Talking Finances with Le Tote CFO, Amy Ard

Meet Amy Ard, Le Tote’s Chief financial officer. Sure, she’s the person you want to go to with your money matters but she’s also the person you secretly want to go for happy hour with! She smiles with her eyes (giggles on occasion too) — and if tax season has her all stressed, she’s very, very good at hiding it! From making a great first impression to making the right financial decisions, over to Amy for more… 

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  • How was the transition from your previous job where you were at a well structured, billion $ company to coming to work at Le Tote which is still an early-stage company?

The transition has been challenging, but it’s also been fun. Part of the reason I wanted to join an early-stage company was for the challenge of it. I have worked in larger companies my entire career, and I wanted to try something new and be part of a different type of culture. It is definitely challenging to be the first full-time finance person because the processes have not been fully defined, but I feel like this gives me a chance to create a structure that makes sense. I had underestimated how open everyone would be — to opinions, questions and ideas — and this is refreshing, especially since larger companies are more resistant to change. I’m having a really good time here and go home every night with a smile on my face. In fact, even my wardrobe is happy with the transition. It’s more fun and less conservative!

  • What signs/metrics do you look at to know that the business is strong and we’re on the right track?

I think growth is a critical success factor for any company — large or small — because investors at any level need to see growth and believe that there is an ability to continue to grow. The other thing is positive margins and the ability to improve those margins as you grow. Growth is only good if you are actually making money. In an early stage company, you might not be making money at the outset but the ability to generate those margins and continue to grow is really important.

  • What are some things to remember to make a good first impression at work?

First, be confident. You know yourself better than anyone else. You have to present yourself as a confident human being and as someone with a good story to tell. It’s also important to be aware of your body language, to be engaged in the conversation and be mindful of what you are doing. Looking away and twitching can be distracting from the real conversation. Show interest in what the other person is saying. Everyone wants to be heard but the person you are talking to must feel that you are listening to them as well.

  • What are some tips for a woman to be successful in a career in a male-dominated domain like finance?

It was not until quite late in my career when I started to look around in an executive meeting and saw that I was either the only female in the room or one of maybe two in a group of 20! My number 1 tip to be successful in any career is to enjoy what you do. I enjoy finance — it is like a puzzle and I like understanding how the pieces get put together. It’s simple — if you like what you do, you become invested in it and you will then work harder. Hard work is critical to be successful.

Secondly, you have to be open to listening to everybody, especially if you work in finance. Finance is really the culmination of everything else that’s happening in a company. In order to grow in financial roles, you have to actually get out from behind your desk, talk to people, ask questions and understand what’s going on so you can have an appreciation for how all the pieces are actually fitting together.

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  • What are the first steps in making good financial decisions?

Day to day, it’s all about understanding the ins and the outs — financials are ultimately about plusses and minuses. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You know what your paycheck is, but you have to know your own spending patterns as well. When making a large financial decision, there are other factors that are not just about the numbers. Ask yourself: What’s my goal? And will you get more from that investment than you would get from making other alternative investments or decisions? That is a financial question as well as a personal question. Good decisions cannot only be about money but also about what you are trying to achieve as a person. The basic personal question is whether the reward — financial or otherwise — is good enough to justify the risk.

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“Scandinavian countries (some of my roots), Tokyo and China — I would tell my younger self to invest in that travel. To be a carefree nomad!”

  • Advice to your younger self?  

I have only one thing to tell my younger self: travel more. You learn so much about the world and yourself as you experience new cultures.

  • Who are three women who changed your life & what are the lessons they taught you?

The first is my mom. She inspired confidence. She gave me all the confidence in the world to do whatever I want to do. She probably regrets that now, since I live 3,000 miles away from her! The second person is my freshman high school English teacher — weird but true. She gave me a failing grade on my first paper, and I wasn’t someone who was used to failing.  Through the rest of the year, she worked with me and made me a much better writer. Failing and then coming out of it with a good grade at the end helped me learn that failure isn’t failure. Failure is an opportunity to grow and learn, and I don’t think I would have ever reached that conclusion without having a her as a teacher.

During senior year of college, I was a nanny for a woman with two daughters. Linda was a very accomplished woman, an executive at a pharmaceutical company, but it was not her career that inspired me.  She was the most open and inviting woman that I have met in my entire life. Everyone was always welcome in her house, and people would come over at all hours of the day — breakfast, lunch, dinner, impromptu parties … She had such an open heart. She taught me about understanding people and relationships, which is so important in all aspects of life — and I am very grateful to her for that.

  • How do you use Le Tote?

I have a lot of basics in my closet, and what I love about Le Tote is that brings a flair to my wardrobe that I wouldn’t normally have. It lets me test out colors and styles that I normally wouldn’t buy. For someone who is a basic black-navy-gray dresser, I love that I can get to try bright colors and prints. If I love it, I get to keep it or at least get it out of my system! (See grid above for Amy’s Le Tote picks) 

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“Walking my dog Franklin helps me clear my mind! And the hills of San Francisco are a great workout too!”

  • How do you unwind after a day of number-crunching?

Walking my dog, Franklin, at the end of the day is the best way for me to unwind. Like all dogs, he is always super happy to see me and loves unconditionally. Even in the cold Philadelphia winters, I would walk him every day. Walking him while getting some fresh air helps me reset and get ready for the next day.

  • And lastly, what do you recommend to do on a sunny day in Philadelphia?

On a sunny day in Philadelphia, you go to Reading Terminal Market and get some good picnic food. Then, you go to Rittenhouse Square to just sit, people-watch and enjoy the weather. Rittenhouse is a smaller, cozier version of Dolores Park — it’s beautiful and situated in the middle of pretty architecture and trees. If you are a runner, it’s really nice to run along the river and down Kelly Drive. And then complete the workout at the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Rocky” steps.


 

1 Comment

  1. Laura Rivera
    April 6, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Great interview with an inspiring woman! I am a Finance Manager with a large pharma company outside of Philadelphia, with aspirations of someday being a CFO (and a curiosity about working at a start-up), so a lot of this article resonated with me. I have also just recently discovered and fallen in LOVE with Le Tote and, in my admiration and finance nerdiness, have often found myself wondering about the business model and leadership and how they are managing what must be tremendous growth. This was a little peek behind the closet door, so to speak, so thanks!

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