know, some convoluted problem and make sense of it.
[00:08:16] So we really focused on hiring really smart, good generalists. And then as we matured and we had a little bit more vision of like where we were going the next 3, 6, 12 months out, is when I started thinking about, “Okay, not only do I need people that can solve my problems right now, but can they help me where I wanna be in a year from now?”
[00:08:36] And I think, you know, I, I remember a conversation I had with my CFO a couple years ago when we were looking to hire a role. And, you know, we went back and forth a little bit about how I had a great candidate for a role that is exactly what we need right now, but is this person the right right fit two years from now?
[00:08:53] And at that point, I was like, “I will solve my two-year from now problem in two years. I need someone right now that that can do the job.” Um, but it is a struggle to kind of balance like scalability, ’cause you just don’t know when and when and exactly which way you’re gonna scale.
[00:09:10] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. To your point earlier, just like at the beginning of that, how it was much harder, like at that Pre Pre-Series A stage, like you’re hoping that the company like hits its goals and it continues to grow just on a large scale, let alone like the accounting function growing the way you want it to grow.
[00:09:26] So, yeah. I guess that’s why I’m excited to, to get that like full scope perspective. I’m not sure I’m gonna have another guest on that will ever have that. So this is really nice. To that end, are there any sorts of like mile markers, like if you’re giving advice to someone who is like another controller at those smaller companies that are mile markers where it makes sense to start bringing on another accounting hire and then another accounting hire and kind of building out the function?
[00:09:53] Amy Garefis: Yeah. I mean, so like I mentioned earlier, start off as a generalist, so you have to do everything. I think what the easiest way for me to answer that question is when do you start bringing on what I call real specialists. So one example, I think, which is an easy, easier one to digest for a lot of people that have gone through the startup process is, when do you bring like a tax person in.
[00:10:15] So you can kind of hobble along for quite quite a while not knowing anything about tax, but still getting tax filings done. But at the point where the volume is really high and you, you realize that you’re not, you know, you maybe need a strategy, but you don’t know anything about how to do that strategy.
[00:10:32] So I’d say it’s not just a volume thing, but it’s also like when you need someone who’s invested in the business helping you make, make the deadlines and make all the filings. So that’s, that’s one thing. And then just, you know, keeping, keeping in mind that if you go too far along without getting any support, then you’re bringing added risk to the company by being a central point of failure.
[00:10:57] So, you know, as volumes increasing, you can only do so much work. And if something happens, then you don’t want, you know, the whole department to get destroyed, if you have to take an unexpected week off. So really like when it becomes too risky to only have the knowledge concentrated to like one or two people, I think is another consideration.
[00:11:17] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, it’s a really good point. I think something that, that strikes me, I’m guessing it, it somewhat comes down to like your business model. If you’re talking about volume, like if you’re, if you’re a ZipRecruiter, like you’re, you’re looking for high volumes of maybe like smaller businesses or like all kinds of size customers versus like, you know, that startup that sells to
[00:11:35] 15 massive accounts like a year. And they’re just trying to grow, and they’re trying to land that account on like a four-month sales cycle. It can probably like maybe get by a little bit longer. I would imagine at least volume was. Is that decent way to think about it or is there additional complexity at that kind of business model that you just have to hire early anyway?
[00:11:55] Amy Garefis: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s always, if you know your company and your department are growing, this is something that took me a little while to realize. You should bias towards hiring early because you’re always gonna have enough work for that person to do. So you have to make sure you have the right kind of person.
[00:12:14] And that that person is comfortable with knowing their role will change and grow, but not being able to give them definitive like pathways. Because if you have good, like I mentioned earlier, if you have the generalist, they, they can fill a lot of roles. And so it’s like, yeah, how much do you wanna
[00:12:31] suffer without the support before you make that step? ‘Cause then you know, even though we’re in the hiring business, it still takes time to find that perfect person. And so, what I realized is like, once you have that inkling that you need someone, you, you should start immediately because you’re not gonna get them tomorrow.
[00:12:47] It’s gonna take you a little bit of time to get them into a realm.
