Top 10 Tips for becoming a good CFO

by | Mar 12, 2021

What’s a “Good” CFO supposed to look like?

As a relatively new or emerging CFO, no one necessarily tells you what you should be doing differently from your previous role as a Finance Manager or Financial Controller, do they?

Here I share my Top 10 Tips for transitioning from the beancounter to the valued partner in your business.

What is a “good” CFO supposed to do?

  • Do you have a sense you might not be meeting expectation?
  • Feel like you are doing two jobs?
  • Struggling to keep your head above water?
  • Is that imposter syndrome creeping in?

From my own experience of following a fairly traditional route to CFO, and having worked with several other senior financial professionals navigating their career progression, I share my top 10 reflections:

  1. Gain clarity on what the Owner, CEO and/or Board expect of you as the CFO.
  2. Shift from thinking like an accountant to thinking like a leader. Try to anticipate the questions the CEO or a Director need answering to assist in their decision making.
  3. Try to see the bigger picture and understand the strategic context. Get your head out of the details.
  4. Recognise that leaders within the organisation want clear, concise and relevant information presented in an easily understood format. Less is often best.
  5. Let go of your old role as Finance Manager and embrace your new CFO role. Trying to do both is a sure way to burn yourself out.
  6. The sooner you can curb your control freak tendencies, trust your team and delegate to them, the better for you and for them.
  7. Position yourself as a valued partner in the business through understanding the needs of the business. Do not assume you know what information they need.  Ask them.
  8. Spend as little time in your office as possible. Build relationships and understand the issues and perspectives from across the organisation.
  9. Do not hang out with accountants all the time. What do they say, we all a reflection of those that we hang out with the most!!
  10. And smile!

I am a Chartered Accountant, 10 years as an Auditor within professional practice, making the transition to commerce where I progressed from Finance Manager to CFO within a large private business.  Combined with 10 years experience as a Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Finance Committee for several not-for-profit Boards.   This all means that I understand what the Owners, CEO and Board need from their CFO, and with my skills as a certified Coach I coach emerging CFOs to meet those needs.

Written By Debbie Millard

Master your business through strong leadership, knowing your numbers and empowering your people

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