An aggressive growth plan required a strategic CFO. Grayhawk delivered.
When ZipGrow approached Grayhawk, the 13-person firm had realized they had a potential home run on their hands. They had a high-yield vertical farming system that could be scaled from single-household to commercial size. They had acceptance in the marketplace. They were moving into international markets.
What they needed was someone to join their executive team who could help them get the financing to expand quickly and, eventually, lead them through an IPO.
Grayhawk spent time with CEO Eric Lang to understand the corporate culture, the team the CFO would be managing and the personality and expectations of the CEO and board of directors.
DOWNLOAD: GRAYHAWK + ZIPGROW CASE STUDY 2021
“At Grayhawk, we’re not career search people, we’re industry professionals. We’re business owners and board members. We’ve spent our careers not just sitting across from executives and owners, but sitting in that exact seat ourselves. That allows us to better understand their business, their opportunities and challenges, and provide meaningful recommendations.”
– Luke Clare, Managing Partner at GRAYHAWK SEARCH.
Vertical farming may not be a buzzword for the masses — yet. ZipGrow, an international company based in Ontario, Canada is changing that, and quickly. The company’s mission is to increase local production of vegetables, reducing the need for long-distance transport of foods and its associated waste. It also aims to empower individuals to farm their own produce at home, even if that home has very little space.
ZipGrow makes vertical hydroponic farming systems that allow individual users and commercial farmers to grow food crops on vertical frames without soil. Because the frames are vertical and can be spaced closely together, farmers can reap an equivalent yield in a much smaller
5footprint and germination-to-harvest is much faster. They can even grow their crops indoors, allowing cold-tender plants like lettuces to be produced year-round in frigid climates.
“When we met ZipGrow, we listened to their story with respect to their history and forecast, and then provided some advice on the type of CFO they may want to consider bringing on.” Says Luke Clare.
5 TOP LEVEL QUALIFICATIONS
The first step in any relationship is listening, and Grayhawk spent time with CEO Eric Lang to understand the corporate culture, the team the CFO would be managing and the personality and expectations of the CEO and board of directors.
“If we don’t complete our due diligence on those items, we’re potentially setting up a candidate for failure,” Clare said.
That understanding informed Grayhawk’s recommendations to ZipGrow. At base, Clare said, there are five top-level qualifications for a CFO:
1. Strategic — A strategic-minded individual with an instinctive understanding and active mastery of all aspects of your distinctive corporate strategy.
2. Proactive — A candidate willing to extend and embed themselves in the greater market, driven by a willingness to work with advisors and other partners on time-consuming transactions, such as acquisitions or fundraising.
3. Team Focused — A candidate at ease completing tasks independently or collaboratively.
4. Trusted Advisor — Inform the CEO on current information and regulatory requirements and effective recommendations to improve outcomes.
5. Leadership — A strong leader with sound judgement who can provide direction to the finance function and also represent the whole company as the primary responsible party over the company’s finances.
“A company may have a three-, five- or seven-year plan showing how they can grow organizally. Or they can make the strategic investment in a CFO and grow fast. We take time to understand their strategy and introduce them to the people who can get them there. These are people who can be a partner – sit right beside the CEO, challenge them, and help them refine the business plans.”
Luke Clare, Managing Partner at GRAYHAWK SEARCH.
The person Grayhawk found for ZipGrow was Ross Morgan, who had three decades of experience, including public financing and selling companies.
“Ross is a career deal junkie,” Clare pointed out. “He likes a company that has a strategic path to success that includes growth through acquisitions and, ultimately, a liquidity event.”
Some CEOs want someone to come in and tell them what to do, while others just want to give orders. Eric Lang was where Clare likes to see CEOs, in the middle: sure of his vision but also eager to have a productive give-and-take with someone who could help him achieve the company’s goals. Morgan turned out to be a great fit both for the relationship with Lang and with the ZipGrow culture which — in addition to expanding and making money — hopes to reshape the way agriculture is practiced, providing an alternative to foods grown on huge corporate farms and then shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to consumers.
Lang, with the help of Morgan, is pursuing those goals head-on. Just as the ZipGrow system brings the tastiest of strawberries from seed to luscious fruition in record time, Lang and Morgan are bringing the company to point of perfect ripeness at a record pace.