Ep. 174: Pedro Barros - Scaling and Managing a Successful Global Finance Team

Pedro Monteiro de Barros, VP of Finance at Remote, joins Count Me In to talk about how to build, scale, and manage a successful remote, global finance team. At Remote, he is responsible for analyzing financial performance for budgeting and forecasting, managing all accounting operations, and providing strategic guidance to accelerate business expansion. He started his career in investment banking and strategy in technology, media and telecommunications. Over the last five years Pedro has been focusing on high growth tech companies and was Head of Finance at Codacy. Download and listen now!
Contact Pedro Barros: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pedromonteirobarros/

Remote: https://remote.com/

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Adam: (00:04)
Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is your host Adam Larson and today you are listening to episode 174 of our series. In this episode, you'll hear from Pedro Barros, VP of Finance at Remote. At Remote, Pedro was responsible for analyzing financial performance for budgeting and forecasting, managing all accounting operations and providing strategic guidance to accelerate business expansion. Over the last five years, he has been focusing on high growth tech companies and was previously Head of Finance at Codacy. He joined Count Me In to share his knowledge on building, scaling, and managing a successful global finance team. So keep listening as we head over to the conversation now.
 
Mitch: (00:57)
So I understand Remote, your company is growing very rapidly. And, I'm just curious to kind of kick off our conversation here. How are you thinking about structuring the finance team during this growth phase and what are some of the key positions or key areas within the finance team you're really focusing on?
 
Pedro: (01:13)
Thanks Mitchell. I joined the team as the first finance hire around two years ago, and it's a team of over 50 people today. I started the team top down, so we really went for, expertise and individuals with, subject matter expertise. But, it was a hard combination because we also wanted folks that could settle in, in well, in a very fast and growing, entity company. And, we found them like I've hired, two or three directors that really accelerated all the finance functions, a Group Controller and a Treasurer. And, a bit later than that, Director of Tax and all of these individuals really, really accelerated how the finance function was structured, how we were delivering to the business and how the finance was partnering across the organization.
 
Mitch: (02:17)
And now I know we will talk a little bit, you know, as far as, scaling everything and how all this ultimately plays out, you know, for the finance function, but as far as the individuals go and as you're going through this hiring process, you know, for our listeners who maybe are looking to jump into new finance roles and things that are evolving across the profession in various industries, what are some of the qualities that you're really looking for in a finance hire and, you know, as everything is growing so rapidly, you know, a fast growing company like Remote, what are some of the skills that you're really, you know, targeting?
 
Pedro: (02:50)
I touched, on my previous question around the deep subject matter expertise, it's folks, that can have a lot of ownership in their role. So someone that can compliment what I'm doing and, not necessarily build redundancy. So having folks that have done it in the past and can come very quickly, has done and have a high impact is critical. Someone that can nurture teams, because we knew at the place that we were going, that we would have to grow, teams very rapidly. And at the same time, we had to hire individuals that were very, tech savvy on the aspect of automation and how to make systems work for them and not just grow the team to address the growing pains and the growing needs of the organization as we're scaling very, very fast.
 
Mitch: (03:50)
And you, you kind of just alluded to it a little bit. but you know, we were talking about individuals, the finance team, how does that really fit into the overall organization? Right? So what we're really trying to figure out here is, you know, how does Remote manage the company culture and make sure that everybody, you know, plays their part and, fits in, in a cohesive team?
 
Pedro: (04:11)
Yeah. On your first point, the finance team at Remote is a bit different from many other organizations, as we are core to a lot of the product development that we do, a lot of the services that we provide. So we tend to, it's a subject like global employment is a subject is very close historically with, finance teams. And we have a lot of expertise in the team to help enable the overall company in terms of how Remote culture is managed in terms of fast growing and how we can sustain it. It was something that was designed even before the company was created, which were our values. Both the Auburn, Marcel, our founders, are very committed to the culture of the company through values alignment. We have a lot of cultural diversity, as you can imagine, by having folks in 60 plus countries across the globe working for us. So our expectation is we'll have a lot of cultural diversity, but an ambition is that folks will always work, at Remote with deep values alignment. And this goes with excellence ownership, kindness. It's one of the, I think it's the glue of the company. It is the value of kindness and something I have to in terms of automation and the scalability of the business.
 
