Shift4’s CEO Jared Isaacman was off earth for a few days. In a collaboration with SpaceX and in efforts to raise over $200 million for St. Jude Hospital, the thirty-eight-year-old founder (who already set a world record for circumnavigating the earth in a light jet in 2009) set his sights a little higher. Literally.
As mission commander, Isaacman and three other members of the Inspiration4 team (including childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux) became the first all-civilian crew to ever orbit the earth on September 15, 2021. They landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean three days later.
“Jared wants to test limits. It’s just who he is,” says Gail Miller, chief accounting officer at Shift4. “This company has an amazing story, and it just keeps growing.”
Shift4 was founded by Isaacman in 1999, when he was only sixteen years old. The provider of integrated payment processing and technology solutions now helps power over 350 software providers across industries including hospitality, retail, and gaming.
The company has grown through multiple acquisitions and went public in June 2020. It has continued an unprecedented expansion that, Miller says, is at the heart of the Isaacman’s desire to ultimately take on mainstay financial and digital product and service payment companies like Stripe, Adyen, and Toast.
But before the incredible expansion, Shift4 had to learn how to grow.
Miller had amassed significant previous experience at Rodale and had helped Western Union spin off from First Data, but she needed her entire accounting prowess to help align Shift4’s vision with its reality.
“I knew I was entering a hypergrowth company, but the reality was that we were on QuickBooks with very little defined processes or controls,” Miller recalls. “We needed to implement a formal accounting system with clearly defined processes for balance sheet reconciliation and flux analysis.”
As Shift4 continued its rise, the ground was laid for an IPO, but COVID-19 required significant tinkering. “I don’t think I slept for two months,” Miller says, laughing but quite serious. “It was all hands on deck, and that’s just Jared. It’s not surprising because it’s just a sign of how driven and motivated he is to grow this company he’s created.”
Coming out of a monstrously successful IPO, most companies would try to get a lay of the land before proceeding forward, but not Shift4. The company went forward with two follow-on offerings, two debt offerings, and two acquisitions within months of going public. In just five years, Miller’s team went from three people to nearly thirty.
“As Shift4 evolved, Gail strategically aligned her team to be in position to achieve the overall growth goals of the organization,” says Tori Jancovic, director of accounting and audit support practice at Centri Consulting. “She is an empowering leader and earns her team’s respect by providing opportunities for professional growth, and consistently leading by example.”
Widening the Outlook
Miller says the hypergrowth and acquisitions necessitated a very serious reorganization that wasn’t just the product of recent acquisitions but also the growing pains of a company.
The management team had begun switching out with more talent from public companies prior to its IPO. After a new CFO was installed, Miller was promoted to chief accounting officer. “I want to say that I wouldn’t have gotten here without Brad [Herring],” Miller says. “He recognized what I was bringing to the table and pushed for me to be here.”
Following the acquisitions, Miller describes an essential reorganization that required everyone to reinterview for their jobs. “To be frank, there were some highly paid individuals on my team that were not high performers,” she explains. “Letting one person go freed up room for multiple positions to get some fresh blood here.
“I can’t tell you what it’s done for this team,” she continues. “It was a very tough position to put people in, but I knew that it would ultimately benefit everyone that is here.”
Miller’s push for new and diverse talent isn’t new. Her passion for diversity and inclusion is informed by the fact that she’s the sole woman on Shift4’s executive team. Being the sole woman at the table can certainly provide feelings of isolation, but Miller says the growth the company has undergone in prioritizing more diverse prospective talent has been profound.
“There are five qualities I look for in my team,” Miller explains. “Humility, empathy, self-awareness, hunger, and intelligence. They’re all interconnected but are so vital to being successful on this team. I want to give people opportunities, whether that be managing other teams or moving them into different areas they’re interested in.”
“It’s been a wild ride and it is just getting started,” she adds, “and I’m so happy where we are right now after the last five years.”
Furthering an Important Mission
One of Gail Miller’s passion projects at Shift4 is through the philanthropic arm of the company, Shift4 Cares, which has benefited large organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as local nonprofits in Shift4’s own backyard in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Miller’s friend runs the Blessings in a Backpack nonprofit that provides weekend meals for food-insecure children who might not have access to full meals until they return to school the following week.
“We’ve talked about potential fundraisers and events we can have, and I’m excited to move forward because it’s something I’m so passionate about,” Miller says. “I’m working with our HR team to figure out how we can get fully aligned to better support organizations like this that are doing such valuable work in our own communities.”
Thoughts from Guest Editor Susan Pikitch
“Gail Miller exemplifies the importance of high-performing talent, especially in a company experiencing “astronomical” growth. First, her talent was recognized and leveraged, which gave her the platform to put a solid foundation in place for the company to grow. Second, she realized early on the importance of building a passionate and diverse team that was up for the challenge—and exiting those who weren’t. Third, she continues to provide challenges and opportunities for her team to grow. Keep it up, Gail!”
Read features from the Issue 4 2021 Finance section, which include commentary from Guest Editor Susan Pikitch.