CFOville

The CFO’s dual mandate as strategic enabler and company protector

The AWA Studios CFO looks at finance as a means of enhancing artists’ creativity.
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Diya Sagar

· 3 min read

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Diya Sagar joined AWA Studios in October as the independent graphic-novel publisher’s inaugural CFO, after previously working for one of the studio’s lead investors, Lupa Systems. Sagar spoke with CFO Brew about her experience as a company’s first CFO and how she fills the role of a strategic partner.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What’s it like working for an independent publisher that’s relatively new? What things do you pay attention to as CFO that others in the same role but in a different industry might not?

We see ourselves as an early-stage entertainment business. We are a producer of stories by some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and artisans and we do that through graphic fiction. We’re also creating film and TV shows for Hollywood…ultimately, what that means is, creative work is our product, but we’re really a people business. I think unlike, say, technology companies where you can kind of probably be a bit more straightforward about how finance can really impact those products and what you’re building, with us, when you’re dealing with creative people and creative work, it actually can be very emotional for them.

With finance, you never want to be making people feel like they’re being restrained by that because they have to be thinking about helping the company to make money. So I’d say [I’m] very mindful of how finance can be used to enhance creativity, as opposed to coming in and restraining people’s creative ambitions and creative dreams.

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What are some challenges as a company’s first CFO versus someone who’s stepping into a CFO’s office that’s already been established?

Coming in as a first CFO, I’m really focused on bringing a financial lens to everything that we do [and] into decision-making. And really, that goes to the heart of our business model. Every deal that we do, anything that we’re working on, we have to think about, “What is the right business model for this company?” Because it will change based on the decisions that we make that relate to those projects.

I guess that’s a challenge because it’s the first time that level of expertise is coming into the company, and [is] in the room and these discussions.

So, instead of being someone who says, ‘No, we don’t have the money,’ you would say your approach is more like, ‘OK, how do we enable that strategy to happen?’

I see myself as the accelerator on the business, and also the brake. So, the accelerator when you see an interesting opportunity: We need to be putting money behind that, we need to be putting capital toward it. And you need to have that judgment. And the alternative is, when perhaps we’re in a particular business, or we’re pursuing opportunities that aren’t working for us anymore, maybe putting the entire company at risk—you have to be able to act as the brake because that is for the good of the company as well.

Update 02/21/23: Since publication, the month Sagar joined AWA has been changed from November to October.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.