“Staying flexible, having a perspective, monitoring against that perspective, and making adjustments is absolutely critical” – Net Health CFO, Patrick Rooney
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and healthcare is still unknown and difficult to predict. That’s why it is important to pivot, adapt, and play the cards we’ve all been dealt. We also must listen to the experts of industry for guidance on moving forward. We recently spoke with Patrick Rooney, longtime Chief Financial Officer at Net Health, to find out his perspective on COVID-19’s impact, advice for his fellow CFOs, how his team is adapting to working from home, and how Net Health is still succeeding during a pandemic.
- Financially preparing for a global pandemic can be near impossible. What advice would you give fellow CFOs trying to adapt and pivot during the COVID-19 crisis?
It’s about having a perspective on the business and developments that are impacting the business and making sure that points of view are developed comprehensively, and most importantly, that you’re able to monitor progress closely against those views. In reality, the chances of knowing what’s going to happen are not high since we’ve never been through a situation like this before. Assessing impact and the potential impact on business is really hard. That’s why you must develop a point of view and monitor against that point of view while being ready to change it as you learn more about the situation.
The biggest piece of advice I would offer is to not spend a lot of time re-forecasting because too many things are changing rapidly, so staying flexible, having a perspective, monitoring against that perspective, and making adjustments is absolutely critical.
- Can you share a little about Net Health’s crisis model? Or provide some examples of things that you have done to prepare the company to weather this storm of unknown length?
As I’ve mentioned, you have to have a view of what could happen… the art of the possible, if you will. Josh Pickus and I, with the help of the FP&A, developed a number of scenarios, then we narrowed it down to a scenario that we thought was representative of what could happen. From there, it was important to start to measure against that particular scenario. With a point of view in place, periodically, Josh and I review actual results against that point of view, ask questions as necessary, and keep our shareholders and board of directors engaged and well-informed.
Our crisis model was more of a scenario and not intended to be, “this is exactly what’s going to happen”, but it’s rather intended to be something to allow us to have a point of view.
- With Net Health being a SaaS-software company, does our crisis modeling for that business differs from other industries?
Many businesses count on week-to-week or day-to-day sales they generate to be “net new”. Since we are a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) software company, having a subscription customer base that’s a committed revenue base allows us to focus differently than many other businesses and frankly, be more resilient knowing a large chunk of our revenue coming into any particular year is already with us. So, it’s crucial to take care of those customers and ensure their success by providing excellent support and to ensure they are paying us timely.
- What do you think are the biggest challenges facing CFOs during the COVID-19 crisis?
From my perspective, the biggest challenge is just the level of uncertainty. There’s no playbook for something like this. Everything boils down to your specific experience and perspective. Fortunately for all of us, we haven’t lived through a pandemic, however, when you’re living in one for the first time, you don’t necessarily have something to draw from. So, it makes it really hard and you’re kind of making it up as you go. Certainly, drawing from past great experiences you’ve had during other crises can help but there’s nothing with the same scope, breadth, and implication as to the challenges COVID has presented us with.
- Finance and Accounting are usually roles performed in person and in an office – how has your team adapted to working from home? Any tips on how to implement a smooth transition, while still maintaining the workload?
I’m passionate about working in the office… the ability to collaborate in person, walk down the hall to talk to someone when you need something, and just the overall comradery. The finance team is probably one of the few teams that have consistently worked from the office and are consistently together. However, the transition to working from home has gone amazingly well. We’ve had our typical challenges like family, childcare, working in a smaller space, and technology adaptation, but we’ve adapted and are succeeding. We’ve done a lot of amazing things and I’ve been really encouraged by it. It’s probably changed my overall view in terms of the ability to work effectively from home as a team.
- You’re known for your fun personality and sense of humor in the office and during all-team calls. Have you been able to enact that same charisma to your team working from home? Any tips on how CFOs can keep their team’s spirits high during this crisis?
There’s going to be a period of adaptation to the new environment of working from home. When we were in the office, we’d play “toss ball” before every meeting, where we’d toss a ball to a team member and they’d answer a question like, “what’s your favorite movie”, in an effort to get to know each other on a deeper level. So, we’ve tried to continue that with “virtual ball toss”, in addition to sharing pictures of pets, stuffed animals, music, videos, etc. It’s important to inject fun into any appropriate situation and with the use of video conferencing, it gives us an opportunity to be more creative.
- Any lasting messages or words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Show up, communicate transparently, listen and adapt, Overall, my view goes much beyond what we do at net health and anything professionally…we have to care about each other first and be positive.