The Sleepless CFO

Being Chief Financial Officer can be stressful. The responsibility that the CFO bears for the company they work for is not a 9 to 5 job. Most CFOs I have met and spoken with agree that the role takes up most of the hours they are awake, and even some of the hours they should be sleeping.Couple In Bed With Husband Suffering From Insomnia

So what keeps the CFO awake in 2014?

To find out, I reached out to my CFO Advisory Group. My CFO Advisors were instrumental in providing me with relevant and realistic input as I wrote my upcoming book. Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals is published by Wiley & Sons, and will be available at all fine bookstores end of March 2014.

I recently asked my CFO Advisors what top their top 3 concerns that keep them awake at night. After reviewing their responses, here are the top 3 current issues that are keeping CFOs from getting a good night sleep.

#3 – Team

CFOs are worried about their team. Some CFOs are concerned about how to continue to grow and motivate their staff. Others are losing sleep worried about retaining the staff they need or dealing with the aftermath of unforeseen resignations. There are some CFOs who are unsure of how they will succeed in acquiring and developing the new talent they need to make their team even better.

Regardless of the type team based challenges facing the CFO, they know that they can only be successful if their team is strong enough to support them. When the finance team is not giving the CFO what she needs to succeed, this can cause anxiety and sleeplessness for even the most experienced CFO.

#2 – Growth

Growth can be an issue for many CFOs. Or, rather, the lack of growth is the real issue. Most for-profit companies define success as making more money, and for the Chief Money Counter, growth drives corporate financial success. It is the Key Performance Indicators of this growth that informs the CFO if the company will reach their targets or not.

When companies are continually growing their revenue and profit, all is good. Few companies though, do this regularly and consistently. Financial success for most organizations can only come when sales rise and profitability continues an upward trend. For the CFO, who knows they are king when the results are good, and the court jester when the results aren’t, losing sleep over growth is understandable indeed.

#1 – Cashflow

Cash is King. The ultimate responsibility of whether there is enough cash to do what needs to get done rests with the Chief Financial Officer (even when their team does the technical work). CFOs are concerned with cash from all sides, whether they are collections issues, access to capital and lending or how to make decisions about allocating cash in the most effective way.

Cash is, by far, the most common issue that is keeping my CFO Advisors awake at night. What is interesting about this response is that cash was a concern for most of my CFO Advisors, yet they all come from different industries and company sizes. It seems that cash issues are a challenge in most, if not all companies. While the type of cash challenges will certainly change based on the situation facing a company and its industry, most companies, and therefore most CFOs, are anxious and losing sleep over cash.

What is keeping you awake at night?

CFOs: It’s not just about Finance anymore

The Shifting Role of Chief Financial OfficersWhat value does the Chief Financial Officer bring to the company they work for? According to recent research by American Express, CFOs around the globe believe they are:

    • Seeing an increase in influence at their companies, and
    • Have more input than ever on improving their company’s ability to deliver value to customer.

CFOs also believe that they need to improve their skills in many areas, including some that are not thought of as “finance skills” such as:

    • Strategic thinking
    • Internal alliance builder
    • Conflict resolution
    • Global business acumen, and
    • Logistics acumen

It is nice to see that CFOs are more positive and upbeat on the value that they bring to their companies. I am a big believer in the value that a CFO can bring to the company they work for. I am also a big supporter for CFOs developing themselves further to meet the real needs of the people they work for.

The question I have is this: Are CFOs really adding value in their environment over and above what is expected in Finance? Maybe. The actual reality is not the perception that CFOs have of themselves, it is the perception that the people that CFOs report to that is most important.

Perception is reality. The perception of the people that CFOs work for is the reality that really matters.

