478: Numbers: CFO Leadership's Lightning in a Bottle | Sebastien Martel, CFO, BRP


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It was late for a workday (perhaps after 9:00 p.m.) when Seb Martel shared his team's candid findings with a collection of top managers tasked with assessing the economic downturn's likely impact on BRP's business. As a manufacturer of popular vehicles for snow and water, BRP had a management that was naturally concerned that the downturn could wallop BRP's recreation-minded customers, depressing sales and raising doubts about whether BRP would meet its debt covenants.

Still, the question that remained top-of-mind for Martel was a question that the downturn posed to industry at large: "Is management prepared to listen?" Today, Martel believes that his forthrightness served him well that night—along with an unflinching confidence in the numbers. BRP's management listened and responded to Martel's clear-eyed message by taking steps to better manage all areas of business, while battening down any unnecessary risk-taking.

It's no secret that CFO careers are built on decades of experience that every so often yield unique places in time where an executive is permitted to transform before the eyes of others. So it was, perhaps, for Martel, who entered the CFO office within four years of the fateful night that he says even his CEO still likes to recall: "Remember that night when Seb presented the numbers?"

"The beauty that we have in finance is that we get to convince the organization by using a powerful tool called numbers. And if you know how to communicate a message with numbers, you can steer an organization in any direction," says Martel, while highlighting what many agree is the essence of CFO leadership—its very own lightning in bottle. –Jack Sweeney

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