LinkedIn’s new Tool: Endorsements

If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I am a big fan and user of LinkedIn. (You can read my LinkedIn related blogs by clicking here).

Until recently, the only tool that LinkedIn had for others to confirm that you are as good as you said you were was its Recommendations feature. This is a good tool, but requires the person writing the Recommendation to make a big commitment to you – they needed to essentially write a letter as to what they like about you and where you’ve added value to them and their company. Few people actually used this feature because of the commitment involved.LinkedIn is an excellent tool for business professionals. It allows them to brand themselves and stay connected and expand their professional network.

LinkedIn’s Endorsements feature is based on what you’ve identified as your skills and expertise, and others click to say “I agree” that you have this skill set. It’s an easy and effective tool.

I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks as people I know have endorsed me. It is interesting to see who actually thinks I have the skills I say I have, and I appreciate everyone’s endorsement.

To get the best out of the Endorsements feature, it is important that you properly identify your Skills & Expertise in LinkedIn. For example, if you are branding yourself as a CFO, do you really want to be endorsed for your Excel Skills?

Are you using Endorsements?

Do you find value in this LinkedIn feature?

The Fresh CFO (and 5 ways to say Fresh)

Last week I wrote that No Employer wants a Stale CFO. While we can agree that a Stale CFO is not desired, staying Fresh takes hard work. The most important thing for a CFO to do to stay Fresh is to budget.

When I ask CFOs why they do not make staying Fresh a priority, the usual excuse they give is that they don’t have the time, or they cannot get (or are afraid to ask for) approval for the expense.

A CFO needs to budget time and money to ensure that they stay Fresh.

How can a CFO find the time and money?

New CFOs are in the best position to find the time and money when negotiating their new CFO Employment Contract. As part of a new employment agreement, asking for a budgeted amount for conferences and other professional development gives a Chief Financial Officer the flexibility to find relevant learning and networking opportunities to stay fresh and further develop themselves as CFOs and as experts in their industry.

Employed CFOs that have not spent the effort to stay Fresh really need to get out of their rut. If you’ve been CFO with a company for 3 years but haven’t spent the time and money on staying Fresh, convincing your CEO that you need to start spending time and money on this could lead to quizzical looks. You may want to use the argument that you’ve spent all this time applying your previous experience, and now you need to upgrade your skills to better service the organization.

Whether a new or incumbent CFO, you need to believe that staying Fresh adds value to your current employer, and that your employer needs a Fresh CFO to get the best value from you.

Now that you’ve committed to spending time and money on improving and developing yourself, what are your options?

Conferences – Getting out of the office and in front of other people is not only a good change of pace, it can provide you with formal and informal learning opportunities and networking that will can add value to you and your employer immediately. CFO focused events, such as the AICPA CFO Conference or CFO Rising or even specialized CFO Conferences for your industry (e.g. the CFO & Finance Managers Conference by the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers) are excellent opportunities for learning, development and thinking about how you can apply what you’ve learned. I also recommend that you attend Industry conferences that are not finance focused so you can better understand the business and industry you currently serve.

Training – Specific training, either on a new subject or as a refresher, whether in a class room or as a webinar, can certainly allow you to stay fresh. Proformative has excellent webinars on relevant CFO topics on a regular basis, as well as an up to date list of CFO relevant events across the country.

Peer networks – CFOs can learn a lot from their fellow CFOs. Groups such as The CFO Alliance (which has meeting in cities around the USA) as well as local FEI chapters can provide learning and networking opportunities that are worth your time.

Licenses – I tend to see too many inactive CPAs. If you’ve went through the effort to get your CPA in the first place, find a way to get your employer to agree it’s valuable and pay for it. Make this cost a part of your Fresh CFO budget.

Coaching – Athletes do better with a Coach. So will you. Getting a CFO Coach can allow you to have the individualized attention and support you need to be the best CFO you can be. Putting this cost into your budget ensures you will continue to improve.

How much do you budget to stay Fresh?

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Ask Samuel: Industry Experience Required?

Dear Samuel,

I have come across many companies over my career that, when looking to hire their CFO, require that they have not only CFO experience, but experience as a Chief Financial Officer in their industry.

