2014: Top 5 of Samuel’s CFO Blogs

As we wind down 2014 and get set for the holidays we all take stock of the year past.

In 2014, my blog turned into a website, led to the publishing of a book for CFOs, and multiple speaking and training sessions during the year. For my CFO blog itself, these were the 5 most popular blog posts visited by my readers.

5) Road Map to Successful CFO Relationships

This original posting was the beginning of the thought process that led to my first book, Guide to CFO Success.

4) Negotiating your CFO Employment Contract

What is interesting about the popularity of this post is that the visits have been mostly from Google searches and other blog postings. Posted in 2011, this is still going strong. Ideas from this blog were further developed in Guide to CFO Success.

3) Introducing: The Strong CFO Program – 1st session FREE

My first blog on financial executive coaching continues to be a point of reference for senior finance executives looking for guidance and support to grow and succeed.

2) The First 90 Days of a New CFO

It seems that CFOs are looking for onboarding advice, because this continues to be a popular topic with search engines. The popularity of this topic ensured that it was addressed further in Guide to CFO Success.

1) Presentation Links: The Road to CFO

My presentation in Vancouver in 2012 continues to be a popular point of entry into my blog and website. Someone somewhere referred to it, and this person must be very influential.

With 2015 about to start, I am pleased to continue the development of content and programs that benefit the CFO and the organizations they are committed to. I am excited about the CFO Peer Groups I will be facilitating this coming year, as well as having the opportunity to help organizations hire and develop the best senior financial talent for their needs.

I am also looking forward to making a difference to you.

Best wishes for continued success in 2015!

Samuel

CFOs: Make 2015 the year you take your game to the next level

With 2015 approaching, many senior financial executives are thinking about what the new year will mean to their workload; deadlines, projects, bonuses (both to pay and to be received), staffing concerns and loads of other stresses. The thoughts are all about what needs to get done and what they are ultimately responsible for.

For the busy and stressed Chief Financial Officer with the weight of the world (or at least their company) on their shoulders, the approach of the holidays and the New Year should give you pause. Think about how to make things better.

There are 24 hours in a day, and, whether you plan for it or not, they will always be filled. As my CFOs told me when writing Guide to CFO Success, more than three-quarters of CFOs are putting in more than 110% of their effort into their role as senior financial executive in their organization.

CFOs are expected to accomplish more than just the day to day accounting and finance tasks. They are expected to be leaders. They need to lead their finance team, lead their colleagues at the executive table and lead the company as a whole. You need to remember that, as CFO, your input is needed to help the company make sound strategic and operational decisions.

As the noted in this 2014 study from American Express:

For eight out of ten respondents, the finance function is a strong, if not dominating, influence on strategic and operational decisions. (See Figure) The finance function is involved with strategic and operational decisions at nearly every company, and 80% of respondents say that the finance viewpoint is either an influential factor or the determining factor.

Amex 2014 study - Figure 7

The expectation is that, as leader of Finance, your opinion counts. What you have to say is influential within the company. Yet too many CFOs feel that they are getting stuck in the details.

How can a CFO get unstuck and take their game to the next level?

Formal training

As an experienced professional, you know you can benefit from continued education that makes a real difference to your career and your employer. Options that can benefit you while meeting your busy schedule can include:

  • An Executive MBA – This could be an excellent tool to move you beyond the technical you have relied upon to date. Many Executive MBA programs are tailored to the busy executive and should not impact your work schedule much.
  • CFO oriented Leadership Programs – An executive training program focused on taking a CFO to the next level might be ideal for the senior finance executive that either already has an MBA, or feels the need to build their career knowledge based with a group of similarly experienced individuals. Programs like the Queen’s CFO Leadership Beyond Finance Program, in partnership with FEI Canada, can be an ideal solution.
  • Online training – When you know what skills you need to improve on and which you need to learn for the first time, online courses can be an ideal solution. If your company has access to leadership and soft-skill courses, make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity. You could also look at service providers like Proformative Academy to give you a choice of options that will suit your training needs, as well as those of your finance team.

Peer Groups

Chief Financial Officers are positioned at the intersection of their finance team, their executive colleagues, and the CEO and the Board. Being at this junction in their organization can make it difficult for them to learn from and share with others. Many CFOs have told me that they feel lonely in their organization, and don’t have people to discuss their challenges with.

The solution to this loneliness can be being part of a group of CFO peers. I recently discussed C-Suite Peer Groups in a blog on BlueSteps. You can become part of an existing group, or create your own.

For 2015, I am creating CFO Peer Groups for a select group of CFOs across the USA and Canada. These selected Chief Financial Officers will commit to work together, learn, share and network with each other. I am excited to facilitate these groups in 2015. I expect that the participating CFOs will take their game up to the next level.

