Welcome to The 6 a.m. CFO, where finance chiefs share how they jump-start their days and engage with the tasks that are in front of them.
Today, Ocrolus’ CFO Conor O’Donoghue shares the importance of being in the moment, why leaders should encourage employee autonomy at work, and tips to craft an effective email.
- A provider of AI-driven automation for analyzing documents in lending transactions.
- Founded: 2014
- Size: 183 Employees
- Revenue: $30M
- Total funding: $127M, per Crunchbase
Workday start time: I work from home most days, so once the kids are out the door, I usually sit down to start work between 8-8:30 a.m.
How I usually spend the first hour of my day: I like to kick off my mornings by meeting with team members in India so I can catch them earlier in their workday, align on any urgent deliverables, and free up the afternoon for meetings with NY colleagues.
Morning beverage choice: Water, and if I’m feeling sluggish, black tea with milk.
I’ve always loved the smell of coffee but never drank it, so now I consider it an accomplishment to not start as I see how others (most specifically my wife) need it to start their days.
Any non-work-related morning activities? I work out each morning before work, a combination of high-intensity interval workouts (HIIT) and yoga. I use a remote personal training app called Future to keep me disciplined and on track for my HIIT workouts and Peloton for my yoga to make sure I don’t turn into the Tin Man and completely freeze up.
Post-workout it’s usually breakfast with the kids and helping to get them out the door for school.
Time I send out my first email: I often send a few emails when I first wake up, before my workout, to knock out things that came up overnight (we have an office in New York and an office in India).
Best advice for writing an effective email: The first thing to ask yourself is if it should be an email or a call/meeting.
I see both extremes where people use email instead of a quick call. However, I also see calendars packed with limited-value calls. The impromptu in-person meeting is the biggest loss with the move to remote.
The email should be concise, not more than a couple of paragraphs and bullets. If it is longer than that, it will likely need a voiceover, perhaps through a quick follow-up call.
For the structure of the email, it should be super clear. What is the objective, what information is provided/needed to get to that objective, what is the timeline, and who owns different elements of the objective?
First dashboard I review: We are a usage-based business model, so my favorite dashboard is our volume dashboard, which shows how we are trending for the month versus prior months.
How I structure my morning meetings: With remote working, I believe strongly in recurring meetings to compensate for the [lack of] water cooler connections. I prefer those meetings to be highly energetic and enthusiastic, so I try to have them earlier in the day.
By later in the day, I am more heads down on knocking out deliverables.
Mid-morning snack of choice: I try to snack on fruit, such as an apple, banana, or grapes, mid-morning to get me through to lunch and give me a little bit of a sugar hit.
INSPIRATION AND LEADERSHIP
Favorite quote or mantra: Be in the moment.
Being fully present is a real struggle for me, especially in my personal life. My mind is always busy and thinking about what’s next. Life moves fast, kids grow up, and parents grow old, and I think it is important to try to calm your mind and enjoy what’s right in front of you without thinking about the next thing, the next day, the next week, or the next month.
Favorite leadership lesson: Leadership and culture are not magically created; they flow down from the top.
It’s important to lead by example and demonstrate what it means to go above and beyond, what it means to deliver a top-class product, and what it means to help others on your team rise.
I also think it’s important to give people adequate autonomy to execute. Give them the problem and let them come back with how to solve it, rather than prescribing the solution to them. It may not be exactly how you would have solved it, but it will drive greater engagement and ownership of the solution.
Something about me that you wouldn’t know from my business bio: I am quite indifferent to many decisions outside of work that won’t impact my happiness. Where should we eat, what should we eat, what should we wear — I am passive as long as I am excited about who I am with.
Most inspirational person in your life: My kids are the most inspirational people in my life.
We have moved a lot over the last few years, and they have proved to be so brave, resilient, and happy in all circumstances. It also comes back to my desire to be more present.
There's nothing more present than a 3-year-old playing in a puddle, and as we grow older, we lose some of the wonder and simplicity of life that made being present so easy.
Favorite number: 3 — it is a lucky number in Irish mythology, but also bad things happen in threes.
Most noteworthy items in my workspace: I try to keep it as clear as possible. I miss my dual monitors when I am traveling, as I find they help me be super productive.
Favorite app on my phone that is not related to business: My phone camera is my favorite feature. I don't take good pictures, but I love having them to document and help remember key events.
My favorite app, which is deliberately not on my phone, is Twitter (X), which I confess I enjoy, so I use it through a browser rather than install the app in the hope that I access it less.
The year, make, and model of your first car: It was a black Ford Focus — I think it was 1995.
I bought it in 2004 in New York from a rental company for about $2k and drove it down to Charleston, SC, where I was living. The main thing I remember is the rev/RPM meter was off so every time you pressed hard on the accelerator it sounded like you hit a brick.