Kim Nelson has had the perfect stepping-stone career, receiving one promotion after another. Today she is the chief financial officer for publicly-traded SPS Commerce, a retail cloud services company with $158 million in annual revenue. The firm is credited with producing one of the first successful IPOs following the economic collapse of 2009—a feat where Nelson proved instrumental.
Hired fresh out of college by Nestle USA in 1989, Nelson worked diligently while gaining critical skills, but it wasn’t until 1991 that she realized just how much she had learned. When she moved to San Francisco during a company consolidation, Nelson was thrust into a leadership position that continued to advance her career and her confidence.
Seventeen years and two companies later, Nelson was presented with one of the biggest opportunities of her career when the management team and board of directors at SPS Commerce started to investigate taking the firm public.
“We—the CEO, CFO and COO—needed to feel comfortable that we had a business model that had a long runway, and that we could execute and deliver. While I had never taken a company public, I had spent three years running investor relations for Amazon.com, so I was comfortable developing a company’s message.”
Nelson spent 2008 and early 2009 getting the SPS Commerce name out to potential investors and made sure all of the firm’s financials were audited, reviewed and ready for public dissection. Since going public in April 2010, SPS Commerce has had 37 quarters of consecutive revenue growth.
“Kim is very thoughtful and effective in building relationships, both inside the company and outside with Wall Street,” says Sven Wehrwein, an SPS Commerce board member. “As an experienced board member, I look for three things in a senior executive: smarts, a team player and the will to win. I can tell you, Kim has all three in spades.”
Nelson also is a member of Women Corporate Directors. She is on the board of Qumu Corp., and on the finance and audit committees of Be the Match, which links bone marrow donors with leukemia patients. As an alumna of St. Thomas’ Executive MBA program, Nelson also gives classroom presentations and is active in St. Thomas Women Connect, a networking group that brings alumni and senior students together.
“Networking really helps those just starting their career or who want to make a change,” says Nelson. “Women Connect provides a safe environment for women to ask questions about balancing work and family.”
Planning has been key to Nelson’s success striking that balance herself. “By scheduling significant family, volunteer and business commitments first—and months in advance—I can make sure they align,” she says. “It’s important to make time for your career, family and service opportunities, but you also have to set aside time for yourself. Staying balanced and focused makes me better at all of the many roles I take on each day.”
What was your first experience as a leader?
At Nestle in 1991, I had the opportunity to move to San Francisco when the company was consolidating. By making that move, I was put in a position where I could discuss the product and the business with people who were not as close to the products as I was; I was able to convey the business knowledge to them.
What was your hardest lesson in work or life?
Making the most of what I have and not getting caught up in one thing. Life is short. We need to be in the moment and make the most of each day.
What is your best habit in work or life?
I really try to listen and manage my time effectively.