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

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

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

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

Go ahead and listen in to the entire conversation:

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

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.

25 Quotes from Guide to CFO Success

A number of my followers are excited about the release of my upcoming book, Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals in the United States and Canada on March 31, 2014. (Available in the United Kingdom on April 9, 2014)

While you may have to wait a little longer to get your copy of the book, I extracted quotes from the book I thought might wet your appetite.

If you find you find these quotes relevant and interesting, you can let others know about the book by:

    • Sharing the Slideshare presentation on social media
    • Sharing your favorite quote on social media
    • Recommending the book to someone who would appreciate reading it.

Stay tuned for further updates, including speaking engagements and book signings.

Thank you for your continued support,

Samuel

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, Are You Doing Your Job?

As an executive search professional that focuses on the office of the CFO, I am involved with the hiring of Chief Financial Officers for companies. Unless I am working to help a company hire their first CFO, the mandate I have is to replace a current CFO or a Chief Financial Officer that has left.

While only having the time to work on a handful of CFO searches at a time, you may know that I track CFO movement on my CFO Moves Blog. When I combine my personal direct involvement with helping companies hire their Chief Financial Officer with my tracking of hiring and unhiring of CFOs across the US, Canada and the UK, I see many CFO getting replaced.

You can understand that this a topic that interests me. And if you are reading this, the topic probably interests you as well.

I came across a very interesting academic working paper, CFO Succession and Corporate Financial Practices, authored by Ellen Engel, Feng Gao and Xue Wang, that was published in October 2013. This paper looks at reasons and financial reporting consequences of CFO successions. The document is a properly researched academic paper, and makes for an interesting read if you are academically inclined.

Here is the Abstract of the document which summarizes the findings of the research:

We examine the determinants and financial performance consequences of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) successions. We argue that if internal monitoring mechanisms are effective, there should be a greater probability of forced CFO departures in firms with poor financial reporting and capital management performance, and resulting improvements in financial practices following forced turnovers. We test these hypotheses over the period 2002 to 2008. We find that

(1) the incidences of accounting restatements and debt covenant violations are significantly associated with the probability of forced CFO turnovers;

(2) firms are more likely to hire successor CFOs from outside the firm following accounting restatements, especially those due to irregularities;

(3) the hiring of outside CFOs is associated with improved financial reporting quality.

Further, these findings are concentrated in firms with majority independent boards, suggesting that outside directors play a greater role in monitoring CFOs than inside board members.

These findings are not surprising.

When CFOs don’t do their job, they get fired and replaced.

As CFO, are you doing your job?

Samuel’s 2013 Recap + Top Ten Blogs of 2013

2013 was an interesting year for the Chief Financial Officer. I find it fascinating that the office of the CFO continues to receive more attention from the general business press, vendors trying to make inroads in to the C-suite, and from CFOs themselves that are turning to social media to get feedback on issues where they used to feel lonely. I believe that 2014 will continue on these trends, and I have a feeling that there will be a major trend change in 2014 for CFOs (Stay tuned).

2013 was a very interesting year for me. The highlight of my year was putting together my upcoming book, Guide to CFO Success. It was truly a yearlong process. I started putting the proposal together at the beginning of the year, which led to getting my book deal signed with Wiley. I then created and developed my CFO Advisory Group for my book. These 87 CFOs answered a weekly survey over 14 weeks and gave me (and you) input and anecdotes to support CFO success. I found the writing of the book one of the most challenging professional projects I have ever faced, and can say (after the fact) that it was an amazing personal growth experience. As December and 2013 wraps up, the book is in final production.

Click here to get your own holiday card from Samuel!

With Guide to CFO Success taking up a big portion of my time, I was not able to write as many new blog posts in 2013. Many of my top blogs viewed this year were written in previous years. The power of Google drives people who are interested in these topics. The topics and information in some of these popular blogs have been further developed in my upcoming book because of the interest in these CFO subjects. Stay tuned for new blog postings in 2014.

2013 was a very busy year for CFO Moves, my weekly blog covering CFO hires and unhires in the USA, Canada and the UK. I continue to be impressed by the feedback I get from the people following these blogs, and am grateful that people appreciate the work that goes in to preparing them every week.

