Beyond the Basics

CFO Phil Jones tells us how he connects finance with the core business of MUNDOmedia as it looks toward future growth and expansion

Photo by Milton Photo Lab
Photo by Milton Photo Lab

During my fourth year at the University of Western Ontario [as an economics major], I went to a recruiting presentation done by Coopers & Lybrand [C&L]. I was attracted to the broad spectrum of careers that could be derived from a CA designation; however, I had never taken an accounting course in my life. C&L had a program at the time whereby they would hire one or two candidates each year from a non-accounting-and-finance-degree program and pay for your schooling to complete the required courses for the designation while working in the business assurance practice. I joined the firm and spent the next 13 years building my career and experience in a variety of roles before joining MUNDOmedia.

MUNDO was in its first year of operations and was experiencing phenomenal growth, so the founders reached out to their bankers and external accountants asking for help to find someone to head up the finance function. I received a phone call one night from one of the founders at MUNDO, telling me my name had appeared on both these lists, and so I was “someone they needed to talk to.” About a week later, they asked me to join the team.

The keys to handling a company’s financial functions are truly understanding the business, the process and transaction flows, the key factors that drive the business, what the customers are trying to achieve, and how your products and services supports them.

It also helps to hire, train, and develop a strong team. For me, a strong team member first must have technical knowledge, followed closely by their attitude and their ability to take ownership and accountability, their desire to get it right, solve a problem, and never use the “it’s not my job” excuse.

It’s also important to have strong external advisors; you aren’t going to know everything, and having a network of advisors you can call upon is important. I have developed strong professional and personal relationships with many people here at MUNDO, especially at the management level. The strength of these relationships allows you to both support and challenge each other for the benefit of the company.

Outside the Office

Jones is a big fan of live music—going as far as hopping on planes to catch his favourite bands. He has in turn passed that passion on to his son, who has begun teaching Jones to play the guitar. “The two of us are planning a road trip to see the Who on their 50th anniversary tour,” Jones says. “We’ve got tickets for three shows so far.”

MUNDO has undergone incredible growth since starting six years ago. We’ve grown top line, bottom line, head count, and expanded geographically around the world. The key role the finance team has played in all of this has been accurate reporting and analysis of results, reliable modelling and forecasting, while managing cash and working capital. We have grown this company without any external debt or institutional equity, so growth had to be managed with the cash that we could generate from operations.

The key to overcoming the challenges brought about by change is communication among the management team (we’re each subject-matter experts in our fields) and with external business and advisor networks so that you’re aware of what is happening in your industry, potential issues and opportunities, and pending future changes. Once you are aware of the change, there needs to be an assessment of the potential impact on the company and how that will affect the finance function directly and/or how the finance team can help other departments quantify the impact of changes in process [and] regulations.

I’ve always had a desire to understand how things work at the core level, not just in business, but in many areas of life. Growing up, I played a lot of sports, and while I would work on my technical skills, I also wanted to be a smart player and so would look for nuances in the game to develop strategy. When I first began my career at C&L in the audit group, I would take a tour of each of my clients’ facilities. I not only wanted to audit the numbers but understand how the business operated that resulted in those numbers. That same curiosity, coupled with a stubbornness to get a result, is still what fuels me now.