What Kelly Battles believes all economic downturns have in common

In this episode of Recession-Proof, Alex Song is joined by Kelly Battles, Board Member and Audit Committee Chair for DataStax, Arista Networks, Genesys, Alpha Medical, Clari, and Plex. They discuss how exceptional finance leaders help the executive team make the best decisions and help the company succeed during times of financial prosperity and recessions.
Kelly Battles joins Alex Song on Recession-Proof this week to discuss how exceptional finance leaders help their executive team make the best decisions to increase the likelihood of growth during a recession. 

Kelly is currently a Board Member and Audit Committee Chair for DataStax, Arista Networks, Genesys, Alpha Medical, Clari, and Plex. Kelly has a thirty-plus-year career in finance through various leadership roles at companies like Quora, Bracket Computing, Wikimedia Foundation, Host Analytics, IronPort Systems, and HP.

Kelly and Alex discuss:

  • Quora's mission of sharing and growing the world's knowledge base
  • What all economic downturns have in common
  • Why all full time executives should seek board positions
  • How great finance leaders help their executive teams make the best decision
  • The role of a CFO in setting the right company culture during economic growth and downturn

Key takeaways

  • When choosing a new company to join, Kelly focuses on culture, market opportunity, product-market fit, and her role in that company. Quora nailed all of these, so she decided to accept the role of a CFO. What sets Quora apart from social media apps is its noble mission to share and grow the world's knowledge base through quality content that aims to help people. Quora is also an example of what makes an online platform succeed through clear policies and processes that match its mission, a great product, community, and team.

    “I was watching what was happening in some social media companies and thinking there's so much power for good in these companies, and there are so many missteps. And I believe in a hundred years when people look back at the internet, they will see some bad actors. History is not gonna treat some of these companies well. And I think Quora and Wikipedia are two examples of where history will treat them very well as examples of the power of the internet for good.”

  • Whether discussing the current recession, the great financial crisis of 2008, or the Dot-com bubble, Kelly recognizes a pattern that she calls the “overreaction to the fear-greed cycle”. Good time manifests the greed cycle, companies being encouraged to spend unreasonably because of growth, and in bad times, the fear cycle, where it's all about hyper-analysis of every spending decision. The best companies are disciplined during the greed cycles and then emerge with strength from the fear cycle.

    “Companies that have been raising so much money in the last couple of years because it was so plentiful and didn't spend it will be able to come out with strong balance sheets in an environment where it's gonna be easier to hire, cheaper to take share, and easier to buy assets than companies that didn't raise the money or raised it and spent it.”

  • The best CFOs are true business partners to the executive team and bring a synthesized proliferation of data to help their business partners make better decisions. The finance function exists to help executives overcome obstacles and challenges during economic struggles. CFO’s must learn from these challenges, take those lessons, and apply them to the future. Finance also has a significant role in setting the right spending culture to ensure the company is disciplined during the good times and conservative during hard times.

    “As a CFO, joining the CEO in the future and understanding the past, understanding what you can learn from it, understanding current performance, what it means for the future, what you need to do differently in the future, or what you need to double down on or stop doing, to me, that is how you do this right.”

Learn more about Kelly:

Episode resources:

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What Kelly Battles believes all economic downturns have in common
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