A CFO Success Story: Aidan Cullen, CFO of CliQr

Aidan Cullen

Aidan Cullen, CFO of CliQr

The following is from an interview with Aidan Cullen, recently hired as CFO of CliQr, as announced in CFO Moves. This interview was edited for clarity.

What has helped you become a successful CFO over the years?

I’ve always been a long term planner and thinker. I started my career in public accounting getting the fundamentals. I then went into internal audit consciously thinking about where I need to go for my success. That gave me an understanding of what’s underneath the hood of a company. From there I started to specialize in the functional roles and business partnerships, so I went to engineering and managed an engineering group worth about 120 million dollars. After that, I went into another company and managed a sales organization and was a business partner for sales services and support.

When you start to get into a specialized business like engineering, you look at all the portfolios and investments and really begin to understand how things roll in a company. Similarly, with sales you start to understand what incentivizes salespeople, what motivates them and how you get the most productivity out of them. Then you become more of a generalist and you start to move into and become more eligible for a CFO role. At that point you really have the depth to be able to go down a thousand feet and then come back up specifically when you’re dealing with the executive level management.

  • Quick Takes from Aidan on…

    Growing from Controller to CFO:
    A lot of us are very technically and operationally qualified and the next part of that is the chemistry and the synergy that you have with the executive team.

    How to move upwards and onwards:
    If you build up and broaden your experience and your accomplishments and consistently perform… I think that will open any door.​

    Networking and a new job:
    We spend so much time trying to build a network and then when we get into a new job we tend to forget about that network.

    Why CFO Peer Groups are important:
    It’s very important to keep a close check on what challenges other CFOs face in the market these days.

    Building your network:
    You should value your network and you should always think about building and expanding on your experiences.

You went from an engineering organization to a sales organization, both of which have very different requirements and very different world views. How did you transition at an early age to those perspectives? What did you learn from that?

I suppose I was just fortunate. I got in to the engineering role and the engineering VP at that stage got promoted to the general manager of a business unit that had a value of $1.7 billion dollars. So I was fortunate to move in with the VP and become the general manager’s number one finance person – the CFO. When I moved into the sales company, I specifically moved in as the number two. They didn’t have a CFO at the time and I moved in with the COO. The main concerns they had, operationally in the company, were in getting the financials restated due to the software changes that were going on, specifically around revenue recognition. In the company that I joined, several of the competing companies had their financial statements restated. Fortunately, because of my operational background in external audits and looking at the business side of things, I was able to take that role on and I spent a good year really reengineering the sales organization – specifically from an operational perspective. So that was just a bit of fortune and I just stepped up to the role. And when you actually have a bit of experience behind you, it’s nice to have that exciting challenge.

I’ve seen that a lot of CFOs who – while they were certainly smart – were at the right place at the right time. What was it about you that helped you get to that first CFO role?

I think it’s my assertiveness. It’s a little bit of planning and being willing to step up – having the energy level to step up to the next level and perform. As you start to get in, a lot of us are very technically and operationally qualified and the next part of that is the chemistry and the synergy that you have with the executive team and also with the CEO. It’s that business partnership that makes it all gel together.

What were some challenges you faced when you and the CEO thought differently? What have you done in your career that has made that CFO/CEO relationship work?

I think there are a few you areas that I would look at. The first that comes to mind is the ability to scale a company from, say, a 20 million dollar company to a 100 million dollar company. There are certain roads and paths to take. You would first look at the financial portfolios system or the ERP system and ask: which is the best one to scale? What are the key resources that you need to have? Each time you have to make some decision it impacts the business and may impact the CEO and executive team. So they’re truly critical decisions because they have a long term impact. That’s more the long term side of it.

On the operational side, I have the skills that I need from a sales operation perspective that I can use to go underneath the sales organization and understand the key issues associated with productivity, the sales model, the pricing and so forth. Because of this, sometimes the CEO or the VP of Sales do not see eye to eye with me. Through my perspective on certain things, I can justify it from the numbers, from looking at the facts, looking at trends, building them out and being able to start to perfect models and sales projections. Because of this, I started to gain respect from my peers and especially the CEO and then I moved forward and it got better. Everything started to get better.

