By Nina Trentmann
Mark Hawkins is handing over the reins of Salesforce.com Inc.'s finance function after helping lead the technology company through a period of relentless growth while displaying that often rare combination of methodical focus and people skills.
After a 40-year career in finance, Mr. Hawkins is retiring as Salesforce -- a provider of customer-relationship-management software -- looks to expand its kit of workplace tools. Amy Weaver, previously the company's chief legal officer, will take over as chief financial officer Monday.
The San Francisco-based company, which hit a market capitalization of more than $200 billion during Mr. Hawkins's more than six years as CFO, in December agreed to buy collaboration platform provider Slack Technologies Inc. for $27.7 billion. Salesforce is awaiting regulatory approval for the deal.
Mr. Hawkins, who will remain with Salesforce until October as CFO emeritus, is expecting his second grandson and working on a book with his sons describing their walks and after-dinner conversations over the years. The 61-year-old said he wants more time for his family after decades spent in demanding roles with increasing workloads, as the CFO role became more strategic over the course of his career.
"I think the role has changed a lot," Mr. Hawkins said, adding that today's CFOs have to deal with a broader range of issues than in the past, including environmental, social and governance topics. Finance chiefs no longer just count the beans. They also play a key role in framing corporate strategies as their businesses face shifting consumer tastes, technological change and growing pressure from shareholders.
The coronavirus pandemic has added to the lists of responsibilities, with companies having to raise billions of dollars to bolster their balance sheets, cut jobs and transform their operations for a post-Covid-19 future. "Everyone in the world had to pivot, and the CFO is going through the same experience," Mr. Hawkins said. "It's a big, hard job."
Mr. Hawkins kept extensive lists of people he would meet with on a one-on-one basis, and had his calendar planned a year out, former colleagues said. "He always took notes and six months later, he flipped through them and said, 'We discussed this,'" said Debbie Clifford, the finance chief of software maker SurveyMonkey who worked under Mr. Hawkins during his time as CFO of software and services company Autodesk Inc.
Having that structure helped her former boss be effective even as his duties increased, Ms. Clifford said. "Mark was always looking over the next hill," she said. Mr. Hawkins brought a long-term plan to the finance organizations at Autodesk and Salesforce, and ideas on how to achieve goals in two, three or five years' time, former co-workers said.
Mr. Hawkins said he always searched for patterns. "It's about discerning patterns, about being all in what you are doing," he said. He analyzed and solved complicated tasks -- for example, advancing the shift to a subscription-based model at Autodesk -- by breaking them down into parts and tackling them. One of his mottos is "better, better, never done."
"Every time he found something that worked, he thought about how he could scale it," said Sue Savage, the CFO of software company Blue Yonder Group and a former colleague of Mr. Hawkins at Autodesk.
When Salesforce announced Mr. Hawkins's planned retirement during an earnings call Dec. 1, Chief Executive Marc Benioff said, "Mark, you set the foundation," adding, "We all know that it takes a great CFO to help scale a company that well."
Bret Taylor, the company's chief operating officer, said Mr. Hawkins was a stabilizing force at Salesforce. "There is a lot of intentional chaos when a company is growing as fast as we are," Mr. Taylor said in an interview.
During his career, Mr. Hawkins also served as group controller at Hewlett-Packard Co., vice president of finance at Dell Technologies Inc. and CFO at software company Logitech International SA.
At Salesforce, Mr. Hawkins provided additional disclosures and insights to investors, said Mark Moerdler, a senior analyst at Bernstein Research. "Mark has done a really good job being more communicative with the Street," Mr. Moerdler said.
Ms. Weaver, Mr. Hawkins's successor at Salesforce, described him as unflappable and able to work through difficult work situations, for example, when negotiating a deal while at a corporate event and without a proper room to work in. One time, a Volkswagen Passat belonging to Ms. Weaver's son served as a makeshift office while the two were working together on a transaction.
Mr. Hawkins handled conflicts without much drama, former colleagues said. "He used to say 'focus on the work,' not the challenging people and personalities," said Ms. Clifford.
Former colleagues recall a skill that not all finance chiefs have: his ability to remember names and connect with people on a personal level. Catherine Lesjak, the former CFO of HP Inc., recounts the card Mr. Hawkins sent her daughter when she left Salesforce to go to business school. "I think this is somewhat unusual," Ms. Lesjak said. "CFOs can sometimes lack the softer skills."
Mr. Hawkins is the founding chair of the U.S. chapter of Accounting for Sustainability, an initiative by the Prince of Wales aimed at making companies' strategies and business processes more sustainable. He also runs marathons.
"We have come a long way," Mr. Hawkins said of his time at Salesforce, pointing to the growth of its workforce to about 54,000 employees, up from 16,000 when he joined. "I think it is always about the team," he said.
Aaron Tilley contributed to this article.
Write to Nina Trentmann at Nina.Trentmann@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires