The Road to CEO: Lessons Learned by FloQast’s Mike Whitmire
FloQast CEO Mike Whitmire says he has always been entrepreneurial, but a choice audit assignment, a great idea, and a bit of confidence helped him make the leap from senior accountant to CEO.
Mike’s path to becoming a CEO may be unconventional, but in an episode of the Off the Books podcast, he explained how his experience as a senior accountant for a growing company taught him the skills he would use to start FloQast from scratch—and take it all the way to a software as a service (SaaS) company valued at more than $1.2 billion in 2021.
From senior accountant to CEO
Mike started out on a traditional career path. After working as an auditor with EY, he ended up at Cornerstone OnDemand, exposing him to the SaaS business model. While there, Mike was tasked with helping a small startup company acquired in New Zealand to become US GAAP compliant.
“I was auditing every single transaction from the beginning of the company,” Mike said. “And so by restating their books, I got to see almost every move that they made every quarter.” He saw when the startup made key hires and how it closed its first sales deals.
“From the numbers, I got to see how a SaaS company was started and built,” he said. “It was like I was looking at the blueprint for how to do this.”
Separately, he saw an opportunity to use technology to help accountants manage these kinds of complicated processes more efficiently. The seeds for FloQast were planted.
Mike decided to leave Cornerstone after its IPO to start FloQast in 2013, which provides software that helps teams close their books faster and more accurately.
His own kind of CEO
Every CEO is different. Mike describes himself as a CEO who gets into the details.
“As a founder, you want to know a lot of what's going on, and you're very much focused on product and market fit and the customer,” he said. At the end of the day, he wants to build the type of work culture he wished he saw as a senior accountant—a culture that looks vastly different from the one that external executive CEOs typically establish when they are brought in.
He eventually sees FloQast becoming a public company, even if it means more people hold you accountable. However, being the founder of a private company gives Mike leverage that other CEOs—even with name-brand MBAs and banking backgrounds—might not have.
“I'm allowed to be a little more brash and make bolder decisions and moves,” Mike said.
Establishing FloQast Studios
Building the company itself is not the end of Mike’s passion pursuits. Within FloQast, Mike recently created a separate arm named FloQast Studios. His main goal is to “educate and entertain accountants” through content that he helps create. They released a comedy series on YouTube named PBC, which stands for “provided by client,” a term well known by auditors everywhere and a nod to his former profession. Mikes describes the series as an inside look into what accountants actually do.
Another goal of FloQast Studios is to break down accountant stereotypes, which have been perpetuated in the media through characters in sitcoms like The Office.
“They're just people,” Mike said. “There are cool ones. There are nerdy ones. There are loud ones. There are quiet ones. There are organized ones. There are (disorganized) ones.”
Mike considers himself and FloQast to be more lighthearted compared to the industry, which translates to the company being able to recruit people and spread brand awareness.
To hear more from Mike’s conversation, listen to the episode.