On a typical day at BlackLine’s Los Angeles headquarters, BlackLine CEO and Founder Therese Tucker is fast on her feet, a blur of color as she sprints from one meeting to the next across three floors of the office tower that bears BlackLine’s name. A certified yoga instructor, she is equally nimble with words, a necessity given the arcane language of Finance & Accounting (F&A) that she has mastered. Her financial acumen and technological ingenuity have combined to make the work of thousands of accountants more efficient and humane, lowered the stress levels of internal auditors and given CFOs extraordinary visibility into their organizations’ business performance, informing smarter decisions to enhance competitive standing.
Prior to launching financial controls and automation software company BlackLine in 2001, Therese was the Chief Technology Officer at SunGard Treasury Systems. When she started BlackLine, she had more than 25 years in financial accounting and technology development experience under her belt and was focused initially on providing a wealth management solution to First National Bank of Nebraska. When an accountant expressed frustration over the bank’s manual processes to reconcile the books, Therese took notice.
A software programmer at heart (and someone who deeply detests waste and inefficiency), she put her nose to the grindstone and developed the first automated solution for account reconciliations. BlackLine, as we know it today, was born, albeit Therese was the sole investor at the time, balancing two school-age children at home with the demands of a burgeoning enterprise.
In subsequent years, she merged her two passions in technology and finance to the behest of Finance & Accounting organizations across the world, adding new functionalities that addressed the expressed problems of clients. Under Therese’s direction, BlackLine also was first to market with enterprise-class SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications automating the entire financial close process. It was an open field and business grew exponentially. The company now has users in over 130 countries served by some 700 employees worldwide. The impressive client roster boasts such global household names as Boeing, British Gas, Costco, Dow Chemical, DuPont, eBay, Lafarge SA, Northrop Grumman, Qantas Airways, Saint Gobain and United Airlines, to cite just a few.
Altogether, BlackLine touts at least 25 customers in the Fortune 100 and 100 of the Fortune 500. The company also has penetrated the ranks of mid-sized companies, and has offices now in more than 10 cities around the world. Additional Europe and Asia offices are planned, as BlackLine continues to add global clients, demonstrating the increasing demand worldwide for software to automate key F&A processes.
Running the business has required making risky moves. When Therese led the company’s shift to a 100 percent SaaS/cloud business model in 2008, she was well aware this would restrict cash flow. Nevertheless, she believed the decision would encourage more customers to sign on because of the lower upfront capital expenditure. The gamble paid off—nearly all of the company’s SaaS customers increased the number of their licenses, generating an increasing volume of recurring revenue.
Today, many leading advisory firms, like Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, employ a growing list of representatives that are ‘BlackLine Certified Implementation Professionals.’ In 2013, the BlackLine Financial Close Suite for SAP® Solutions became an SAP-endorsed business solution, joining the ranks of fewer than 40 other software offerings globally to be recognized by the enterprise application software leader. BlackLine also is an SAP Gold Partner. In 2016, Therese spearheaded the acquisition of Runbook, a Europe-based provider of F&A automation solutions to the SAP market, further solidifying BlackLine’s position as a leading provider of software solutions to automate and control the entire financial close process for SAP customers worldwide.
In addition, BlackLine is recognized by global technology industry research firm Gartner as a Leader in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Corporate Performance Management (FCPM) Solutions and as a pioneer in the cloud market for enhanced financial control and automation of FCPM.
After self-funding, bootstrapping and turning down several offers from venture capital firms, in 2013 Therese partnered with Silver Lake Sumeru, the mid-market arm of leading technology-focused global private equity firm Silver Lake, to undertake a recapitalization of the company and drive its next phase of growth. This vital financial commitment from Silver Lake validates the huge market opportunity for solutions that automate processes for the office of the CFO. In 2016, Therese went on to lead BlackLine through an IPO, debuting on the Nasdaq Select Global Market and becoming one of the first/only female tech company founders to take her company public.
