Video Series - Maximize Your Investment in CFO Development
This series of short videos is a great way to evaluate how to maximize your investment in CFO development.
Pillars of CFO Success - (00:54)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 Here’s how I define the roles of a CFO. There are four pillars: Accounting, Finance, Treasury, and Leadership. Each one of those areas has other parts to it. But if those areas are really important to run well in your company, there’s a good chance you need a CFO.
Steve Rosvold 0:15 The treasury piece is the one that says, well, we’re borrowing money we need that expertise. The finance piece is where you might be investing in new businesses, either M&A, or projects or other investing. You need somebody who can analyze and do a good job with financial analysis and investment analysis. On the accounting side, you want to get those quick closes done, so you can use that information to make decisions.
Test Drive the Knowledge of a CFO to Shift into Your Next Gear - (00:48)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 So you’ve had a bookkeeper, and they’ve been very effective, and you think they’re all you need. And they do a good job. They do a good job on accounts payable and receivables, invoicing on time or getting your books closed, things like that. But they don’t give you much insight. Go test out a CFO, one of these part time CFOs just to see what the world is like with somebody who is a little bit higher skilled than your bookkeeper or accounting manager. That is an excellent way to get get familiar with what those higher qualities can do for your business.
CFOs and Global Economic Leadership - (01:11)
Terry White 0:00 You know, there’s a lot of things we know, or we do, but we’ve never taken the time to dissect those things. And kind of in your situation, you have the four pieces to figure out. The accounting one I understand, but I need some help on the finance piece. Probably the biggest one for CFO type people are the leadership part of it.
Steve Rosvold 0:17 What I’ve tried to do is target the CFOs and probably CFOs of three to five years, but also their direct reports. That is who I think can benefit the most by our learning platform. My target is definitely to develop great CFOs, and more than just for companies. I think that we can add so much value to our economies, and economy, if you define it as the management of resources, is global. It is national. It is personal. You know, we can use those same skills that finance people have, to lead in all kinds of different economies.
The Right CEO/CFO Team Works Magic - (01:11)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 It doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a CFO right away. You can tap into other resources, but eventually that person at your side that has same tie into your business that you do, becomes more important. Early on you can get it from your CPA, you can get it from a really strong controller. But eventually, that role of the CFO, which is much more dynamic than a controller - who handles the accounting side, or a treasure who handles a treasury side, or FP&A manager, who manages business analysis. A CFO can be such a valuable partner, when the dynamics work well personally and professionally between the CEO and CFO. It can be magic. You know, having that right person next to the CEO to help develop the business.
Steve Rosvold 0:42 I’ve had a couple experiences where it just absolutely clicked. It’s really a neat thing to watch a really strong CFO and a strategic CEO. What they can do as a team can be pretty amazing.
When Does My Business Need a CFO? - (00:39)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 There’s a lot of companies that wait too long to hire a CFO, and maybe they don’t know what the CFO should do. So an owner feels like I’ve got a tempo, and if my CPA gives me my reports 45 days after month end, I’m good with that. It’s really hard for a business to grow quickly and stay highly profitable if they don’t get better at their whole finance and accounting function. 45 days is 40 days too late.
How CFO.University Evolved - (02:11)
Terry White 0:00 Is there a step between that and CFO.University?
Steve Rosvold 0:21 I was hired on as a CFO to number of different companies on a part time or interim basis, a lot of them. I really enjoy working with CEOs and CFOs as more of a mentoring role. It wasn’t about not doing the work or doing the work, I’m a hard worker and I have no problem doing the work, but it is about helping a CEO to understand what important financial issues they should be focusing on. I enjoyed the mentoring part and the development of those professionals. So there was a time where I’ve moved into mentoring role over the past six or seven years, I kept saying, I’m going to build these apps, I’ve got these applications that are really snappy. They’re easy to use. They’re quick and give a lot of insight. And I’m going to make apps out of these, and I kept saying this at meetings, and people kept saying, “Well, come on, where’s your apps?” And when I really looked into it, I found out they’re very expensive. Very expensive.
Terry White 0:51 You didn’t actually have the apps, you had ideas for apps.