Executive Coaching

Each of the CFOs that I have worked with as their executive coach has been able to step up their game. Executive coaching for the CFO (or future CFO) can be very beneficial to the executive and the company they work for. It is my experience that, like athletes, CFOs perform better with a coach who is well suited for them.

As we approach 2015, it is time to take your game to the next level.

Whether you choose to take the formal approach to learning, get together with your peers to learn, share and network, or engage an executive coach, any step you take to improve yourself and your game is a good step.

What will you do to improve your game in 2015?

 

Do CFOs read e-books?

In a previous blog (Do CFOs Listen to Podcasts?), I mentioned that I polled my CFO Advisors on their content habits. Here is one more tidbit from this survey.e-book Guide to CFO Success

While CFOs may not be the world’s most voracious book readers (see Jack Sweeney’s LinkedIn Pulse post: Imagine Being a CFO Who Doesn’t Read Books: Welcome to the Bean Counters Club), when I asked my CFO Advisors what book format they prefer to read, 1/3 of them said they prefer to read an e-book, while the 2/3 majority prefers a real paper book.

Here are some comments from my CFOs about their book reading preference:

  • I don’t read many books.
  • Gradually making shift to e-book. Reading my first now & getting comfortable!
  • Use my iPad for many magazines, but like to highlight books and prefer feel of holding book.
  • Are you trying to make me feel old? It worked.
  • I like to highlight, etc.

When I began my journey writing Guide to CFO Success two years ago, I had never read an e-book. As I was about to become an author and my book would be made available as an e-book, I felt it was important to understand what an e-book was all about, so I bought an Amazon Kindle. Today, reading an e-book on my tablet or phone is my preferred method of reading, but I enjoy the senses that come from reading and handling a real book.

As the holiday season approaches, consider an e-book as a gift for your favorite CFO. You can tell them that Samuel says they should try it out and join their forward looking peers that are making their way through the digital age.

(I won’t tell them that a main reason you bought them an e-book was because they are very easy to purchase as a last minute gift.)

Happy Thanksgiving,

Samuel

 

The C-Suite Relationship Map

I am fortunate to speak with hundreds of executives each year, in addition to those that I follow and track. Over the years, I have learned a lot about success, what works and what doesn’t, from these talented leaders.

One area that successful executives have in common is their ability to get the best out of their corporate relationships. No matter the discipline of the C-suite executive, their technical ability is just the base upon which they start having an impact on their organization. The CXO is not an island, but is integrated into an ecosystem that is mutually dependent. The success of any executive relies on others. Those who recognize, nurture and sustain successful corporate relationships are those that accomplish more.

My blogging and recent book, Guide to CFO Success, focuses on my primary audience, the CFO and the Office of Finance. Some of the content is CFO specific, but the guidance with respect to relationships applies across the executive suite. Guide to CFO Success spends a few chapters dealing with relationship management for the Chief Financial Officer. A key tool in this discussion is my CFO Relationship Map, a copy of which is visible below.

CFO Relationship Map - October 2014

While I created the Relationship Map for my discussion with my Finance audience, this Relationship Map is useful to all executives who wish to succeed in their own environment.

The Relationship Map is a graphical representation of the areas of corporate relationships. They include who you work for (at the top of the map), who you work with (internally, on the right of the map, and externally on the left), as well as those that support you (your team).

In the CFO Relationship Map, you’ll notice that the CFO reports to the CEO, Board and Investors, and works with the other executives of the company internally. The CFO has a number of important outside relationships, which can include bankers, lawyers, auditors and other advisors. And, as I say in my book, the CFO can only be as good as the team they have allows them to be.

Depending on your own situation, your personal Relationship Map will look different. However, like other executives, you have people you work for, work with internally as well as externally, and have people that support you.

To read the full article on the BlueSteps Executive Career Insider Blog at this link.

You can also map out your own relationships, using this blank Relationship Map or by creating your own.

Do CFOs Listen to Podcasts?

As someone who creates content aimed at the CFO and other senior finance executives, understanding what Senior Financial Officers like to consume as content is important. There is a lot of different types of content out there. Traditional content creators like TV, newspapers and magazines are no longer the only providers of professionally oriented content. Professional services firms, associations and groups, software providers and anyone that wants to get the attention of a Chief Financial Officer is creating content to catch the attention of this Very Important Decision Maker.

When preparing to write my book, Guide to CFO Success, I created a CFO Advisor group to seek the opinions of senior finance executives and learn from their actual experiences. As part of my ongoing quest in providing fresh and relevant Finance oriented content, I reconstituted my CFO Advisor group so that we can all learn and grow.

