How I Got Here: From the Marine Corps to Web3 with Ryan Fanter

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Ryan Fanter is a seasoned finance professional and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He currently serves as the Vice President of Strategic Finance at Figment. Ryan's career is marked by his ability to drive financial strategy, improve processes, and deliver valuable insights to business leaders. Prior to Figment, Ryan was the GTM Finance Manager at ClickUp, where he was the first FP&A hire and played an instrumental role in a $400M Series C funding round.  

Can you tell us about your background and what Figment.io does?

I started out in the Marine Corps and then transitioned into finance. I've worked in various industries, from Marvell Semiconductor to the tech sector at ServiceNow and ClickUp, and eventually found my passion for building at startups. At Figment, we're a web3 company that provides staking services and some data. It's an exciting space with lots of growth and challenges.

How did you end up in finance?

After being medically retired from the Marine Corps, I landed in finance because I had no idea what people did in the real world. I knew I wanted to get into business, and finance seemed the most straightforward. I started out in an entry-level finance job and learned along the way. I found that I really enjoyed finance and decided to stick with it.

What were your biggest learnings from working at companies like Marvell Semiconductors, Click Up, and ServiceNow?

At Marvell, I learned the foundations of finance and gained business acumen. A big part of my responsibilities at Marvell was forecasting revenue and managing topline growth, interacting with sales and marketing teams there. At ServiceNow, I honed my skills as a business partner and developed my financial acumen. At Click Up, my first startup experience, I learned how to set up and grow companies correctly.

How do you make the leap from an individual contributor to a managerial role?

It starts with taking responsibility for your own career growth. It’s a little cliche, but no one cares more about your career than you do. Ask questions, seek out learning opportunities, and grow beyond your current responsibilities. If you're proactive and show a continuous growth mindset, you're more likely to be given opportunities to advance.

What should your first 30, 60, 90 days look like when you join a company?

The first step is to understand the financials and get an overall picture of the business. I meet with each department lead to understand their plans and resources needed. Then, I pull all that information together to create a financial model and plan for the next year. Essentially, spending time at first getting your house in order, assessing the information you have, then triaging the situation — deciding what resources you need on your team to succeed and how you will prioritize execution.

There's tons of low-hanging fruit. So it's knowing where you'll make the biggest impact first and then what's going to make the most immediate, long-lasting impacts. Knock those out and then address and prioritize all the different things you can do without ruffling too many feathers. You don't want to be the first finance hire that gets there and then starts trying to strip budgets or anything like that.

Along those lines, how do you manage the reputation of finance as the "CF-No" versus the "CF-Yes"?

During budgeting processes, finance departments can often gain a reputation for being restrictive or inflexible. This can happen in mature companies with fixed budgets or in fast-growing companies that are implementing budgets for the first time. Employees might question the need for a budget, especially if they've never had to adhere to one before.

The key to managing these situations is to help find solutions and allocate resources effectively. Each department receives a budget and is expected to adhere to it. But it's important to have a clear process and ensure everyone understands what happens to unused budgets or how to transfer funds from one area to another if necessary.

Transparency is crucial. Have open conversations about the budget, what was agreed upon, and how to work within these constraints. It's not about simply saying "no" and moving on.

It's about helping find solutions and allocating resources effectively. Things will change, especially in startups. So, I like to take a reforecast approach and adjust our forecast to reflect changes. We won't say no to a legitimate business investment because it falls outside of budget constraints, as long as there's a financial means to accomplish it and a known return on the other side.

If there's a legitimate request for expenditure that may be outside of the budget, but there's a clear return on investment, we should be able to make that investment and adjust our forecast in the next period to reflect these changes. We should never say "no" to a legitimate business investment just because it falls outside of budget constraints, as long as there are financial means to accomplish it and a known return on investment.

What does an exceptional budget look like?

An exceptional budget is detailed and accurate. It includes line items, categories of investments, and annotations of what the expenditure will be. It's also important to understand the accounting rules and how they will impact the budget.

What drives you in your role?

I enjoy getting the pulse on what's happening in the company. I like being a partner, not just a scorekeeper. I find satisfaction in helping teams get where they need to go and being a sounding board for strategy and direction.

What are your priorities for 2023?

The focus is on efficiency, treasury management, and profitable growth. We're looking at how we can do more with less, manage our cash effectively, and ensure we're investing in the right areas for growth.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into finance?

Start with the basics and build a strong foundation. Understand the fundamentals of finance and accounting. Be curious and ask questions. And remember, it's not just about the numbers. It's about understanding the business and being a strategic partner.

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