[00:12:51] Joe Michalowski: That’s a such a good point. Honestly, you’re you’re in good company, ’cause I feel like anytime I have the, the people conversation on this podcast, that’s like the, the rule of thumb. It’s like every company waits too long to hire for finance and accounting. It’s like, uh, “They’re the back office.” Like, “Whoever’s in there can, you know, muster on with what they have.”
[00:13:10] And it’s always the advice from finance and accounting leaders that are like hired before you think you need to, because, you know, if you’re suffering, it’s too late. You should have started, you know, three, four months earlier. So, I love that point. And you know, I think we could probably fill the whole podcast just talking like the people side of things.
[00:13:29] It’s, it’s a lot of, people’s like biggest focus. We get a lot of hiring questions, ’cause that’s the stage of people we talk to. And it always revolves around like, “Who do I hire? When do I hire them?” But like the tech you implement and the process you, processes you put in place are obviously like equally important, especially when you’re trying to do everything like as lean as possible.
[00:13:48] So, can you talk a little bit about how you prioritize like what systems to set up? Like where, where did you focus most of your time in those early days for trying to like add efficiency to the accounting processes and what could maybe, to your point earlier about tax, like you were able to kind of get along without like really hammering tax for a little bit?
[00:14:10] So, where do you need to focus on early and how do you put the systems in place to, to make that as efficient as possible for a growing company?
Building Out Systems for Accounting
[00:14:18] Amy Garefis: Yeah, I think you need to understand your company’s risk profile and focus on where the biggest risks or where the biggest, um, visible pieces are of your company. So, you know, working in tech revenue is like the most important thing, in terms of like scaling, but also like what investors look at and you know, that, that tells a big part of your growth story.
[00:14:42] And we’ve all heard from an accounting perspective, there’s been horror stories about companies like late in their S-1 process having to restate financials because their revenue was wrong. And so, the way I approached it, um, coming in, you know, Pre-Series A we had homegrown systems to calculate billing.
[00:15:00] Um, we had Excel spreadsheets to calculate revenue, and it’s just too risky to be able to scale. And, you know, we’re small. Our, our transaction size is, is small. We’re not, you know, doing huge transactions. So like the, the margin of error is small per transaction, but it can blow up into something awful. So I really looked at like, where’s the highest risk and making sure that those processes are automated so that those are the most bulletproof.
[00:15:27] And then also, like, what are the biggest time-sucks? You know, when we got kind of mid-stage startup where we wanted to more formalize our month-end or quarter-end close process, doing even simple things like moving from an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Calendar checklist to like a Flowcast type thing to kind of automate your checklist.
[00:15:47] It sounds so simple when you say it out loud, but it saves hundreds of hours in stress and organization. So really just looking, you know, at where’s your biggest risk and where’s your biggest pain points and tackling those first.
[00:15:58] Joe Michalowski: Makes a ton of sense. I want to get a little bit more into the that tech question with Flowcast. But before I get there, you know, you mentioned earlier just taking Zip through, not an IPO direct listing, I think?
[00:16:07] Amy Garefis: Mm-hmm. Yep.
[00:16:08] Joe Michalowski: But it’s public company now. So obviously a lot changes, uh, from
[00:16:14] scrappy little startup to fully functioning compliance, latent sort of public companies. So can you talk a little bit about maybe your biggest challenges process-wise for what changed for you in the accounting function as Zip went through the process and even now like just operating as a public company?
[00:16:31] Amy Garefis: Yeah. So I don’t have, I’ve never taken a company through this process before. So the only real, like basis of comparison I have is anecdotal conversations with other people who have had hellacious IPO.
[00:16:43] Joe Michalowski: I mean, that’s plenty.
[00:16:44] Amy Garefis: Company, journeys… But I, I feel like one of the best things we did and we had the luxury of time because we, you know, were a mature
[00:16:53] company at this point, but the be, one of the best things we did is just prepare for this, for the last couple years. So putting, you know, and that kind of is a little bit different than what I mentioned a few moments ago about, you know, when you’re looking two years out, but we have been planning for a while.
[00:17:07] So that helped a lot. And getting down a lot of the processes of like the quarterly close and practice earnings calls and stuff that we knew that we’d have to do kind of getting that started way ahead of our IPO were some of the things that we really focused on. But in terms of like, I can’t remember exact question, but big surprises after being or biggest challenge after becoming an IP at public company,
[00:17:31] I mean, we have no safety net in terms of timelines and deadlines. Like, you know, all the practice runs we did great. We were really happy when we made those timelines, but these are like real things where if you mess up the timeline or you miss, you know, you miss your numbers, they have real public consequences.
