Nailing a CFO job isn’t something that you’re just going to stumble into right out of school. It takes a lifetime of commitment and development to not only get the job but to be an effective CFO. Additionally, working towards this position should be motivated by more than just the desire for a higher salary. Holding a CFO position requires strategic thinking, risk assessment, and management skills, all of which cannot be underestimated.
If you read that and thought to yourself “yep, let’s do this,” then good for you! Not every run of the mill finance whiz is equipped to handle being a CFO. If that’s your ultimate goal, we’ve got some tips to share with you. There are certain types of experiences that are particularly beneficial to have under your belt if being a CFO is your end all be all goal.
Broad Financial Experience
As a CFO you’ll need a solid foundation of all aspects of the finances of your company. This is likely to include budgeting, analysis, compliance, risk management, and accounting. You will be the go-to person for answering any and all financial questions within the organization so you should have expert level knowledge on all fronts.
The primary role of a CFO is to advise on the financial impact of decisions that the CEO and, in some cases, the board propose. As an expert in financial insights and fiscal management, you need to be prepared to make suggestions and back up your advice with concrete reasons. Having a strong foundation of financial knowledge will not only make these decisions easier for you to make but they will also be stronger decisions based on this background.
Business and Operational Experience
As a CFO you will work hand in hand with the CEO and board of directors to make business decisions. While you will be part of decision making as an expert in financials and budget, it’s beneficial to have a broader perspective of the business as a whole.
Decisions made with only one facet of the business in mind may work out well for you but in turn, may be responsible for the harm or downfall of another aspect of the business. Maintaining a wider perspective of the business as a whole will help to ensure that decisions made will benefit the overall growth of the company.
As the CFO you will also likely be a primary voice in speaking with investors. While many investors are focused primarily on the financial details of a business to ensure its ROI, they will likely be interested in hearing how the company is doing as a whole. The wider perspective of the business will help them understand what to expect from the business in the future in addition to how it’s currently performing.
Customer Service & Leadership Experience
As previously mentioned, as a CFO you will be one of the primary channels of communication between your company and the board of directors and investors. As such, you should be well versed in effective communication styles. If you communicate well, you get what you want and need. If you bulldoze those around you, you may find you’ve laid waste to important relationships (this is true of life as well).
Talking to and building relationships with different members of your organization, while you are preparing for the leap to CFO, can give you insight into creative solutions to old problems and life hacks you may never have even known about. Be patient, listen, value the opinions of others, and be open to the possibility that you don’t know best (we know, that’s a tough one).
As technology and automation continue to advance, especially within the fields of accounting and finance, it’s more important than ever to be a master of technology (not a slave to it). Understanding the ways that technology can simplify tasks while reassuring team members that they are still important is a crucial leadership role in the tech and finance space.
CFOs are not expected to be an expert in data retrieval and big data analysis but the CFO who doesn’t use technology to support their team with these areas will soon find they are swimming upstream (and not effectively like a salmon)
Another growing aspect of technology that should hold your attention as a CFO is cybersecurity. As technology continues to boom, so does the risk associated with it. As the CFO you should have a clear understanding of the importance of cybersecurity protocols within your company and the risks that your company needs to avoid. Whether it be investing in cyber insurance or hiring a white box hacking team to alert you to vulnerabilities, cybersecurity needs to be on your radar.
Working to become a CFO is not an overnight goal. If you’re ready to start down the path, TGG-University’s Strategic Financial Leadership Certificate Course is the perfect place to start. This course will help prepare you for your future and take your seat at the C-Suite table.
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