I recently polled my CFO Advisors on their content habits, and will be sharing some of their insights over the coming weeks.

To begin with, I thought it would be interesting to understand whether CFOs listen to podcasts. Most of the content I have created over the years have been in text, whether on my blogs, in other media articles, as well as my recent book. I have never created my own podcasts, but I have been interviewed for a few podcasts over the past while.Do CFOs Listen to Podcasts

As you can see from the graph, about half of my CFOs do listen to podcasts, while 12% of them tune in to podcasts on a regular basis.

It is interesting to see that CFOs are beginning to take a shine to the podcast as a form of content delivery. To get a better understanding of the value CFOs are getting from podcasts, as well as the future of podcasting focusing on senior finance executives, I spoke with Jack Sweeney, host of CFO Thought Leader, a series of podcasts sharing firsthand lessons from leading Chief Financial Officers. I had the opportunity to be interviewed twice by Jack for his CFO Thought Leader podcasts, and appreciated his insights and questions, which led to the creation of valuable content of interest to the CFO.

“Like many people, my “content consuming” behavior has entered a period of great change. I find I’m adopting the ways of my teenagers (early adopters). We depend almost exclusively on our TV’,s DVR and we take an iPad on family trips so we can access Netflix anytime and anywhere. Meanwhile, I’ve begun to listen to the NPR podcast on weekends simply because I added the app to my iPhone.

I find that there is a noticeable shift in my behavior and meanwhile, from everything I’ve read I’m not alone.  Why would the behavior of CFOs be any different? Clearly, it’s not, and while CFOs may be laggards when it comes to behavioral changes, they are without question changing their behaviors with the rest of us.  Also, I’ll mention once again the car industry’s adoption of in-dash apps over the next few years will also quickly grow the podcast listening audience (CFOs included).” – Jack Sweeney

Sweeney also pointed me to this quote from Tom Webster, VP of Strategy at Edison Research.

“The continued penetration of smartphones in America is changing behavior significantly. We are now seeing activities that were dominated by desktop usage in 2013, flip dramatically to become mobile behaviors. For millions of Americans, the smartphone has become ‘the first screen.’”

Podcasting is just one more distribution channel for content of interest to finance executives. Will CFOs choose podcasting as one of the major ways for them to consume relevant and interesting content as time goes on? Is podcasting a great way to get the attention of the busy CFO?

Stay tuned.

Thoughts About Successful CFO Hiring

I was recently interviewed by Jack Sweeney for his podcast series called CFO Thought Leader. This was the second time I was interviewed by Sweeney, and I enjoyed the conversation. I believe you may find the conversation interesting and relevant.

Here are some of the things that were discussed. (You can find the listen to, download or find the iTunes link below)

  • Helping companies hire their next CFO with the correct chemistry for the company.
  • Key reasons a company needs to work with an executive search firm to hire their next CFO.
  • The courtship process in hiring a new CFO.
  • Young CFOs who are “Jumping the curve”.

“Patience is a virtue, and CFOs need to be virtuous.”

“Today’s CFO is all encompassing. CFOs have to be involved and responsible for everything. As CFO, you need to know what you can and cannot do. The importance of the complete finance team allows you to be as successful as possible.”

  • Private Equity firms and the influence they have over the placement of CFOs in mid-size market.

“The CFO is a significant part of the valuation of a company.”

  • The CFO career path – jumping to larger ship vs. niching down.
  • CFO Hiring – from within the same industry or outside the industry?

If any of these topics are of interest to you, you will find this podcast to be worth listening to. (23 minutes)

Which comments resonate most with you? Let me know what you think below, or privately by email.

Download | Subscribe to CFO Thought Leader Podcast series on iTunes | Link to the CFO Thought Leader web page with more details about this podcast

 

What I learned at the Bank of America Merrll Lynch Conference – Treasury in a Connected World

I am pleased that I was able to attend this wonderful conference given by BoA Merrill for their clients. I enjoyed having the opportunity to be the first speaker at the conference, and was honored that many of the following speakers referred to some of my remarks throughout the day and a half.

You can read about what I talked to the audience about in the press release issued post-conference by BoA Merrill, as well as a summary of the conference.

I wanted to share with you is what I learned attending this conference.

Capitalism – Compassionate capitalism is alive and well. Listening to Peter Markell, CFO at Partners Healthcare Systems discussing how his organization is making money helping people was truly inspiring. My personal beliefs include the idea that making money is good, and doing good makes money. It was nice to hear this confirmed by Peter.

Talent – Talent management, including within finance, as well as at the executive level, is a continuous challenge. Winning companies have the talent challenge figured out.

