Avant Hires First CFO to Foster Growth, International Expansion

Brendan Taylor talks about his plans to increase data transparency, and helping Avant achieve its next stages of growth.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

January 17, 2017

7 Min Read
Avant Hires First CFO to Foster Growth, International Expansion

**Editor’s Note: Click here to see which channel people were on the move in December or here for our gallery of images from Avant’s new Chicago headquarters.**

Avant has appointed CVM Solutions’ Brendan Taylor as its first CFO to further grow profit margins and expand internationally.

Avant's Brendan TaylorOriginally from London, Taylor was responsible for growing profit, and delivering “predictable and repeatable earnings” for CVM, a Chicago-based SaaS technology company. Last year, Avant expanded internationally into the United Kingdom and recorded 75 percent year-over-year growth in agent revenue.

Taylor is a chartered accountant with more than 15 years of experience, holding various leadership positions in midmarket, B2B technology and professional-services companies.

“We chose Brendan not only because of his experience and international expertise, but because of his proven commitment to enabling senior leadership teams to quickly gain business insights and reveal how their respective functions impact the bottom line,” said Ian Kieninger, Avant’s CEO. “He’ll be an excellent business partner and addition to our leadership team.”{ad}

Key milestones for Avant last year include: doubling the number of active agents working with the company; the launch of its Sales-Enablement-as-a-Service program; a new global headquarters in Chicago; and the launch of its BattleApp built upon SalesForce communities.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Taylor talks about his plans to increase data transparency, and helping Avant achieve its next stages of growth. 

Channel Partners: What’s your overall message to partners who have various relationships with the company?

Brendan Taylor: Avant [is] clearly passionate about how to really not just help those subagents to be super successful in their own right, but to … make sure that those end users are aware of the kinds of opportunities that are out there. And I like how Avant is trying to source within the existing community — who’s got something new that makes a real difference; how do you then distill that and communicate it so that people who can take advantage of that can move quickly. If you’ve got new people coming into the space, with something new that makes a big difference, how do you vet it, how do you make sure that it really does what it says it’s going to do, and how do you get that communicated and cascaded through the community.

So coming to Avant, I really like how they’re approaching trying to build those relationships and make those connections, and enabl[ing] people to be effective. When we say sales enablement, that’s great for the guy or the girl that’s looking to be the best salesperson that they can be, but also what I’m seeing is …


… it’s not just about the transaction. It’s also about making sure that the person who has a problem is solving that problem in the most effective way for the benefit of their business. That’s kind of cool.    

CP: How does your role fit into Avant’s overall business and channel strategies?

BT: The answer is multifaceted. This is not new to me. When you join an organization that’s grown and in the grand scheme of things is relatively young – and I don’t mean that in terms of the age of the population; I mean in terms of how long Avant has been in business and the processes that they’ve developed over time – there are certain processes that get developed later on in life and there are certain challenges inherent where you realize that the things that you could do in order to successfully grow your business from point A to point B will need a revolution of some sort in order to grow from B to C, to D, to E and to F. So I’ve seen that with other organizations that I’ve operated in and it’s one of the things that I kind of enjoy, is trying to figure out what have you currently got, how does that serve you well, how does it fail to serve you and then what kind of options have you got for improving that experience in a way that will scale, and making that happen.

Obviously in the industry that we’re in, you’ve got residual commissions coming through from vendors and you’ve got subagents expecting to be compensated against those residual commissions. What’s interesting about that is every vendor in that instance is going to report the commissions in a way that suits them and suits their business. That then means you’ve got data coming into the business in a variety of different forms and formats, and you’ve got unique identifiers that each vendor is using that makes sense to the vendor and the vendor’s business, but maybe aren’t immediately going to translate in a way that helps the business understand what’s performing, how it’s performing, what’s growing and what’s not growing. So one of the things I’m seeing straight away is an opportunity to help not just create greater levels of transparency around the data that flows through the Avant community, but how to make sure that when people can see that data, they trust or they like, or understand what they see.{ad}

CP: What are the biggest issues facing Avant and what will be your role in addressing them?

BT: I think one of the things that’s important to this community is the speed and confidence with which information can flow through the business. So lots of people are going to want to consume information in different ways. If you’re the business owner, you’re going to want to know or understand why is it when I add a dollar up to my top line, it doesn’t drop through to the bottom line. So from the owner’s lens, that’s going to make a lot of sense to be trying to figure out those kinds of options. If I take an agent of Avant’s, they are going to want to know that the information that they’re receiving from Avant is the most current and relevant, and really does help enable them in doing what they’re doing. That’s the logical thing to want in terms of …


… fostering deep, long-term relationships and having that kind of loyalty. So I very much see my role as how can I help this team make the right choices and make them more quickly.           

CP: What are your most immediate priorities in your new position?

BT: One of the first things you’ll typically find when you’re dealing with a business that’s reached a level of success, which these guys have enjoyed, but they’re also then realizing that there’s a second stage to come, which makes it super exciting, but realizing that some of those things that enabled you to be successful this far may even get in the way going forward. So you have to figure out what are the behaviors of the business that will continue to serve it well as it grows, and which ones are now redundant and what do they need to be replaced with.{ad}

You’re going to need a level of sophistication that you haven’t needed up until that point. You’ve got to be able to figure out how you’re going to cascade the information that empowers people to be able to make decisions for themselves by themselves because you can’t have everyone in the business just running it through the CEO because that’s not going to work. So part of the role of a good CFO is figuring out how to democratize that business data in such a way that you can better insulate the CEO and people can make decisions, informed decisions for themselves and by themselves.

CP: How did CVM change during your tenure and are we likely to see similar changes at Avant?

BT: Shortly after I joined CVM, there was a shift toward focusing on how we were going to scale profit margins. When I joined that business, it was almost being run like a lifestyle business; as long as we made a profit, that was OK. I actually stepped into a leadership role … to manage different functional managers and really get to the bottom of how we were really going to scale our profit margins. And not only did I figure that out, I managed to throw off repeatable profit margins in a highly predictable way. So that comes back to solid forecasting, understanding what drives cost and revenue behavior. And I think that’s something that Avant is hungry for, someone who can figure out what those moving pieces are and create models that enable them to be more predictable and have more confidence about how an input is going to translate into an output.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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