[00:17:49] So there’s definitely a lot of pressure. And then also just, you know, and this is one of the things that’s so exciting about this time too is, there’s so many things that we’re doing now that we didn’t even have to think about last year or the year before. And so it kind of feels like a little startup within a startup where it’s like, even though the DPO date was like the end of one era, it’s really the starting line.
[00:18:13] So, you know, all the easiest example I can think of is our equity instrument is real now, you know, like we’re publicly traded. So when we’re giving out equity grants, we have to account for those in our trading platform. And, you know, administration of our stock program is completely different than what it was two years ago.
[00:18:32] And we’ve gotta figure it out real time because that trading window’s gonna open. And, you know, so it’s chaotic, but again, it goes back to people who are, we’re still hiring people who are willing to kind of work without a lot of guidance and quickly pivot and kind of learn as they go and still make it, you know, great,
[00:18:50] a great department.
[00:18:52] Joe Michalowski: Really cool. This is the first time that I’ve ever heard anyone described it as basically like going back to that early environment of a startup. Normally when I, when I ask these questions, I just get a lot of the rigor side of it. Like, you know, to your point about hitting those schedules and like making sure in compliance and making sure that everything is kind of operating in like tip-top shape and making sure you’re just continue on that timeline.
[00:19:16] Really interesting to hear you, you know, describe it as kind of finding that, that, uh, environment again. Like a little bit chaotic, but also structured at the same time, so I really like that. But if you’re trying to hit those deadlines, you know, you talked a lot about, or you mentioned month-end close and like Flowcast, something like that.
[00:19:32] Can you talk a little bit about the, the rest of your tech stack? Like, were there other systems that you put in place to help you hit these timelines? I know you had two years of, of prep and practice runs. Like what did you notice wasn’t going well and was there like a piece of tech or like a certain process you could put in place to, to overcome it for when you went actually public?
[00:19:50] Amy Garefis: Yeah. I’d say besides like the obvious getting a closed software, getting an ERP system that you can rely on, one of the biggest things for us was just evaluating how many processes we were doing that were manual and are there better ways to do it. And there wasn’t like one particular software that solved all of our problems.
[00:20:12] But to kind of tag onto something we alluded to earlier, we spent a lot of years really for since when I started until, until now partnering with our tech and product team, because our product is, you know, ingrained in our website. So a lot of the reporting that we get that we ultimately need for accounting comes out of our internal homegrown systems.
[00:20:34] So making sure that every time we launch a new product, that we, it’s not a scramble once we build 5,000 customers on it, how are we figuring out, how, how this is coming into our ERP or how we’re refiguring it out and accounting for it. So, so I think my answer really is just making sure that like all of our manual processes that are relying on
[00:20:57] internal systems were buttoned up as, as much as we could. And yeah, some of those, like I mentioned earlier with Flowcast, we moved our manual process into a software. But for us, a lot of them had to still be internally managed, but how did we make them, you know, less risky and more efficient.
[00:21:14] Joe Michalowski: The, uh, I’m gonna skip a little bit over. We, you know, we talked a little bit about the questions that were gonna come. I’m gonna skip one because I really wanna get to this partnership idea. It’s something that is really fundamental to the company that I work at, that we talk about. It’s just this idea that, you know, the future of the finance function and like accounting, but like association is really not how do I get better at modeling or building out processes and spreadsheets, but how do I partner better with the business. So I really liked when I saw in your LinkedIn profile that was like a passion for you. So can you talk a little bit more about what those partnerships look like? Is it like, what’s the cadence of communication? What are some like tips you have for building better relationships with these people? I, I want to know everything you’ve got about building these partnerships and getting the most out of them.
Strategic Partnerships for Accounting Teams
[00:22:03] Amy Garefis: Yeah. So I think it’s easier to start building partnerships from a position like mine, where the company was so small and you can easily talk and meet everybody. And that may be their first interaction with an accountant. But I think we’ve also probably a lot of us have been inexperienced, been at companies where
[00:22:22] accounting was like an obstacle that different departments needed to get around in order to complete their objectives. So going into this role, I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t seen as an obstacle and that I was a strategic partner. Also just like, I, I mean, I love accounting, I’m clearly an accounting nerd, but I like to be involved in the business beyond just accounting.