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(Note to readers: I apologize for my absence on this blog for the past months. While my CFO Moves blog has been delivering every Monday morning like clockwork, I have been spending a significant amount of time recently on my upcoming book, Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals. I am now in the production process with my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, and I’m looking forward to your feedback when the book is released in March 2014. Hopefully I will get to meet you in person as I speak at conferences and events in 2014. If you’d like to have me discuss my book at your local CFO event, ask the organizers to reach out to me to see if I’m available.)

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.

VIDEO: Webinar Presentation – CFO Succession: The Right Way to Grow your Company’s next CFO

On May 23, 2013 I presented this Webinar on Proformative.

To get more information on this presentation, please view this blog.

Links referred to in this presentation:

If you have any questions on CFO Succession, please complete the form below and I will be pleased to get back to you.

Webinar – May 23, 2013 | CFO Succession: The Right Way to Grow your Company’s next CFO

Join me on May 23, 2013 as I present a Webinar on the following topic:Webinar - CFO Succession

CFO Succession: The Right Way to Grow your Company’s next CFO

This session is graciously hosted by Proformative, and there is no charge for attending this seminar. To sign up, please click on this link.

Overview

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) know that they will not stay in their current role with their current company forever. The CFO needs to ensure that his or her team has the right talent that can be called upon to replace them when they eventually leave the company (or the role of CFO). Strong CFOs also know that they are only as strong as the weakest leader on their team. This session will discuss the right way for the CFO to attract, retain and develop financial leadership talent for their team, while ensuring that they are setting the stage and preparing for their own eventual succession.

Learning Objectives

After attending this webinar you will be able to:

    • Understand why your success depends on having the best possible leadership talent in your finance team
    • Learn how to identify which areas to develop your finance leaders for future success
    • Become aware of the key components necessary to attract, retain and develop your company’s next CFO and other future finance leaders

CPE Credits are available for this session. For further information, please see details in the “CPE Info” tab on the sign up page.

Podcast: Becoming a world-class CFO and Finance team: What it takes, why now, and who’s made it?

Listen to the Podcast here:

SAP_IXN-Program_Podcast-Artwork_2013

Download the Podcast file by clicking on this link.

This podcast is also available on iTunes.

Transcript for Episode 1 of the IXN Thought Leadership Podcast Series

Becoming a world-class CFO and Finance team: What it takes, why now, and who’s made it?

                              

Donna Papacosta: Welcome to the Intellectual Xchange Network Thought Leadership podcast, sponsored by SAP. I’m Donna Papacosta, your host for this podcast.

The Intellectual Xchange Network or IXN is a thought leaders network, by invitation only. IXN members are a select group of professionals, who through their research, writing and relationships are subject matter experts in their fields. As members of the IXN they provide insights, share ideas and help their readers and listeners become better informed on how they and their companies can improve. They are not paid nor are they spokespersons for SAP.

In these conversations, you’ll meet some of the members of the IXN, who will share ideas we hope you’ll find innovative and thought provoking.

This episode of the IXN Thought Leadership Podcast series was recorded February 22, 2013. Today we’re talking about becoming a world-class CFO and Finance team: What it takes, why now, and who’s made it? Our guests are Samuel Dergel, Mary Driscoll and Frank Ciannella.

Samuel Dergel works with Stanton Chase International, and specializes in CFO executive search. He is known as “The CFO Expert” and is a blogger and social media leader on the topic of the chief financial officer. Samuel is currently writing a book for CFOs called Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals, to be published by John Wiley & Sons in 2014.

Mary Driscoll is Senior Research Fellow at the American Productivity & Quality Center. APQC is a Houston-based nonprofit that provides expertise on business process benchmarking and best practices for improving organizational performance. Formerly a senior editor at CFOmagazine, Mary is the author of Cash Management: Corporate Strategies for Profit, published by John Wiley & Sons.

Frank Ciannella is a Director in the Global Analytics Center of Excellence at SAP. He is a Certified Public Accountant and has extensive experience in SAP core financial and costing solutions, as well as planning, consolidation and profitability and analysis solutions. Before coming to SAP he was a senior auditor at a public accounting firm.

