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A 14-minute chat with our president

Marc Shiffman added the title of president to his chief financial officer role in January—his promotion was recently mentioned in Crain’s People on the Move section. During his nine years at SMS Assist, Marc has gone above and beyond in all aspects of the business, including accounting, corporate finance, human resources, legal, marketing, compliance, training, and operations.

In honor of Presidents Day, we sat down with Marc to talk about how his past experiences have led him to where he is now.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Changing my career path. I went from working with multibillion-dollar public companies to working for the smaller, privately held, entrepreneurial-driven business that is SMS Assist. In a smaller, entrepreneurial business, the stakes get much higher because a wrong decision could cost a lot of money—or the whole business.

How did it pan out?

Great! I’ve learned a lot about being a scrappy entrepreneur from SMS Assist’s founder, Mike Rothman, and I love this company. I feel very strongly about everything we’ve been able to do. We have flexibility, we can make decisions that are better for our interest in the long run, and we have the time to incubate, grow, and develop. We also have the freedom to take risks that public companies don’t have.

What is your biggest challenge?

Thinking about how my decisions impact the organization and the workforce. I try to tie all the pieces together, think through the potential ramifications of the decisions I make, and consider how I can make a positive impact. It’s kind of like a spider that senses vibrations in its web.

Here’s a brief science lesson: the silk in spiderwebs vibrates when plucked, and spiders can use this movement to observe the state of a web and take action.

When activity arises in a department or localized area of the company, I consider what I can do to manage the corporation better and get the best outcome for the entire organization.

What’s an example of work-life balance for you?

I get up at 4:45 a.m. and go to the gym almost every day. By waking up earlier, I can get into the office and have quiet time before all the meetings start. After work, I like to help my kids with their homework. Marc’s favorite homework subject? Math!

What is your advice for someone who is interested in becoming a CFO or president someday?

If you want to be successful as a CFO or president, it’s all about experiences and skillsets. Learn as much as you can about your company and industry, and work in as many areas as possible because that will qualify you for the job. After you have all this experience, you’ll have a better understanding of the business and how it runs.

Try everything. Lean in. Raise your hand. If you see something you’re interested in, ask about it.

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