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The Role Forward

Graham Stanton on the CFO Tech Stack

Graham Stanton, Co-Founder of Peloton and now Founder of Avise, discusses the impact that the right tech stack has on business growth.

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Episode Summary

While departments like sales, marketing, and engineering have seen massive advancements in the technology they use every day, finance has been left behind. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools were supposed to centralize and streamline operations, but they never lived up to that promise.

That’s why upgrading the CFO software stack with a new wave of innovative solutions is of the utmost importance for companies aiming to improve operations and provide the best experience for its employees and customers.

In this episode of The Role Forward, our host Joe Garafalo talks with Graham Stanton, the co-founder of Avise. Before Avise, Graham co-founded Peloton, an exercise equipment and media company. Graham shares his experience with traditional finance technology and the challenges he faced while leading the finance function at Peloton. Joe and Graham also touch upon the ongoing software versus Excel debate and discuss the impact the right tools in the CFO tech stack can have on business growth.

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Featured Guest

Graham Stanton

CEO and Founder, Avise (Co-Founder, Peloton)

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Graham scaled Peloton from a startup to a household name. He’s taken all that experience and co-founded Avise, a company aiming to unlock the power of accounting to help drive business forward.

Key Themes from the Episode
  • Back-office technology is a synonym for frustration for just about any finance team.
  • Customers always looking for easy-to-use tools — why shouldn't finance do the same?
  • A modern CFO tech stack could save finance from having to battle against costly and complex tech implementations.

Episode Highlights from Graham Stanton

5:45 — You Can’t Rely on ERP to Drive Your Business; You Need Additional Tools to Fill the Gaps

”At Peloton, we had a number of internal systems. So we built our own e-commerce system. We integrated with Stripe to take payments. We had our own system for tracking workouts, subscription billing, and various external systems for deliveries, et cetera.

Our only hope to close the gaps was to pull all that data into a data warehouse, which was separate from the ERP and required a dedicated team to get the data. And then we put Looker on top.

[…] That was only sort of usable for the business team. So we also had data analysts whose job was to pull reports on request or configure them exactly as people needed. And that got us our real-time information.”

13:50 — Specialized Tools Versus Excel

”Excel is amazing software. It’s taken over the world for a good reason. […] It’s great for prototyping, and it’s great for one-time analysis. It’s great for that one process that this one company has that is unique to itself and doesn’t fit anywhere else.

But anytime it’s being used as a database, as a source of truth, I think that’s a big red flag that software would be a better choice in this scenario. And I know that’s often the case with financing; it certainly was for us at Peloton.

Anytime you have an overly complex Excel spreadsheet that’s just being used over and over again, that’s another sign that maybe this could have been better done using a tool.”

23:50 — A Piece of Advice for Anyone Starting Their Career in Finance

”A solid understanding of data to do it more broadly. […] It’s good to understand accounting, but ultimately, you have the data underlying the business and flowing through to the story of the business. You can only tell a good story about how the business is doing based on the underlying data.”

Full Transcript

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