[00:22:48] So, for me, making meaningful relationships with the legal team, the product team, the HR team was beyond just me wanting to like have somebody to hang out with in the break room. It really was like knowing what they’re working on and what their strategies are and what’s important to them, helps me as a leader of the accounting team kind of drive strategy in my team and, and, and guide what, what initiatives we might wanna push on that might impact other departments.
[00:23:19] And so really like in terms of tips, just simple things like just reaching out and having regular meetings and touch points with leaders throughout the company to kind of understand what their objectives are so that your top of mind, when something’s coming down their pipeline, um, you know, it might start off as like, “Okay, check with accounting before you proceed signing this engagement.”
[00:23:42] That’s great, but you want them coming to you before they sign the engagement to understand like, if we sign this customer or implementation or whatever, what are the impacts so that we make sure we account… Shouldn’t use that word. So that we make sure we understand what the other, other needs are. And that,
[00:23:59] Joe, like, honestly, one of the things I love about working at ZipRecruiter and I love about this job is you really feel like you’re part of the business. You know, we’re not just recipients of like, “Oh, we’ve signed this contract. Now figure out how to account for it.” We’re part of that process. And the example I would always give when I was interviewing people is, and I mentioned it a few moments ago is, “When we launch a new product, like from idea to test, to full-scale rollout,
[00:24:25] we have a seat at the table to understand like, you know, if this product becomes a real thing, how are we gonna account for it? What’s the revenue recognition? How are we gonna make sure we bill for it?” And so it really is more to me to completely nerd out, that’s like, what makes my job really fulfilling is, you know, I’m not a, I’m not a salesperson.
[00:24:44] I’m not a super creative, but I get to be part of that whole process and it really makes me feel more connected to the business.
[00:24:52] Joe Michalowski: That’s amazing. I love that. We talked so much about, you know, the seat at the table for finance and, you know, again, extending it to accounting. And it’s a really nice example of it actually happening in practice. I, my follow-up question, I guess, would just be, is that, is earning that seat of function of you being there as long as you have and building those relationships for
[00:25:14] so long or does that come…? Like who built that culture? Is that, is that all you like, as you go, you’re just like a relationship person and you’ve been building this for nine years, or is it coming down from, you know, sea level where they’re big on just relationships in general at ZipRecruiter? I’m curious, like how you end up in a place where you have that seat to the table.
[00:25:34] It’s very unusual, it seems.
[00:25:36] Amy Garefis: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a combination. Like I think, um, I mean I’m naturally an outgoing person and I like that. So that part comes easy to me. I think you also have to have a supportive environment. So, you know, if you do come into a place where accounting or finance has that reputation of being an obstacle, it’s obviously much harder to rebrand than to start from scratch.
[00:25:58] I think as a culture in general, we are very accepting partnerships and, and cross-functional relationships. So that’s kind of like the tone from the top that we set. Starting in a, you know, a really small startup function, I think also helps because again, nothing is established and so people have to really rely on each other.
[00:26:19] So you build that trust really quickly. So, yeah, I think, I mean, I feel like I’m in a good position, but, I think it’s, you can influence it, but you also have to have a good environment to really like continue to support that.
[00:26:33] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. I mean, good for ZipRecruiter for being able to, to manage that at such a large scale. Like it’s to your point, a lot easier to, to build those relationships when you’re all so close, there’s just, you know, 40 of you not, I don’t know how many people are, a thousand plus…?
[00:26:46] Amy Garefis: Yeah. Almost, almost 1500.
[00:26:49] Joe Michalowski: Oh my God. Yeah. So, yeah, really cool.
[00:26:51] Like the, it’s a nice anecdote for sure. I’m gonna roll back to, you know, we talked to the point about partnering with the other business leaders. I wanna, something that came up in the last episode we had with a controller was, uh, the value of the partnership specifically between accounting and finance.