What can you share about the process that moved you forward to your new role?

I think the key is networking. If you build up and broaden your experience and your accomplishments and consistently perform – especially in the CFO capacity – I think that will open any door. I think that’s the key to success. In my case, I’ve worked in many companies and I’ve met a lot of VCs and board members. I consistently keep in contact with them and these doors remain opened and the friendship and partnership are there.

One of the VCs on the board here opened up the door for me and connected me with CliQr. From there it just took the normal steps to get the position. I have kept in contact with all the top financial recruiters over the years – whether I am looking for an opportunity or not. If I can touch base, even if it’s only once a year, I’ll try to keep an eye on them and say hello. We spend so much time trying to build a network and then when we get into a new job we tend to forget about that network. And it doesn’t take much to maintain these relationships.

What tool do you use to ensure that you stay in front of everyone you want to stay in front of on a regular basis?

That’s a difficult one. I don’t have any specific tool. I kind of identify it and put it in my calendar on a quarterly basis. I do like sports, though. I tend to see if I can play golf with some of the executives. I might go to an event with them. Some of the banks that I deal with invite me out. For example, one of the financial recruiters is having an event here and it’s typically at an event like that where I catch up with my peers in the industry and have a drink and socialize.

Another process that has worked for me in the past is I will meet with CFOs on a semi-annual basis.We go to lunch and without getting into numbers we discuss the business process and we go into networking. The world of finance changes an awful lot. Technology changes and business and financial market changes. It’s very important to keep a close check on what challenges other CFOs face in the market these days. I enjoy that. We spend time together sitting around the table and then we reconvene in another six months’ time. It’s a great forum for keeping pace with what’s going on in the markets.

What are you excited about joining CliQr?

CliQr represents a fundamental shift in the IT market. We’ve seen the internet bring a lot of change. It has changed almost everything. The cloud is today’s internet in my mind. It has the ability to change everything about the way business interacts with information technology. CliQr is pivotal in this change. It plays a major role. It’s a transformation from the old rigid data centers to today’s desire to logically place applications across diverse environments and include the data centers across private and public clouds all in one place. This is what CliQr does. In my mind, the market’s real, the product is very very real and we’ve got really smart investors in the company (like Google Ventures and Foundation Capital -to name a couple). My colleagues here are very smart. It’s a nice working environment. To me, these are all key ingredients to success.

What are some of your objectives to help the company along and make a bigger impact in its success?

The major one is to scale the company. CliQr is at the point where it has gone through with a Series C and financing and we’re at that stage of growth. The next stage is global expansion and building out the enterprise and the sales into the various geographic regions. Those are the major challenges and in confronting them I bring in head counts and business processes. I did the same thing at Gigamon, where I expanded and brought in a new ERP system for a manufacturing company and broadened the sales geographic regions.

Where do you hope to take this?

I think one would always love to take it to IPO. Companies are not sold now, they are bought. So the strategic intention is to build this up to a company that can go IPO. I have not brought a company to an IPO process yet. I’ve filed an F1, but I’ve never been on the other side as a public CFO.

What advice would you give people trying to build themselves up on a path to success as CFO?

You should value your network and you should always think about building and expanding on your experiences. Try to look at the end of every year and assure that you’ve added some accomplishments to your resume or background. I think it’s important to meet regularly and get a pulse check with your peers to see if you’re keeping touch with how things are working out. Specifically, your skill set versus the market. Finally, I think it’s good to follow smart money. These days we’ve got some super VCs in the Valley. They do an amazing job and when you can actually get a line through to these VCs, they truly do mitigate the risk that we have as CFOs. In looking at opportunities, these are the people you should start to follow.

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A CFO Success Story is a feature of Samuel’s CFO Blog, where Samuel Dergel follows up on his book, Guide to CFO Success, speaking with CFOs featured in CFO Moves, Samuel’s popular and comprehensive weekly report on CFO Movement across the USA.

CFOs: How the IoT (Internet of Things) Impacts You and Your Organization

Anyone reading news in the past year has come across the words IoT (or Internet of Things). As senior finance leader in your organization, this trend has an impact on you, your peers, and your organization.

