The Accidental CFO

I am very fortunate to be involved with the careers of senior finance executives, whether I’m hiring them for my clients, coaching current and future Chief Financial Officers, following their careers and sharing their moves with the world, or impacting people just like you with my blogs and my CFO book.

I see, speak with and come across many focused senior finance executives that plan and prepare their career to be in the right place at the right time who are ready to become CFO for the first time. 

Yet a number of senior finance executives become CFOs by accident. A typical scenario I have seen is ‎where a company CFO leaves (this is usually unplanned for by the company), and the CEO and Board need to make a quick decision as to what to do to fill their CFO spot. In these situations, they decide (again, without much planning and foresight), to make one of their senior finance executives the new Chief Financial Officer.

As someone who helps companies hire the best CFO for their needs, my opinion is that this is not always the best solution for the company. However, these are companies that do not have a business relationship with me (yet), so they haven’t asked me for my opinion. I’m not saying that this is a bad solution. In fact, it could be a great solution for the company. I am saying that the probability is that if they haven’t done any proper succession planning for this important role, they may be making a strategic and costly error by hiring the wrong person as CFO.

Whatever the situation for the company, it is up to the newly promoted CFO to make sure that the company made the right choice, if only so that this new CFO can truly benefit from this unplanned career opportunity.

Here is some advice for the senior finance executive that finds themselves as a newly appointed, yet accidental, CFO.

[You will see links to previous blog posts that touch on these subjects. For a more comprehensive overview of how these subjects relate to the success of a CFO, I recommend reading my book, Guide to CFO Success]

Relationship Management – This is the biggest area of change for the new CFO. Whatever your role was prior to your ascension to the CFO throne, you now have to deal with new relationships.

Plan – Too many senior finance executives I have spoken with that have been promoted to the CFO chair, when asked how their role has changed since their promotion, tell me that their job hasn’t changed much. This people are missing a critical opportunity. You must plan for any new role as CFO. You also must know what is expected from a real CFO.

Lonely – Now that you’re finally CFO, you will understand what it means to be lonely at the top. You should prepare for it, and find ways of managing this new experience.

Development – You may not have planned to become CFO so soon, or at all. But now that you are CFO, what are you doing to further your development to become the best CFO you can be? In my book, I recommend that CFOs negotiate a Professional Development spending account that can allow them to pay for the courses, coaching and conferences they need to become a better and more productive CFO.

Coaching – I find that the Chief Financial Officers that I work with in executive coaching are motivated to become even better CFOs. I truly believe that most CFOs would benefit from having a confidential confidant and coach to help them better focus, improve and plan for their success. For a new CFO who didn’t plan to become one so quickly, if at all, having an executive coach can make a big difference on the way to become a successful CFO for the company your work for today, and to your future employers as well.

If you are an accidental CFO, or may find yourself in this position one day, take these recommendations to heart. You may be fortunate to find yourself in the CFO chair, but do not squander this wonderful opportunity.

What a CFO should read every day

CFOs are busy people.

Yet, to be the best CFO they can be, they need to be on top of items that matter to them and the company they work for.

Having written a book targeting the Chief Financial Officer, I am learning a lot about the reading habits of these senior finance executives. Out of all the media that is available today, email is still the most comfortable media for the CFO. So, to keep on top of the important topics in the CFO world, senior finance executives should get a daily update of relevant news and articles.Daily News

Here are my recommendations of emails that a CFO should receive daily.

FEI Daily- brought to you by Financial Executives International, this compendium started this year and points to articles on the web that are relevant to the CFO, as well as fresh content created by FEI itself. Visit their website, or sign up here.

SmartBrief for CFOs – The SmartBrief series of updates targets different readers daily, and their SmartBrief for CFOs is popular. SmartBrief is not a mainstream old school media property, but links through to articles of relevance to the Chief Financial Officer and other senior finance executives. I personally like their polls on hot topics. You can sample their report for today here, or sign up here.

CFO Daily Alert – Published by CFO Magazine, the grey lady of CFO journalism, this daily alert points to their relevant topics covered in their magazine and website. As one of the key content creators for the Chief Financial Officer, knowing what is important to CFO Magazine can allow you to further your own point of view on important CFO related topics. Join their mailing list here.

Being on top of what is happening in the world is important to the CFO and other senior finance executives.

What do you need to read every day?

 

CFO: Your Best Opportunity to Impact Your Organization

Yes. I’m biased when it comes to this conversation.

But I’m not the only one that thinks this.

Numerous CFO research studies, surveys, roundtables, panel discussions and webinars bring up the talent topic again and again.

Talent is a challenge for the CFO.