Mitch: (05:41)
That's great. I know you, oftentimes historically I think accounting, finance teams, at least the perception is they've kind of been siloed, right. Kind of the smaller group, you know, very focused on the numbers and getting the job done, but, you know, that has evolved so much. And, companies like yours, the finance function is really more or less the backbone for everything. And kind of, you know, what I've seen through various conversations here, you know, the team that's really driving those core values and just the cross-functional collaboration, the finance team, and those are the individuals who can really, you know, portray those values and gain support, and really partner to bring the business forward. So, I think, you know, aligning core values like that is certainly key. With that sentiment, you know, the idea that, global diversity and following these values, what else is it that your company is doing, that we can share with our listeners that would help other accounting, finance functions, finance teams, you know, grow and manage successfully like you are, you know, on this global basis, getting back to the topic here, how can we help other accounting and finance teams scale globally?
 
Pedro: (06:58)
I think there are some fundamental things that the Remote is doing well, and it's working well, for us, in term one is, the working asynchronously. Means that you do your job and you work whenever it fits you, it fits your schedule. It fits your motivation when you are stronger. And it's not from not from nine to five, or maybe it is, it's not, it's independent from that. It's much more focused on objectives and not on the achievements more than on activity per se. And, if you are on, certain hours, and, the way we are doing it, based a lot on, documentation has managed Remote to grow very, very fast. Our finance team has grown massively and, very successfully continues supporting the business and delivering to our objectives. And I have folks from Korea to San Francisco, and, we are very much independent, from where, anyone is because they, they do their thing.
 
Pedro: (08:06)
They understand what they need to do. Their individual has a very clear objectives and drive for excellence. They take ownership on their projects and, the work they need to do. And all these documented when someone is asleep, there's a document for me to act upon. And next day, that person is live at whatever time and they can pick up on that. So there's always this sense of follow continuous work. What Remote has also enabled in terms of, global distributes companies is, hiring the best individuals anywhere in the world. So subject folks have more expertise in a subject, here or there, or have been more face to fast growing companies. For example, in US, you have a lot of expertise of individual that have faced, the growth of, companies on a very fast scale. And we can hire them. And we are very geography, agnostic. Obviously we, sometimes we need to hire for certain geographies as an objective, but where folks are it's up to them.
 
Mitch: (09:21)
Before we get into the geographies in the different countries. I understand the continuous work and the opportunity to work independently. Is there ever a time when you do have the whole team together, are there certain points maybe it's months, or, you know, throughout the year that regardless of where you are, you try to get as many people together as possible?
 
Pedro: (09:40)
We thought about that March 2020, but, has happened that it didn't happen. Look, we grew very, very fast. So by the time all thought that the pandemic was getting a bit slower and we could potentially connect, like the team was massively bigger, different folks in different geographies in the world were facing, challenges. And, we are very respectful of the needs of each one of us. And, we are not going to, to ask anyone to, to go through airport trips when we're facing, the heat of a pandemic. Now we've grown to a size where more likely we'll be doing, team focused, get togethers in real life, for example, finance team, or a tech team and an FP&A team, as it makes sense or some geographical focused, gettogethers but, in real life, it hasn't happened at a large scale, what we do.
 
Pedro: (10:43)
And I think there is a lot of purpose when we do it, is, weekly, all hands between the finance team. We connect one on one, weekly, at least so that at least we direct managees and managers, and sometimes some critical stakeholders or individuals in the team that are doing certain, certain projects that require closer connection with, each other. And, it's done with a lot of purpose, because when you decide to go on a call with someone, on a zoom video, it's to really, understand what are their challenges, how can you solve them if it's a synchronous meeting it's to ensure that, it's all things are addressed there. And, we do something that is also important when you touch the in real life is, in these one oh ones. We try to connect as individuals like work can be done in documents. But, I try to spend time with my team to like, let know how I'm going, how things in my life are going connect with my colleagues, my manager, and others, how things are going on their end, and to be very frank, the connection you have across the firm is very, very strong, obviously by now, I don't know everyone personally, but, I still know a lot of people, directly. And, we have a very close connection, which is super interesting.
 
Mitch: (12:17)
That's great. It's, you know, a very compassionate culture. It sounds like, and you know, a very compassionate approach to building the team. So, I certainly appreciate that. And then now taking a step back as we were talking about, you know, different geographies and the different individuals that you're working with, what kind of infrastructure, you know, people, processes, systems, do you look to build first, as you go across, you know, different countries and, how do you integrate these different processes and such into the overarching, you know, finance function and tying back really to those values and the goals of the organization.
 