The question you may have asked yourself but were not confident enough to ask others was “So What?”Capture2

My colleagues Jim McFadzean and Andrew Lane at Stanton Chase recently released a whitepaper called: The Internet of Things: Adapting Corporate Structure to Reflect the Connectivity of IoT.

This whitepaper allows you to learn more about what IoT is all about, and the impact it has on the CFO as well as the organization.

In this 11 page report, McFadzean and Lane discuss the impact of IoT on the C-Suite. Here is what they report on the impact on the Chief Financial Officer:

Bruce MacLean, CFO at Infomart Data Centers, already finds the Internet of Things to be integral in his daily management. “Our accounting, payroll, HR, phone systems – all of our administrative and financial functions are connected and supported via the Internet.”

The CFO will need to adopt an offensive approach in order to keep finance and accounting information secure in the age of the Internet of Things. The data acquired via an organization’s internet-enabled devices will be new, limitless, and contextually raw. Such a wealth of information has the potential to be reconfigured and mined for trends that offer insight into an organization’s business activities, be it customer purchasing habits, production information, or shipping histories. The CFO will need to work closely with the CIO and CSO to insure the security not just of financial records, but of any data that could be used by an unscrupulous third party to gain an understanding of an organization’s dealings. 

CFOs:

  • Are you aware of the impact that IoT will have on the future of your career and your organization?
  • What will you be doing about it?

The Challenges CFOs Face Alone (But They Don’t Have To)

CFO Peer Groups: A mid-year updateCFO Peer Group

Since the release of my book, Guide to CFO Success in 2014, I have been reminding CFOs that they need to build and develop their relationships within their organization.

Last fall, when speaking with some of my key Chief Financial Officers that I keep in regular touch with, I was reminded that while CFOs are lonely, there is a solution to their loneliness. These conversations with my Chief Financial Officers led me to develop my CFO Peer Groups.

Starting this past winter, I created 3 groups of 10 CFOs from across the USA and Canada, with the express goal of getting them to talk, learn, share and network with each other. Each month we had scheduled conference calls, with questions from CFOs sent to the group in advance that prepared the group. These CFOs were able to call on their peers both during and outside of our meetings on the issues and challenges facing them.

This fall, we will have our first in-person meeting in Chicago. At this meeting we will take our phone conversations to the next level and set the stage for where we take this in 2016.

Here is a sample of some of the discussions we have had so far this year in CFO Peer Group.

Topic addressed Question discussed
The ability to grow while stabilizing the core business. How to grow while investing in the core and changing the culture?
Scaling the organization to handle growth efficiently and profitably. What changes have you made both to the finance organization and encouraged throughout the organization to deal with top line growth year-over-year in the 20%+ range.
Having sufficient cash for all initiatives and not wasting time or money to get there. What strategies have you used that have had success or failure? Why?
Integrating 4 recent acquisitions How have you dealt with integration challenges? Staffing, IT, timelines, etc.
Scaling without rapidly increasing costs and maintaining quality What systems, processes or frameworks have they utilized to be successful in the past?
Best practices for managing tight cash flow. How do you redirect the culture of an organization to be conscience of tight cash flow when the CEO wont.
Describe your day to day activities and how this has changed over the course of your tenure What are your thoughts on how the role of the CFO evolves over time and how do you build your team such that you focus on the highest priorities? What functions report to you?
Outsourcing of non-strategic functions To what extent have you outsourced? What did you outsource? What was kept in house? Which outsource partners would you recommend?
Acquisition Process Do any of you have a well defined non confidential process around acquisitions that cover everything from target evaluation, negotiations, financing, due diligence and all legal documentation through purchase? Or is it more ad hoc project planning as circumstances warrant? In either case are roles and responsibilities clear and what role does the CFO and his / her organization play?
The Finance Team How do you ensure a strong, engaged team? How do you ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve by the non-finance departments? What are some good tips and tricks for finding and retaining a strong team? How do you prevent burnout and staff turnover? How to you create a culture that values the finance staff and the role that they play?
Building your Finance and Accounting team Do you have separate Accounting and FP&A functions? Do you lead each of those functions or do you have a #2 Executive in your department that manages these functions (or others?) If so,
Business Unit Structure Have you structured business units in a complex multi-product environment? If so, how did you do it and what worked well and what didn’t? Would also like to know how you structured the management of the business units
I am currently focused on CyberSecurity and efforts to be in front of the issue. What best practices have you put in place recently? Have you reviewed insurance coverage for security breaches? Recommendations for Outsourced CTO services.
Asia expansion. Anyone have experience with hiring/establishing a local presence in Asia?
Budget Planning Has anyone used Zero Based Budgeting as a means to get deep into spending areas? If so, was it worth the time and how did the process
Internal Audit Process Curious on rigor of Internal Audit Process and role of group within your company (financially vs. operationally focused, approach to audit planning, consultative vs. enforcers, etc.)?