Donna Papacosta:           What inspired this discussion was a recent APQC survey, referred to in an Industry Week article entitled, “Finance: CFOs can become game-changers if given half a chance.” This, combined with Samuel’s post entitled, “CFO’s, can you afford not to have an excellent Finance function?” really merits a conversation with Mary and Samuel, as well as Frank from SAP, so we can explore this in more detail.

Let’s frame the discussion starting with this question: Based on your conversations with CFOs and Finance teams, what pressures are they facing today that could be preventing them from becoming a world-class department? Do you want to start with you, Mary?

Mary Driscoll:                  Sure. I think that’s a really interesting question because we’ve been studying for many years, what are the dynamics in Finance? To say that Finance has to become a better business partner may strike some as archaic. Certainly, I’ve been talking about that and writing about it for a long time, but in my research, what I find is that many organizations hit a wall on their way up the maturity curve.

When I look at our benchmarks and research, what strikes me is that easily 50% of companies are quite happy to tolerate their Finance operating costs that are two times or even three times more than necessary. Why is that? I think there’s been a long period of lack of willingness to invest in the people, processes and technology that would make Finance not only more efficient, but more effective. That’s really what business needs today; it needs Finance to help them be an analytical competitor.

Donna Papacosta:           Samuel, I’m sure you have an opinion on this.

Samuel Dergel:                 I think that the CFOs need to think of themselves as the CEO of their group. They need to run their Finance group like a business, realizing that they have to do customer service internally and be profitable. Another way of looking at is be cost-effective. To do that, they have to think of themselves as a business, they have to have a strategy for their Finance group, and they have to have a plan. Without these things, they cannot be successful.

Donna Papacosta:           Frank, what would you add to that?

Frank Ciannella:              I’d like to add a couple of comments around the pressures that CFOs face and my conversations with them. A lot around continuing regulation, whether it’s their home country, other countries, or just some of the regulatory authorities that are put onto the Finance organization. In addition to the changing workforce and what the incoming workforce is expecting from just an analytic and systems capability, the CFO also has to be concerned with deglobalization. It’s not just competing in your home country, it’s about competing globally and understanding who your competitors are. It also extends to the war for talent.

Much to Sam’s point, the CFO needs to be the general manager of the organization as Finance is looked at as a strategic business adviser throughout. I’d say another pressure that the CFOs face is internal. There’s a lot of system inadequacy, so too much of Finance time is being spent on data collection and gathering, and just not enough on high value-add activities. And as Finance supports the organization in the growth mode, they just can’t scale, and have often mentioned to me that that’s one of their major concerns and pressures they feel; just how do they support that growth mode of the organization?

Samuel Dergel:                 Frank, how many of them have a plan? How many of them really think it through and take the time to work to improve it from a 50,000-foot level, as opposed to trying put out fires on a regular basis?

Frank Ciannella:              That’s an excellent point. I’d say the majority of them do not have a plan or they have a plan that they just haven’t been able to execute on. That’s one of the things I like to talk to them about, is putting that plan in place and being very methodical about executing on that, because that’s the only way that Finance is going to help the organization pursue its growth opportunities.

Mary Driscoll:                  I have a comment on that too. In addition to a plan, I would argue that what really has to be in place is a strong and clear charter that ties the work of Finance to the enterprise mission. For instance, it’s easy to say, “We want to be a great Finance organization. We want to be really efficient and smart. We have metrics that show we’re doing more with less.” But what does that do for the organization? How is that helping the enterprise maximize return on capital? In the best-practice companies that I’ve had the pleasure of studying, it’s uncanny. You see that there’s a clear Finance charter and it includes language about the role of Finance in business decision support. These are not just mission statements that are hung on a wall and ignored; they are vital documents that inform the role of every single person in the organization.

