In her twenty years working in public accounting, Lee Dabberdt spent half of it as a part-time all-star. She built out a decade of part-time managerial expertise at one of the most well-known firms in the world. And it was before the COVID-19 pandemic completely redefined the nature of work. Dabberdt made this choice to have more flexibility, while raising her family and continuing her career.
“I remember being told the public accounting firm didn’t have any part-time managers,” Dabberdt recalls. “I said, ‘Well I’m going to work part-time, and I’m going to be a manager.’ They gave me that chance.”
Today, Dabberdt is the chief accounting officer (CAO) at EverCommerce. Just two years into the role, she has built a best-in-class accounting team, all while leading with the empathy of someone who has taken the nontraditional route.
The Challenge of Transformation
Since being promoted to chief accounting officer in May 2021, Dabberdt was able to tick off “going public” in short order. EverCommerce’s successful IPO in the summer of 2021 boosted valuations of the company well into the billions. Even during a pandemic, EverCommerce’s growth couldn’t be hampered.
“The executive team I work with is absolutely amazing here,” Dabberdt says. “None of us had taken a company public before from this perspective, and everyone was so humble and collaborative.”
Dabberdt collaborated with CFO Marc Thompson, who provided capital markets and investment banking knowledge— not her wheelhouse. Paired with her accounting background, she says they were able to be a great team and provide value to the process.
“It meant a lot to have the accounting perspective be valued and appreciated during the IPO process,” Dabberdt explains. “I was looked to as the subject-matter expert, and I loved the whole experience.”
The IPO, however, wasn’t the allure in joining EverCommerce. Dabberdt says she was motivated by the chance to build a best-in-class accounting department with the backing of the organization every step of the way.
Dabberdt was transparent in her early discussions with Thompson that to build a department right, she would need the latitude and resources to seek out talent and build the right systems that would ensure long-term success.
“Marc has fulfilled that commitment to me 100 percent,” Dabberdt explains. “I’ve built a team of about seventy people, restructured it, done a full ERP implementation, and hired top talent. It’s been a complete transformation of the accounting department over two years in preparation of becoming a publicly traded company.”
Dabberdt’s own success, she believes, is just a further extension of what she calls a “human-first culture.” She calls the EverCommerce culture the best she’s worked in over her twenty-six-year career.
Dabberdt says the company’s style of “management by objective” honors people’s lives outside of their work and aims to build trust and loyalty. Over half of her accounting team members are remote, and that flexibility is paid back by committed and passionate contributors.
Both Feet Forward
Given Dabberdt’s nontraditional path, it’s no surprise that she is dedicated to personal development. Her ability to navigate a decade of part-time managerial excellence is the result of leaders who saw Dabberdt’s value and were willing to make it work.
She now is doing the same and with some familiar faces. In building her team, Dabberdt has brought in several colleagues with whom she previously worked. It’s a testament that they’re willing to follow Dabberdt and a strong indicator of an effective leader.
“I believe in going to bat for my team,” Dabberdt explains. “If they’re high performers, and they work hard, I’m always going to stand up for them and help develop them in their careers, even if that means they should leave my team.”
Dabberdt’s dedication to her teams doesn’t go unnoticed. “I have observed Lee develop a strong, versatile, and collaborative finance and accounting function,” says Catilin Hughes, partner at RSM US. “Her success is a testament to her dedication in investing, teaching, and caring for her team. She leads through example.”
Dabberdt is both a natural relationship-builder and a helping hand, especially for women developing their careers within the finance and accounting space. Even if you’re not in her rolodex, this CAO still has actionable advice for anyone looking for a dynamic fulfilling career in finance.
“There are so many statistics that show this, but women just aren’t always as willing to put themselves out there,” Dabberdt explains. “They want to make sure they meet every single qualification on the job description before they apply. If we’re going to challenge the equity landscape, people need to be more willing to take a chance and just go for it.”
To build confidence when you’re ready to make that leap, ask for feedback. Dabberdt preaches, and practices, routinely seeking feedback. This is part of a broader process of learning from every experience, she explains, and it helps push you forward to try new things. The more you know about yourself and your expertise, the more willing you will be to seek out new challenges.
And as one who has redefined their career a couple times over, her final piece of advice is the most poignant. “Don’t let age define you,” Lee Dabberdt says. “I’m well into my career, and there’s so much I still want to do and accomplish and contribute. Just jump in with both feet forward.”