For CFOs facing price pressures and talent shortages, figuring out a strategy to steer one’s organization through turbulent economic times can be a challenging task. For CFO Niki Heim, the focus and perspective “is always about being more efficient,” she said.
A nine-year veteran of Norwalk, Connecticut-based LogicSource, Heim joined the procurement services and technology provider in 2014 as its controller before being appointed to her current role as finance chief and chief administrative officer in January 2020.
This focus on efficiency was paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the company was angling to put itself in a position “to thrive, not just survive,” Heim said in an interview. That same philosophy can be put to use during the current macroeconomic environment, when finance leaders need to both trim costs as well as keep a sharper focus on where and how effectively their organizations’ current resources — including their people — are being put to use.
Balancing the hiring scale
One way to improve efficiency at one’s company is by leveraging previously unused data for better insights. When joining LogicSource, Heim looked to leverage the company’s untapped data not as a way to help boost employee efficiency, but to better understand key aspects of the business, like gauging how long an initial sales meeting with a prospective client might take and the probability that such a meeting will turn into contracted revenue.
When it comes to their employees, LogicSource utilizes a time-tracking system that allows them to “know, down to the half an hour, what everyone in the business is doing,” she said. This is not used to monitor employees, but rather to provide leadership with a better understanding of when the company does need to hire or to shift employees from one project to another, Heim said.
This gives the company a “really, really well thought-through” idea of when they can initiate projects and who is going to be working on them, she said. Then, the company “can really flow that all the way through our resource forecasting and say, do we have the person available, do we need to go hire?” she said.
Offering companies solutions that can help them to reduce their procurement costs, LogicSource has grown rapidly despite the complications and challenges which arose during the COVID-19 pandemic and which are now occuring among present economic circumstances — for its past three fiscal years, the company has increased its revenues by over 220%, according to an April 2022 press release detailing the $180 million it raised from growth equity investor FTV Capital. The company anticipates it will continue its growth streak, with an expected revenue growth rate of 170% between 2020 and 2023, it said.
As it looks to continue its growth, however, the procurement solutions provider is one among many companies taking steps to sheer off unnecessary costs. LogicSource is working on downsizing its office space, Heim said, and has also found a nearshore partner which allowed the company to increase its capacity while keeping costs down.
Despite being an organization where the majority of its costs relates to payroll, LogicSource will “absolutely be doing a significant amount of hiring” over the next year and change, Heim said.
“So every time we bring on a new client, we have hiring requirements that come with it,” she said. “Just because, not only do we staff a dedicated team based on the size and scope of the engagement, but we also have to feed the engine that is our center of excellence.”
Ensuring that the business is well-staffed is paramount to running an efficient operation — it’s about “making sure that we really understand that lever between, when do we have to hire versus when do we have to reallocate, so that we're never over invested, but we're never also under invested,” Heim said.
Leave the comfort zone behind
Heim’s own curved path to the CFO chair has shaped her strategy as a financial leader at LogicSource. An accountant by training, she took a job as an auditor for Albany, New York-based UHY Advisors after school, but found public accounting work not to her taste.
Heim was convinced by her future husband to move to Anchorage, Alaska, where she gained a “really good foundation and knowledge” in accounting during her time at the Stevens Group, CPA, an accounting firm. Deciding to leave public accounting, she served as an internal auditor for Umpqua Bank for a few years, before moving to the Bay Area where Heim made an abrupt pivot to the retail industry — joining outdoor and athletic gear retailer Title Nine as an account manager in 2012.
Her experience at Title Nine was Heim’s first internal accounting role, and she was quickly promoted to the controller position. When the CFO was let go, “I stepped into that,” she said. “So it was one of the first experiences where I had to play that interim CFO role.”
While Heim did not have the interim CFO position by title, she worked closely with the company’s CEO, president and stakeholders as a finance leader, she said. She would play the interim CFO role on paper once again upon joining LogicSource when the company’s CFO departed, she said.
Heim’s time at Title Nine proved to be the learning environment that would give her the essential skills and experiences she needed for the CFO seat at LogicSource.
“The culture at Title Nine made me feel so comfortable and empowered to be able to figure things out,” she said. One of the crucial lessons learned was to recognize and to let go of mistakes, she said, as well as learning to work in an environment where “from a culture standpoint, everyone was along the journey together,” she said.
Another essential lesson was learning to manage work-related anxiety — as Title Nine did not want to take on outside investment, the company was constantly ensuring that they had the cash they needed during the inventory planning process, and was therefore constantly reporting to the CEO — which she did with some anxiety, Heim recalled.
“I think one of the things I would always tell anybody trying to get into this situation is you really have to step outside your comfort zone,” she said.