At Blythe Global Advisors, we’ve examined the role of the CFO in these organizations and have identified the attributes required to make someone successful in this position.
In most industries today, the role of the CFO in a mid-market organization can be fast-paced and challenging. Because resources are limited due to the size (and generated revenue) of the organization, it can be easy to slip into the role of Controller. However, it’s important to remember that as CFO, your job is to focus on the future, not the past. A CFO’s responsibility is much more than crunching numbers. Yes, one needs to be technical, but a great CFO must also possess strong leadership abilities, be a strategic thinker and have creative insight.
At Blythe Global Advisors, we’ve been observing this type of situation for a long time. Here are five skills that we believe are instrumental in order to be an effective CFO:
- Be Outward Facing. The “Outward Facers” of any organization are typically the sales team and the CEO. But, in our opinion, a good CFO understands the need to be the link between the company and the industry. As the head of finances, one must understand the current trends in the marketplace and be knowledgeable about the vendors and firms in the business. The CFO should be actively out there networking so that when an issue arises, they are well-connected and able to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. An outward facing CFO has the confidence and calm demeanor to be proactive, resourceful and decisive.
- Remain Forward Focused. What can you do now to positively influence the future of the company? A forward focused CFO anticipates what will happen before it happens. It is important to be educated on what is going on in the industry and in the economy, and to understand all the existing rules and regulations on both a Federal and local level. It is about having the right people, the right systems and the right levels of working capital in place before they are needed. A forward looking CFO is always prepared.
- Be Expansive in Your Thinking. A proactive CFO does not only see black and white, but also sees the shades of gray. Decisions do not always need to be finite, like cost cutting and layoffs. Being “expansive in thinking” means looking at the opportunities and possibilities that are both tangible and intangible. An expansively thinking CFO is able to manage enterprise risk.
- Focus on the Balance Sheet. Every company is different, each having unique Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that focus on their industry and stage of growth. But a strong balance sheet is crucial to the success of any firm. And a good CFO is an expert on the balance sheet. They live in the balance sheet, and they manage the company accordingly. This is where finance meets accounting. A CFO’s portfolio skillset includes being technically strong on the numbers and what they mean for the business.
- Be a Relationship-Builder. The best CFOs know a lot of people in a lot of places … they have an abundance of social capital. Connecting with people and creating bonds within the community, industry, banks, service providers and former employers allows a CFO to find the right people with the right skills for a particular task. It enables the CFO to have more facts and information at hand to make decisions. A secure CFO understands that they don’t know everything. They know that to do things better you need the help of others. At times it’s necessary to get ideas from outside your inner circle in order to make the best decisions for the company. A CFO who focuses on relationship building creates resourcefulness through people.
In today’s market, it is imperative to continue to develop your talents and to keep your skills sharp in order to succeed and continue to advance. Focusing on these five skills can serve as a tool to keep you on track and heading in the right direction moving forward. In a mid-market firm we know it can be easy to slip into the role of Controller. Don’t allow a lack of resources, expertise or time to slow you down.
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For CFO and controllership executive search:
- Assisting several companies prepare for IPOs, including technical accounting establishing effective internal controls and SOX compliance.
- Preparing income tax provision calculations and related footnote disclosures for public and private companies.
- Assisting retail, technology and health science companies evaluate the impact of ASC 606 and ASC 842.
- Assisting a private equity-backed company with Day One accounting as well as integration related to several recent acquisitions.
- Providing complete outsourced SOX and internal audit services to several companies.
- Providing part-time controller/CFO services to several private equity- and venture capital-backed companies ranging from startups to $50 million businesses.
- Providing financial reporting, XBRL and technical accounting support to several smaller public companies.
- Providing pre-audit support to several companies preparing for their first external audit.
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