[00:27:08] So, you know, to roll it a little more internal instead of the, the external, like ‘how do I partner with product’ or, you know, sales or something. What does the relationship look like between you and, you know, your CFO? And how do you guys work together and, and are there projects where you can kind of come together and add strategic value?
[00:27:26] Like what, what does that look like for you, guys?
[00:27:29] Amy Garefis: Yeah. At ZipRecruiter, so I report to the CFO, so I’m obviously very connected with his day to day. And he’s, you know, we, he joined quite a while ago, so we’ve worked together for a really long time. But finance does fall under his umbrella. And we work very closely with the finance team. I mean, very, very loosely accounting reports what happened and finances reporting what we expect to happen.
[00:27:54] And so there’s so many overlaps that we have in terms of budgeting and guidance and all that. But I think this is a partnership that’s easy to foster, because we intuitively know each other’s needs and why we’re asking for information. But, it, it’s one that you can’t ignore. You need to continually make sure that you’re both aware of what’s going on,
[00:28:16] particularly in public company setting where, you know, if guidance doesn’t match up with some of the assumptions that we’ve made for our accounting entries, you’re gonna have problems. So, you know, I think the, the partnership, it is intuitively easier to develop, just ’cause you have that kind of common ground,
[00:28:34] but we do continue to work very closely together. And as projects come across, you know, people’s desks that aren’t necessarily a hundred percent accounting or a hundred percent finance, we kind of figure out where the home is for them. So we’re constantly trying to like figure out, you know, this next initiative like who’s leading it and how can we support type of thing.
[00:28:53] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. My follow-up would be, you know, you mentioned the, the very classic distinction like accounting looks backward, finance looks forward. Is there a certain example of a project that you have where like the line kind of blurs? Like what’s the kind of thing that comes up where it’s like, “Yeah, who sh, who should own this?
[00:29:08] Who shouldn’t?” Or like, “Do we need to come together a little bit more?” Like what’s something you’ve worked on that you had to work on more closely with finance than maybe you did on something that’s traditionally very much an accounting process?
[00:29:20] Amy Garefis: Hmm. I think the, the example I can come up with now is for our quarterly reporting process. So 10-K/10-Q squarely falls in the accounting realm, but we also issue a shareholder letter, which is a combination of, you know, “This is what we did this quarter and this is what we expect to do next quarter.”
[00:29:39] And, um, you know, our earnings call, which is also a combination of those two things. We don’t have an in-house IR. Um, well, we do have people that work on IR, but we don’t have like a dedicated director of IR. So I’d say that’s kind of where we’ve um, gone back and forth about like, who has time this quarter, who has a resource this quarter to kind of take the lead on the shareholder letter or the, the earnings release script.
[00:30:04] So I’d say that’s probably the biggest one, that’s kind of still evolving where, you know, who owns it. Ultimately we know it’s between the two of us. Somebody owns it and we’re both gonna sign off on it, but who’s really like taking the lead and kind of pressing, you know, final or sent on it.
[00:30:19] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. I mean, it sort, it, it goes back to the value of having that relationship, just being an ongoing thing. It’d be troublesome if you had to build that relationship from scratch or had to repair it in some way, because you know, it wasn’t great before and now suddenly we have to do these shareholder letters. But because you guys have built that trust together for so long, um, I’m sure it goes a lot smoother than maybe it does it other companies that aren’t,
[00:30:42] aren’t as well established like that. So that’s great. I wanna, I wanna zoom out. I wanna be conscious of time. There’s two questions that kind of like bring us a little bit out of the weeds. I know we’re talking a lot about like specific day-to-day, specific scaling accounting teams. But the first one I would ask is, you know, nine, nineish years at ZipRecruiter,
[00:31:01] if you look back, is there anything you would do differently or you’d tell like controller Amy maybe to do that you didn’t do at the time?
Finance Career Advice from Amy Garefis
[00:31:12] Amy Garefis: Yeah, I probably would have made some technical investments earlier. So I know we talked about, you know, getting the right ERP in place and the balance between, you know, manual processes and automation. And when you’re scaling a manual process, you, you, you know, you have to do it because you’re, you got to get it done.
[00:31:40] But you don’t realize that how quickly it can come just out of control and be very risky and, and wiry. So, and you add a small manual process here and a small manual process there. And then next thing you know, you have 10,000 of them. So I think what I probably would’ve done differently is just been more protective of how many manual processes my team was willing to take on as a trade-off.
