Scott Arnold, Executive Vice President and CFO of Certis Oncology Solutions, Inc., is this year’s CFO of the Year in the Private Company, Small category. The category consists of businesses with five to 49 employees.
Arnold leads all administrative and operational functions at Certis, a functional precision oncology company focused on determining the best available treatment for a patient’s unique form of cancer.
“My tumor, your tumor are not the same,” he explained when presenting on Feb. 8 before the panel of judges for CFO of the Year.
Arnold’s career has taken him from large corporations to small businesses. He said he traded the politics of big business for the personality of small business.
He joined Certis three years ago and has taken the firm from eight employees to 48. Certis calls its employees “Certisians” and subscribes to the notion that a group that pulls together for a common goal in the business world is a tribe. Workplace culture is one of Arnold’s interests.
Rolling Up his Sleeves
Those who nominated Arnold for his award described him as a man of many talents.
Arnold “wears multiple hats” at the rapidly growing startup. “In addition to business planning, forecasting and overseeing responsible investments in talent and capital, he plays an important role in guiding day-to-day operational decisions that make Certis an innovator in precision oncology and translational science,” said Kristein King, the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Scott also has served as the company’s HR leader since joining the company three years ago, leading effective recruiting efforts and ensuring the company is responsive to the needs of a dynamic workforce.
“He is a principled, roll-up-his-sleeves leader who cares deeply about the company’s mission and all ‘Certisians’ who show up each day for the cancer patients and clients we serve.”
By the Numbers
Under Arnold’s leadership, oncology revenues grew 141% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022.
Also in the past 12 months, Certis
– Launched R&D concentrations in the use of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to advance precision medicine, and Immuno-Oncology to support the projected advancement of Gene and Cell Therapies;
– Advanced its tumor bank from 97 to 310 models and established an asset forecasting platform to aid in business development;
– Completed its first employee survey, with outstanding results;
– Upgraded 2023 employee healthcare benefits at cost-neutral to 2022;
– Expanded the Certisian family from 34 to 48 employees during 2022;
– Secured important CLIA, OLAW and AAALAC certifications or licensures in 2022.
Scott Arnold holds a B.A. in business from Western Michigan University and MBA from Wayne State University, and his early business experience was in the Midwest.
Prior to Certis, he led accounting and operational teams at companies such as General Dynamics, Gateway and Intuit. San Diego’s life science vertical beckoned, so Arnold went to work for Life Technologies (now ThermoFisher). Since 2013, Arnold has held CFO/COO positions for Sway Ventures, Nex3 and Verogen.
Arnold is on the Board of Directors for Just in Time for Foster Youth and the Board of Advisors for the Fleet Science Center. He is an advocate for Voices for Children and the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego. Arnold also provides advisory guidance to budding entrepreneurs at CONNECT and SDSI.
After receiving his award, Arnold took some time to answer a few questions from the San Diego Business Journal.
Q: At what stage in your life did you set your sights on the CFO’s office? What put you on the path to getting there?
A: I don’t think I really ever dreamt of becoming a CFO: it just seemed like the most natural fit when I left “Corporate” in 2011 and traded the politics of large business, for the personality of small business. The CFO role utilized all of my background in the most impactful way I could imagine for small business, and I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some great small businesses here in San Diego since 2011.
Q: Think back over your career. Up to this point, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with; to coach, mentor and develop. I’m not a parent … so the young people I’ve worked with, are as close to being “my pride and joy” as I can get. I’m still in touch with many of them, dating all the way back to management roles I held in 1985, and it’s really very gratifying to see them succeed with their careers and in their lives.
Q: Of all the economics and business issues in the news right now, what are you following with most interest and why? Which one most directly affects your organization?
A: I wish I had more time to follow the things I’m genuinely interested in, which outside of work tend to be more activity-centered: the role of wellness (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) is particularly interesting in the workplace and society. Culture is a big deal for me, and when the team is well … all things are possible.
Q: How big is your team? How difficult is it to hire qualified team members in this employment environment?
A: We have 48 Certisians, and almost half of our team was onboarded in 2022. I believe in process, and our recruiting/interviewing process has yielded some amazing professionals who are also delightful people. We believe we understand what matters to the individual, and we work hard to deliver on those needs.
Q: What is the next big step your company hopes to take? If appropriate, tell me what challenges you face in getting there.
A: The next big step for Certis is raising an institutional round of capital so that we can accelerate our momentum. The capital market, on fire in 2021, has cooled for a variety of reasons in 2022-23, so we need to be absolutely clear in our value proposition, prescriptive with the people we talk with, and creative, patient and confident in our path to success.