How would you recommend that I position myself to be hired into an industry that I do not have direct experience as a CFO?

Denied in Denver

Dear Denied,

When decision makers hire (or make any decision) they choose the path of least resistance. This usually includes making decisions based on their belief system.

Many people making these hiring decisions have the belief that their industry is so specialized and unique that no one coming from outside the industry will be able to learn quickly enough about their industry and will therefore be at a disadvantage.

From what I have seen, decision makers that are able to hire key people from outside their industries usually do so because they have a more convincing factor in making the decision – trust. In these cases, the one making the hiring decision knows and trusts the person that will be coming into the role, even if they don’t have the industry experience. 

When companies face ‘change management’ considerations, they are more open to hiring executives from outside their industry to shake things up.

So how do you get hired into an industry you don’t have direct experience in? Use your connections. People that trust you know what you are capable of and will overlook your lack of industry experience.

Thanks for writing,

Samuel

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If you’d like to ask Samuel a question, click here.

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When hiring a CFO, is LinkedIn the place to look?

A recent blog piece on ERE.net called Fishing in a Small Pond discusses, from the recruiter and company perspective, whether LinkedIn is the best source for candidates when looking to hire.

Our own research shows that LinkedIn is not as great a source for CFO candidates as people think. Our CFO Moves Blog, which is the most regular and comprehensive source detailing CFO hires and unhires across America, is the only list that refers to the CFO’s LinkedIn Profile. If the CFO has a LinkedIn Profile, CFO Moves provides the direct link to it. Take a look for yourself.

Look at the blog and you will notice that not all CFOs are on LinkedIn. A good number of them aren’t.

Shocked? Don’t be.

Also, look at the links to CFO LinkedIn Profiles in our CFO Moves Blog. You will notice that of those CFOs that are on LinkedIn, a good number of them have weak or ineffective profiles, with few connections (Category: I’m here, but leave me alone), and what appears to be no real investment in looking out for building their personal brand.

Lessons to be learned:

For… Lesson to be learned Recommendation 
A company looking to hire your next CFO LinkedIn is not sufficient to do a proper search for the best candidates meeting your needs. Engage a Search firm that not only understands what you need, but how and where to find them.
A CFO actively looking for their next opportunity Your LinkedIn Profile can give you a competitive advantage, if done right. Be active and visible to those looking for CFOs that are too lazy to do any other type of search.
A CFO who iskeeping their eyes open for their next opportunity Other CFOs are not on LinkedIn or not taking LinkedIn seriously. Build your personal brand, including being active on LinkedIn, and opportunities may find you.

We are in process of preparing detailed statistics on what we have learned from our CFO Moves Blog this year. Our report will be coming out in January. Sign up to this blog by clicking the “SIGN ME UP” button on the right column to ensure you can learn what we’ve learned from our CFO Moves Blog.

As well, while you’re at it, if the CFO Moves Blog is of interest to you, sign up for it as well!

Ask Samuel: Should I accept all LinkedIn Connection Requests?

Dear Samuel,

I’m a senior financial executive that is taking an active role in building my network. I’m finding that LinkedIn is a good tool. It allows me to keep track of who I know and stay visible to my network.

From time to time (and it’s getting more frequent) I get requests to connect with someone I don’t know. They either say that I know them as a Friend or I have worked with them in the past. While it could be possible that I met them once, I don’t remember.

Should I accept a connection request on LinkedIn from someone I don’t know?

Connecting in Connecticut

Dear Connecting,

I understand where you are coming from. Being as active on social media as I am, I get requests constantly to join people’s networks. So I developed a LinkedIn Connection Policy that I stick to. You can read my LinkedIn Policy in my previous post.

I also recommend that you read the postings of a fellow blogger, Joel Ungar, The SEC Auditor. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of his blog – How NOT to Make a Connection on LinkedIn.

To answer your question in standard accountingease: It depends. It ultimately depends on what you want to accomplish on LinkedIn.

What should your LinkedIn Connection Policy be?

Thanks for writing,

Samuel

If you’d like to ask Samuel a question, click here.

LinkedIn Connections – What is your Policy?