These are only A FEW of the discussions we have had in CFO Peer Group so far in 2015.

As the year progresses, my CFOs will be sharing, learning, growing and networking, both in our continued conference calls, as well as at our first in-person meeting this November in Chicago.

My questions to you

As a CFO, wouldn’t you want to be able to share these types of questions with your peers?

As a CEO or Board member, aren’t these the types of things you want your CFO to have the support for?

There is help for the Lonely CFO.

Create your own CFO Peer Group. Or ask to join mine. I might be able to make room.

CEO: When Your Brand New CFO Leaves

Dear CEO,

I noticed in the news that the CFO you hired with big fanfare only a couple of months ago has left. Your press release quoted your recently new and currently past Chief Financial Officer saying that he is returning to his previous employer because the role is too good of an opportunity to pass up.The CFO Revolving Doors

I have never been Chief Executive Officer of a publicly traded billion-dollar revenue company. I do imagine, however, that the conversation your new CFO had with you must have felt like a kick in the gut, among other places. I am sure that it was not a good day for you.

You know more than most that the past can never be changed. The question remains what can be learned from this ordeal.

While I was not involved in the drama that evolved both before, during or after this incident occurred, I have seen it happen too many times in my weekly coverage of CFO Moves across the US, Canada and the UK. Here are some pointers that you can give to other CEOs so that this does not happen to them.

1) Don’t fall in love with the wrong candidate. Technical, interpersonal, leadership, communication skills are all great. But to hire a great CFO to take you to the next level, you need to connect with motivation of the candidate.

2) Be honest with yourself. You may run a great company but your CFO to be is coming from an ever better environment, understand why they are saying yes. If you know you are runner-up, you may find yourself holding the bouquet at the alter.

3) It’s not just about money. Never, ever think that a CFO takes a role just because of the compensation package. Sure, CFOs are money motivated, but once basic needs are met, other needs are much more important.  (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the same for CFOs, except their basic needs are different than most).

4) Select your executive search partners carefully. I know that you understand the value of working with retained executive search for hiring your key leaders. Not all search firms are created equal, and not always should a search firm you have used in the past be the one you use for a critical search like your next CFO. One key differentiator you search firm needs to have is the ability to truly connect with the executive candidates. When looking for a Chief Financial Officer, a great retained search team has the ability to act as an advocate for the needs of the CFO candidate. The closer your recruiter can become a true partner to your CFO candidate, the better opportunity you will have for hiring a CFO where you will be his or her first choice.

If there is a cloud to this silver lining, it is that your recently retired CFO is available to cover until you hire again. I wish you all the best in hiring your next CFO. This time, I know you will make a better choice.

Wishing you continued success,

 

Samuel

Lessons Learned from Target Canada: Strategy vs. Culture vs. Leadership Talent

The closing of Target in Canada within a couple of years of the iconic US retailer expanding its business in an attempt to become multi-national in an attempt to complete and grow against its main competitor (small company based out of Arkansas) is sad.Strategy Culture Leadership Talent @DergelCFO

Sad because over 17,000 people lost their jobs and need to start over.

Sad because the brand of a true ironic American company has taken a big bruising.

Sad because, if the expansion was executed correctly, it would have changed, and probably improved, the retail landscape for Canadian consumers, not to mention the impact it could have had internationally.

And most importantly, sad because it didn’t have to turn out this way.

