Jane Reisman is the Founder and CEO of JPR Consulting, which provides outsourced Chief Financial Officer (CFO) services to small and medium-sized businesses, primarily in the media & entertainment, technology and health and wellness industries. Jane works with companies on issues related to predictive business planning, operational strategy, liquidity management, accounting practices, human resources practices, compliance with investor requirements, due diligence, and financing and raising capital. Moreover, Jane is the CFO of The Representation Project, the company behind documentaries Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In, which seeks to use film to encourage individuals and communities to overcome limiting stereotypes. Previously, Jane also served as the CFO of Fundly, integrated platform for social impact that allows organizations and individuals to manage and promote their causes.
Can you tell us about your job as a financial consultant for small- to medium-sized businesses in media and entertainment?
Jane Reisman: I’m grateful for my business because it allows me to work with so many brilliant, visionary CEOs whose companies have unique challenges and value propositions. When I started my business a few years ago, I had recently moved from New York, and had been lucky to spend my career until that point entirely in music and media. Living in San Francisco, I ran into so many people doing interesting things in other areas and their intersection with tech, so my business evolved organically over time. Now my client base not only includes music but also film, wellness, social good and tech startups. I help them to achieve their goals by creating a financial roadmap to their success, providing a solid and well-structured accounting backbone, putting them on efficient systems tailored to their needs, and giving them the visibility to results that will help them make the right decisions quickly.
What are some trends, challenges and opportunities you see for businesses in media and entertainment going forward?
Jane Reisman: Content businesses have faced a real identity crisis over the past 15 years. The perception that digitized content should be free happened so quickly that the content businesses didn’t have time to react and strategize monetization properly and it hit them hard. The music business experienced this in a profound way. As distribution changed from physical ownership to digital ownership and then of course to streaming, and as the recording process went from multi-million dollar recording studios to your kid’s bedroom, the players all changed. All the industry folks who were at major labels are now at the digital service providers, or at smaller labels, or in management and booking agencies trying to claim a piece of the lucrative live concert business. The landscape is leveling back out again now that the former giants have learned how to operate more efficiently, but what I find most compelling about this new normal is all the new tech businesses that have emerged to open up a whole new world of potential and opportunity and efficiency. Those are the businesses that interest me most, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
You currently serve as the Chief Financial Officer of The Representation Project. Can you talk about your work with The Representation Project?
Jane Reisman: I’ve been working with The Representation Project since early 2014 and, over the course of three years, have seen the organization nearly triple in size, create two new feature-length documentary films, distribute more than 10,000 curricula to classrooms and community organizations, ideate and execute an annual Global Youth Leadership Summit, and create meaningful partnerships with Fortune 500 corporations, leading nonprofit organizations, and national brands. They are transforming culture – both by changing attitudes and behaviors to redefine what it means to “be a man”, as well as by inspiring attitudinal and behavioral shifts in women and girls to help develop their voices, resist sexism, and become leaders. The amazing impact of their #AskHerMore campaign around sexist reporting, and #NotBuyingIt campaign around sexist media and advertisements, have led to changes everywhere from the red carpet to the Super Bowl to the newsroom.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work and how did you overcome them?
Jane Reisman: I find that no matter how complex a problem, the solution usually lies in managing personalities. Either you need to challenge your own personality to take a different tack, establish boundaries, build consensus, bridge a perspective gap, help someone else to gain confidence, teach non-financial managers to assume fiscal responsibility, or convince someone to accept change. These are not easy things to achieve but rarely involve concrete knowledge or understanding complex concepts; those things are easy compared to the intricacies of the human condition.
On a personal level, why does women’s empowerment matter to you?
Jane Reisman: For me, it’s about showing my niece and young girls that there are no limits to what they can achieve and that no role is off-limits because they are female. In my position, it’s not uncommon for me to be the only woman in the room. When you are the only person of your gender in a room it would be easy to assimilate the attitude of the other gender to fit in – and this is not uncommon among women of power in media. But to live in your power is to hold onto that which makes you you and not cave to someone else’s ideals or blur your boundaries. Empowerment to me is also about combating privilege. If we are going to achieve gender parity, we need to increase the number of seats at the table in the board room and C-suites (and in politics and media) for women. This can’t happen in a vacuum; men need to stand up for women and save seats at the table.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Jane Reisman: My mother has had the most consistent and profound impact on my life. She’s the closest I’ve seen to someone ‘having it all’. And she unapologetic about it. A loving teacher, painter, volunteer, athlete, supportive wife, daughter, mother, sister, she has taught me the importance of education, of treating everyone as you would want to be treated, of self-care, strength, optimism, and of nurturing relationships with family and friends.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in being a CFO of an organization?
Jane Reisman: That it’s not just about financials and budgets and charts and graphs. More than anything, it’s about empathy and respect and creativity and passion. And about telling stories. I’ve found that that key to being successful lies in the synergistic partnership with a visionary CEO and working together to achieve seemingly unachievable goals.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and resources related to women’s issues and media representation?
Jane Reisman: Of course, The Representation Project‘s two films are at the top of that list: Miss Representation – about how the misrepresentation of women in the media and culture contributes to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence – and The Mask You Live In – which explores America’s narrow and toxic definition of masculinity. The Hunting Ground is a powerful portrayal of the insidious nature of sexual assault on college campuses. I love Lena Dunham’s blog Lenny, Lynne Twist’s books on how to rethink money and power and poverty are transformative, Refinery29, and of course I follow HeForShe, The Female Quotient, PolicyLink, Catalyst, so many others. Twitter is a great resource to get up to date on the latest dialogue. Follow @TheRepProject and it will introduce you to a world of other resources.