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CFO of the year Jay Adams: “I always loved numbers”

CFO of the year Jay Adams: “I always loved numbers”

Jay Adams, Chief Financial Officer, Thrive, is a 2021 Boston Business Journal CFO of the Year honoree.

Title: CFO

Company: Thrive

Education: Accounting degree from Boston College

Hometown: Walpole

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Acquisitions can be a key part of some businesses’ growth plans. Thrive is one of those businesses.

Thrive, a Foxborough cybersecurity firm, made two in 2020 alone. Jay Adams, the company’s CFO, has overseen nine in his five years with the company. Adams has overseen more that just acquisitions, including a nearly threefold increase in revenue since 2017, and a recapitalization of the company’s finances earlier this year that resulted in what Thrive says is one of the highest valuations in the managed service provider history.

Adams has been with Thrive since its beginning in 2016, with the merger of Corporate IT Solutions and Thrive Networks, and he now oversees 16 employees across Thrive’s finance, operations, human resources and legal departments. A CFO for more than two decades, Adams also managed Thrive’s finances during the pandemic without the benefit of Paycheck Protection Program funding — and without drawing down a line of credit. In fact, Thrive, with the advantage of clients’ moving toward more online work, exceeded its revenue target for last year.

How did you end up in finance? I always loved numbers as a kid. I spent the first five years of my career in public accounting, and then jumped into private, and never looked back.

What has been a highlight of your career so far? Without a doubt, working and learning from some phenomenal CEOs: Kenan Sahin at Kenan Systems, Michael George at Bowstreet, and currently Rob Stephenson at Thrive. Three completely different guys in many ways, but all with incredible passion, drive and intellect.

How is the role of today’s CFO evolving? I think more than ever the CFO needs to have a “roll up your sleeves approach.” Whether it’s in M&A, really understanding what’s behind the numbers, or dealing with all aspects of the business, the CFO needs to be well rounded and ready to dig in.

What’s your advice to someone starting a career in finance? Be a sponge. Understand that hard work gets recognized and rewarded. Try different areas of finance and put your hand up for special projects. It will all pay off in the end, but in the meantime, be patient.

What hurdles did you have to overcome in your career? There are always going to be blips in your career. Learn from them — every day is different. Try to stay even-keeled through the good days and the not-so-good days.

How has COVID-19 changed your role? Not much overall, but I spend probably five hours per day on Zoom or Microsoft Teams videos. Without those tools, I think many businesses would have failed.

What will your post-pandemic work arrangement be? I was never much of a work-from-home guy, but in many ways have found it to be super-productive. I miss seeing the people in the office, too, so I expect to probably get back to the office a few days a week.

What book is on your nightstand? The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.

What do you do for fun outside the office? I love hanging with my family. I’ve always been an avid baseball fan. My son has played professional baseball the past four years, and we’ve had a ton of fun following him around the country. And I really like to golf.

What would you have done if not finance? A money manager.

Do you have any career regrets? I only started working with (private-equity) firms over the past six years, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with these super smart guys at M/C Partners in Boston, and Court Square Capital in New York. I wish I had taken this path earlier.

What do people most often misunderstand about your job? Funny, a lot of outside people who aren’t familiar with the role of a CFO think that I do taxes and get really busy from February to April.