482: When Opportunities Reveal Themselves | Wilco Groenhuysen, CFO, Novocure

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Near the end of our discussion with CFO Wilco Groenhuysen, he recommends a book while confiding: "It's not a great book—but it has a big lesson."

"Opportunities exist for only for a short time. So when you see an opportunity, grab it and make the best of it," says Groenhuysen, revealing the big lesson and adding perhaps a surprise ending to a talk that up until his book recommendation appeared to chart the career path of yet another graduate from the CFO school of strict discipline and resolve.

But wait! There were other clues along the way that Groenhuysen was more a CFO of his own making than a familiar reproduction. Certainly, the fact that his professional life spans three continents should have tipped us off. Also, how many finance leaders would ascend to the top of a manufacturing behemoth (Philips NA) only to forfeit the comfort of hard-earned industry knowledge to land fleet of foot inside the always-changing realm of biotech?

Asked to explain how he addresses the difference between the two realms, Groenhuysen says, "Driving a car really isn't that difficult. Sometimes the steering wheel is on the left side of the car, sometimes it's on the right side of the car. It's really the challenge, and here at Novocure, it's the commitment to helping patients." And no one doubts that Novocure's CFO likes a challenge. While CFO of Philips Thailand, Groenhuysen challenged himself to achieve a conversational level with the Thai language—one of the few milestones that the finance leader admits with a degree of frustration that he may not have reached.

Still, even with a career as sprawling and experience-rich as Groenhuysen's, one senses that the latest chapter may offer the most startling lessons yet for the Dutch-born CFO, who these days seems to enjoy educating others about science as much as about financials. Certainly, explaining how alternating electric fields can disrupt cancer cell division and cause cancer cell death is an altogether different opportunity than explicating the virtues of ultra-HD televisions. – Jack Sweeney

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