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What's A CFO Have To Do To Get Some Respect Around Here?

"Do you believe that CFOs must take on an assignment outside of Finance (close to the external customer) in order to better represent the forward-looking aspects of their role?"

 

This question was asked at a recent webinar, now available on-demand: "CFO to Chief Trusted Advisor: Earning that Role with Your CEO"

Please add your thoughts about it below. Thanks!

Answers

Topic Expert
Blair Cook
Title: Partner
Company: Executive Finance
LinkedIn Profile
(Partner, Executive Finance) |

"Must" is a strong position. I don't think this is mandatory - it's more a nice to have. The opportunity to study and feel the business from the operations side of the organization gives the finance executive more credibility and insight. It also helps with thinking strategically. But it's not the only way to gain this perspective.

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP of Finance & Operations
Company: RBA Consulting
(VP of Finance & Operations, RBA Consulting) |

I agree with Blair, and expand on his 'study and feel the business'. I would recommend you find ways to build your 'experience', in addition to the 'exposure'. Experience is "I wrote the proposal", Exposure is "I read the proposal".

For myself, I've done a fair amount of 'moonlighting' to gain experience - by taking on projects outside of finance. After I've gotten to know the folks in the business line, I would ask to participate in one of their projects. I usually partnered with someone - but tried to do the 1st cut of any work product.

Examples of past work include customer analysis (buying patterns within industry, etc.), writing business case for geographic expansion, teaching part of the new employee course and creating a pricing proposal.

I also did work where I could use my analytical skills - not necessarily finance - but ability to analyze and summarize massive data sets into more useful pieces of information. This was a good stepping stone to other work.

I have stepped out of Finance into business development and marketing roles - and got both roles by starting with 'moonlighting'. Both of these have helped expand my knowledge/appreciation of the different parts of the business. However, I think that because of my work before, I captured a strong sense of the area - so if you are interested and feel comfortable, take another role - otherwise, working alongside is the best teacher.

Regards,

Mark

Topic Expert
John Kogan
Title: CEO/CFO
Company: Proformative, Inc.
(CEO/CFO, Proformative, Inc.) |

Agreeing with both comments above. Every time I have stepped into the shoes of others I have been rewarded with a)the experience, and b)the respect of those I was helping, knowing I was outside of my comfort zone making a bona fide effort to help and learn. At Cisco, in Manufacturing Finance, I spent a few weekends working on the manufacturing floor. Amazing how different it is to be pulling raw inventory, assembling it as WIP, and completing it as a finished good. Doing that gave me a very different perspective on inventory, cycle counting, WIP, Bills of Material and the flows of value through the balance sheet.

Likewise, when CFO of VUDU I went to stores a number of times post launch to help our sales and marketing teams with the rollout and actual selling of our product. Wow was that outside of my comfort zone. But absolutely worth the effort. So you don't have to leave your job to experience others.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

I was fortunate enough to have experience as a Chief of Staff to a CEO in the middle of my career. It is a different perspective than just being a trusted CFO . As a Chief of Staff, my role was to make his life easier and be a CEO "multiplier". I solved problems and made decisions for him (in his name) . I headed different projects and attended meetings that he normally would have handled. There are a lot of working relationship dynamic that is different when one is functioning as a Chief of Staff than say a trusted CFO. It helped a lot that I worked with the CEO as his Account Officer in a Bank and I already knew his companies and business models. More importantly, I already had an idea of how his mind works. It was an easy "honeymoon" for us..

That role enabled me to get immersed in ALL aspects of the companies and gave me a different perspective of the companies aside from the finance/accounting side of it.

Needless to say, that Chief of Staff role has been my competitive advantage in snagging consulting roles as it really represented what partnering with the CEO is like. Or know the vantage point from the CEO chair. After that, I never viewed myself as "just a CFO".

I have always viewed myself in pop culture reference......"Cmdr. Riker or Number 1 (Star Trek) meets Pepper Potts (Iron Man) with a finance/accounting/audit (CFO) and operational background.: or if you like...Number 2 of Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) fame."

Anonymous
(Consultant) |

Perhaps not, but having positions on the boards and management committees of subsidiaries is always good for the resume.

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