Hello everyone 👋!
Welcome back to Inside Freestar, where we introduce you to all of the people that make Freestar such a great place to work.
So far you’ve met Amber, Tim, Wariana, and Christina.
Today, I have the honor of introducing to you Matthew Wells, Freestar’s first Chief Financial Officer. Matt is a 20-year finance and corporate development expert and oversees the company’s finance and accounting functions and helps pursue strategic opportunities to fuel the company’s rapid growth. When he’s not analyzing the numbers, you can find him catching a wave near his home in Santa Monica, CA.
Ready to meet Matt? Let’s go! ⚡
Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Trish: Hi Matthew! Let’s dive right in — can you tell me a bit about what you do at Freestar?
Matthew: I am Freestar’s CFO and responsible for all finance and accounting for the company. We effectively record all of the transactions that the company makes, organize it in a way that makes sense to us at the company and to our investors, lenders, and the business community at large. We then take those reports and mine them for insights so we can figure out what we should do more or less of and how we can best grow and reach our goals.
Trish: You’re the first CFO at Freestar. How does that feel?
Matthew: Well, it’s a great honor and a big responsibility being in such an important position for the company. I love that I’m able to join Freestar at a time when we’re experiencing rapid growth and know that we have a lot of exciting initiatives still to look forward to. I’m excited by the opportunity to build on the successes of my department in the past and really evolve the department to one that serves the company even better.
Trish: What does your day-to-day typically look like?
Matthew: I joined Freestar in the back half of October 2022 so I’m about five months in. I joined the company at a very busy time for finance and accounting. My first few months were focused on handling and taking over a lot of the key annual financial processes such as financial statement audits and budgeting and planning efforts for the upcoming year, and on building relationships with our investors, bankers, and company leaders. We had a lot of deliverables to turn around very quickly.
Recently I was able to attend my first board meeting with the company and present the budget, which went very well. Now that we have our plans in place, I’m looking forward to some of the things that I haven’t had a chance to do yet like reviewing team structure and building out the capabilities and functionality for the department that we haven’t had in the past.
What I did in the first few months is not going to be what my day-to-day looks like going forward. In 2023 we will settle into new routines to better serve our business and clients and provide new insights on a reliable schedule.
Trish: What are you looking forward to in your role?
Matthew: I’m shifting my focus to growing our small but mighty Finance team to really support the growth of Freestar. It’s already grown from three people when I joined, which in my experience for a company this size is quite small. We now have myself as CFO, Matt Flood who is our VP of Finance, Laurie Kinsella who is our Controller, and recent additions Roland Garcia as IT Specialist and Zac Halls as Sales Ops Manager.
Our team is primarily tasked with day-to-day accounting and bookkeeping to keep the wheels turning. We recently hired Debbie Alderson as Payroll Specialist to work under PeopleOps to free up some of our time and allow our existing team to focus on analytics and studying/introducing KPIs. Our recently hired Sales Ops Manager will work closely with Finance and Business Development to build insight and drive better performance from our pipeline. We’re also looking to hire more accounting staff to allow the team to transition some of their work and accelerate their career progression.
Trish: I can’t wait to see the growth! Next question is, what is a fun fact that people might not know about you?
Matthew: I collect and ride vintage surfboards. I was born in LA and grew up just south in Orange County. I’ve always lived close to the beach. My mom is from Hawaii and so whether I was at home or visiting family, I was always kind of close to the ocean so I grew up riding the waves. It’s one of my passions and I still get out in the surf as often as I can in and around Southern California.
I moved away for a time to pursue professional opportunities but about 10 years ago, I moved back to LA and plan to be here to stay. The first thing I did when I moved back was buy a new surfboard. As I’ve been able to get in the water more and more, I’ve picked up new boards here and there. A few years ago, I bought my first really old, vintage surfboard and have started collecting surfboards from different eras from the 50s, 60s and 70s. They’re cool to look at, hold their value (or appreciate if I don’t beat them up too bad!), but they’re also fun and educational to ride. It’s been interesting to learn the history and evolution of surfing from the perspective of the shapers and crafts that led to the present day and how different boards impact my surfing.
Trish: When you aren’t working, what can we find you doing?
Matthew: My hobbies are the three S’ – surfing, soccer, and skiing. Those are the main things that I love to do when I have free time. Fortunately for me, in California, we’re close to the beach and the mountains so we’re never too far away from being able to surf when it’s good or ski in the winter. Oddly enough, I’m a much better skier than surfer.
In the limited time I have to watch sports on TV, soccer is my go-to. My son’s into soccer, he plays, I used to play and I try to get out there with him when I can. But at this point, he’s hard to keep up with.
Trish: Tell us a little bit about why you chose Freestar.
Matthew: In my last role, I was CFO at a digital media company that we sold which was a good outcome. But part of that outcome, which was fully expected, was that I was out of a job. I had some time to step back and think about what I wanted to do next. I realized that what was most important to me was having a team of people that I’d enjoy working with shoulder to shoulder.
Freestar stood out in my search above other opportunities based on my sense of the devoted, fast-paced, yet fun culture and camaraderie I’d be stepping into. Since I’ve joined, my intuition has been confirmed . I love the people I work with and each new person I’ve met has been incredibly passionate, high energy and capable at what they do. When I started my family asked me, “Hey, how’s the new job going? What do you think of it?” My immediate answer was just the culture and the people here are different and special. Everyone talks about culture and values, but there’s something about Freestar where those values mean more and are taken more seriously.
Trish: What have you enjoyed about Freestar since you’ve been here?
Matthew: Other than the great people and the great level of talent that I get to work with every day, I really enjoy the trust and the autonomy that’s been placed in me as a new member of the team so quickly. Knowing that I have my colleagues’ trust is a great feeling. I’ve realized in my career that the thing that I really get excited about, and that motivates me the most, is impact. Regardless of company size or industry, the ability to be free to make an impact and to improve is highly motivating. I’ve been afforded those opportunities right off the bat at Freestar and I plan and hope to manage in a similar style.
Trish: Finally, what advice do you have for prospective Freestar candidates?
Matthew: Freestar is extremely well-positioned in our space to continue our rapid pace of growth. From the perspective of the industry, the company, and most groups within the company, we plan to grow, and my experience has been that growth is a lot more fun than the alternatives, even when (or maybe because) it’s accompanied by great intensity and new challenges. I think Freestar’s leadership in our space will create opportunities for new hires over time. Whether you’re coming in as a brand new graduate or as an experienced hire, you’ll join forces with an incredible team of people to work with in a very collaborative environment. I can’t recommend the Company highly enough and if you’re interested I’d encourage you to jump in and learn more!
WANT TO JOIN MATTHEW ON FREESTAR’S FINANCE TEAM? WE’RE HIRING! CHECK OUT OUR OPEN ROLES HERE.