From the moment he was hired to stand up the finance and accounting functions at Remote, which helps companies manage compliance for a globally distributed workforce, Pedro Barros was given leeway to think big.
Even though the company was just a startup, Barros implemented the kind of full-scale SAP ERP system usually found in large, global enterprises, and he launched a shared services center to centralize core aspects of the company’s back office operations.
He also hired an all-star team of senior finance leaders, including three at the director level, to help him get the systems in place quickly.
“We had to face the challenge of establishing a global operation,” Barros, the company’s vice president of finance, said in an Airbase webcast. “Maybe we didn’t know at the time that it would be 50 countries, but we knew it was going to be global in one or two years, and we had to make the decisions that would put us in a good position to be able to be compliant and efficient working at that scale.”
Leadership decided early on to make multi-million-dollar investments in finance operations, which were considered essential to the company’s ability to scale in the complicated and competitive global employee-tax and regulatory compliance space, he said.
“It does not mean that every company needs to jump past all the smaller software and tools and go full scale with the largest ERP in the world,” said Barros, who oversaw strategy and operations at code-analysis company Codacy before joining Remote. “Far from that. But here, the mindset had to be global. We could not go with piecemeal software [or] localized teams.”
Remote launched in 2019 to help companies hire the best people, no matter where they lived, by creating a platform for companies to manage the tax and other employee compliance issues unique to each country. The platform has, so far, integrated the rules for some 40 countries and is expected to grow that to 50 by the end of the year. More are in the works.
“We understood that, if we’re going to attack global compliance, we had to have the infrastructure in place to address it and to enable our customers to employ legally and compliantly in the countries we are present,” he said.
Getting the resources for the upfront expenditures was not a problem because of the leadership’s commitment to fast growth and the need for scale.
“It was assumed I did all my homework,” he said. “I checked with the best folks in the market to cross check my ideas and understand if this was the direction. With all the material in place, it was very easy for the leadership to say, 'let's scale and continue to invest in that.'”
The senior staff he brought on board have come from larger companies, giving them experience implementing systems at scale.
“These were super hard roles to hire for, because you want these highly strategic folks with a very high capacity of driving impact and the strategic direction of the firm,” he said.
To fully leverage their experience, he’s given them flexibility in how they execute.
“This independence is really enabling their velocity,” he said. “And it’s enabling the finest team to move faster, even as it gets bigger. It all stems from this independence and having folk who knew what they were going to do. That was critical.”
In addition to building the back-office systems, the finance team has become integral to product design and other strategic business functions because of the close alignment between the company’s products and the finance function.
“A lot of the challenges we are solving have been very close to finance, like HR, payroll, compliance, risk,” he said. “Our awareness of the challenges of what our customers are facing helps us with the products we need to implement to drive their success. It’s built into our minds and how we work and what we are used to seeing. So, you have everyone on the team involved in product teams, contributing, driving implementations, driving initiatives, and they take center stage in a lot of what’s being done.”
This level of integration between finance and the subject-matter expertise of the company’s market focus isn’t something he’s seen much before.
“It’s an experience that’s rare to see,” he said. ‘That we are core to what we are developing makes everything more exciting. The [systems implementation] side was already crazy enough; being able to do this [on the strategic side] is impressive.”