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, Sandline Global CFO Glenn Hopper shares his love of lifelong learning — made apparent by his many careers and hobbies, how he manages a global workforce, and some of the books and people who inspire him most.
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Sandline Global is a legal IT consulting firm specializing in iManage and eDiscovery
Size: 55 employees
- Growth: Expanding its global reach with international offices in Taipei, Taiwan; Frankfurt, Germany; and Dubai, UAE.
Weekday wake-up time and the first thing I like to do: I'm usually up around 5:00 a.m. The first thing I do is check emails while the coffee is brewing. With offices across the globe, issues come up 24/7. Once I've ensured our teams in the E.U. or Asia aren't waiting on anything from me, it's time to caffeinate and set a plan for the day. In the summer months, I'll sneak in a run or bike ride in the morning as it is typically too hot to do anything later in the day.
Coffee, tea, or other morning beverage choice: Coffee. So much coffee. I switched to a French press years ago, and at this point, I make it so strong it is undrinkable by anyone else in the family.
Workday start time: Aside from that first check of emails, I'm usually “clocked in” by 7:00 a.m. I’m on Central time, but our headquarters are on Eastern, so I try to be available as soon as the rest of the U.S. team is going.
How I usually spend the first hour of my day: We're in the middle of an ERP implementation, so I've gotten into the mode of meeting with the team first thing as a sort of daily standup to cover everyone’s migration and development tasks.
The time I send out my first email: 5:00 to 5:30 a.m. most days.
Best advice for writing an effective email: As a former journalist, I've got to go with the ABCs of accuracy, brevity, and clarity. Oh, and keeping with the journalism theme, you can't go wrong with the inverted pyramid.
The first dashboard I review: Our mantra this year is, “cash is king.” We've been heavily focused on reducing our cash conversion cycle, so my first focus is on A/R and A/P. After that, it depends on where we are in the close cycle.
How I structure my morning meetings: I'm an agile guy, so I can't help but think of all my meetings as some component of the agile process, whether it's daily standups, story writing, or sprint meetings. But there are also required meetings that are more administrative in nature. We have a weekly senior staff meeting and weekly team meetings.
I have a couple of one-on-ones with other department heads that serve two functions: we use them to coordinate cross-departmental projects, work on projections, and review financials; but equally importantly those one-on-ones feature a lot of social and personal conversation.
The bulk of our company is scattered across the country and around the globe, so a lot of the traditional water cooler stuff can be overlooked. It's important to our culture and relationships to talk about life outside of work when we can.
Mid-morning snack of choice: Well if I had my choice, it would be something terrible like a Little Debbie or like six ounces of Cheez-Wiz straight out of the can. But alas, my aging metabolism doesn’t permit that kind of nonsense. So instead, most days I’m doing intermittent fasting so I don’t eat until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. So I guess my short answer is: more coffee!
Leadership and Inspiration
Favorite leadership lesson: One of my favorite professors from Harvard Business School, Michael Tushman, has this great framework based on the idea of an ambidextrous organization in which businesses explore new opportunities while exploiting current capabilities.
Favorite quote or mantra: I'm a huge analytics guy, so the quote I go to most often is from Clifford Stoll, who said, “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.”
I'm such a fan that I even got Cliff to print it for me on one of his famous hand-blown Klein Bottles.
What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work: As we've worked on rolling out our new ERP system, I have felt at times more like a project manager than a CFO. I don't begrudge the work, but I'll be looking forward to getting on the other side of this project so I can focus more of my time on financial strategy.
Can you share one way in which you have learned to manage work-induced stress: Stress management to me comes down to finding outlets for the two stress responses of fight or flight. I have no scientific data to back this up, but my decompression strategy involves running, biking, or swimming to address that flight part, and lifting weights feels like it covers the fight.
Favorite number: Does everyone say Pi? I don't know. I don’t normally have a favorite number, but here’s what I’ve got for today: 2045. That is the year futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts AI will match (and quickly surpass) human intelligence. He's also predicted AI will pass the Turing Test in 2029. Both are predictions from his 2005 book The Singularity is Near.
Most noteworthy items in my workspace: Lots of distractions, mostly. My previously mentioned personalized Klein bottle, a Galton board that reminds me to always think statistically, several of those squishy stress balls, a model of the DeLorean from Back to the Future, a rubber duck to talk to, a squishy tardigrade (not actual size), and a talking Fat Bastard toy from Austin Powers.
Do you have a pet sitting in your office right now: Yes, my trusty co-worker Violet the Goldendoodle waits patiently for me to get up from my desk, at which point she is quite certain I'll be taking her outside to play fetch.
Favorite app on my phone that is not related to business: The Strava exercise tracker. I try every day to spend less and less time on my phone.
When do you take time for learning/reading: Definitely later in the day. I’m an adjunct professor, which is currently taking a lot of my “free time,” but when I do manage to get time to read I aspire to get back to science fiction. I’m a huge “lifelong learner” guy, but I’m looking forward to finding some downtime to dive back into some good fiction this winter!