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April 16, 2020

What makes a CFO’s heart beat faster

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Laurens Weers

The story I want to share started one year ago. After 14 years as a public auditor, amongst others at EY, and six years in two different CFO roles, I wanted to take a step back and reflect on my work life. What makes my heart beat faster? What drains my energy more quickly than Usain Bolt can run? The plan was to put my legs up on my desk, put my hands behind my head, and muse a bit during a sabbatical.

The reality turned out slightly different. Just before my sabbatical would have started, my wife and I welcomed our first baby into the world! His arrival, five weeks early, was – to put it lightly – quite the adjustment. So instead of musing with an open mind, I ran around from six in the morning (on the good days) till eight in the evening, consumed by small tasks. Keeping our newest little family member alive (and fed and clean), walking the dog, cooking, clearing up a mess (that was cleaned up just a while before), grocery shopping, and then, yes, cleaning up the mess again. And I loved it. Every second of it. I made a real difference in the lives of my little boy and my wife. I truly added value.

December month is usually a time to look back on the past year and dream about the coming year. And so it was at the end of 2019 when my wife asked me if I made any progress in clarifying my next professional step(s). We kidded around about following my passion of being a kitchen chef or a stay at home dad. Because the truth was, I didn't do much rational thinking about the next step. However, looking back at my sabbatical, I realised how much fun I had and the true meaning of 'time flies when you are having fun.' I realised that being a stay at home dad required harder work than any other job I've had or done before; and at the same time, it was by far, the most satisfying job I've ever had.

That made it all clear for me: my heart beats faster when I can make a difference. When I genuinely add value. Not just by me for the company but through the company. So it is crucial, for me, to work at a company that has a bigger purpose.

Joining Lightyear

It might sound cheesy now that I'm actually at Lightyear, but the energy that flows within a company that is driven by a mission to make a positive impact in the world is so different from that of other business-driven performance companies. I truly believe that reducing carbon emissions related to mobility is a low-hanging fruit that is ready for the picking. Sooner than later. One could argue that other areas have a more significant impact, but mobility is one of the top five contributors to climate change. So for me, it was a logical and important step to take: enabling people everywhere in the world to drive as many kilometres as possible on the energy of the sun. It makes life easier for people instead of requiring people to change their behaviours.

The fact that Lightyear is a scaleup adds another two reasons why I am excited to join this team. Firstly, a vital role the CFO plays in a scaleup is stressing what is necessary to become successful. You want to enable speed when possible and need to gently push the breaks when the runways become shorter. An ongoing focus on getting the most critical tasks done, to make sure strategy execution is on track while continually checking the details to find potential devils.

The second reason I am excited about my new role is the work itself. Finding the right funding for the company's ambition is a crucial process in which the CFO plays a considerable part. In a more established organisation, the CFO role is typically not an active contributor to the value creation process.

It turns out the sabbatical I had in mind took quite a turn and didn't quite meet the expectations I had about it, but it did make me realise what matters. And I love to be back in the game: being actively involved in all the processes of growing the company, working with incredibly talented people on continuous improvement, sharing a passion, and one mission.

I have traded the luxury of spending time with my little boy every day of his first year during my sabbatical, for the luxury of having a job that energises me to do my part in shaping a better world. For my boy. That charges me.

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