I have had a successful speaking circuit this past spring, including panel discussions in New York and Toronto, webinars to diverse groups of finance professionals (CPA Canada and APQC), and presentations in Washington and Baltimore. The talent conversation keeps coming up again and again.

I even received this report from Deloitte in my email this morning. Here is what they have to say on the subject:

“Talent availability—and costs. Finding and developing the right talent is invariably a top agenda item for transitioning CFOs. In fact, when we ask CFOs what they would like their legacy to be, a large number actually talk about leaving a sustainable organization that can foster finance talent. To get there means identifying people not only with the necessary skill sets, but also intangibles—such as curiosity and the ability to team—that will help finance become a better business partner. It comes at a cost, though, in terms of developing effective performance management systems, compensation systems, training programs, and coaching. And while human resources should be the natural support organization in all these areas, CFOs often find they have to rely on their own teams to do the work. Still, without the right people in place, there are bigger costs: the inability to execute on a CFO’s critical initiatives and a lack of good finance ambassadors throughout the organization.”

My CFO Advisors, in my blog earlier this year titled The Sleepless CFO,  listed talent as one of the top 3 things that keep them awake at night.

The CFO Relationship Map (mentioned in previous blogs, and in more detail in Guide to CFO Success), shows that CFOs rely on their Finance Team to support them to become the best CFO they can be. Yet CFOs continue to have challenges with talent.

Talent challenges for the CFO include:

  • Not having the right talent they need today
  • Not having a talent plan for the future
  • Not aligning the talent in the finance team to meet the real needs of the organization
  • Not using career planning to keep, motivate and develop the best finance talent
  • Inefficient or ineffective hiring processes for the talent needed today and tomorrow
  • Not having an effective relationship with HR to positively impact the finance team

Talent is an opportunity for the CFO

Yet, with all these talent challenges, the CFO has a great opportunity make a significant impact. These challenges are not insurmountable, they just need attention.

CFOs that pay attention to these issues, even if not getting perfect scores, are in a position to have a significant impact on their personal success, the success of the people that work for them, and the entire organization.

CFO: What is your biggest finance talent opportunity?

Presentation Links: CFO Success #MDSUMMIT

On June 16, 2014 I will be presenting at the MACPA Innovation Summit in Baltimore, MD.

In the presentation, I refer to a number of items for further reading and reference.

Whether you are in attendance at the conference or not, I believe you will find these links of interest.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Samuel

Links:

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CFOs should be more confident when dealing with their CEO

The Chief Financial Officer is always concerned about what their Chief Executive Officer thinks. And too often, they believe that their CEO does not take their input as seriously as they would like them to.

Well, CFO, here is some research that shows you should have more confidence in yourself.

Figure 8 - Amex report June 2014

Copyright © 2014 CFO Publishing LLC

According to recent research from American Express and CFO Research, “CEO-level executives in the survey tend to give more weight to their CFOs’ input than even their CFOs themselves recognize.”

To summarize, 92% of CEOs believe that you (the CFO) are either an influential or determining factor in helping them come to strategic and operational decisions, while only 77% of CFOs feel that they have that same impact on their CEOs.

As I have discussed before in this blog and in my book, the relationship between the CFO and CEO is a significant key to the success of a CFO.

You may be more successful than you think.

Listen In: Radio Interview with Bloomberg Radio May 20, 2014 #BBGCFO

I had the opportunity to be on a panel at the Bloomberg CFO Conference in New York City on May 20th, 2014. I plan on blogging on my experience at this exciting CFO oriented event soon.

In the mean time, you may enjoy listening to an interview I had on Bloomberg Radio with Carol Massar and Pimm Fox. They asked me about my book, Guide to CFO Success, as well as CFOs and the companies that hire them.

If you like what I had to say, please share your favorite quote and point them to this radio interview.

Thanks,
Samuel

BlueSteps Interview – Executive Search Consultant Q&A: Guide to CFO Success

I was recently interviewed by Bluesteps, a service of The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), on my recent book, Guide to CFO Success.

Here is an excerpt from the interview. To read the interview in its entirety, please click here.

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BlueSteps chats with Samuel Dergel, Executive Search Consultant at Stanton Chase International, who recently published Guide to CFO Success.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with the AESC and BlueSteps about the CFO role and your new book, Guide to CFO Success. Can you tell us about the work you do at Stanton Chase International?
 
I work in executive search, with a focus on the Office of Finance. Working across the United States and Canada, as part of our CFO and Financial Executive Practice, I help companies hire their next Chief Financial Officer, and work with CFOs to build a finance team that will ensure their success. In addition to working with CFOs and other Financial Executives, I do executive coaching.
 
