CFOs Must Build a Solid Foundation First

Lately I have read a myriad of articles and blogs regarding the Chief Financial Officer role that…

  1. ...Claim the role is going the way of the dinosaur.
  2. ...Claim a CFO who doesn’t have a digital transformation plan being implemented yesterday is about to have the earth fall from under their feet.
  3. ...Claim If you aren’t a near clone of Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King your chance of getting a CFO role are slim to none.

Certainly, the Chief Financial Officer role is changing but none of these claims are true for senior finance leaders at businesses today. In fact, I argue the CFO role has never been more important to the success of the businesses we serve than it is right now.

Why is that?

1. The fundamental role we play at our companies is still Guiding the Accounting, Finance and Treasury functions for our businesses and being a critical part of the leadership team. Many senior financial officers have other important responsibilities – sometimes human resources, sometimes information technology, sometimes legal, etc. But for most CFO roles, success depends on mastering the Four Pillars - Leadership, Accounting, Finance and Treasury. There are no new species waiting to take over these critical corporate functions and responsibilities.

For proof, look no further than the latest business crisis caused by the global pandemic. It’s the Chief Financial Officer who Boards, CEOs, employees and other stakeholders looked to find remedies to the business maladies caused by the crisis. Whether it was strategies to conserve cash, improve margins, reduce costs or innovative ways to keep our employees all eyes were on the CFO.

2. It’s important we learn how to use technology wisely; for decision support, to speed up and make our processes more effective and to increase revenue while reducing costs. These technology opportunities aren’t unique to our experience or mystical in nature – we have been using technology to improve our activities for the past 500 years. I don’t mean to yawn, this is important stuff, but there is a good chance you and your executive team are taking many of the right steps already. Trust your analytical skills to research and find the tools that will be most effective for you and then call on the action oriented nature our role attracts to quickly implement the most promising technology.

3. Having a big picture view and good communication skills go a long way to getting your Four Pillars of Success properly erected and functioning. You don’t need an “I Have Dream” or a “Never Was so Much Owed by so Many to so Few” speech on your resume to be a successful senior finance officer. But you must craft messages to your stakeholders in their language and on their terms. You must also be able to lead your team in a way that establishes them as value creators for your business.

Through all the changes on the horizon we must not forget the fundamentals of the CFO’s role. With these foundational activities cemented in our business, the CFO will be able to garner the support of the Board and the CEO to invest in worthy new technologies. If we forget these fundamentals, our worthwhile change initiatives may not be get the resources needed to make them successful.

Make sure your foundation is solid before adding the second story.


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