Steve Rosvold 0:54 Yeah spreadsheets, things like that. But I really enjoyed the insight I could bring from taking a very big issue and distilling into very simple terms. And so, I had a number of what I thought were incredible applications, but they’re going to be very expensive to produce
Steve Rosvold 1:08 To back up,10 or 12 years ago, I ran a forum for manufacturing executives. So, I would meet with manufacturers. We’d go through real good programs. I absolutely loved it, but I could never scale it. It could never get big enough. So, I turned it around this time for CFO.University and said, hey, if I build the platform first, and the learning tools, and then eventually I’d like to get into where we can meet. But right now, it’s really an internet site for learning. And it came out of this idea of applications that I think are pretty useful and pretty enlightening. I have always enjoyed the mentoring part. So, combining the development tools and mentoring we created this platform CFO.University to help people grow and develop as senior financial executives.
Is CFO.University a Fit for Me? - (04:16)
Terry White 0:00 So now paint me a better picture, because I’m not sure I understand exactly how CFO.University works. How do you get involved with CFO.University?
Steve Rosvold 0:10 One of the first things I do in my marketing efforts, is to make sure I’m aligned with the Scholars and the way they think about what a CFO role is. So, part of our outreach is, do you believe that the CFO role has an accounting aspect, a finance aspect, a treasury aspect, and the leadership aspect? If they think, “Well, no, I think it has some other things,” they might not be a good fit for our learning model. And so that’s one thing - helping them understand what we think is important in the CFO role.
Steve Rosvold 0:38 And then if they do say, “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, I get what you’re saying.” We have core competencies under each of those pillars that are well accepted—I’ve never had anyone argue with me about them—that’s the first part.
Steve Rosvold 0:49 Then I can test them. So, we have an assessment that helps them understand how their skills and their background fits into those Pillars. And once they’ve done that, they can say, “I can focus on my learning, my development in these areas,” and they can use CFO.University from that, or they can do something else. At least they have a groundwork to say, “Ah, number one, I have a framework to develop, and now where do I go to get that development?”
Steve Rosvold 1:13 And our model is based on practical, convenient, performance enhancing and its economic. We’re not trying to compete with the MBA schools and we’re not trying to do internal training for General Motors or Google. We’re giving practical, small, bite sized pieces of really good learning that relates to these four pillars. If people buy into that, and that’s the way they want to learn, then I think we’ve got a really nice platform for them to develop their CFO skills.
The Roots of CFO.University - (03:39)
Terry White 0:00 Welcome to Focus on Biz. I’m your host, Terry White, I’m the CEO of Sunwest Trust. This show is for business people who are in business to understand that we all kind of face the same things. And then it’s for people who are thinking about going into business and maybe encourage them to take the leap and do it. So, I always like to start out with some history on the people I interview. So, start wherever you want, but kind of give us some background about yourself.
Steve Rosvold 0:25 You might notice I have a Minnesota accent, so I say a lot of “you betchas” and things like that. I grew up in Minneapolis, St. Paul and went to school there. I did my undergrad work at a school called Augsburg University, a small private school. I went to work for a large company in the area, Cargill. They’re a privately held company, one of the largest in the world, in the food manufacturing and food distribution industry. I spent 18 years with Cargill, all on the finance and accounting side. While I was with Cargill, I received my masters from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and really stayed on that track, my whole career at Cargill. I spent 18 years there. My last role was as the Senior Financial Officer of their energy business. I was also in their grain business and financial markets department.
Steve Rosvold 1:08 I was looking to do the accounting, the finance pieced better; to bring value through quicker reporting, big insight to what’s going on in the business from a financial perspective. When I left Cargill, I went to a company called ConAgra Malt, a multinational company where I was the CFO. We had businesses across the world in four different countries, and we operated 16 plants. It is a very fun industry because it serves a fun industry, brewing. Malt is, barley processed into its fermentable sugars to are used to make beer.
Steve Rosvold 1:57 I spent four years with ConAgra Malt, had a great time. We produced about a million tons of malt each year - that makes a lot of beer. Some of the big issues in that industry at the time was overcapacity. So there was a real thoughtful approach to how we analyzed the financials, looked at our customers, integrated all the insight we could from our record keeping, overlaying that analysis with our customer experience I big challenge for us was keeping our big customers happy while the craft brewing industry started to explode. So the industry and challenges make it a really fun time for me. It was my first full blown CFO job.
Terry White 2:17 How big of an organization was that, I’m just curious.