2014 looks to be shaping up to be a wonderful year for me and my CFOs. The book will be coming out in March. I am scheduled to present at the AICPA CFO Conference in May. I had some very interesting end of year conversations relating to my upcoming book, and as these things develop, I will certainly keep you in the loop.

Wishing you and your family the very best for the holidays, and a prosperous and successful 2014!

Samuel’s Top 10 Blog of 2013

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

9) Why do CFOs Leave?

8) 5 Most Popular Names for CFOs (2013 Edition)

7) Road Map to Successful CFO Relationships

6) Different companies need different CFOs

5) Negotiating your CFO Employment Contract

4) CFOs: When interviewing for your next role, make sure you have one of these

3) Presentation Links: The Road to CFO

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

1) The First 90 Days of a New CFO

If you’d like to see previous year’s top blogs, click here and here.

Do you have any topics that you would like addressed in 2014? Let me know by sending me a message on LinkedIn or commenting below!

Samuel

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.

I’m not ignoring you

Followers of my blog will have noticed that I am not posting as often as I have in the past. My personal goal for creating content on my blog was to have one post up each week.

My book has been taking me away from you. “Guide to CFO Success”, to be published by Wiley & Sons in 2014, is taking a lot of my time. I delivered my first chapter to the publisher on Monday. I must say that writing a book is very different than writing a blog.

The goal of putting my book together is to take a lot of the thoughts that I have been developing on what it take to become (and remain) a successful CFO. Readers of my blog will be familiar with some of the themes mentioned in the book. The book however will stand on its own, and provide strategies to current and future CFOs for getting the best out of their career and delivering their best to their employer.

I’d like to thank the support of my CFO Advisory Group for the feedback they are giving me as I prepare my book. These Advisors have been giving of their time every week for the past 2 months and have committed to do so for the next couple of months via weekly surveys. When I was interviewed on DriveThruHR in March, I was asked at the end of the interview to let the listeners know who has inspired me the most recently. My CFO Advisors have inspired me, and continue to do so, as I put the effort in to write Guide to CFO Success.

I would also like to thank the CFOs that have agreed to be interviewed for my upcoming book. These high profile CFOs set aside a good portion of their busy schedule for me, and for you as well. Their insights and support and greatly appreciated.

I just wanted to tell you that I’m not ignoring you. I’m working to deliver content in another form, which hopefully you will find of value to you as well.

I’m not giving up on this blog either. I am aiming to continue to provide “Insights into the Mind of the CFO” in the coming months.

I am also continuing to publish CFO Moves, which is tracks CFO Movement across the USA every week. If you’ve never read CFO Moves before, you might want to join the 600 weekly subscribers that get CFO Moves delivered to their email inbox every Monday morning.

I’d like to end off with a special message to the person from a certain city in Asia that regularly visits my blog by searching Google for the keywords “CFO Success”: I would be happy to answer your questions about CFO Success directly – please email me.

I’m writing a book for CFOs. You’re invited to participate.

I previously announced that I will be writing a book. I’m pleased and excited to announce that I signed a book deal with Wiley!My Upcoming Book

The book I will be writing, which is tentatively titled A Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals, targets CFOs (and future CFOs) who want to invest in strategies to become better and more successful financial leaders.

As I enter into the heart of writing my first book, I am interested in feedback from CFOs like you that have achieved success and are interested in sharing with their peers the important things they have learned on their personal road to CFO success.

To this end, I am creating an advisory group of accomplished senior financial professionals to advise me on questions I will have, as well as feedback I will need, when writing my first book for CFOs.

Members of this Advisory Group will be sent an email when I have a question for them, and will be able to provide their answers in an online survey format that will assist me with accumulating their answers.

Each member of this Advisory Group will be mentioned and thanked publicly in my upcoming book. Any feedback you provide me with in this process will remain completely confidential.

To apply to join Samuel’s CFO Advisory Group and make a difference to your peers, please sign up here.

I’m looking forward to working with you,

Samuel

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. :-)