Donna Papacosta:           I think you’ve all done a really great job of painting the picture of the current state, so maybe we could move toward some of the contributing factors that can help to create this really effective Finance function. I know you can all touch on talent, skills, processes, best practices, systems, tools, all that. I don’t know who wants to start there.

Mary Driscoll:                  I’d say if there’s a lack of commitment from the top, you can just about forget about it, because in order to make any traction at all, there will have to be investments in process and people. Take for example, the process of financial reporting. It’s scary to see how many organizations are still reliant on manual data entry, spreadsheets, and have just not stepped up to the plate and said, “We’ve got to automate this process and put in some workflow technology to take the risk out of this.” Why that is, it baffles me, but you’ve got a lot of very talented Finance people using age-old techniques and tools. It just doesn’t make any sense, given the risks of error. Sam?

Samuel Dergel:                 People are a key component, but it requires, from my perspective, three: People, process, technology. These three components need to be able to work together. On the people side, having the talent that you need is very important. The challenge is, and you bring it up, Mary, that many people within the organization are using ways that aren’t effective anymore, but where does that come from? The CFO is a leader of the Finance organization. The CFO needs a handful of strong lieutenants across the board. If they want to be able to deliver value to the rest of the organization, at the executive level in Finance, it can’t just be about the continuous monthly, quarterly, year cycle; that’s part of it, but in terms of delivery. But it really needs to be addressed as to how do you actually get there? If you don’t have visionary Finance people that can’t see where it can go and they’re just used to doing it because that’s what was always done, the CFO’s going to suffer and the organization is going to suffer.

Mary Driscoll:                  Sam, that’s right. If I just may jump in here; take the example of planning, budgeting, and forecasting. In this day and age when businesses are moving at the speed of lightning, it baffles me to think that companies are still relying on an annual budget as a primary performance management tool. That just doesn’t make any sense when it’s clear that to be resilient, businesses have to respond to fast-moving market changes. Finance, in order to be part of the solution, has to be able to refresh its forecast and help the company navigate or get back on track when it’s fallen off track using driver-based planning and techniques of that sort.

Samuel Dergel:                 From my perspective, from a talent perspective, it really is a question of having the leaders making it work and not just accepting the way it’s always been. It takes effort and it takes time, but without the leadership getting in control of that, it will just continue in a vicious circle.

Frank Ciannella:              I think that those are excellent points. I’ll even add something from a little bit different slant; maybe capitalize on what Mary mentioned. When I look at what can really help them become world class, I think of what capabilities do they have from a solution or systems and tools. What I find too many times is that what they have just isn’t easy to use; it’s not user friendly.

I think, if you look at from a Finance investment, it’s investing in capabilities that are very easy to use, very user friendly of course, easy to maintain, even from Finance. You don’t need to go back to an IT organization or elsewhere in the organization and wait for a month to get your capabilities met, because business is changing too fast. The ability to keep up with that, to go reforecast within a matter of hours or within the same day is critically important. So having these capabilities that are easy to use, very user friendly, very process-centric is really, really critical.

What I’m starting to see also is Finance organizations starting to gain much more interest in mobility; how can I enable my workforce, my Finance directors and VPs to work from anywhere at any time, having access to these systems and tools that make them most effective? I think of mobility capabilities, as well.

Donna Papacosta:           We’re tackling a big subject here I understand, but I’m wondering if you can share some examples that you’ve seen where Finance teams are evolving to this more efficient status and overcoming some of the challenges that you’ve been describing.

Mary Driscoll:                  Donna, I’ve got a good example. I was speaking with a CFO the other day who is working with his counterparts in Marketing and Product Development, and doing what he called “layering business intelligence over financial forecasting.” What that means is working with people in Product Development to understand customer behaviors and preferences, and begin to connect the dots between customer shopping behaviors and purchasing behaviors. With that, translating that information, or layering that information, over financial performance forecasts to make revenue forecasts more precise and help the organization as a whole better allocate its marketing dollars, for example, its Product Development dollars.

