Mad Men


"We plan well financially.”

At a company founded entirely by former CFOs, that should go without saying. As Stephen Broderick, managing partner of Firmdecisions ASP explains, the company has grown from two employees in 2000 to more than 30 today, in six offices, on five continents, with clients in 60 different countries. And all of this without ever borrowing money. "We take calculated risks that we are 90% certain we can achieve," Broderick says.

The company was borne from the frustration of a finance chief confined to the back office. Contrary to the advertising industry's trendy image, the sector's finance executives often find themselves "sitting in boxes and crunching numbers," says Broderick. What's more, from his vantage point, which included a stint as European CFO for ad agency Young & Rubicam, he saw how advertisers often engaged advisers who "didn't understand much about the vagaries of the industry" when they audited their clients' marketing spend. While exploring the idea of setting up his own agency audit firm, Broderick found out about a like-minded finance executive in Australia. They founded the firm at their first meeting.

"We had a big client in the first couple of months," Broderick recalls. "Word of mouth spread very quickly about an audit firm made up of ex-finance people from the industry." Today, the firm handled 16 of the world's 20 largest advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Nestle and Sony.

For the partners-all ex-CFOs or finance managers-leaving the "protective barrier" of a big company can be difficult at first. Nonetheless, Broderick hasn't found it hard to recruit finance executives itching to unleash their inner entrepreneur. "We don't work to set formulas so you're encouraged to think on your own," he says. Formerly banished to the back office, partners who are now thrust in front of clients to pitch for business get an "incredible buzz," he says.

Published in CFO magazine May 2009