BTU #49 – John Quarles: From SEALs to Chief Financial Officer

“In the private company world these companies are typically on 2-2.5 year funding cycles. If you don’t get the next check in, the entity may go belly up. The person who feels the most pressure in that situation is the CFO – you’re looking at payroll, vendor payments, at office lighting. You’ve got better visibility into when things reach cash exhaustion. And you expect CEOs to be very optimistic and Heads of Sales to be very optimistic in believing it will come, but when you’re not seeing it, you’re not holding the sales order and you’ve got a backlog of payments that can be pretty nerve wracking. But you can also thrive in the fact that in some situations the weight of the company is on your shoulders and for me that’s highly motivational. ”
 – John Quarles

John Quarles has served as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for two different startups, where he has raised over $150M of equity and debt for his companies. John is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, and served as a Navy SEAL as part of SEAL Team 8. After transitioning from the military, he worked as a consultant at Accenture for one year prior to attending Harvard Business School. After HBS, he entered the Finance Industry and began his progression towards CFO.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • What day-to-day life looks like as a CFO
  • The most challenging aspect of being CFO
  • The advantages of gaining experience prior to pursuing an MBA
  • More tried and true career paths to the position of CFO
  • And much, much more…

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Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • 1:53 – John’s background
  • 2:35 – An overview of the role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • 4:30 – What day-to-day life looks like as a CFO
  • 11:50 – The most challenging aspect of being CFO
  • 15:37 – John’s journey from the Navy to consulting and his initial job search
  • 18:06 – The advantages of gaining experience prior to pursuing an MBA
  • 20:06 – How John decided to pursue a career in finance
  • 24:00 – John’s path from entering finance to becoming a CFO
  • 27:00 – More tried and true career paths to the position of CFO
  • 29:45 – Indications that you may love the job of CFO… and indications that you may hate it
  • 36:11 – The ways in which John felt ahead and behind based on his military service
  • 38:38 – Habits John had to break when he left the military, and positive habits he’s tried to maintain
  • 43:03 – Some of the more surprising aspects of a transition to civilian life
  • 49:30 – Final words of wisdom