Donna Papacosta:           Samuel or Frank, can you think of an example that would help us to envision this future state?

Frank Ciannella:              I would like to add: Whenever I talk to CFOs, one of the first things that comes up and how they’re able to transform their organization, because I work a lot on the financial transformation side, is they really have to have to have the foundation done and essentially running on itself, almost like a factory. What I mean by foundation, it’s the core processes that plant owns, it’s the transactional processing, the general ledger, it’s account reconciliation. Having those processes, those transaction-heavy processes, order to cash for example, having them run, be efficient, be very repeatable, very accurate; and the CFOs have been engaging their own, lately, have been wanting to take that. I’ve seen some of them take that and say, “OK, our next step is we want to then take our close process and shrink it down to as little time as possible.”

So I worked with a large chemical manufacturer in the Midwest that had acquired another company, had their core foundational processes working very well, and I was able to combine, consolidate, and close over 1,700 different legal entities in a matter of hours. They’re looking at it very methodical: Let me focus on my close and consolidation process. Then for this particular company, the next on the roadmap is how do I make my budgeting plan forecasting much more agile, and how do I react much more quickly to changing market conditions?

The examples I’m seeing is really a step. I think sometimes we get enamored with trying to do everything and swallow it all at one time, and it just becomes more of a mess than a true example of world-class Finance. Those are the examples I always like to inject in situations like this, because I think they really speak to the fact that, A, it’s not easy; this is hard stuff, but B, there is a path and customers are blazing that path forward.

Samuel Dergel:                 There’s recent example I have with a CFO that I work with who was planning to improve the Finance function across the board. My perspective is from a talent perspective, and the CFO asked me to ensure that the leadership and the team had the talent that they needed to be able to move forward. It’s more than just, are they there and are they good people? It’s, can they meet the plan? Do they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be able to make it work? It comes from the top. When a CFO looks at their talent pool and knows what they have and what they don’t have, that can allow them to make some very effective changes and get them to a world-class state. It has to start somewhere.

Mary Driscoll:                  Sam, I would add to that that the soft skills are increasingly being underscored by CFOs that are truly committed to continuous process improvement. We did a survey last fall that basically proved that when CFOs make a genuine commitment to raising the so-called “soft skills” – negotiation skills, critical thinking skills, presentation skills. When a commitment is made to those things as well as the nitty-gritty aspects of finance and accounting, when those commitments are true, the people in Finance increasingly are considered to be reliable business partners by folks on the operating side. They’re taken more seriously.

Samuel Dergel:                 What I do find, and it’s unfortunate, but in many cases in the Finance group, the way that you move from junior, to manager, to director, to VP is by being technical. That’s great to start off. Some people can have the ability to gain those skills if they’re trained. They may not have had the opportunity to get those skills; some aren’t. Unfortunately, too many Finance functions have senior leadership that don’t have the ability to grow in critical soft skill areas. That’s certainly a challenge for the CFO who needs their leadership to step up.

Donna Papacosta:           Right. Obviously, this is a situation where there are so many interconnected parts. I’m wondering if – we know that picking the right place to start is important in any kind of improvement initiative. Can each of you provide some advice briefly, as to what areas CFOs could focus on to improve their chances of success at this?

Mary Driscoll:                  What I do know is that the best-in-class Finance organizations that we find and document in case studies, 9 out of 10 times, you’ll hear them talk in terms of process methodology. You’ll hear them talk about Six Sigma, you’ll hear them talk about Kaizen, you’ll hear them talk about root cause analysis. It’s no coincidence that they get into the top-performance categories, whether it’s in cost efficiency or business partnering. It’s no coincidence that they also very much embrace that process excellence mindset.

Samuel Dergel:                 I agree that it’s a state of mind. If the CFO can get the Finance team to think about efficiency, effectiveness, customer service-oriented delivery, as Mary pointed out to me and I wrote on one of my blogs, efficient teams cost less. Spending money on talent ends up costing the CFO less. It’s proven, and it’s key. There has to be an effort to improve and make it work.

