Eric Savina is the Chief Financial Officer of a French company specializing in business English distance training. C.F.O. by day, entrepreneur by night, he is the founder of rKruiter, a recruitment software company, and 500Assets, a depreciation calculation tool for accountants.
Eric started his career 20 years ago working for an audit firm in France. Early 2000, he moved to the Philippines to take over his first management position as a Finance Manager. After 4 years, he was promoted as General Manager. This experience gave him a strong understanding of the importance of employee relations management to running a company.
With the BPO & Call-centers industries booming in the Philippines, Eric had an opportunity to join a global company in 2008, where he is currently holding the position of C.F.O. with expanded responsibilities.
Early 2013, Eric met with some French investors who decided to bet on him and finance a project he had in mind for some time. 7107Labs was created. This company’s purpose is to develop online softwares for accountants and HR practitioners.
When Eric is not busy at work, he can be found near a rugby field or with his family. A proud father of two beautiful daughters, he likes to spend his free time with them on one of the numerous beautiful beaches that the Philippines has to offer.
[Disclaimer]: I think that I should give you an explanation about my dual personality. Being C.F.O. by day and entrepreneur by night means that I have to struggle with a kind of personality disorder. I’m an introvert when I am wearing my C.F.O. hat, but I have to be an extrovert when I work on my own projects. My answers to Rory’s questions had to reflect this dichotomy.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
I am not really a fan of the “X” years of relevant work experience. In my field of work, I have noticed that after a year or so, you know almost everything that has to be known to do the job correctly. Most years are just a copy-paste of the previous one, with minor variations. Adding more years would only mean doing the job faster and more accurately but I have seen many employees being able to do a job perfectly after just a couple of months. Same goes with education since we all have a common knowledge (as in, the basis of accounting) but the difference between a good and a bad accountant resides in how the good one will keep his knowledge up-to-date in a fast moving environment.
That being said, I think that in my case I learned all what I need to perform my duties during my 3 years working for an audit firm. This is where I learned about following processes and the necessity to document everything. I was told that I was not working for myself, nor even for the firm’s owners, but for everyone who is working or will work at this firm for years to come.
As an entrepreneur, my four years as a General Manager were undoubtedly the most important ones. Not only did I greatly extend my scope of work (sales, human resources, logistics) but I learned for the first time about real responsibilities. Being in charge of 250 employees, making decisions knowing that they might affect the lives of people who trust you, is definitely a life changing experience.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
As a C.F.O., I wish I had enough time to gain more knowledge related to the technical aspects of my job. There is always something to learn in this field!
As an entrepreneur, I try to achieve a deeper understanding of two subjects which are totally unrelated: people and technologies. I need to know more about people because you can have great products and still fail if you don’t understand your employees. It’s not only a matter of knowing who they are but also being able to show some empathy at the right time.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
There are two traits that describes perfectly my accounting job: being analytical and having an exceptional attention to details. The latter comes to my mind first. You have to understand that there is no such thing as a job well done in the accounting field. The job is done or not. It’s not well done, beautifully done, marvelously done. It’s just done. If you don’t pay attention to details, you will never do it. And to save time, money and yourself from exhaustion, you have to analyze first before doing the job. So it’s always the same thing: we think and then we process.
When it comes to entrepreneurial skills, I would like to say without ranting that it has to be a bit of everything. Having the ability to multitask is critical.
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers. Which type of job are you in?
As Lou Adler said: “every person is comprised of a mix of each work type, with one or two dominant”.
So I am definitely a Producer when I work on clerical tasks or when I prepare reports (but this is not my cup of tea). I like to think of myself more as an Improver or a Builder. I’m an Improver because I tend to look for better ways to get things done. And I am obviously a Builder for anything related to my web applications, rKruiter and 500Assets.
A thinker? I don’t think so. Or at least not for now. If my vision of what the office will look like ten years from now proves to be right, then I guess I would reward myself with the Thinker “title”.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
As a C.F.O., I handle a small team of three accountants. They have some skills which complement each other. I have to say that I am very happy with my team!
As an entrepreneur, I do not have direct reports. My investors allow me to use their own IT team as I deem necessary. I am usually in direct contact with their IT manager and sometimes with their developers and designers. I follow the principles of lean management and I will start to build my own team once I have a steady revenue stream.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
I will not talk about my entrepreneur hat since the answer is too obvious. Let’s focus on my job as C.F.O.!
A few years ago, I was tasked by Corporate to build and maintain some cost accounting tools which had a real impact on the global activity of our group of companies. Being able to know the exact cost of the products we are selling (distant English lessons and eLearning) has helped the upper management to make decisions. For instance, it was not obvious at first glance that the cost of producing in some countries was not that far from the cost in others despite a significantly lower labor cost. Providing this knowledge has allowed the shareholders to invest more money in some places while limiting investments in others.
My job in the Philippines has of course a lower impact. Still, one has to realize that nothing can be done over either the mid or long term if the administrative work is not under control. I’d like to think of my job as the engine of a Formula One. Everything can be pretty from the outside but without a perfectly tuned engine, you are not going to win a race!
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
Yes, my job is perfectly safe. I would rate it a 1, though I am not really “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” (it can be really hot here in the Philippines!).
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
As mentioned earlier, I have a vision for the office ten years from now. But what do I foresee? As I am a strong believer of the Results-Only Work Environment (R.O.W.E) and an advocate of remote work, I do think that most of the administrative jobs could be done remotely with the help of online tools. This is the reason why I want to develop useful tools which will be used (hopefully) by millions worldwide.
For the past 20 years, we all have witnessed an incredible shift to a more technology-obsessed society and this is just the beginning! I’m excited to experience firsthand this tech revolution…