Pedro: (12:59)
We have, an international expansion team specialized in growing remotes and while in most of the companies, you internationalize for commercial reasons, remote by default wants to be global so we can cater for our customers. And, not that we want to expand to a certain country because we have specific commercial needs there, but we want to provide, a global reach to everyone. So we are expanding globally very, very fast. And we have an international expansion team, very focused on setting up these across the group, understanding local requirements, legal implications, working with the tax team on tax implications, et cetera. And that's usually the first couple of steps treasury as well, setting up our banking infrastructure locally. We tend to work with some of the largest global banks, so that we can accelerate also opening, locally as well. And usually these are, the first steps very quickly, with the initiation of operations in a country.
 
Pedro: (14:08)
We set up, a local texting that we work with usually outsourced with, with one of our main partners or local partner, if they do not cover that specific geography, we have an ambition to bring as much as possible in house, so likely with time. And if it's a major geography, we'll, have that expertise in house. In terms of system, we have been implementing SAP since we were 30 people in the company. We did a very fast, implementation of, 43 countries. And now we are rolling out to over the next year to 90 plus countries with the vision of being in 150 plus countries, very, very soon. So on that, with that, what we ensured with SAPs, that we had a scalable, highly collaborative and system with a very good, expertise in, in the space and, debt in box massively, how we can scale our operations globally.
 
Mitch: (15:17)
Now, as you scale and, you know, grow, you go into these different geographies. What is your approach to fundraising? Would you recommend going with, more opportunistic fundraising? Is there any thing that you would consider a benchmark or a line that you really want to make sure you're following?
 
Pedro: (15:36)
Remote has been very fortunate that, we always attracted very, very good investors to the company. And we have been growing, healthy, with their support and, fundraising that's, they have an investment they have may be making in the firm. In terms of opportunistic fundraising, if it makes sense, and you have, an ambition and you know exactly where you are heading and, you know, you can make good use of those funds. It makes sense, but opportunity usually comes from you being prepared with, so, and if you're already prepared to take action, it means that there is an underlying perception that will have good use for it. You are open to it, and you understand that, by doing so you derisk the business, you achieving your vision and your mission.
 
Pedro: (16:36)
And, which usually is a tool, and it's not, an outcome, fundraising. And I see it very much, in that way, market dynamics sometimes are more volatile or more unpredictable. And if you secure now, why should you be focusing on very lengthy process in six months or 12 months from now, instead of doing it, today, obviously fundraising comes with dilution. So it's always the other side of the coin. And I think you, as a leader in the firm finance, or, CEO, or founders optimize for that, but, usually that opportunistic fundraising comes from you being already exposed and open to it more than, oh, it happened.
 
Mitch: (17:23)
Absolutely. And, you know, I'd like to kind of wrap up our conversation today. as we, you know, we're talking about building scaling, managing successful global finance team, and, we addressed the independence of individuals, and you know, everybody working remotely for our listeners and anybody who is interested in scaling their business, or possibly going to remote finance teams, or still struggling with that aspect of it following the last couple years, what are just some considerations or implications, you know, that you would like to point out to make sure that everybody is aware of, you know, what goes into a team such as yours?
 
Pedro: (18:07)
I think there some fundamental points that we touched earlier earlier on which are, on the team values on the team connection, and because growing internationally remote teams, it's not easy, you must do it with purpose and you must do it with care, and understand that if you are hiring individual that, have the values alignment to succeed in such an environment and in a company that is working fully remote, I think we have been increasingly more exposed to it. So which one of us is also learning how to succeed in such an environment, but, when, when you're growing our team, that is a specific consideration that, I would very, very much focus on. Obviously then you have other more infrastructure type of, of considerations on taxation of, individuals, especially if they are nomad and they are moving around the globe, where are they going to pay their taxes?
 
Pedro: (19:09)
Can you hire them locally? Do you do it as a contractor because it's really a contractor type of, relationship or, you by doing so you're exposing to disqualification and you rather do it as a permanent employee also for equality between them and the rest of your team that potentially are headquarters or are working in a country that you have established operations. And, for companies, this also opens the point on permanent establishment, which by having someone, operating, on your behalf in another country, do they increase the risk of the company on permanent establishment or not? And this is assessment that needs to be done on a case by case basis, almost just profile of the employee that you hire remotely can, trigger a higher risk of burn establishment and maybe others that are, seem to be similar to not. And this should be assessed, but is critical consideration that we take when hiring someone internationally.
 
Closing: (20:18)
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