I have waited to share my thoughts on this news so it could allow me to think about how to comment on this property, while taking in the commentary and opinions of others.

There are those that come out and blame the logistical failure that led to empty shelves.

A number of people pointed to pricing differences between the US and Canada that had Canadian consumers scratching their heads at the perception that Target Canada’s pricing was inconsistent and unfair.

Pundits point to the poorly chosen locations ‎that Target chose after the demise of Zellers in Canada, as well as the strategy of opening too many stores at once while not learning this new and culturally different market.

In the end, while these may be reasons (excuses) for a series of failures, the failures of execution stem from the failure of leadership. And this goes all the way to the top, and every leadership level on the way there.

Imagine the scene in the boardroom at Target a few years back. Imagine executive management making a very slick presentation to the Board as to the Who, What, Where, Why, When and How of expanding into Canada. Imagine that everyone was giddy with expectations of success, profits and accolades. The strategy was set. All was needed was the execution of the strategy.

When I picture the final approval at the table, my childhood memory is of Captain James T. Kirk saying those famous words “Make it So, Number One”.

Obviously, “making it so” is a lot easier said than done. Target’s Canadian adventure is one more highly publicized misadventure for MBA case studies of the near future.

Leadership Talent is where this fell apart. All the actions or inactions, reasons or excuses, come from the fact that the right people were not hired or promoted to make this grand scheme work.

I continue to see, time and time again, situations where companies do not bring on board the best possible leadership talent to execute. Execution not only means following the original strategic plan, but making sure that the plan continues to evolve as the situation evolves. The mistakes we know about, as well as the mistakes we will never hear about, all contributed to the demise of this $4 billion dollar adventure for Target shareholders.

I also continue to see, time and time again, choices being made in executive hiring that are emotional, personal and illogical. Vested interests lead to decisions being taken without proper assessment of the true needs compared to the knowledge, skills and abilities of the best candidates for these mission critical roles.

The bright side of the Target foray into Canada is the impact that Target culture has had on a generation of Canadian employees. I enjoyed reading and hearing about the warm, motivating, employee excellence and recognition culture that permeated the organization. ‎I believe that employers and employees across Canada will benefit from the introduction of these ideas into businesses across Canada for years to come.

But to paraphrase Peter Drucker:

Culture may eat strategy for breakfast, but Leadership talent ensures that there is food on the table. 

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?

 

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.

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.

CFOs: IPOs are coming back. Are you ready?

Initial Public Offerings were hot commodities in the early and mid oh-oh’s. Most finance leadership reading this blog remember those days well, and some of you did very well financially because of it.

The recession that occurred towards the end of the last decade put a stop to that IPO train. Companies needing capital for growth had to look elsewhere, and many companies were unable to succeed because this driver of growth dried up.IPO (Initial Public Offering)

For the past few months I have been hearing the rumble of the oncoming IPO train. A number of CFOs I have spoken with in the past months have shared with me that they are being given the strategic responsibility to be ready for when the IPO market comes back. There is a feeling of cautious optimism that this catalyst for economic growth will soon be back.

How can a CFO prepare for the talent challenges to come?

One of the biggest challenges that an uptick in the IPO market will face is that there is a small pool of talented mid-level professionals with relevant and recent IPO experience. The amount of work needed to be IPO ready is significant. When the IPO dam breaks, many companies will be rushing to get their IPO done. If the talent challenges are not planned properly, companies will have to be more reliant on expensive external resources (think audit and law firm rates). Companies who properly plan for their talent needs in advance will be able to go public earlier, which could be very beneficial as well.

Another significant challenge to companies that are currently private is that the cost of being public is expensive. A CFO needs to ensure that they have the leadership and professionals on staff that can deliver the quantity and quality of timely and correct information necessary to be considered a well-run public company. CFOs bear the burden when their finance team is not able to deliver accordingly.

CFOs who have been mandated to prepare for an upcoming IPO by their board need to have a talent plan to ensure they can meet their needs for going public and staying public. This plan for talent acquisition, development and retention is necessary to balance the costs of going public and staying public.

This talent planning business will not be easy. But those that start planning now will be at an advantage.

CFOs, get ready. You could be in for a very bumpy ride on the IPO Express.