By Kim Davis
Wall Street executives have a stereotype in mind when they deal with Texas companies. After all, we’re the cowboys and the outlaws who do things a bit different down here, right y’all? But it’s not just the great economy in Texas that has caught their attention. Texas CEO Magazine interviewed Stephen Solcher, CFO of BMC Software in Houston, who was voted the most effective and trusted CFO in the software sector by the 2010 Institutional Investor Survey–and we wanted to know just how he rounded up those Wall Street types. Turns out that growing up Texan instilled in Solcher the values of self-sufficiency and the importance of making your own way. Now, this Aggie is just as comfortable in a pair of wingtips as he is in boots and a Stetson, and after almost 19 years in treasurer and finance roles at BMC, he knows the language of the boardroom just as well as the twang of the ranch.
TEXAS CEO: Earlier this year the sell-side investor community named you as the most effective and trusted CFO in the software sector, as well as being recognized by the buy-side analysts. What is it about your style and approach that has caught Wall Street’s attention?
SOLCHER: It’s about honesty, transparency, not trying to spin a message, being fact-based and thinking about the type of metrics that will help the ordinary investor understand the health of our business. The key for me has always been to use the same metrics that we use to monitor and track our business, and use those same metrics to explain our performance externally. It’s important to communicate the full message and not try to hide poor performance.
TEXAS CEO: Is there a line in your mind that separates the advocacy you need to do around numbers and the interpretation of numbers, and that on one side and selling it on the other side?
SOLCHER: I work to simplify our message to very tangible outcomes. If you just try to tell a complex story without having the elements or the building blocks underneath it, it becomes confusing and key points of your messaging may get lost. I want our shareholders to understand all of the real drivers of performance.
TEXAS CEO: What is it about BMC that enables you to do your best work and to really be able to act the way you do, to have the values that you do?
SOLCHER: It starts at the top. Our CEO, Bob Beauchamp, together with our board of directors, really sets the tone on ethics, acting with integrity, and that we’re going to do the right thing no matter what. Operationally, my staff has been a huge contributor to the high quality of our financials and financial processes. There have been a lot of people over the years that helped me to step up and understand the bigger picture.
TEXAS CEO: Given the current economic backdrop, how have you changed your mindset or your practices or your methods?
SOLCHER: It’s important to understand that anybody can manage for the short term, and anybody can manage to the long term. It’s really finding the right balance between those two objectives which is the difficult job, but it’s critically important. Lately, I have spent more time thinking about the longer term strategies. Most of the major game changing moves that have ever happened occurred in an environment like the one we’re in.
TEXAS CEO: Is there something you’ve learned that guides you daily in your work?
SOLCHER: Never walk out of a meeting wishing you would have said something which may have influenced a key decision.
TEXAS CEO: Texas culture – that idea of being self-sufficient and making your own mark — obviously made an impact on you.
SOLCHER: I think it primarily started through how my parents raised me, and I think because both of them were Texans, and that no one had ever given anything to them. They instilled in us from the first moment that you get nothing for free, and made us all work all the way through our educational years. I just never felt that you were entitled to anything other than what your own hard work produced. To me, Texas is about the chance to stand on your own two feet and being the person you ought to be.
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