24 May 2024
4 minutes

Conquering pre-IPO challenges at Axonius: Rockstar CFOs Podcast

CFOs introducing spend management software in their organisation
Quick summary

Payhawk sponsors the 'Secrets of Rockstar CFOs' podcast, where host Jack McCullough reveals the recipe for CFO success. In this blog, we’ll reveal the most insightful bits of McCullough’s conversation with Chris Kramer – the CFO of Axonius. Discover Kramer's CFO strategy for leading the cybersecurity unicorn through its critical public offering phase, preparing for a cultural evolution post-IPO, and other pivotal KPIs.

Table of Contents

    Imagine navigating the pre-IPO phase in the cybersecurity world, where the stakes and the pressure are immense. That's the world of Chris Kramer, the CFO of Axonius.

    Stepping into the CFO role at the unicorn company, Kramer has to steer the company through its important public offering phase and navigate the cultural shifts that will come post-IPO. Under his financial stewardship,, Axonius is not just preparing for a public offering but has also been redefining what it means to be a leader in today's cybersecurity landscape.

    Join us as we delve into Kramer's journey as a financial executive, exploring the CFO strategies and insights he shares in one of the latest 'Secrets of Rockstar CFOs' podcast episodes.

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    Embracing the transition to IPO at Axonius

    Chris Kramer became CFO of Axonius just before its highly anticipated IPO. He is focusing on preparing for the public offering by shaping a corporate culture suited for the post-IPO world and defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the company's innovative goals.

    Highlighting Axonius's distinct position, Kramer says:

    It is a cybersecurity company focused on providing insights and data on all the things that are connected to your network. There is nobody else doing what we do.

    This quote highlights Axonius’s unique market position and the CFO’s vital role in balancing financial prudence with growth ambitions.

    Chris Kramer’s journey from managing Little Caesars to strategic roles at Okta and beyond shows his evolution from financial guardian to key strategic partner. His experiences at Ernst & Young and PwC, where he handled public offerings, have also sharpened his skills in guiding a company’s trajectory.

    As Axonius nears its IPO, Kramer builds his future-oriented corporate finance strategy with two critical KPIs in mind.

    I would say from a KPI standpoint, ARR is king. It’s your run rate on revenue, and there’s no more important metric than that. Outside of that, it goes right down to cash flow and, ideally, free cash flow because you want to show how you’re burning cash. That is the best measure of profitability.

    CFO strategies for responding to evolving customer needs

    The cybersecurity industry is as volatile as it is vital, a reality Kramer navigates with strategic acumen. At Axonius, he has to guide the startup through various market challenges, especially as they inch closer to an IPO.

    Chris explains:

    The biggest challenge that we’ve uncovered is the change in the market. From our customers who are rationalising their spending and elongated sales cycles, that’s happening certainly more than it did years ago.

    This observation is crucial for CFOs navigating uncertainty and risk management. And Axonius, despite its groundbreaking cybersecurity platform, is not immune to the shifting tides of customer behaviour and spending patterns.

    Kramer's approach to this challenging financial landscape is both pragmatic and forward-thinking, underscoring the importance of business forecasting and planning during the public offering preparation phase.

    As we are marching towards an IPO, we have to be very focused on our efficiency metrics and spend control.

    This dual focus on growth and operational efficiency is essential, especially in a startup environment where resources are precious and investor expectations are high.

    The CEO/CFO dynamic: A strategic alliance for success

    As the chief financial officer of Axonius, Chris Kramer repeatedly highlights the importance of the CEO/CFO relationship. This dynamic is not merely about financial oversight but forms the bedrock of strategic decision-making and cultural evolution within a company.

    Kramer shares:

    The biggest surprise was learning how to work with the CEO. I met him in the interview process. That went well, but there were some bumps along the way early on on how to deliver information that he could receive well. That was probably the biggest learning.

    This recollection also highlights the importance of mutual understanding between the top executives. Their collaboration extends beyond the boardroom, impacting every facet of the organisation's direction and the morale of its team.

    Additionally, Kramer goes to New York every month to meet with the CEO, showcasing a proactive approach to leadership that transcends geographical boundaries. "I need the face time, and he does as well," he notes, emphasising the value of personal interaction in strengthening executive partnerships.

    This CEO/CFO synergy, as highlighted by Kramer, is instrumental in steering Axonius through its transition to a publicly traded entity. It serves as a testament to the broader role of CFOs today: as strategic partners who do much more than number crunching. They are pivotal in shaping the company's future, fostering a culture of transparency, and driving strategic initiatives in tandem with their CEO counterparts.

    Fostering a culture of mentorship and engagement in remote settings

    In an era where remote work has become a staple, Chris Kramer aims to cultivate a robust mentorship culture and maintain close engagement with the team, irrespective of their physical locations.

    The reason why I feel remote work is difficult is because everybody is a mentor or a mentee. If you’re remote 100 percent and you’re not engaging continually, you’re not providing the same level of leadership that we should.

    Kramer's commitment to mentoring and engagement is not just about ensuring operational efficiency but also about building a resilient and adaptable workforce. "I do engage with my team on a very regular basis. I try to get out to different locations on a regular basis to do the face-time and make sure my managers are doing the same," he elaborates, showcasing a hands-on approach to leadership that prioritises connection and collaboration.

    This forward-facing strategy leverages the human element of business. By fostering a culture where mentorship thrives and engagement is prioritised, Kramer is not just navigating Axonius through its immediate challenges but is also laying the groundwork for its long-term success.

    Navigate financial transformations with ease

    Kramer’s insights are instrumental in understanding how CFOs can lead finance change management, particularly in the realms of risk aversion, regulatory compliance, and operational disruption.

    However, the challenge remains: How can CFOs implement such transformative strategies effectively? The answer lies in embracing technology and innovative solutions.

    At Payhawk, our comprehensive expense management solution addresses the core needs of modern CFOs. Our robust spend management platform offers tools that help control financial risks, streamline resource allocation, and ensure regulatory compliance to minimise operational disruptions.

    By integrating corporate cards, expense management software, procure-to-pay automation, ERP integrations, and multi-entity management features under one roof, we empower CFOs to take control of business spend and gain essential visibility.

    Complete spend visibility (with no disconnected views or clunky connections) is crucial for making informed decisions, optimising investments, driving sustainable business practices forward, and demonstrating robust cash flow control post-VC-funding and pre-IPO.

    As Andrew Jacobi, VP of US Finance at State of Play Hospitality, describes:

    We rely on the customisable class settings within Payhawk to distinguish between venues to analyse performance. Whether it's categorising between venues or categorising it into the right general ledger code, it's extremely helpful in terms of how we allocate spend.

    Are you ready to redefine your financial strategy and lead your organisation through a transformation?

    Discover how Payhawk can revolutionise your finance operations and support your change management initiatives. Book a demo today and embark on the path to becoming a rockstar CFO in the modern business world.

    Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
    Trish Toovey
    Senior Content Manager
    LinkedIn

    Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

    See all articles by Trish →

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