[00:32:04] And then also probably move to automate some of our more risky manual processes even earlier in the process. Because the, the bigger you are, the harder those implementation projects get. And while it seems like you might wanna get it perfect, you aren’t, so you might as well just start and then iterate versus taking too long to start.
[00:32:26] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. That, uh, you know, everything you said at the beginning of this episode about hiring generalists, people that are good in the startup, chaos kind of culture, probably leads to a lot more of those manual process being created, because they’re the kinds of people who have that images like, “Oh, I can figure this out.”
[00:32:41] And like, you just go and you keep figuring it out, you keep figuring it out. And yeah, then you look at the end of the day, it’s like, “Wow, we’ve really built a nest of processes in here and it’s it’s chaos.” But I think that’s a really good point. We make the, the same point for the finance side as well to like invest in those systems early.
[00:32:57] So I like that. And so I’m gonna zoom out even further for last questions. The question we ask everyone that comes on. And I know it’s a, it’s not an easy one, but I am curious if, what is the one thing that you know now that maybe you wish you knew at the start of your career? Could be about anything, tech, accounting, Excel, anything at all.
[00:33:17] Curious what you’d tell yourself.
[00:33:18] Amy Garefis: Yeah, I think the advice I would give myself and I’m still iterating on this, which is really like, I don’t know if this is true for everybody, but it found for me. My instincts are almost always right. And yeah, you need to do research and diligence and you need to be comfortable with your path forward, but like 99 times out of a 100, if you make a decision or you have an inkling,
[00:33:45] it’s the right path. And in times when I’ve ignored that because of desperation, I really needed to make this hire, or I ran out of time, times that I’ve ignored that have a hundred percent come back to bite me. So I would really just encourage myself to trust more in my gut instincts. And you know, if I need a little bit of time to like validate that instinct, fine.
[00:34:09] But if your gut or your instinct is telling you something, it’s almost always right.
[00:34:13] Joe Michalowski: As a someone who absolutely suffers from imposter syndrome, as I feel like 90% of startup people do, that one resonates with me quite a bit. Trusting, you know, yourself, especially when there’s no seemingly right answer, I think it’s really good advice for, for anyone. And I always say this it’s my favorite question in the episode, because
[00:34:35] I don’t work in finance or accounting. So it’s nice to hear from somebody else in another department, something that, you know, applies to me because it’s always good advice for everybody.
[00:34:43] Amy Garefis: Uh, huh.
[00:34:44] Joe Michalowski: Cool. Well, I mean, we’re coming up on time. That, that was the last question I had. So I just wanted to, first of all say thank you.
[00:34:49] It was really nice getting to chat with you for, for a bit and hearing more about your time at ZipRecruiter, but I did wanna turn it over to you. I wanted to give you a chance to tell people where to connect with you, where to find you online. If you would like to connect with them, where they can learn more about ZipRecruiter?
[00:35:04] I’d be hard-pressed to think anyone doesn’t know about ZipRecruiter, but please. The floor is yours. Pitch what you’d like.
[00:35:10] Amy Garefis: Yeah, definitely. Um, I’d love to hear from anybody, like I mentioned on this call, I’m really interested in networking and, and meeting new people and finding different ways that we can help one another. So LinkedIn is probably the easiest way to get ahold of me. If you want more information about ZipRecruiter, I’m happy to share it.
[00:35:28] You can also just go to ziprecruiter.com. I highly recommend if you’re trying to build out your accounting, finance team, or any team. We use ZipRecruiter to make our internal hires, so I can definitely vouch for the validity of the service. But yeah, we’re, we’re on the, the internet. So come on down.
[00:35:45] Joe Michalowski: Awesome. I will put, uh, all links to all the things, uh, in show notes, so, uh, you’ll all be able to find Amy. But I just wanna say thank you again so much for taking the time. I know you are very busy person, especially with newly public ZipRecruiter or, I mean, is it at all new? I don’t know. New enough. Uh, but yeah, so thank you so much.
[00:36:04] I appreciate you spending the time with us and hope we can, uh, chat again some time soon.
[00:36:07] Amy Garefis: Thank you so much. Have a good day.
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