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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CFO SPOTLIGHT – Ken Bozzini, Arena Solutions

Talk about a CFO who does it all - Ken Bozzini, CFO of Arena Solutions, Inc. manages finance, accounting, human resources, legal, information technology, facilities and professional services for his company. He's held leadership positions in finance at WildPackets, Inc., Xoma Ltd., the California Culinary Academy and Hewlett Packard, among others.

Founded in 2000, Arena Solutions is a Bay Area SaaS company that provides product designers and manufacturers a secure place in the cloud to capture, manage and control their complex product data such as bills of materials and associated drawings. Its applications allow manufacturers to easily communicate the latest and most accurate information to teams responsible for building products.

In the following conversation, Ken talks about his own career and his current duties as CFO of Arena as well as challenges and opportunities his company is engaged in.

Q. How did you come to work in the SaaS space with Arena?

A. I joined Arena in late 2008. Having spent some time in the biotech industry, where the pace is glacial due to long product development cycles that unfold over years, I am pleased to be in technology. With software, and cloud applications in particular, change is continuous because it's driven by innovation and intense competition. I'm very much enjoying this job.

Q. You wear many hats at Arena, making for what must be very busy and detail-oriented days. To what degree are you involved in the strategic management of Arena Solutions?

A. I'm very involved in strategic management at Arena, but I'm fortunate to have a very strategic thinking CEO, Craig Livingston, whom I partner with daily on many important transactions and initiatives. He's visionary; whereas, I'm more practical and operationally oriented. Craig has deep experience in our software business and articulates a complete vision. We work closely to develop the plans, capital needs and key metrics for us to work towards that vision of growth. I think it's a great balance.

Q. Your company is growing fast. How do you manage that?

A. Yes, our compounded annual new customer growth rate over the past two years is about 25 percent. One of my biggest concerns is the management of our growth. In the late 90s, I worked for a company that grew too quickly, went public too early and then was forced to lay off a lot of good people in order to survive. That was a real time of lessons learned and one key lesson for me was that rolling quarterly forecasts, shared with the entire management team, are crucial if you want your company to remain nimble enough to make adjustments on the fly. I'm very optimistic about Arena's product direction, which has evolved significantly in the past year, and I'm confident it is bringing value to our existing and future subscribers. 

Q. What is your role in acquisitions apart from the transactions themselves, meaning the strategic aspect?

A. Our focus is on organic growth rather than acquisitions. We believe our target market opportunity can best be leveraged in the near term by delivering and enhancing our product set.

Q. What is the most important or instructive experience of your career?

A. That would be my role as a part-time college accounting instructor. This was early in my career and it really challenged me and prepared me for what would be expected of me later like no other occupation. I had to make the subject matter interesting for students. I was on stage for many questions that could come from anywhere. At the same time, I wanted to encourage intellectual growth and lifetime learning for my students. The teaching role was invaluable to my professional growth and taught me how to move projects along, to be relatively entertaining as a speaker and presenter and how to answer tough questions on the fly.

Q. One of your roles as CFO is that of protector and you are in charge of risk management. How do you lead your firm in managing its risks?

A. In my opinion, risk management is a function of a business' life cycle. In the early stages, the biggest risk is ensuring you have enough cash to grow. In later stages, managing market expansion and balancing new opportunities with your existing opportunities is a risk. Managing growth and even survival are some of the key risk issues a CFO can help with in addition to your traditional decisions of which insurance to carry.

Q. Arena Solutions is a private company. Are you planning an IPO and if not, as CFO do you consider IPO readiness to be important even if you have no immediate plans to go public?

A. I believe much of the discipline of a public company is appropriate, even in this economic environment. The challenge for many smaller private companies is determining the right time to start investing in those basic processes and controls that IPO readiness provides. There is time and money involved, but it is definitely worth the effort and expense because these things add value and help your business to mature.


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