Frank Ciannella:              Yes, Sam, I think you’re 100% right, both you and Mary. Mary, you were talking about the process side of it. Sam, you mentioned earlier, and I completely agree; it’s people, process and technology working together. So where do you start? I think, first off, the mindset is a given; the leadership and driving from the top down is absolutely a given. A lot of things that I advise CFOs on, and I think we all do: What do you have today that you think you can do better? Thinking from a process standpoint, how can you become more efficient, more effective? What are those process improvements? Where can you leverage technology to make your organization a better business partner? Then once you’ve captured those points, going back to the first question we had; what is that roadmap? What is that plan to then start looking at newer capabilities and how you’re going to drive Finance to become that world-class organization so that you routinely are reducing your days sales outstanding? You’re reducing the amount of time spent on your reporting packages every month.

It’s this transformational journey, really, that needs to be put in place. I think there’s very easy places to start, which is just looking at what you have today already and what you can improve upon without a large investment. Then of course, make those improvements, and then put a clear roadmap in place to march forward. Usually, that does take some investment and commitment, but in becoming world-class, that’s what it’s all about.

Donna Papacosta:           Frank, that’s a great place to wrap this up, this conversation with you, Samuel, and Mary. I thank you so much for sharing your insights today. I think you’ve given people a lot to think about.

Mary Driscoll:                  This was fun. Thank you, Donna. Thanks ,everybody.

Samuel Dergel:                 Very much enjoyed it. Thank you.

Donna Papacosta:           Thanks to our guests for today: Samuel Dergel, Mary Driscoll and Frank Ciannella. Until next time, this is Donna Papacosta for the IXN Thought Leadership Podcast Series. Be sure to look for the podcast on iTunes.

Do CFOs need to master IT to succeed?

As the person responsible for all things financial in an enterprise (of any size), the Chief Financial Officer needs to combine people, process and technology to drive results across the enterprise.

Solutions for organizations and finance departments  that were best in class only a few years ago may well now be obsolete, and incapable of providing  companies the functionality they need  to succeed in today’s dynamic business world.

Does a CFO need to master Information Technology to succeed?

I asked this question to John Kogan, CEO at Proformative, an online community by and for Corporate Finance, Accounting and Treasury Professionals. Here is his response:

Master IT? No. Truly understand how IT can be used within their organizations and across the enterprise? Yes! CFOs can’t outsource their understanding of technology and its use within the enterprise. They need to embrace it in order to understand how it is being used and how it might be used to better advantage. Armed with such knowledge they can create a plan, with help from others in their organization as well as IT, and work to make whatever they do have better and more effective. This is a never-ending process.

I also asked John the following question:

Are CFOs afraid of IT?

I’m sure they are out there, but rare. I think it’s more common for some CFOs to be so busy doing all of the other things they are responsible for that IT may fall between the cracks or they outsource it to someone else internally. They may not realize they are doing this or they may not believe IT merits more of their time. Obviously they have a lot to do and there is never enough time to do it. However, this takes them out of a very important loop at their companies – the loop that provides data upon which their company makes decisions, for better and worse.

What can a CFO do to better understand IT?

Knowledge is power. CFOs may not need to be an IT master, but they certainly need to understand where IT is going, how it affects their business and how it impacts their finance team. Staying up to date and current in the fast paced changing world of IT can be difficult. It requires reading, speaking with peers, listening to vendors and industry experts.

How does a CFO find the time to stay on top of all things IT?

A CFO makes the time. Like most successful CFOs, they are efficient and effective in how they get the best value from their available time. Finding an excellent conference that can allow you to learn from experts and speak with your peers (with an additional benefit of finding time to network) can be a very effective solution.

So where does a CFO find an all-encompassing conference like this?

