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What Should a CFO Tackle First When Taking on a New Position?

The first few days - even weeks - at a new job can be overwhelming, particularly for CFOs. Not only do they need to take on the complicated endeavor of familiarizing themselves with a new financial system, they have to get to know all aspects of the business, including employees, customers, suppliers, operations and the like. 

What exactly should you do first during the beginning of your tenure? Proformative members have been discussing just that in the Ask & Share section of our site, after one member asked how to answer the common interview questions of "Tell us the first thing you would do at your new job." The following tips will give your some insight into answering that question as well as ease you into your next new role.

Talk to employees one-on-one. Many Proformative members have suggested that executives should meet with as many employees as possible in their first days in a new position. That way, they can introduce themselves and learn a bit more about the teams they'll be working with, as well as receive helpful insight as to how the business runs and any unusual dynamics or relationships.

Take time to listen. New CFOs should pay close attention when receiving any information about the company or how the office operates. You don't want to rush to judgment, and you want to hear as many sides as possible so you know what's going on at the company.

Start building strong business relationships. Whether they're internal partnerships with other departments or external relationships with potential investors or business partners, it's important to start laying the groundwork for great collaborations early on.

Create a plan of action. After you've met everyone in the office and have a basic sense of what's going on within the company, it's time to create a plan that will help determine the future of the company. It's never too early to start thinking ahead, although you will likely want to keep some of your ideas quiet as you get used to the office politics and culture. For now, write down your initial ideas for reference later.

Review your predecessor's work. It's important to see if anything from your predecessor's plan can be salvaged or determine what strategies need to be eliminated sooner rather than later. See how things are currently running, based on that person's direction. Are there any areas in which you can make immediate improvements with simple changes?

Determine what needs to be done immediately. Getting started on future plans is great, but you can't further new projects without finishing up outstanding ones first. Proformative member Katherine Gledhill, CFO at Discovery Data, suggests new executives ask employees for a list of old projects that haven't yet been completed. "As a new employee, you want to start off well and make a good first impression on both your staff and your own superiors by showing you can take charge quickly and effectively," she writes.

More important than taking significant action during the first few weeks in a new role is getting a true sense of the business, including its trends, its efficiencies (or lack of them), and whether it's on an upward or downward trajectory and why, according to Proformative members. A new CFO can use such fodder to educate the CEO and board on how to improve the company and its finances.


Proformative Team
Title: Content
Company: Proformative
(Content, Proformative) |

This story covers this subject well also:

The things most new CFOs tackle first:

Build a working relationship with the team
Get up to speed on business ops
Communicate with external stakeholders
Manage the finance function
Manage difficult financial or governance situations

Ed Becmer
Title: Owner
Company: Becmer & Associates LLC
(Owner, Becmer & Associates LLC) |

Very good points.