A tumultuous 2021 led Sherri Moyen to make her recent move to join Conductor, a former WeWork company, as its first female CFO, helping her to overcome her risk-averse tendencies and realize her long-held interest in joining a growth company.
Moyen had long been interested in startups but stuck through thick and thin with call center tech firm Aspect Software for more than 12 years. She helped the firm manage through a 2016 bankruptcy reorganization, rising to become interim CFO in 2018 and full-time CFO in 2020. Ultimately she oversaw a merger last year with Noble Systems in a deal with private equity firm Abry Partners that valued the new company, Alvaria, at over $1 billion. Along the way she gained skills beyond accounting and financial reporting that she believes are valuable.
She learned the ins and outs of the world of private equity and distressed debt, and how to work with lenders, but it was no easy feat. While working with an advisor, taking pitches and ultimately selling the company, the mother of three was also juggling her family responsibilities and caring for her mother who was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in July. Moyen herself also ended up with pneumonia after battling COVID-19, which led to her wife, an ICU nurse, having to leave her own work to provide Moyen’s care.
“A lot of things were happening at once and it made me realize life is short and you need to take risks,” Moyen, who is 45, told CFO Dive, adding that Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” has also inspired her by nudging her to pursue her career development.
The shift in her mindset led her to begin considering joining smaller companies than she’d previously explored. The difference in size is stark: Conductor has 300 employees and annual revenue of about $45 million compared to Alvaria’s 2,000 employees and $410 million in revenue.
On a catapult
Moyen is looking forward to helping grow the SEO firm’s annual recurring revenue to $100 million over the next few years, with the ultimate goal of an exit through an initial public offering or a SPAC deal. In November the company was already working on a funding round for $150 million led by Bregal Sagemount. “I was super excited about joining a company where it felt like they were already on a catapult to take off,” she said.
Moyen was also impressed by the risks its own co-founder, Seth Besmertnik, took in 2019 to buy the company back from WeWork. Conductor was snapped up in 2018 by WeWork, which planned to use its marketing technology to learn about business’ office space needs but before the co-working company’s plans began to fizzle amid drastic cuts, Besmertnik and his leadership team bought out the business.
“It would have been very easy to stay with WeWork but the founders saw that the company under WeWork wasn’t headed in the right direction and they decided to take back control in order to determine their destiny," she said. "That showed me how much they believe in the company and their future.”
Moyen was also drawn to SEO firm Conductor for other reasons, including her belief in the power and importance of the business of online marketing and the company’s diverse and open culture. Not only did Conductor already have a female COO, Selina Eizik, she was impressed by Besmertnick’s commitment to building a diverse team after he acknowledged to her that he had sought to overcome what she called “an unconscious bias” toward hiring white men.
“Conductor has a lot of very talented, capable people, yet less egos than any other place that I have worked," Moyen said in a follow-up email. "Healthy debate/discussions are encouraged, which is incredibly refreshing to me.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Conductor is a former WeWork company.