Optoro is made up of a diverse collection of individuals who have come together to achieve a single mission–to transform the reverse logistics industry by finding homes for used and excess goods. We want to highlight that diversity with our Employee Spotlight blog series, during which we will sit down with a new employee every month to hear a little bit about the people who make the Optoro culture so distinctive. This week, we talked with Josh Burns, the “numbers guy” who has fostered alignment across departments by giving us the common language of financial analysis for decision-making. In our chat, we learned about the exciting nature of startups and how creative problem-solving makes for a successful business and career.
Josh and his wife, Kelly, enjoy exploring the nation’s capital in their free time.
How would you describe yourself in 10 keywords or fewer?
I’m a big fan of StrengthsFinder, so I’ll go with my top 5 strengths: Analytical, Input, Restorative, Intellection, Includer.
What is your role at Optoro, and what do you do?
In my role as Director of Financial Planning and Analysis, I give a common language for everyone in the business so we can make decisions together. Typically, I do that either through financial modeling or through data organization and presentation. This role is really fun for me because I get to be involved in every piece of the business. But it is also very challenging to be able to understand what each department needs and to build something that everyone can use to make the right decisions.
Where were you before Optoro, and why did you choose to work here?
Prior to Optoro, I came from Resonate, another local startup, which quickly convinced me that I wanted to spend the rest of my career in the startup world. There, I was the only finance guy. It’s like in the show Silicon Valley, when Richard goes to the VC and says, “I thought you were going to guide me on how to build a business.” And, of course, nobody is going to guide you. You have to make your company or department or project exactly what you want it to be because nobody else will. That idea is extremely motivating to me, and I have taken that into my job here to create the best finance department I possibly can.
As another startup in the area, Optoro had a reputation as a really engaging place to work and as one of the fastest-growing companies in DC. This role is an absolutely perfect fit for me, and I am exactly where I want to be.
What is the best perk of working at Optoro?
There are so many problems to solve, and this is a company that really appreciates and rewards problem solvers. Growing as quickly as we are, Optoro has no shortage of new challenges. I love being in a place where, when we come to a decision point, the typical question is, “Well, how do we do both options?” This company loves people who can think outside the box and disrupt conventional notions of our limitations; we’re hungry to push the boundaries of what others think is possible. As an employee here, I thrive on that challenge and am excited for what lies ahead.
What appealed to you about a career in finance?
I was a numbers guy even as a little kid and was completely fascinated with baseball stats; nothing has changed there! And as the son of an entrepreneur, I have always felt that being in an innovative company is one of the best things you can do for the world. Put those two things together, and here I am in startup finance.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to pursue a finance role?
See a need and fill it. That’s what a successful business does: it solves problems. If your focus is on figuring out where the problem areas are and then on finding a solution, that’s really where you’ll add the most value and stand out.
Another piece of advice for people in finance specifically is learning how to present decision-makers with the information and tools they need to make the right choices without advocating for a specific opinion. I think it’s really hard not to be pushing for a certain position when presenting analysis. After all, we spend more time than anyone getting to know the intricate details and drivers of a model or a set of data. However, I find that presenting the opinion without letting executives come to their own conclusion tends to fail. Instead, I focus on developing a common language. It doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions, but rather you need to focus on making the model make sense for everyone. I find that taking this approach makes my views much more accurate and nuanced and therefore tends to be much more effective.
What would you most likely be doing on a normal Saturday afternoon in your free time?
The only thing I do on a regular basis is drink a LOT of coffee. Other than that, I don’t think I have a normal Saturday, and I love it that way. My wife, Kelly, and I love to travel, even for a weekend, and we like to get outdoors with our dog, Reese. Kelly actually drove to Texas from DC for our wedding so that the dog could be apart of it. And it was totally worth it. I’m also a huge baseball fan (Go Buccos!), so there’s a good chance I’m in a new city trying to get to a new ballpark. I’ve been to 22 so far, 8 to go!
Josh and his wife, Kelly, love spending time with their dog, and made sure their puppy was able to attend their wedding across the country!