Personal Brand – Finance executives care about their personal brand. Throughout the conference, people came up to me to discuss their LinkedIn Profile and what they could do to improve their brand. This conference reconfirmed to me that too many finance executives are not sure what to do about their personal brand and therefore ignore it until it is too late.

Digital currency – I finally had an opportunity to understand bitcoin, how it works, the risks as well as the opportunity to change and improve treasury, banking and business payment paradigms.

Latin America – I listened to and spoke with a number of people within the bank and companies about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Latin America. I walked away with a better appreciation for some of the operating, talent, cash management and cross cultural management issues that companies working in this exciting area face.

I would like to thank the team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the opportunity to share some of my knowledge with the attendees, learn new and important information, reconfirm some of my core beliefs, and most importantly, meet wonderful people who enjoy making a difference.

Which one of these points resonate with you?

Together, CFOs and CEOs Create A “Can Do” Culture

Guest Blog by Shane Berry, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Client Group, Global Corporate Payments, American Express Company

You can also read my related blog – CFOs should be more confident when dealing with their CEO

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To anyone perpetuating the misconceptions that CFOs are accountants, bean counters or number crunchers – among many other outdated stereotypes – it’s time to put them to rest. To the CFO community, these are all but laughable characterizations, reminiscent of a time when CFOs only played an advisory role to the CEO.

Over the last 10 years, the quintessential CFO has been completely redefined. The modern CFO has become the CEO’s strategic partner, emerging as an action-oriented leader with the power and insights to make big decisions.

Countless CFOs have embraced this grab the bull by the horns mentality, resulting in a dynamic role where the CFO is taking action and forging initiatives that have historically been left to other executives, such as the COO or CEO.

Carol Tomé of Home Depot, for example, has championed a number of strategic initiatives since the early 2000s. She slowed new store openings from one every 48 hours to two per year in order to invest in technology, employees and operating efficiencies. Similarly, Mark Loughridge at IBM is credited with simplifying IBM’s message and developing a clear vision for the company to help investors and customers understand what IBM’s future would hold after selling its PC business. Last year, Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead took on additional responsibilities as group president of Global Business Services, expanding his role. In this new position, he assumed duties that include overseeing global financial, technology and supply chain operations.

Figure 8 - Amex report June 2014

Copyright © 2014 CFO Publishing LLC

As these power moves continue, the dynamic between the CEO and CFO is changing significantly. According to the seventh annual American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor, 92% of CEOs rely on CFOs to be either an influential or determining factor in operational decisions for the company.

Traditionally, CFOs would step in at a much later point in the decision-making process, acting as an ad hoc advisor. However, given the unique level of understanding CFOs have of the company, it makes sense that CEOs would tap CFOs as a key decision maker, or at least maintain a higher level of integration.

Since 2008, this relationship has really kicked into high gear. Still shaking off some of the post-recession paranoia, companies are hyper-aware of the need to balance costs in what is still considered an uncertain economic environment. So, in an effort to make every dollar count, CFOs are heading up strategy themselves, and are now weighing in very early on in the decision-making process.

In our research, we found that companies increasingly view CFOs as a catalyst that moves the business forward. When CEOs and CFOs come together, it promotes a “can do” culture within the company, as they are able to troubleshoot and align on the best course of action in real time. Looking to the future, CFOs will continue to work with CEOs more closely and stretch past their normal functional boundaries in order to add new value across the business.

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I would like to thank Shane for his contribution to this blog.

You can view Shane’s LinkedIn Profile, or read Shane’s Bio here.

The CFO & CHRO: The discussion continues. Listen in.

On Wednesday August 13, 2014, I was interviewed on DriveThruHR by Nisha Raghavan.

In our discussion, we touched on a few points about the relationship between Human Resources and Finance. Here are some of the topics Nisha and I discussed.

  • Who should HR professionals report to? The CEO or CFO?
  • Discussed CHRO Moves and CFO Moves and the difference between the visibility CFOs and CHROs get.
  • Discussed Samuel’s new book, and what it says about the importance of the CFO having a strong relationship with the CHRO.
  • HR and Finance are critical support functions that need to work together to make the business successful. A deeper discussion follows on how HR and Finance can work well together.
  • How CHROs can benefit from a close relationship with the CFO, as well as how the CFO can benefit from a close relationship with HR. A business partner approach is very effective.
  • Where should companies find finance talent? Everywhere. The right senior finance talent is much harder to find and attract. Companies cannot afford to hire the wrong CFO. There is not only the cost of hiring wrong, but companies are missing the upside of hiring a great CFO as well.

Go ahead and listen in to the entire conversation:

Internet Radio with DriveThruHR on BlogTalkRadio
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Samuel’s CFO Blog is published by Samuel Dergel, CFO and Finance Executive Search Specialist and Finance Executive Coach.