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Why Post Questions Anonymously?

While I realize there may be sound reasons, I am going out on a limb here perhaps and want to ask all those who are thinking of posting anonymously to consider this:

1.  do you really need to do it anonymously, seriously?

2. if yes, provide us with a fair reason in your post. You will encourage more honest, quality, relevant feedback

3. if your reasons are indefensible, or your question is "questionable" we probably will ignore you and rightly so.

This is a forum, not a gossip shop.

Yours in open colaboration!

Len Green

 

 

Answers

Topic Expert
Brenda Morris
Title: Board of Directors, Audit Committee Chai..
Company: Boot Barn
(Board of Directors, Audit Committee Chair, Boot Barn) |

I agree that being anonymous may limit feedback at times, but do want to encourage those who need legitimate feedback on a sensitive issue(s) to post these questions anonymously. I know that maintaining your privacy at times to ask a sensitive question(s) may be important! It may mean if you can't ask it anonymously you can't ask and that is what this forum is for, to fins answers to your questions from finance peers. Happy posting! Brenda

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

That's a good question, Len. Thanks for asking it. I'd like to address this on behalf of myself and for some folks who can't do so directly.

I have a lot of friends in the SF Bay Area and across the country who are finance (and related) execs at publicly traded companies. They are great people who need as much help as those of us working at privately held companies. When I ask them about their use of Proformative they tell me they follow the content and conversations, but they don't post questions. When I ask them why they look at me funny and say "because even with asking innocuous questions, I might get fired". Really? Yes, really. Because when you're under the microscope, anything you say publicly can be used against you.

When I think of many of the questions asked on Proformative and imagine a public company CFO asking them, it's pretty obvious why they wouldn't want to put their company name next to that question. It's not that they are ashamed or don't need the answer, it's because they can't publicly ask "how do you fire your audit firm" or "what's a good ERP system for a $500M growing mfg company" or "we're about to acquire a company in Singapore, what accounting issues should I be on the lookout for". These are the kind of questions that we commonly get on Proformative that would get that CFO or their staff in big trouble for announcing publicly. And thus there are untold thousands of questions that they simply couldn't ask. So, in an abundance of caution, they don't.

I don't know how many finance, accounting, treasury and related professionals there are working at publicly held companies in the US and around the world, but it's certainly in the tens of millions globally and a significant percentage of all finance folks. We created anonymous posting so that we could include that large constituency in what we're doing here. Not simply because they are with public companies, but because they have every right to ask their questions, get great answers from peers, and thus do better at their jobs. And we did not want simply ignore that group of people.

Another reason we allow anonymous posting is that some of us might be embarrassed to ask certain questions. I remember the first time I became a CFO, I had to put together a cap table for our first fundraising. I honestly didn't know what a cap table was! Here I was, the CFO, and I didn't know one of the most basic elements of corporate fundraising (and governance and many other things). I had to ask around on the "QT" because I didn't want to look like an idiot. I would have loved to have had Proformative to ask my question, but only if I could have asked anonymously.

When I got to my fourth CFO gig I had seen enough of my own ignorance that I was no longer so embarrassed of asking the "dumb questions". I realized it was only dumb if you didn't ask. But I certainly understand why people might want to ask a legit question anonymously and not attach their name.

Thus, we created, and encourage, anonymous posting. We want all of our users to feel free to ask and get answered in this open forum. What we won't tolerate is self-promotion, intolerance/bias, or wholly inappropriate questions. We do our best to kill those as soon as they appear, and our users do a great job of helping us via the "flag as offensive" link next to every question and comment on the site. We also don't require any one of our magnificent users to answer any question. Thus, if anyone wants to not answer questions simply because they were asked anonymously, that's just fine. If they want to not answer because they seem too obvious or a poor fit for this forum - also fine.

At the end of the day, I think Proformative works because it is a free and "noise-free" open exchange of knowledge. We will continue to work tirelessly to keep it that way.

