Bob Wang’s career path in finance has been both atypical and amazing. In less than 10 years, he has been a top accountant for firms like KPMG and Deloitte, as well as has started, built and sold a successful cloud-based accounting service (which was acquired by Deloitte in 2018). He has a unique ability to grow businesses with his blend of accounting, business and finance expertise.
Now, as the new VP of Finance at Traction Guest, Bob will be responsible for a fiscal strategy that will further scale the company as we continue to expand globally.
We sat down with Bob to discuss his passion for entrepreneurship, an intersection between finance and storytelling, and his vision for the visitor management space.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got into finance?
I got into business because my parents were business owners. They had a business in the Czech Republic selling clothing and I found it interesting. When I was growing up, instead of running in the playground, I played in a warehouse. And, instead of jumping in sand pits, I jumped into pits of clothing. It was good because I saw how entrepreneurship was really life changing for us as a family, so I knew I wanted to get into business. That's why I went to the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business. Then I went into accounting because I felt that accounting was the language of business and really applicable to all companies, so I wanted to gain that skill set.
From there, I started my accounting career at KPMG. Soon after, I identified a business opportunity with accounting software that I pursued and started my own business, which was Legacy Advantage CPA.
You left positions in the public practice accounting space to pursue being an entrepreneur with Legacy Advantage CPA. Talk about that experience and what you took from it?
I learned how to be a leader by stepping out on my own, that was really the best experience. They don't teach you how to lead in a very formalized, traditional environment. The skill sets I learned is how to build and motivate teams and how to set goals. So honestly, the biggest learning part is the human aspect on how to lead a team. That's my biggest learning.
What did you accomplish when you were a full-time entrepreneur with Legacy Advantage?
So at Legacy Advantage, we provided cloud accounting services. We only did cloud accounting and nothing else. We didn't focus on taxes or anything like that, so that allowed us to partner with accounting firms, and that was a deliberate strategy for us to do that. We doubled our sales every year, before getting acquired by Deloitte.
You have experience both working for global accounting firms and starting up your own accounting service, what excites you about using finance to help grow companies?
I would say really great finance professionals are actually great storytellers. Numbers are just facts, but its what you do with them and what stories you tell that makes a really big difference. So, from tracking performance we can create KPIs, we can do projections, and then tell a story making sense of the numbers to various stakeholders. Fundraising is a great example. People buy into the story behind the company, into the CEO, and then the finance story has to back that up as well. What I’m really excited about is helping other department leaders by giving them the right information so they can make better decisions in terms of road map, hiring decisions, and overall strategy.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment to date?
My proudest accomplishment was the team I was able to build at Legacy Advantage. With the management team we discussed leadership books and ideas, talked about what it means to be a leader, how to grow, and challenge each other. Within six months of the acquisition by Deloitte, five of the participants were promoted.
Where do you see the biggest opportunity in the visitor management space?
I think that a check-in app on it’s own, is not new or revolutionary. But what Traction Guest did really well, was to focus on the enterprise needs and on an entire visit cycle, expanding the solution beyond the lobby check-in app. We are the leader, defining the category for enterprise visitor management. I know this cycle well, as I was one of the very first people that started the cloud accounting category. So I love the idea of building on that experience, doing something that has never been done before in a way that hasn’t been done before. Innovating and pushing boundaries is what drives me and we get a chance to create the future of visitor management I love that about this opportunity.
Why did you feel that Traction Guest was the right fit for you?
Traction Guest’s CEO, Keith Metcalfe, was looking for a business person who would also be strong in finance. I think like an entrepreneur, and I have deep experience in finance as well. I can interpret those numbers and tell a story in a way that Keith and the rest of the management team will understand. So, it was a really good fit in terms of skill set and my desire to grow in that space as well.
Traction Guest is backed by Bessemer Venture Partners and Salesforce Ventures, which are tier-one venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley. This allows me to build relationships with other Bessemer portfolio companies and exchange expertise on building fastest growing companies in the world.
Traction Guest has expanded globally recently with the addition of the Seattle and Dublin offices. How do you envision Traction Guest's financial strategy contributing to the global growth and company scaling?
There are several aspects. I think the basic one is compliance and localization needs. We have to create the best possible enterprise buying experience for our global customers, while managing international tax and sales tax rules. The second, more strategic part, relates to foreign currency. As we grow, we need to limit foreign currency exposure.
What do you do to unwind?
I have a dog that I love and enjoy taking on walks. I also read a lot. Last year in 2019, I read 33 books. My favourite book was the biography of Robert Iger called “Ride of a Lifetime.” It was fascinating learning about his leadership style. And in terms of sports, I like rock climbing.