10 questions for Nair & Co. CFO John Sullivan

Name: John Sullivan

Age: 46

Time with company: three years

Education: BA (Honors) in Business and is a U.K. chartered Accountant (ACA)

Company headquarters: Sunnyvale, California

Number of countries: more than 50

Number of employees total: 400+

Number CFO oversees: 1

About the company: Nair & Co. is an international IT services outsourcing firm that provides an integrated solution in the HR, finance, tax, compliance and legal arenas designed to make a company's overseas operations less risky, stress free and more strategic. Its website is http://www.nair-co.com/Default.aspx

1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?

I started in a standard three-year training contract in the City of London followed by a move to industry through a traditional entry point -- internal audit. Multiple head-office roles including MA were followed by a move to Operations, ultimately becoming EMEA controller for a $750 million Group.

However, working within such a large Group had its frustrations -- long lines of command, slow response times, and as such I looked around for something more entrepreneurial, and it is in that sector I have worked for the last 10 years -- young, fast-growth entrepreneurial companies with an international outlook.

2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?

I guess it was the fact that I worked with so many influences both while training and during my early career that has shaped my own approach to work -- I try to create as calm an environment in which to evaluate the challenges of the moment, at least from an outward appearance, and as Mr. [Stephen] Covey says, understand first, then be understood.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

I would have to say the recession, assisting the management team and business as a whole to negotiate the challenges of the recession, minimizing risks, controlling costs, etcetera, while never losing sight of where the company is going; making sure overall strategy remains on track and ensuring the tools and resources are in place.

4. What is a good day at work like for you?

A plan to resolve a tough decision.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

Open door.

6. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?

Being located in that entrepreneurial sector where change is constant and opportunity abounds, it is the fact that no two days are the same and the remit is as broad as you make it -- that sets my role apart from many.

7. What strengths/qualities do you look for in job candidates?

The technical aspect is a given -- for me it is all about personality -- what that person can bring to the existing team.

8. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company?

That's a trade secret, but in essence it is likely to be something obscure, geared to see how they react.

9. What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?

A well-practiced textbook answer delivered without conviction and little substance in the ensuing conversation.

10. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?

A long drive home with the volume turned up clears the head and puts me in a frame of mind to enjoy family and my dogs on my return to home.

11. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?

Running a contemporary art gallery by the sea -- art is my other great passion.

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Tags business managementCFO CareersJohn SullivanNair & Co.

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