Dear Readers:

I previously published this post on another blog in February 2011. I am reposting it here as a reference to those who wish to connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you’re not connected with me on LinkedIn - now you know what it will take for me to say yes.

Samuel

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LinkedIn has certainly become the online place for business people to connect and stay in touch. While it is a very powerful tool, it is only as powerful as you make it.

Networking is more effective when you use it to give to your network as well as receive from it. The same applies on LinkedIn. If you want LinkedIn to work for you when you need it (i.e., when you are looking for work), you need to work with, assist and engage your network when you don’t need your network.

As someone who uses LinkedIn on a daily basis to connect and add value to my network, I regularly get LinkedIn requests. Many times, it is from individuals I do not know. Yet.

I am interested in making genuine connections with people. It is my business to know people and meet people – LinkedIn is a great tool for this. I’m not interested in the game of “How many Connections do you have?”

So how do I choose who to connect with?

I connect with people that:

    • I know
    • I have met in person
    • I have spoken with
    • I have engaged with online

When I get a request from someone I do not know it is my policy to reply to them and ask questions that will help me get to know them better before I actually connect.

I categorize networkers on LinkedIn into the following categories:

1) LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers).These people have a policy to connect with anyone and anybody. They call themselves “Open Networkers” but in my opinion are not real networkers – they are just looking for leads to move their agenda forward and have access to names they may not otherwise have.

2) Real Networkers.These people use LinkedIn to support their in-person networking activities, not to replace their in-person networking. These people are meeting people in person and using LinkedIn to stay connected and engaged with their network when they are not in front of them. Real Networkers do develop relationships on LinkedIn, but only as part of an engagement strategy with their network, groups and questions to build real relationships, even if they start them online.

3) Passive Networkers.This is how I would categorize the majority of people on LinkedIn. Passive LinkedIn Networkers connect with some people they know on LinkedIn, but really don’t go out of their way to connect or engage their network. These people are generally passive networkers in their day to day lives. While I am an avid evangelist of the powers of networking, I am aware that most people don’t love networking, and feel more comfortable not networking. For them, just being on LinkedIn and passively being involved is certainly a step up to those that do no networking at all.

4) I’m here, but leave me alone. There are people who have a profile on LinkedIn because someone they respect asked them to be a part of it, but have no desire to put an effort into networking at all. I respect the choice these people have made, but I feel for them – they are missing out on a revolution that is positively affecting the careers and personal lives of everyone around them.

I categorize myself as a Real Networker. What kind of LinkedIn Networker are you? What is your LinkedIn Connection Policy?

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Ask Samuel: Is it time to change CPA Firms?

Dear Samuel,

I am a CFO of an owner-managed company. In recent years, our CPA firm has not been servicing us properly.

They are always pushing our deadlines to the limit, even when all the information they have requested has been delivered in a timely fashion to them. We also recently had a significant interest charge from the IRS because they ‘forgot’ to file a form on time.

I like the partner in the firm, but I don’t find that we are getting the service we need. Is it time to change CPA firms?

Fed up in Phoenix

Dear Fed up,

If you look at our CFO Relationship Map, you will see that the CPA firm is an important external relationship that needs to be nurtured for a CFO.

It is unfortunate that you are not satisfied with the service from your CPA firm.

Changing CPA Firms is an option. Before you do so, I would recommend that you sit down with the most senior person at the firm you deal with to see if you can find solutions to your dissatisfaction.

If you decide that it is time to change CPA Firms, I recommend that you get referrals to other firms from other CFOs you know, as well as your bankers. You should do a preliminary review of the services of a few CPA firms, and reduce the list to 3 of your top choices. Ask these 3 top firms to meet with you and prepare a proposal.

When making your choice for a CPA firm, make sure that when you assess the proposals, it is not solely based on price, but on the work they will be doing, as well as the service levels they will be committing to. This is important – because the reason you left your previous firm in the first place was not because of price, but because of service.

If you’d like to ask Samuel a question, click here.

Ask Samuel: Negotiating coaching for my new job

Dear Samuel,

I am about to get a job offer as CFO. Thank you for your blog on Negotiating your CFO contract - I am finding it very useful as I’m going through this process.

