Flexible High Flyer
Would you like to lure big-time executive talent to your company? Do you worry that you can't afford to pay the kind ofsalaries big companies offer? Sometimes flexibility is the key to executive recruiting success. Just ask Clark Hubbard, theCEO of $10-million CSI Data Systems, a value-added computer reseller based in Norcross, Ga. In 1995, Hubbarddesperately needed the expertise of a chief financial officer (CFO) before his company could quite afford it. Back then,Hubbard's company, which had about $4 million in annual sales, experienced some serious inventory control problems. "Ineeded somebody to come in from the outside and examine all our financial operations to figure out what was happening andhow to stop it quickly," Hubbard recalls.
Hubbard had the perfect candidate in mind: a friend who had worked for years as the CFO of a multinational corporation,only to lose his job after a merger. "He was extremely overqualified and way too expensive for us, but I trusted himcompletely. And he needed some work," Hubbard explains. "I told him, 'I sure as hell can't afford you, but if you'll accept thesalary I can pay and give us top priority, I'll let you take on additional clients and meet with them at our offices."
The friend accepted the arrangement -- and then revamped CSI's financial system, upgraded its accounting software, andsolved the inventory control problem. "He set up a cash-management system for us so that extra funds get swept into aninvestment account each night," says Hubbard. "He also helped us establish a line of bank credit, which we'd never hadbefore. Those two changes alone accomplished wonders on the cash-flow front and really helped us double our business injust a year."
In fact, Hubbard's company grew so quickly that, in 1996, it made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing privately held U.S.companies. (At the time, the company was known as Computer Stuff.) As for the CFO, Hubbard acknowledges he would have"probably never even thought about making the hire if the inventory crisis hadn't happened." However, when that first CFOleft for a better-paying job, Hubbard promptly hired a replacement. In fact, the first CFO even recruited his successor -- and"gave him the highest of recommendations," Hubbard says. "It just so happened that the replacement was his brother, also afriend of mine whom I had known for years." Admittedly, this was an unusual arrangement, but Hubbard notes jokingly that ithad unexpected benefits. "Since they both had the same last name, we didn't even have to replace the nameplates on theCFO's door."