In your book, you talk about the reality of the CFO role vs. what the CFO role is perceived to be. How do you define the CFO role?
 
The role of the Chief Financial Officer is a critical one for all organizations. The Board and the CEO set the expectations for the CFO, and it is important for the CFO to deliver on these expectations. In essence, the role of the CFO is whatever the company deems it to be.
 
Guide to CFO Success focuses on all stages of the CFO’s career, from searching for a new executive job to building out her team. Which career stages are most CFOs unprepared for when managing their careers?
 
Career transition. CFOs may be well trained to be great CFOs, but no Chief Financial Officer has been trained to become a CFO in Transition. My experience shows that CFOs who are focusing on their career at the same time as their CFO role for their employer are at an advantage over those that just give 110% to their employer. CFOs who continue to develop themselves and network properly throughout their career minimize the chances that they will ever be in transition, or, if they end up in between opportunities, their network will quickly activate to their advantage.

Other questions answered in this interview include:

What has changed about the CFO role in the last 5-10 years? How have long-standing CFOs adapted to these changes?

In your book, you discuss in transition CFOs and the best ways to cope with searching for a new position. What advice do you have for CFOs who are currently in transition?

How can a CFO candidate best present himself to get noticed by executive recruiters in today’s marketplace?

In your book, you highlight the importance of “critical early wins” for a newly hired CFO. What should a new CFO focus on during the first few days and months on the job?

A major theme in your book focuses on the importance of focusing on one’s own career even when happily employed. Why is it important for CFOs to focus on both their career and their employer?

Do you have any recommendations for CFOs who have difficulty finding the time to focus on their career while they’re employed?

One unique thing about your book is that you focus on the CFO as a leader rather than the CFO as the technical, number cruncher. A significant part of being a leader is maintaining strong relationships. Which relationships do most CFOs find to be the most difficult and what recommendations do you have for CFOs to navigate those rocky relationships?

What changes should CFOs prepare for in the next 5-10 years? What new skills might they need? What will they need to be able adapt to in the workplace?

To read the interview in its entirety, please click here.

Presentation Links: CFO Success – What it Takes and How to Get There #AICPAcfo

On May 9th, 2014 I will be presenting at the AICPA National CFO Conference in National Harbor, MD, just outside Washington DC.

In the presentation, I refer to a number of items for further reading and reference.

Whether you are in attendance at the conference or not, I believe you will find these links of interest.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Samuel

Links:

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If you attended the AICPA National CFO Conference and would like to receive my new blog posts in your email, click the Sign Me Up! button in the right column.

Chapter 1 – Guide to CFO Success

Dear Reader,SD_3DBookGraphic_300x300_com

My new book, Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionalswas released in the United States and Canada in March.

Thanks to my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, I am able to provide you with the complete first chapter of the book.

Guide to CFO Success was written for the Chief Financial Officer, people on the path to CFO, as well as people who work with the Chief Financial Officer.

This book helps current and aspiring CFOs develop the leadership strategies they need to positively impact their careers and deliver consistently exceptional results to their employing organizations.

To preview more of the book, just follow this link to Amazon.com.

Please note you can purchase Guide to CFO Success wherever books and e-books are sold. To find out where you can buy the book, follow this link.

How you can help make “Guide to CFO Success” a success

Once you have read the book, write a review on Amazon.com

In today’s world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the power of Google can lead this book to be recommended to those who can get the best value from it.

Thank you for your involvement in making a difference to others.

Wishing you continued success,

Samuel

[Podcast] CFO IXN Interview of Samuel Dergel: Guide to CFO Success

Earlier this year, I was interviewed by Chris Herbert from CFO IXN about my new book, Guide to CFO Success.

Here is a copy of the podcast. This post originally appeared here.

Thanks Chris!

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Recently Chris Herbert, interviewed Samuel Dergel, of Stanton Chase International. Samuel Dergel is a Director and Search Consultant and specializes in Executive Search for Chief Financial Officers and Senior Financial Executives.

Samuel has recently written a book titled, Guide to CFO Success, Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals and Chris asks him a few questions about the book.

Below you will find a recording of the interview and a corresponding timeline, listing the 9 Questions and their respective timestamps within the interview.

 

Timeline:

00:42  Introduction

01:04  Who did you write the book for?

02:20  What motivated you to write the book?

03:58  What is the definition of a Chief Financial  Officer?

05:54  What makes a CFO successful today and in the future and what are the skills they require?

07:00  What do CFO’s need to do to ensure their future success?

09:10   What is a formal plan and why you need one as a CFO?

10:25  What do you need to do to become a CFO?

11:35  Can a CFO use what is written in your book to stay a CFO?

12:36  Do you need a different CFO depending on the type of company?