I have networked my way to this opportunity, and I think it’s a good fit for me. In the last steps of this hiring process, I would like to ensure that I not only deliver value to my new employer, but also have the ability to access coaching to help me become the best CFO I can be.

Do you have any guidance on how to make sure I can get the approval for a budget for an Accelerated Transition Program and CFO Coaching?

Almost There in Almont

Dear Almost,

What is most important at this time is to secure an offer of employment from the company. I have seen too many instances where CFOs were about to get a job offer that never materialized.

Once your next employer is serious about bringing you on board, you can discuss other key terms for your employment.

Regarding an Accelerated Transition Program, it is important to ask the following question to your new employer as you finalize your offer of employment: “What support do you offer executives to ensure a successful transition into the company?” If you get a blank stare, you might be on your own. If however you get some recognition by your employer that executive job transition is important, you may have room to negotiate this program. If you cannot get official transition assistance, you should at least read the book I’ve recommended and apply it for yourself and your new company.

When it comes to the subject of coaching, some CFOs have mentioned to me that they are uncomfortable bringing up the concept with their new (or their current) employer.

Like any great idea that others may not understand right away, it is important that you understand the perspective of the decision maker before you present them with your great idea.

The easiest person to convince that you can get great value from a Coach is your CEO, IF they have a coach themselves.

Companies that understand the need for professional development and readily invest in these activities for their key people are solid candidates to pay for CFO Coaching.

Regardless, I recommend that new (or current) CFOs should ask for approval of an annual budget amount for their professional development that can include conferences, training, books as well as coaching. Getting a budgeted amount approved upfront allows you the freedom in how to best spend these professional development dollars. This gives you the flexibility to choose your own areas and methods of development while not having to go back again and again for permission.

Remember, you’re the Chief Financial Officer. Your negotiation skills are being tested at this critical junction. A great negotiator gets what they want while the other party gets what they want as well. As you finalize the conditions of your next CFO role, keep this in mind.

If you’d like to ask Samuel a question, click here.

Ask Samuel: How do I make time for networking?

Dear Samuel,

As CFO of a mid-sized manufacturing company, I find that I am always busy. If I’m not getting things off my To Do list, I’m being pulled into company meetings.

I know it’s important to network, both for representing the company I work for as well as for getting myself known within my business community. Still, I can’t find the time. What can I do?

Too Busy in Two Rivers

Dear Too Busy,

The first thing you need to do is convince yourself that networking is important. If you believe networking is valuable, you will make the time for it, just like you make time for everything else in your life that you find important.

Now if you really believe that networking is important, and need help making time for it, then I have some advice for you.

Objectives

What is it that you want to accomplish with networking? The answer to this question sets the stage for how you will reach your networking objectives.

Venues

Where are you going to network? Are you going to go to local business or national industry events? Are you going to call on previous people you worked with to go to lunch and catch up?

Scheduling

If you don’t put it on your schedule, it won’t happen.

Follow up

It is nice to meet someone at an event, have a pleasant conversation and exchange business cards. But then what? If there is no follow up, what is the value in having met that person in the first place?

Pay it forward

When you think about the people that are in your network and how you can add value to them, they will keep you in mind when you least expect it. This will also allow you to call on your network in the future if you need it.

Advice from other experts

As an example of calling on people in your network to help others, I reached out to people in my network for advice that I can share with you.

Ken Tudhope, a finance recruiter in Orange County, California is a person I point to as an example of how to network. Ken, who writes a blog on networking, makes it a point to never have lunch alone. He believes that networking groups, like local Chambers of Commerce, are excellent, because they give you a great context to network. He advises CFOs to “Sign up, Show up, Follow Up and Step Up.” Ken says “When people are involved and the event is enjoyable they tend to make it a priority.”

Cindy Kraft, who is familiar to my regular readers, is an excellent CFO Career Coach. I asked Cindy how a CFO can make networking a priority. Cindy said “The same way you make anything else a priority: put it on your calendar and then honor the appointment. Networking, on a consistent basis, is one of the most valuable things you can be doing for your career. Schedule it, and then do it!”

So, Too Busy, are you still too busy to network?

If you’d like to ask Samuel a question, click here.