Tim Williams
Title: CFO
Company: Private
(CFO, Private) |

I am here for the answers and knowledge , and not worried about who asks the questions. I have tried to get more colleagues to contribute on Proformative and many are hesitant at times. I only recently discovered the anonymous posting feature, and this alleviates many of the concerns my colleagues often raise in asking questions, and in some cases sharing knowledge, with the community. Let's not throw this valuable feature under the bus here.

Scott Gunn
Title: CFO
Company: In-Transition
(CFO, In-Transition) |

I can only echo the comments in favor of anonymous posting made earlier. I have not seen any questions that give me pause. It is about the knowledge and insights, and I would not want to encourage anything that discourages contributions regarding questions that others have, but may not make the effort to ask. Questions and their answers benefit the entire community, even if some, as John notes, are not relevant to each and every person in the community. With that said, thanks Len for bringing this up, I always enjoy your postings within the community

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

I'm glad to see these responses and I hope it leads to a respectful use of the anonymous posting option. Like Tim, I really enjoy the option to exchange information.

Michael Dunn
Title: Director of Finance
Company: CaliCo Design
(Director of Finance, CaliCo Design) |

I agree with the Tim, Brenda, and John. This can be a valuable feature for sensitive issues, and not just for those in public companies. I know some Proformative users in private companies would also prefer to remain anonymous at times, especially when it comes to networking/job search topics.

Christopher Webb
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Private
(Accounting Manager, Private) |

I have never seen an anonymous posting on this site that has given me pause. The answers offer great information and I am not concerned with who asked the question.

Bob Scarborough
Title: CEO
Company: Tensoft, Inc.
(CEO, Tensoft, Inc.) |

One of the changes related to Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) is the different relationship between auditors and clients. Where it used to be common to ask your auditors how to treat something - or even to have your auditors fix things in your financials - these items are now treated as signs of material weakness in your internal controls.

I'm not a SOX hater - and believe some of the basics like change management and responsiblity for financial statements are overall good things. Internal controls were always supposed to be in place - although the rigidity and level required by commmon practice are problematic for smaller companies.

All this said - there is a need for public or almost public company financial folks to have advisory services outside of their auditors - perhaps more than ever. Under the assumption that all postings are public knowledge you will restrict the ability to ask questions from those at risk for asking any question.

Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |

Appropriate Question Len,

A reminder was issued this week when one CFO lost his job for what he shared in an online forum. Read http://on.barrons.com/JeWxJ3

What we say online can come back to haunt us. Anonymous posting allows for an exchange of ideas without having to reveal an identity. Truth be told, there is nothing to stop someone from creating a nom de plume. And if you have never met someone who says who they are online, how do you know they are who they say they are anyways?

I always prefer to know who is commenting, but if they choose to keep themselves anonymous, I need to respect it.

You should too.

Samuel

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I understand both sides, and discussions have centered on possibly having more info placed around the name of the person.

For example: instead of "Anonymous"

How about "Anonymous, CPA, CMA; CFO; Private Company - Canada"

Now the reader (of either the question or an answer) has some feeling for the person who wrote the QorA and maybe the perspective in which the question was asked.

Topic Expert
Stephen Roulac
Title: CEO
Company: Roulac Global LLC
(CEO, Roulac Global LLC) |

Assessing information is informed by source, context, forum, content, motive/rationale, time and place. Given accountability consequences, both career considerations and legal liability, visibility can, as John appropriately discusses, be infeasible and/or imprudent. Proformative 'anonymous' feature recognizes and accommodates this reality. And, the approach Wayne suggests can reconcile these competing considerations.

By providing more specifics re sources, context, motive/rationale, place and related factors, the member asking the question can gain more relevant, useful, and actionable answers ...and the community learning shall be enhanced.

Tom Johnson
Title: Accountant
Company: Fireaway
(Accountant, Fireaway) |

What I find interesting here about posting anonymously is that no one has answered this particular question anonymously. Like others have said, I look at the content of the question/answer before being concerned about who wrote it.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Wayne, I think your example is very useful and should fit most circumstances. It provides some context to those interested in trying to help, while protecting the person asking the question, and that always makes for a better exchange I think.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Thank you Len.