Steve Rosvold 2:20 250 people. We had 16 plants in four different countries. So, it’s a global operation, lot of fun challenges, lot of learning and we were responsible for our own financing. We were a joint venture with another company out of South Africa, Tiger Brands. A 50/50 joint venture. Neither partner wanted to consolidate our financials for their reporting. So, they pretty much kept their hands off our business. I had access to a lot of resources, but we got to make of the key decisions ourselves. It was really a fun and great growing experience.
Steve Rosvold 2:46 I wouldn’t give any of that big corporate experience up for anything. It was really helpful for me, although that isn’t a track that I think all entrepreneurs have to take.
Steve Rosvold 2:56 After that, I started a CFO consulting practice and I did that for the last 15 years. Over the last couple years, that has actually morphed into a mentoring operation where I mentor CFOs and CEOs in mostly financial aspects of their business. More recently, I started CFO.University, which is my current venture, It’s an online platform to train CFOs and their direct reports.
The Importance of Building Your Network and Finding Your Niche (01:09)
Terry White 0:00 You come out of this big corporate world, and then you decide, “I want to do consulting.” I’m curious, how do you build that model? What is that model?
Steve Rosvold 0:08 Think about your network. Think about how you relate to people, and how you build your network. After 22 years in the corporate world, I had very little context besides bankers, CPA firms, and my internal work network, you know, Cargill was 155,000 people. I had a whole network within Cargill. But once I left, that network just evaporated.
Steve Rosvold 0:27 Make yourself build a trusted network where you feel comfortable,. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, have an expertise that you feel really comfortable with. So, finding the right network and your expertise makes it easier to sell. If you can build a network and define your expertise -that niche you own in the market, those are two big steps to take. It took me a long time to build my consulting network, but I had a pretty good feeling of what I did well.
Get Help Marketing and Stretch Yourself to Grow (01:45)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 Twenty-two years within the corporate world with finance and accounting roles, I had little sales skills. I developed communication skills, and relationship skills. But as far as trying to sell you a product or a service, it’s an important skill I didn’t have. . So understanding that hiring a marketing person, somebody who can teach you that, is really important to finance professionals who focus on consulting. .
Steve Rosvold 0:18 So back to , how do you get started in consulting? There’s a network, there’s a product, and then there’s, “How do I make people aware of the product?”
Steve Rosvold 0:25 I’ve certainly used a number of people along the way, who have really helped guide the marketing and the face of what I want to show people, and how I want to enter the problem solving realm that I do for them. I couldn’t do that by myself
Steve Rosvold 0:38 That wasn’t my thing. I wanted to go fix problems. But you have to find people who have problems you can fix. That was beyond my skill set, for sure.
Steve Rosvold 0:47 But as far as how that whole marketing piece comes together, I think everyone kind of follows their own way. Look for referrals. You can get uncomfortable. There’s a guy that I’ve met recently in the UK, and he’s scared terribly of speaking. Not terribly, but he’s a real introvert, and what he has done is he’s created a podcast to get over that. And it’s very successful. Really good. He does a great job interviewing people. Does a good job, but when he told me, “That frightens me to do this,” he did it specifically because he knew that was a growth area he needed to be able to work on. That’s something, challenge yourself to do things you might be uncomfortable doing, but you know will help you reach your goal.
The Challenge a Consultant Has Building the Team (01:21)
Steve Rosvold 0:00 The part about being a consultant that I struggle with is that you’re never quite on the team. You’re always a little bit of an outsider, and I think some of that’s changing in the last few years. But you’re looked at a little differently and not quite on the team, that’s what I miss the most about leaving the corporate world, was you instantly had a team. When you come in as a consultant you’re continually building teams
Terry White 0:23 Outside are kind of interesting. Do you get this guys coming in to tell everybody what I’m doing wrong?
Steve Rosvold 0:29 It depends upon the culture of the company. A company that hasn’t done that, or if they’re struggling, people are worried about their jobs. But I haven’t run into that in a tremendous way. It’s more that you have to prove yourself. If they haven’t met you. And you’re taking on a pretty senior role, and companies having a little trouble, you know, there’s a lot of expectations. People want you to succeed. Like anything else, you have to earn their trust and their commitment. The other side of this is building teams is exhausting. Making sure you’re not losing people as you enter that new gig. Bringing people along and being able to utilize their potential. Earning trust – those are the keys to building a team.
Identify your path to CFO success by taking our CFO Readiness Assessmentᵀᴹ.
For the most up to date and relevant accounting, finance, treasury and leadership headlines all in one place subscribe to The Balanced Digest.
Follow us on Linkedin!