Therese’s leadership, passion and persistence have not gone unrecognized. BlackLine ranked No. 7 on the 2016 list of the ‘50 Fastest’ Women-Owned/Led Companies in the world, as reported in Fortune. BlackLine also has made the Software 500 list of the “world’s largest and best-performing software companies” for the past seven years, the Deloitte Tech Fast 500 for the past eight, and the prestigious Inc. 500/5000 for nine years in a row, joining the ranks of such high-growth brand name companies as Jamba Juice, Microsoft and Patagonia. BlackLine also has been named a Red Herring 100 Global Winner – recognizing the company as one of the “most innovative and promising” tech ventures in the world.
Many prestigious industry organizations have recognized Therese’s myriad accomplishments, as well. In 2010, Accounting Today selected her as one of '10 To Watch' in the accounting profession. In 2011, San Fernando Valley Business Journal honored her as a ‘Woman of the Decade’ for her continuous accomplishments in building and growing the software company. The same year, she earned the 2011 Stevie American Business Award for Software Executive of the Year, awarded the previous year to Oracle’s Larry Ellison!
The accolades keep coming in. In 2016 alone, Therese and BlackLine were honored with ‘CEO of the Year’, ‘IPO of the Year’ and ‘Europe Deal of the Year’ awards. She also earned the ‘2013 Enterprising Women of the Year Award’ from Enterprising Women magazine, and both she and BlackLine received the Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Award that same year – a unique honor, recognizing the company for innovations that help companies save time, reduce costs and make life easier for those working in corporate Finance & Accounting.
Therese has been invited to speak multiple times at the Harvard Business School ‘Dynamic Women in Business’ conference and also at Columbia University’s ‘Women Leadership Summit.’ In addition to leading BlackLine and teaching yoga when time permits, Therese also has developed a tax/wealth planning software tool, which has been marketed to tax preparers and CPAs since 1998.
Therese believes strongly in giving a percentage of her salary to charitable organizations and causes. She is on the Board of California Community Foundation. On an ongoing basis, she has supported the Los Angeles Mission, Los Angeles Christian Health Centers, PATH and Dream Center, a distributor of food to high-risk, poor areas of downtown Los Angeles. Therese has a personal goal to one day provide Dream Center with a technology/software platform that would automate the distribution process and allow the organization to deliver more food to more people.
Therese also makes every effort to get BlackLine clients involved in these endeavors. Before each Annual User Conference, the company conducts a community event engaging clients, partners and employees to work together as volunteers. One year, for instance, more than 80 people helped build homes in New Orleans through Habitat for Humanity.
As a company, BlackLine gives back to the local community in Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley through sponsorship of concerts in the park and benefits/events with the local Loaves & Fishes and Toys for Tots organizations. BlackLine employees also volunteer at least several days each year with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, GLIDE and Toys for Tots.
To people who know Therese well, these philanthropic initiatives go with the territory. In her business life, she is most proud of the ways in which BlackLine has made work more humane for people, relinquishing them from rote, repetitive manual tasks and freeing them up to spend more time with their families. Therese is on a mission to modernize corporate finance. The fact that these automated solutions generate revenue is merely icing on the cake. Pink icing.
- Therese Tucker, BlackLine Founder, Chief Executive Officer
For years, management consultancies have touted the benefits of continuous improvement, the ongoing efforts in a business to improve products, services or processes by increments. In doing so, companies can identify and eliminate waste, enhance operational excellence and focus on issues like growing the business, accountant stress, the risk of administrative and reporting errors, and the possibility of a material weakness.
At last, continuous improvement has come to the world of accounting and finance, as Russ Banham points out in our cover story, “Counting on Continuous Accounting.” We’re a leader in this movement to forge a new mindset in finance, breaking down the accounting tasks that usually pile up at the period-end close into a series of smaller steps, all of them automated, of course....
A business must boldly blaze a trail that others follow, striving to do what’s best for its customers, probing what the future will demand of them, and making innovative decisions that help move them forward. These are the attributes of a business leader....
ver wonder where the term, the “last mile” of finance, originated? This oft-used phrase to describe the month’s worth of work painfully squeezed into a few days to close the books refers to the final steps taken by a prisoner condemned to die. Company accountants can relate to this fate.
Compressing the closing activities for financial reporting into scant days results in overwrought accountants more likely to make mistakes, high labor costs to staff up for the peak overload, delayed forecasts by FP&A (financial planning and analysis), and tardier testing of Sarbanes-Oxley controls by internal audit....