As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Lemmerman.
Stephanie Lemmerman serves as Chief Financial Officer at Recharge, the leading subscription management solution, helping ecommerce merchants of all sizes launch and scale subscription offerings. She is an executive team member and key partner to the CEO, responsible for shaping the growth path and ensuring financial stability.
Stephanie is a veteran finance executive with a proven track record of growing businesses within the software and technology space. She has extensive experience across a number of areas, working in venture backed, private equity backed, and Fortune 500 companies. Prior to Recharge, Stephanie served as the EVP of Finance at Headspace, where she helped to accelerate the business’s growth. Prior to that, Stephanie spent 7 years at Activision Blizzard.
Stephanie started her career at Deloitte. She currently serves on the board of Killebrew Thompson Memorial, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for leukemia and cancer research.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
For me, finance is the backbone of business. When I was starting my career, I wanted to have a really solid understanding of how businesses operate, and finance is a key part of that. Early in my career I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to focus and I was going down the path of becoming a technical accounting expert. I found that I was most satisfied by the operational aspects of finance. I started to move into different roles away from the technical side and became a lot more involved in running the department and guiding the business. My role evolved into building teams, collaboration, partnering with the executive team, and driving change through a financial lens. That’s the part that I’ve really enjoyed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I don’t have one specific story in mind, but one recurring theme that sticks out in my mind is how I have always felt an overwhelming amount of support from the people who I’ve worked with throughout my career. I’ve always put in the work and have always worked really hard, and I think that was recognized. As a result of that, I built a certain level of trust with my network and since then, those same people have helped me achieve what I wanted to achieve. That’s been hugely important. I am so appreciative of my network and the people who have supported me during each phase of my career. Staying in touch with people that I worked with 15 years ago has been really awesome.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
What I always tell my team and I live by this myself is: No one is ever going to just give you anything. You have to ask for what you want and you have to drive for what you want. You have to put in the time and the work to decide where you want to be and how you’re going to get there to drive your own career. Use the people in your network to support you in that journey but take responsibility that it’s yours and you have to make those things happen for yourself.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. Going through the really tough transition — particularly in a director role where you are learning to manage up, manage down and do everything in between and changing the way you work to help you get to the leadership level. This is always the book I recommend to people as they are progressing in their careers.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The people. It sounds so cliche to say “the people” these days, but it is actually so true in our case. We are a fully distributed company with more than 500 team members. We have people in 42 states and 15 countries. Especially for Recharge, it is so important to have a solid company culture as the foundation. Communication and alignment really matter, as well as trust and having the autonomy to do what you have been hired to do. The combination of these things, when it goes right, creates a high productivity environment where each team member really has the ability to make an impact. We hire a lot of really motivated people — making an impact is really important here at Recharge.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I think it’s less about taking someone’s advice and more about taking the advice and making it your own.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Listening: Listening has been really necessary and instrumental. Actively listening to your teams, your direct reports, and the organization at large ensures you actually hear what others are saying and builds trust. I have just learned so much from listening throughout my career contributing to both personal and professional growth.
- Communication: Similar to actively listening, maintaining strong communication, as well as a direct line of communication, has helped me to build strong relationships. By communicating with your teams often and providing your teams with context and the overall direction of initiatives — you empower them with the autonomy and trust to do things their way.
- Mastering What You Do: Mastering your craft and becoming a subject matter expert is hugely important. Naturally, other people on your teams and company at large will know to turn to you — opening up more opportunities along the way.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
There is so much more to the CFO role than just the numbers. It’s the combination of the numbers, the people, the business, the investors, operations and how it all fits together — master of these things are what can set a good CFO apart.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Managing other people. Oftentimes there isn’t enough training for people to become a manager or really understand and learn what makes a good manager. This is particularly true in early-stage businesses but you really see it in all companies. It’s far too common that people pass down what they’ve experienced — good or bad. It’s incredibly important to offer resources and invest in teaching people to become good managers and leaders.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- How important it is to lead by example: Leading by example is one of, if not, the most important thing leaders can do — and this will trickle down to the rest of the organization and company. I prioritize leading with empathy, trust, fairness, consistency, and candor for myself and for everyone I work with.
- How important it is to be aligned with your CEO: Being aligned with your CEO on all aspects of the business (cultural alignment, strategic alignment, and expectation alignment) is crucial.
- How important it is to build a great team, play to the strengths of your team members, and empower them to do great work: Build an all-star team — hire A-players, hire people that complement your skills, communicate with your team often, provide them with the context and direction but allow teams to do things their way, and trust and give your team the autonomy to act.
- How important it is to build and maintain your professional network: This is so huge. Relationships, both inside and outside of your current organization are crucial. Make sure to maintain relationships with previous co-workers and managers — this group of people have been instrumental in providing solid recommendations and referrals. In addition, having a network of resources outside of your organization is a great resource and a way to bounce ideas around and learn from the experiences of others. Within your organization, it is really important to have a strong network in different areas of the business.
- How important it is to create space for your personal life: Create boundaries and separations between your work life and personal life. Whatever your priorities outside of work may be — make sure to make space for what is important. Ensure you take care of yourself and your mental well-being. Balance comes in the long-term: find balance in weeks and months, not just days. And lastly, if possible, ask for help at home when you need it so that you can spend quality time with your loved ones when you aren’t working.
In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
Listening and flexibility — especially with what we have all experienced over the past couple of years in the world and all of the transitions that we’re going through. Leaders should be advocating for people’s health and happiness, and coaching and teaching the job. Investing in the people on your team in every aspect should be a top priority.
How can our readers further follow you online?