· 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. Let us know if you are – or you know – a CFO we should interview.
Greg Robbins is the new chief financial officer at Odyssey Elixir, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company that produces mushroom-enhanced sparkling energy drinks. Previously, he held finance and CFO roles at other functional beverage companies, including Red Bull.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What are some ways you’ve made finance accessible to non-finance people?
The CFO is really a business partner these days…Being the business partner, you’re helping other people do their job better, which means that you’re providing them information. It could be financial information, it could be some insights, but anything to help them do their job better is the key. And educating them is a big part of it.
At Red Bull years back, I created financial acumen teams, one goal of which was to get sales and marketing people to think about not just driving top-line revenue but also profitability and cash flow. It got them thinking about different aspects that are important to the business that they maybe weren’t focused on enough. You make it relevant to their position so they can relate to it.
And it was kind of a fun exercise because we created an online course. We taught it face-to-face but then we made it applicable to everybody, even globally. And it was kind of a cartoon, so we had to create the script and then we got to pick a voice actor for it.
What’s the most important skill for a CFO to have?
People skills. At the end of the day, it’s how you leverage the talent, the human capital of the business…It can’t just be one person that’s going to drive the business to success. It’s everybody. But as a CFO, it’s a different game. You have to make sure that you hire the right people, you keep them challenged, and you develop them, and all that takes a certain skill.
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You’ve been with the functional beverage industry through most of your career. Why has this industry taken off so much in the past few years?
It’s high profit, high growth. Everybody wants to be in that segment. The barriers to entry are becoming lower…It’s somewhat easier to get into beverages on a national level. And consumers are constantly looking for something new and exciting.
The lines between categories are blurring…Nowadays, everybody’s kind of really pushing the envelope with beverages and doing something pretty unique and cool. And so what is exciting about Odyssey is it’s deploying the mushrooms, which is something new for a lot of consumers, especially the mushrooms that we’re using here.
What advice would you give someone who aspires to become a CFO?
Understand what makes a company successful. What separates them from their competition? What is it that they do differently? Is it their customer service? Is it their product? And how do they get there? What are their principles, and how do the teams work to be successful? Because you can then take all of that, put it into your toolbox, and then you can then deploy that in your new job.
What’s something that we wouldn’t guess about you from your LinkedIn profile?
I like adventure. I travel to off-the-beaten-path places…I climbed Mount Rainier, I swam with sharks in Tahiti, went bungee jumping—some crazy things. There’s more to life than just work and sometimes you have to push yourself.
If you weren’t a CFO, what would you be?
I’d like to be a chef. I like to try different things with food, experimenting with different spices, combining things. And food is universal—bringing people together.