Anonymous
(VP & CFO) |

I will admit, I usually won't answer an anonymous question - mosty because I don't know if it is really a sincere question, or just someone trying to get their quota of questions posted on Proformative. Some of the open-ended, "leading" questions are such an obvious attempt to start a dialogue and not really a sincere quest for knowledge. I won't waste my time responding to someone who is merely trying to initiate discussion - and not truly interested in the content of the answer. So, if you are sincere in seeking knowledge, use your real name on the post!

Others may disagree, but that is how I feel on the subject.

Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
Company:
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

Truly ironic that the prior comment was posted anonymously. Plus, undoubtedly by someone who has never worked in finance (or acct'g or treasury) at a public company or had a question they felt a bit uncomfortable asking in public. Neither of those is a put down, just interesting to note.

And anonymity has absolutely nothing to do with sincerity. I have seen scores of anonymous questions on Proformative which were precisely the same questions I have had over the years. In fact, the longer I'm a CFO, the more I realize I don't know. Let's not judge people who ask anonymously as being insincere or uninterested.

Finally, if the question seems ridiculously trite, I may not bother answering. But if it's an interesting question that may help others who are not omniscient, I will try to weigh in regardless of anonymous or not. I feel for those not in a position to ask questions freely - makes an already difficult job that much tougher.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

What is wrong with open ended questions and a dialogue. More can be learned by this process (think some of the best college classes you had; they started with an open ended question).

My opinion (while always correct (levity here) ) can be swayed by others in a dialogue where I hear differing opines based on the diversity of Proformative Community.

Maybe there should be more open ended questions....?!

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

As I am "guilty of starting this thread, here's my read on the responses thus far:

1. do you really need to do it anonymously, seriously?
YES - the case exists for anonymity in certain scenarios (e.g. public co, in transition, topic sensitivity...)

2. if yes, provide us with a fair reason in your post. You will encourage more honest, quality, relevant feedback
I have already seen a few anonymous posts provide more context to their questions, thus making it easier to provide an answer. I'd suggest everyone do as much as they think is informative (esp. if they want to avoid generic, bland answers). Remember: if I have to pose too many clarifying questions or pose too many scenarios, it's taking me more time than it should

3. if your reasons are indefensible, or your question is "questionable" we probably will ignore you and rightly so.
Ok- refer to 2 above. That will minimize the chance that readers put your question into this category.

I hope this discussion has helped us all!

Mike Christian
Title: Financial Consultant
Company: Independent Consultant
(Financial Consultant, Independent Consultant) |

Thank you Len and others. It's good to see your perspectives and understand there are very valid reasons as to why we do things the way we do.

Andrea Clarke
Title: Bookkeeper - Trainee Accountant ACCA
Company: Private
(Bookkeeper - Trainee Accountant ACCA, Private) |

I am starting out in my career and i guess feel a little embarrassed to show my name, i want to learn from all of the users and feel it a bit intimidating so i posted as anonymous.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Andrea, no need to apologize. Proformative is here to help finance, accounting and related professionals at each stage of their careers. The questions you have are those others have as well.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Thank you so much for Len's questions. I appreciated very much of the feedbacks and listed reasons of the benefits of being anonymous. In today world with so much rules,regulations and open media, it's best to keep some privacy and still be able to express, share or giving the input.

Anonymous
(VP & CFO) |

Bryan, I made the anonymous post you are commenting on. Even though you may think that I "undoubtedly" never worked in public company finance, I actually have 30+ years of finance & accounting experience, with about half of that in a large public company. Your comments make it sound inconceivable that anyone with "real" finance experience could think that way. Are we perhaps being a bit judgemental here?

I never said that anyone who asks questions anonymously is insincere or uninterested. If you read my comments again, you will see that I was only questioning the motive behind certain open-ended questions. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I do appreciate yours. I just hope you will accept mine for what I actually said.

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