CFOs

Coworking with Josette Leslie

She's the CFO at Affinity
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· 4 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we talk to CFOs and other leaders in the finance space about their experiences, their companies, and the larger economy. To be considered, answer a few quick questions for us here and we’ll be in touch if we want to feature you in the newsletter.

Josette Leslie is CFO of Affinity, a relationship management platform for private equity. This is Leslie’s first CFO role; she joins from Squarespace, where she held an executive finance position.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I started off in banking and moved on to doing [corporate] finance at Instinet, E-Trade and Squarespace. I think the good part is that I’ve done so many of the finance roles that it really lends to learning and understanding the role finance plays in all the organizations, and how we can make them better. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and this is my first CFO role.

In your background, you’ve been at companies as they’ve been on the track to IPO. Can you run me through [that process] from the finance side of things?

The most important thing is really [to think about] the disciplines that the company needs to have noticed. Not so much the IPO—which is the marketing events at a point in time—but what systems, processes, and procedures need to be in place in the organization in order for them to run efficiently as a public company?

It’s more about being public company ready, whether or not at the end of the day it’s an IPO or some other liquidity event…Finance is about putting those disciplines in place, translating the operational decisions into financial outcomes. That’s the role we play.

Can you talk a little bit more about that forecasting [for an IPO] piece? What metrics are you looking for?

Depending on the company, but for us, it’s like, are you executing? It’s having a long-term strategy: Are you executing on that long-term strategy? And can you use the data in place—so whether it’s revenue, ARR, customer growth, sales, efficiency, [or] marketing efficiency—in order to make sure that you’re investing at the right places at the right time and still safeguarding your future?

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What experiences have shaped you into the CFO you are?

Early in my career, when I joined Instinet, it was a high-growth company about to do this IPO. On the track to IPO, but like many growth companies, they invest in growing and building their products, so finance was a very small organization within this massive organization. And what that did is it gave me an opportunity to do all parts of finance, to touch all areas. So it’s learning—it’s learning M&A, it’s learning valuations, it’s just the ability to really get your hands in and learn as much as you can.

The other moment was probably at E-Trade, when we [were] in a financial crisis and you really [saw] what good leadership looks like, right? When it’s like, “Everyone, we’re going through this thing. We need to solve it, we need to still serve our customers.” And make sure that our customers are really feeling supported by us in this step in this financial downturn. I saw what really good leadership looks like and how that stands up. Because it’s easy when things are good, right? Like when you can throw money at things? But when you can’t…you really just have to lead and motivate your team, and motivate your customers to stick with it.

What’s something we wouldn’t be able to guess about your job from your LinkedIn profile?

I would say [that] I’m a sports fan. Early on, I thought I would get into sports management, but I didn’t. I’m a Knicks fan. You know, as a New Yorker, a tested Knicks fan.

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