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, Coupa’s Tony Tiscornia explains the importance of teamwork, his passion for music, and the crucial phrase to instill in your finance team.
- The San Mateo, California-headquartered company is a global tech platform for business spend management.
- Founded: 2006
- Size: About 3,000 employees
- Annual revenue: $725M as of 2022
Can you walk us through your normal workday morning routine? What is your morning pick-me-up?
I start my mornings with a venti Pike’s Place coffee from Starbucks. With coffee in hand, the first thing I do at the office is check my calendar to calibrate on what’s coming up for the day, and ensure I have all the information and prep materials needed for meetings.
After that, I go through emails. I respond to some, archive others, and start drafts to finish later when they require more investigation or consideration before hitting send. Next, I go through my approval queue (e.g. requests in Coupa, CPQ for sales, hiring, and others).
Finally, I take time to catch up on business and financial news, usually on CNBC. I also find X (Twitter) to be a good source for real-time financial news and world events. Throughout the workday, I often have CNBC radio on in the background when I’m blasting through some of my easier tasks, like signatures. After that, it’s usually off to meetings for most of the day.
Can you share a recent morning where things didn’t go according to plan, and how you adapted?
Something I love about my role is that it’s completely cross-functional, and has both internal and external interactions. Also, being a global organization, you never know what’s going to pop into your inbox overnight from EMEA, LATAM, or APAC. There’s no doubt that on most days, urgent items come in that require a pause in my morning routine to make a phone call or two to help move something forward.
For example, recently the team was working on a large customer opportunity that required timely, considerate communication and a creative contract structure. Once the challenge hit my desk, I jumped into action, speaking first with our sales team, then legal, as well as the finance leaders I support to come up with a thoughtful, effective solution. This is the fun stuff.
How do you structure your first few hours after you log on at work? What do you prioritize, and how do you engage with your teams?
Unless something urgent comes up, my morning follows the routine outlined above to keep our business and teams moving fast. I’ll prioritize approvals and business-critical emails to keep the ball rolling so teams can execute.
After that, my day usually fills up with meetings. I encourage teams to only hold meetings if they’ll drive meaningful benefit or a tangible result. If a proposed meeting doesn’t meet these criteria, I won’t attend.
I also love interacting with colleagues when they come into the office. I’m at our headquarters in San Mateo, CA, nearly every day. Whether the people in-office are our local team, or visiting from another location, it’s great to connect with everyone, get quick feedback, solve problems, and get the pulse of what’s going on across the organization. Nothing replicates face-to-face interaction.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
One of my favorite quotes to share with colleagues is “May the force be with you.” While I’m not a Star Wars fanatic, I do love the movies and it’s fun to say to a colleague before they go into an important external meeting. I like to say it to show encouragement, while also helping break the ice.
On a more serious note, my former boss and mentor Todd Ford taught me the phrase, “No surprises.” As a CFO, that’s crucial to instill into your team and other leaders you interact with. We can deal well with challenges or problems, but only if we know they’re coming. Surprises are a different story.
Can you share your favorite leadership lesson?
One of my favorite leadership lessons comes from another former boss and mentor Rob Bernshteyn, who championed the idea “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Almost every problem can be solved (at some level) when you bring a group together of smart, high-integrity, dedicated individuals.
When teams brainstorm together and challenge each other’s viewpoints, they’ll almost always come up with a better solution than any individual on their own. As long as the group is solution-oriented, addresses the challenge deliberately and thoughtfully, and shows patience when it’s needed and can be afforded.
What is something important to know about you that you wouldn’t know from your business bio?
I’m passionate about music, I love playing the guitar and the piano. I’m a proud father of two kids. I have a one-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter and love spending time with them and my lovely wife. I will also admit, I’m pretty much addicted to golf. Saying I love it would be an understatement. It’s a tough game but there is no feeling out there like puring a crisp iron shot!
What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work?
When I first joined Coupa almost 11 years ago, we were a true startup. No task was below any one of us. I remember assembling my desk and chair on the first day. A few of us had fun doing it together, and I enjoyed helping others get set up when they first started.
My long-time colleague and now close friend Roger Kopfmann and I also had to negotiate a deal and pick-up for a used refrigerator for the office. Those were indeed fun times; lots of excitement building up the company and taking on the great opportunity ahead of us.
Can you share one way in which you have learned to manage work-induced stress?
Every day I strive to make sure my engine never gets overly revved up, or, on the flip side, too low (i.e. crashing) throughout any given day. Frankly, striving to master this is a lifelong journey and perfection likely will never be achieved. But the journey itself and the progress made along the way bears much fruit.
To stay in a flow state that’s not too high and not too low, I like to do breathing exercises. I frequently use the 4-7-8 method (4 in, 7 hold, 8 out). Or I take three deep breaths. I try to carve out a few blocks in my day in between meetings for this breathing.
What is your favorite number (and why)?
My favorite number is 8. I was born on the 8th, and my two kids were born in August (the 8th month of the year).
I also like 16, the pro football number of my favorite all-time athlete, Joe Montana.
What are the most noteworthy items in your workspace?
Pictures of my family are #1. I also love the natural light coming into my office. A cup of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day are essential. And then a notebook, pen, and trusty calculator.
Outside of that, all I need is a computer and internet connection, and I’m good to go.
Do you have a pet sitting in your office right now?
No, but colleagues often bring their dogs into the office, and I enjoy saying hi to them. As a family, our kids are still young, but we’d love to have a dog at some point.
What is your favorite phone app that is unrelated to work?
X (Twitter) for news and current events, golf tips, and a good mix of simple, fun chatter.
Can you share the most important piece of literature you’ve recently read? Why did it impact you?
“The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer had a great impact on me, with respect to personal balance and strength as a human being, both inside and outside of work.