What's In a Name?Three mergers and three new corporate identities in three years would leave any CFO See Chief Financial Officer. shell-shocked. But Chuck Kane of Ardent is still, well, ardent.
Noun 1. huck - toweling consisting of coarse absorbent cotton or linen fabric
toweling, towelling - any of various fabrics (linen or cotton) used to make towels Kane was CFO of VMARK Software when it merged with Unidata in early 1998. The two companies had complementary technologies, database products and distribution channels. Therefore, they didn't want the name of the new entity to be a hyphenate hy·phen·ate
tr.v. hy·phen·at·ed, hy·phen·at·ing, hy·phen·ates
To divide or connect (syllables, word elements, or names) with a hyphen.
n. , and didn't want to choose one existing company name over the other. They wanted to find a completely new appellation ap·pel·la·tion
1. A name, title, or designation.
2. A protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district.
3. The act of naming. , to reflect their combined identity and the fact that the $112-million baby was born of a merger of equals. Kane, who would stay on as CFO, had only one request of the marketing gurus charged with the task: that the name start with A, so it would jump to the head of the Nasdaq list. The name Ardent was chosen "as an indicator of peoples' feelings in terms of their mission," Kane explains.
Then, in 1999, Ardent acquired Prism Solutions, effectively doubling its data warehouse sales force to 110, gaining 400 blue-chip customers, expanding its mainframe data capabilities, adding SAP warehouse interfaces and increasing its European and Asian presence. Ardent remained Ardent, and Kane remained CFO.
Fast-forward to 2000. Informix is acquiring Ardent as this issue goes to press (the transaction is expected to have closed on Feb. 29). The marriage is creating a $1-billion provider of open software infrastructure for the Internet economy The Internet Economy refers to conducting business through markets whose infrastructure is based on the Internet and World-Wide Web. An Internet economy differs from a traditional economy in a number of ways, including: communication, market segmentation, distribution costs, and price. , second only to Oracle. "Informix will carry the Ardent trademark in some capacity, "Kane notes, but the company won't be Ardent any more.
So what's in a name? "What they are buying is the Ardent people and technology, and making them instrumental to the success of Informix," he says.
But don't employees and shareholders find all this re-christening confusing? "My philosophy of business is to do what's right for the customer," Kane says. "Be fair to the people and be honest in every capacity. If that's the mentality and the environment, then everything else flows."
Charles F. (for Francis) Kane was born and bred Born and Bred is a light-hearted British drama series that aired for four series on BBC One from 2002 to 2005. It was created by Chris Chibnall and Nigel McCrery. The cast was led by James Bolam and Michael French, who played a father and son who run a cottage hospital in near Boston. He knew he wanted a career in finance after his first year at the University of Notre Dame. "I had to declare a major, and had been in engineering, but finance offered a route to dealing with people," he says. He went on to get an MBA MBA
Master of Business Administration
Noun 1. MBA - a master's degree in business
Master in Business, Master in Business Administration from Babson College and started his career in 1979 at Deloitte, Haskins and Sells, working out of its Boston and New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of offices. In 1984, he joined Prime Computer as treasury manager for its international finance operations, directing all aspects of international treasury. In 1989, he went to Stratus Computer, holding increasingly responsible positions, including European controller, international controller and finance director, mergers and acquisitions. He moved to VMARK in 1995 and now serves as executive vice president, finance, and CFO of Ardent, in Westboro, Mass.
For nearly 16 years, he's also been an adjunct professor of international finance at the Boston College Graduate School of Management. "It keeps me current, because I have to talk about what's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. ," he notes. "The course changes every semester. I like to pass along advice and hear subsequently how my students are doing in their careers.
He tells his classes that the finance profession today is "extremely exciting." Why? "More and more CFOs are becoming CEOs. There's more CFO influence in corporate decision-making. The interface with Wall Street and the way globalization globalization
Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world. Factors that have contributed to globalization include increasingly sophisticated communications and transportation has expanded the breadth of finance have revolutionized how companies are being managed. When I started out, Russia was the U.S.S.R. and no business was transacted there. Now we do business with Russia and China at a dynamic pace. It's a lot of work to keep current on what I need to know. But in an indirect manner, everything becomes pertinent."
He should know. When Ardent was created, Kane needed to implement control features for foreign exchange initiatives. "The people I've hired internationally and the team that's come together here exemplify what I've hoped to accomplish," he says. "Our expense percentage to revenue is 6 percent. A normal software company runs 9 percent to 10 percent. And individuals in key positions are empowered to make decisions, which eliminates a layer of management.
For example, he notes controllers in the countries where Ardent has operations are "highly experienced with U.S. companies, mostly in high-tech. They're focused on what they need and conversant CONVERSANT. One who is in the habit of being in a particular place, is said to be conversant there. Barnes, 162. with the regulations. I don't want to wind up with a bloated finance organization in each country."
