Big Fish

Chief financial officer

Dominique Trempont brings a sportsman's eye to NeXT's finances.

Some would say that Dominique Trempont's avocation, fly-fishing, is not all that different from his vocation as the new CFO of NeXT: He has to help land that most elusive of fish, the giant corporate MIS account. In so doing, he has to use an efficient lure, because the new NeXT has only so many re-sources with which to cast. And of course, there are obvious comparisons to shivering in hip-deep water at 4 a.m.

Trempont, 39, was named CFO in August and put in charge of the finance, facilities, human resources, and legal departments. Perhaps even more important, he plays an active role in managing the company, serving on the six-member senior-management team that meets each Monday and includes fellow Europeans Bernhard Woebker and Jean-Marie Hullot.

"We're not about cold numbers. The role of finance is to summarize in numbers what is going on inside of a company. We help evaluate what is going on and what needs to be done," says Trempont.

Trempont has ample gear to tackle NeXT's challenges. Born in Paris, Trempont studied at the University of Louvain in Belgium and obtained a business degree from the INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. He speaks French, Spanish, Dutch, and English. An inveterate sportsman, Trempont holds a black belt in judo and was on the Belgian Junior National Equestrian Team. Since his retirement from full-time sport, he has concentrated on the subtle craft of fly-fishing.

He spent his entire career after business school at Raychem, a multinational materials-science corporation. Trempont was often involved in turn-around situations, most recently restructuring the electronics division away from reliance on defense contracts. Under his tutelage, the division doubled profits on flat sales in one year. Trempont says that he was lured into leaving Raychem by NeXT's technology and the executive team in place. He says he looked around Raychem and saw more and more retrenching and transitioning, while NeXT was already poised to move into the future.

He sees corporate America starting on the enormous project of completely re-engineering their business systems, with NeXT being two to three years ahead of the competition. And because Microsoft doesn't have nearly the market penetration in Europe that it has in the United States, Trempont sees even greater opportunities there.

Trempont considers himself in an enviable position in finance at NeXT; the company has already bit the bullet on costs and passed a turning point. After the completion of the Canon deal, NeXT should have completely restructured its debt and money in the bank.

"Forget yesterday's baggage," Trempont says. "View us as a start-up, and we are the most successful start-up anywhere with a great product, sales on track, a stellar management team, and a strong financial situation." In fact, that is the message Trempont will take to the financial markets to raise more money this fall. "We are substantially underinvested in Europe and Asia and are making choices and tradeoffs all the time," he said. With more funding, NeXT can expand into new markets domestically and abroad. In addition to arranging new financing, Trempont plans to meet extensively with customers to maintain a client focus in his departments.

Interestingly enough, VP of North American Sales and Marketing Warren Weiss is also a fly fisherman. What lessons from this discipline apply to NeXT? In Trempont's words, "First, the fish always chooses the lure, not the other way around. And second, when a salmon rises to take the fly, don't hook it too quickly." Also, NeXT must practice the art of patience and take the long view, but that should be easier now that the company is scaled properly to show a profit based on 1994's plan.

That doesn't mean Trempont would sit idly by and rely too much on his lures and equipment. A good fly fisherman is always prepared to snare the big one. As he says, "We have realistic goals, but I see no reason that NEXTSTEP's installed base won't explode way beyond those figures. We have the right technology at the right time."

by Dan Lavin