CFO: Build that Crew!

A CFO with skill and innovation may become a critical strategic partner for the CEO and a leader in the C-suite, but not without establishing a top team to assist shoulder the weight.

“It would be a pity if that CFO’s expertise was wasted closing the books,” says Jack McCullough, president of the CFO Leadership Council and author of the upcoming book “Secrets of Rockstar CFOs.” “So appoint a world-class CAO, VP of finance, controller, and others. Empower them and they will empower you.”

But how can a CFO locate and hang onto the future stars of corporate finance, especially in an industry in which employees and young executives cherish mobility and move on quickly?

It’s a fight for talent out there, McCullough concedes. “It’s not winnable without a good relationship with the CHRO, and a pleasant, intellectually demanding, and fulfilling environment.”

There are five keys to the game:

  1. Engage and involve employees. “If you’re acquiring a new ERP system, make sure the full team is included in the decision-making process. If they own it, they’ll make it work,” he argues.

Give them the authority to make their own decisions, too, which creates vital skills and leadership potential.

  1. Plan for succession. Successful CFOs are continually teaching their personnel to be adaptable and skilled enough to endure the loss of any one member of the team.

“Elite CFOs actually help to teach their seconds-in-command to become a CFO with their next position, even if that chance is with another company,” McCullough adds.

  1. Take a long view. When you employ for the short-term to fill holes, McCullough says, you may wind up with people of the team who don’t have the skill sets to flourish as the firm changes in a few years.

“Think three years forward, and employ the people that you will need then, not today,” he suggests. “They may not have the skills today, but identify the individuals with the aptitude, the intellectual curiosity, and the enthusiasm and the work ethic to form that team.”

  1. Be an active participant. Get actively involved in the whole recruiting-and-hiring process, including completing interviews.

“It’s flattering to the applicant and will boost the close rate,” McCullough adds. “Young professionals have many, many employment possibilities, so you need to stick out from the crowd.”

  1. Hire individuals smarter than you. “There’s a saying: A players employ A+ players. B players employ C players,” McCullough says. “In my experience, this is true more frequently than not. Once you have a few excellent players on your squad, recruiting and retaining are fairly easy, since talent attracts talent.”

Do these things and, as CFO, you will have fulfilled your responsibility as one of the executives of the organisation.

“The average tenure of a CFO is fewer than five years according to certain sources,” McCullough adds. “It’s vital that the firm is in terrific form when your time to go on has arrived.”

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