One conference that can meet a CFOs need for all things IT is PROFORMATECH 2013 on March 20, 2013 in San Francisco. This conference is geared for Senior Finance Professionals like yourself who need to stay on top all things IT.

Even if you’re not on the West Coast, I recommend you make the time to attend this conference. It will certainly be worth the cost, because the conference is FREE (which is the right price for most CFOs).

Don’t delay. Register today!

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Note: I am an Advisor with Proformative and a Topic Expert. There is no compensation for these roles, unless you consider that I usually win the $25 Amazon Gift certificate each month for most popular blog on the site. :-)

CFOs: Do you want to become a Controller? This CFO did just that.

Non-CFOs might think that CFOs are people that look backwards, not forwards. I speak with Chief Financial Officers every day, and I can tell you that they look are interested in moving forward with their careers. They want to improve, grow and succeed. They want their next career opportunity to be bigger, better and have more responsibility. Many CFOs want to be able to grow into the CEO role, and as I report each Monday morning in my CFO Moves blog, a number of CFOs do just that.

Cindy Kraft wrote a blog just yesterday called CFOs Really Can Move On and Up! which deals with how a CFO can position themselves for the CEO role. 

So this CFO Move last week really caught my attention. 

Courtesy of Xerox Corporation

Courtesy of Xerox Corporation

Luca Maestri, CFO of Xerox, let his company know that he would be taking a position with a new company. This is not an uncommon occurrence. 

He also informed his employer that he will be taking on the role of Controller at his new employer. This does not happen often. 

Now you need to keep in mind that the new employer is Apple. But it is not like he was working for a small company either as CFO. He was working for Xerox! 

So why would a CFO at one company become a Controller at another company? 

I have not had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Maestri about his decision. I’m sure he had good reasons. If Mr. Maestri was consulting with me about the move I would most probably tell him that I think it’s a great move. 

However, most CFOs are so focused on moving forward in their career and getting promoted that they often lose sight that the best opportunities for them may require ‘stepping down’ a little. 

Luca Maestri did just that.

As CFO, what can you learn from Luca Maestri?

Different companies need different CFOs

© Copyright 2013 McKinsey & Company

CFOs are capable people. Sometimes, when a CFO is actively looking for their next opportunity, they are less selective in the type of company or CFO role that they choose. When they make a career choice that is not appropriate for them, they can spend years trying to repair the choice they made.

2013 has just started, and already there is new CFO oriented research that can help CFOs and the companies that hire them. Today’s CFO: While profile best suits your company?  (Note: there is no charge for the report, but registration is required to download) by McKinsey & Company, identifies four profiles of today’s CFO:

    1. The finance expert
    2. The generalist
    3. The performance leader
    4. The growth champion.

The McKinsey report, authored by Ankur Agrawal, John Goldie, and Bill Huyett, identifies which companies can best benefit from each of these profiles.

Agrawal et al. do realize that most CFOs do not fit precisely into each of these profiles, and have provided questions that CEOs and Boards should ask when beginning their search for their next Chief Financial Officer.

As an executive search specialist helping companies hire their next CFO, I find the report clear and concise. Reading this report can help CFOs better position themselves for the remainder of their career, and help CEOs and Boards hire the right person they need in the CFO chair.

What type of CFO are you?

Take time to think

We are all busy people. Running. Doing. Meeting. Analyzing. Reviewing. Managing.Are you stuck?

It’s nice to accomplish and get things done. But as many people have learned driving in winter conditions these past few weeks, spinning your wheels can only get you into a deeper rut.

If you don’t take the time to think and plan, your life and career will get away from you.

Thinking time is critical to plan your successes. Having a coach can certainly help you, but you can be your own coach too. You just need to take the time to think and plan.

I get my best thinking done driving alone in my car.

When do you get your thinking done?

Is it time to schedule some thinking time?

What do you need to think through?

Would a coach help?