Dan Murray, Chief Financial Officer of Dollar Shave Club, was interviewed by Brian Donahue,
Vice President of Finance Global Development and Product Supply at Mattel, about his experiences as a CFO leader in a relatively new company.
Donahue began the fireside chat at the 2017 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum held on May 9 in Los Angeles by requesting of Murray, “Tell us about your idea of leadership and how you’ve had to change it in response to different life cycles in businesses where you’ve worked.”
Murray responded, “I’ve worked at big companies and I’ve worked at 20-person startups. One thing that transcends wherever you are is operating with integrity. Having your team realize there’s integrity has to be a foundation. Another element of my leadership is talking to my people about service, who our internal customers are, and supporting that. Sometimes, wearing the finance badge is part of being leadership. You can’t just be the bad cop; you have to help solve problems,” said Murray. “The third principle is developing the team. My operation policy is hiring A-players. My team knows that’s what I’m shooting for, so my team knows they need to step up their game and be A-players too. In addition, my team needs to recruit for that caliber of player.”
Donahue then asked, “What are the challenges you’ve faced and lessons you’ve learned being part of a company that’s been acquired, and how has the finance team evolved around those merger and post-merger activities?”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re operating in a big company or a small company. You have to run the finance team at a certain standard. I’ve been involved in four acquisitions—ranging from companies with 20 people to 200 people. All of the acquiring companies came in and found everything in order. There are many benefits to this. As a finance leader, you have credibility,” he said.
“I’ve been involved in four acquisitions—ranging from companies with 20 people to 200 people. All of the acquiring companies came in and found everything in order. There are many benefits to this.”
On the other side, Murray pointed out instances in which due diligence was done by his company pre-acquisition, and it walked away from deals because “the place was a mess. You do yourself a service as a finance person to hold your standards high and hold your team to operating at those standards. Finance can create value, but, even if it doesn’t, we need to make sure we’re putting controls in that pay off.”
“What is the finance role in terms of helping the company innovate and maintain its competitive advantage?” asked Donahue.
“Especially for a company like Dollar Shave Club—which is in a new space and it’s not clear sometimes where investments are going to pay off—you have to build a relationship with the executive team so you have influence and your voice is heard,” he stated. “You also need to know everything isn’t attributed to dollars and cents. You need to find a balance. I might be able to get from point A to point F with finance, but from point F forward, there’s business judgment I can influence but can’t control. There needs to be a degree of trust between finance and business. With a new company, there’s much more judgment involved than with a long-standing company. You keep building on insights so finance is able to go from point A to point H and then to point P.”
“You have to build a relationship with the executive team so you have influence and your voice is heard. You also need to know everything isn’t attributed to dollars and cents.”
“Looking to the future, what’s coming down the pipeline at Dollar Shave Club that excites you?” asked Donahue.
“Dollar Shave Club is a direct-to-consumer business. That’s a model that allows us to build relationships one-to-one with our three million members who get a shipment every month or every other month. We’re able to build that connection, whereas our parent company, Unilever, sells many more products than we do in many more countries, but they don’t know who their consumer is,” Murray observed. “Their customer is Walmart. We, having that relationship, can interact with the consumer in ways that P&G and Unilever and Quaker Oats and Pepsi would love to but can’t. We’re not just a product; we’re a service. We know who’s buying from us, and having that direct-to-consumer relationship allows us to build products that meet the needs of our customers. We get feedback from them, so it becomes a virtuous circle in terms of information flow. I believe this is the future of commerce.”
“We’re not just a product; we’re a service. We know who’s buying from us, and having that direct-to-consumer relationship allows us to build products that meet the needs of our customers.”
ABOUT DAN MURRAY:
Dan is the CFO of Dollar Shave Club. Prior to joining Dollar Shave Club, Dan was CFO of Machinima and was Senior Vice President of Comcast Interactive Media where he oversaw Finance, Strategy, and Business Intelligence for Comcast’s digital properties. Dan was CFO at Fandango when Comcast acquired the company in 2007 and was CFO at Academy123 when Discovery Communications acquired the company in 2006. Dan led International Finance/Accounting for Yahoo! and for Overture (acquired by Yahoo! in 2003), helping grow the international Search business from a start-up to $1 billion in revenue.
Dan currently serves on the Board of Directors of SocialEdge, an influencer media-marketing platform, and TreePeople, an environmental advocacy group that promotes sustainable urban ecosystems.
Dan holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a BS in Finance from Penn State University.
ABOUT BRIAN DONAHUE:
Brian Donahue has been the VP of Finance for the Global Development and Product Supply division of Mattel, Inc. since 2014. He joined Mattel in 2003, holding a variety of leadership positions including Internal Audit, US and International Finance, and acquired-company HIT Entertainment in UK.
Prior to joining Mattel, Mr. Donahue began his career at Ernst & Young, in their external and internal audit practices.
Mr. Donahue holds B.A. in Finance and Accounting from Washington State University and has his CPA license.