As we continue to experience explosive growth at Zipwhip, we are thankful to have Bob Chamberlain as our new Chief Financial Officer. We sat down with him to chat more about his goals for the company, where we’re investing and his leadership style.
Q: Can you share more about your background and what you were doing before you came to Zipwhip?
Before Zipwhip I was retired and enjoying golfing, spending time with family and traveling.
Most recently, we travelled to Tucson to visit family. Before that, my wife and I explored a large portion of Europe including Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Austria, Salzburg and more.
Prior to retirement, I enjoyed time working at Big Fish Games, AudienceScience and PopCap, helping them through some big financial moves. It’s been nice exploring various industries and guiding these different companies through funding rounds, acquisitions and IPOs.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Zipwhip?
If I’m being honest, I always knew I wasn’t actually ready to retire. So, even though I was enjoying having more time to travel, golf and spend time with family, I still kept my door open for any new opportunities. When one of the members of Zipwhip’s board introduced me to John Lauer, I immediately knew I had found my next journey.
John hooked me in from the get-go. We connected right away, and I was compelled by his excitement for the future of Zipwhip. I was – and still am – blown away by the potential of this company. The transparency and enthusiasm John exhibited made me feel really confident in the leadership team as well. The culture they had already built at Zipwhip was unique and something I was excited to be a part of.
Q: Zipwhip is making a name for itself in the business texting space. What does it mean to you to be part of this team?
It is both exciting and challenging. The growth we’re seeing is truly exciting, and I’m looking forward to supporting the team as we scale both in revenue and headcount. But fast growth has its own set of challenges – ones I’m looking forward to tackling in the coming months.
Q: You’ve been with the company for a few months now. What has it been like so far?
Since I started, the company has already seen explosive growth both in our product and our employees. We’ve made a lot of changes to the way we operate, so that’s been challenging but also exciting. And despite all of the change, one thing remains consistent: the people. We make very deliberate hiring decisions and I think that’s paid off. I’m consistently impressed by everyone I interact with here and enjoy getting to know all the new faces we’re adding every week.
Q: What are some of the Finance department’s goals for the next year? Where are we heavily investing?
We are investing heavily in a few areas: product, engineering, marketing and sales. We’re really trying to put the customer first in everything that we do, and that means we need to make the best product possible.
In addition to working directly on building the product, we’re evolving our systems to create more efficient and effective financial reporting as well. We’re streamlining processes like billing to make it a much better overall customer experience.
Q: What are some of the challenges Zipwhip faces that you hope to address?
I think our biggest challenge right now is hiring fast enough. We want to be really deliberate about who we add to our team right now because it will shape the future of our company. But with such rapid growth, it’s hard to keep up. That’s why I think bringing Kirsten Spoljaric on to our executive team was a really smart move. She’s really going to take our People Ops function to the next level and create something really special out of this company.
The next challenge is building out our product fast enough to keep up with all of the innovation in our industry. However, we’re investing more and more in our engineering team and technology to help combat this issue, so I’m confident in our approach.
Q: The CFO has to collaborate across the organization. Can you talk about how you collaborate with different departments?
I think the best way to collaborate is to talk with people, find out what their needs are and how you can help them achieve their goals. I do a lot of walking around from department to department because I feel talking face to face can help solve a lot of issues. Just being visible, available and approachable helps make people be more inclined to collaborate with you.
Q: What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned in your career?
The importance of listening. I try to be very thoughtful in all of my interactions and spend a lot of time listening to what others have to say. Again, I try to get up and walk around and talk to people throughout the day. Over the years, I’ve also figured out how to use humor to get people to open up and relax. I think this really helps build trust.
When I started here, I had a meeting with everyone on my team right away. I asked them four things:
- What are you the proudest of from the past year?
- What would you do over if you could?
- What would you change about your job/the company/etc.?
- What’s your favorite song?
Each one of these questions reveals something different about the person. I feel like it really helps me understand them both on a professional and personal level. When you have trust, you can have open lines of communication. And when you have open lines of communication, your work infinitely improves.
I’d also say that I’ve learned how to make hard decisions. As a leader, you have to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. But it’s part of the job and you agree to shoulder that responsibility when you’re in a leadership position. I’ve learned how to communicate those decisions thoughtfully and respectfully.
Q: What do you personally think makes Zipwhip positioned for success?
I think being the original leader in a potentially huge market positions us for success. Going forward, it is about continuing to build the team and executing on our strategy.
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
The people. I really enjoy working with everyone to solve problems and grow the business. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by everyone here and have loved adding to our team. We’re at the beginning of something really amazing.
Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I love to play golf, travel and spend time with my family.
Q: What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
Smart, funny and intuitive.