Street Smarts street smarts Vox populi Worldly wisdom and wariness in human interactions. Cf Social smarts.
That decentralization de·cen·tral·ize
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities. and stream lining give Kane the ability to focus on Wall Street issues, which occupy more and more of his time. "The interface with the Street is more demanding with the volatility of stocks what it is," he says. And, having helped to hammer Out three mergers in as many years, M&A activity is also high on his to-do list.
M&A, he thinks, "is a great strategy to gain market share and leadership if it's implemented and executed correctly. For example, Lucent and Cisco wouldn't be the same companies without their aggressive M&A activities." And, he notes, while mergers "fail 70 percent of the time, the other 30 percent are highly successful."
One key to that success, he thinks, is "willingness for the acquiree to make it happen." In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , he says, "the more cooperative and driven the acquiree is to make the deal succeed (it goes without saying that the acquirer is driven), the more success there will be in integration efforts, elimination of customer interruptions during the transition, and so on."
Another factor, he thinks, is communication. "Be up front with people about their expectations of their role in the merged company, and communicate the heck out of it," he says. One big mistake companies frequently make, he adds, is "to wait for a quarter to see what shakes out. You need to be proactive, making and implementing decisions up front."
That includes communicating with the finance organizations on both sides of the transaction. "It's a challenge to integrate companies," Kane explains. "The human reaction is uncertainty and anticipation about their changing roles. But our employee reaction has been supportive, and our code of ethics Code of Ethics can refer to:
When employees become secondary, he thinks, "all the money the acquirer has sunk into the company is lost. We're putting all our hard work on the table for Informix to be successful. We must emphatically believe in the vision and strategy to hand our business over. There has to be trust."
Shareholder Jitters jitters 'Butterflies' Psychology An episode of nervousness or anxiety that often precedes a public event; jitters is a type of performance anxiety which may affect actors in a stage production–stage fright or soloist musicians; it may respond to anxiolytics
A company also has to communicate with its other constituents. "We would not be part of a merger of any sort if it would not be accretive to our shareholders," he says. "And you've got to make your customers understand why it's a good deal for them -- you've got to hit their hot buttons. You know there's going to be some emotion over the risks, but have to be up front over what the merger means to them and how they'll benefit from it. If they won't benefit, don't do it."
Like employees, when shareholders get wind of a potential merger, Kane says, "their immediate reaction is uncertainty. They're never going to feel comfortable until you assure them of the benefits. If they've been burned on other deals, they'll be skeptical." So when Ardent's Informix deal was announced, Kane mounted an offensive.
"I got on the phone with the largest shareholders and analysts," he explains. "I said, 'This is why you should be supportive of this deal, because this is your up side.' They need guidance. They need to be comfortable with why Ardent is now Informix. But you also have to be honest about the risks, quantify them, manage them -- and make people comfortable that you can manage them. You're selling the value of your stock. And if you can't highlight the merits of the deal, you shouldn't have done it to start with."
It's impossible to convince everybody, of course. "Not everyone buys off," Kane concedes. "But that has been the minority here."
Post-merger, the Informix finance department "will include some members of the Ardent team, in various parts of the organization throughout the world. There will, however, be some cuts from both companies when synergies can be realized by overlapping functions. But the goal for the new organization doesn't change; we're the business partners to the rest of the organization."
As for Chuck Kane, he'll become CFO of Informix. And, he says, "My aspirations are clear: make certain the merger is successful by every measure for the functions I'm directly or indirectly responsible for." After all, what's in a name?
Family: Wife, Maribeth, is a substitute teacher. Son, Alex, 7. Daughter, Erynn, 5.
Education: BBA BBA
Bachelor of Business Administration , accountancy, University of Notre Dame. MBA, Babson College. CPA (Computer Press Association, Landing, NJ) An earlier membership organization founded in 1983 that promoted excellence in computer journalism. Its annual awards honored outstanding examples in print, broadcast and electronic media. The CPA disbanded in 2000. .
Continuing education continuing education: see adult education.
or adult education
Any form of learning provided for adults. In the U.S. the University of Wisconsin was the first academic institution to offer such programs (1904). : Adjunct professor of international finance at Boston College Graduate School of Management for nearly 16 years.
civic involvement: Board of Trustees board of trustees Politics The posse of thugs who oversee an institution's administration. See Board of directors. of Framingham State College Framingham State College, at Framingham, Mass.; chartered 1838, opened 1839 at Lexington, moved to Framingham 1853, a normal school until 1930. Formerly known as the Massachusetts State Teachers College, it adopted its present name in 1960. .
Fédération Équestre Internationale. Chapter: Boston
Off hours: Skiing, golf. "But I never get out of the office, so I never get to do either."
Last book read: The Partner by John Grisham
Why the Informix deal: It's all about the web right now The Informix web engine is what attracted Ardent to them."