100 days of Frey's: Two weeks in, no change yet!

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Brad Wentzel shares his top tips from weeks eight to 25 of being the new CFO of Frey's Food Brands.

In my first seven weeks as the new CFO of Frey's Food Brands, I had to make sure I got to know and truly understand the business and its people. Weeks eight through 25 was where it got tough, however, because the desire to implement radical change took hold. Avoid this at all costs!

Most people feel that your first 100 days in an organisation is akin to a presidency, and requires tangible and visionary changes to be championed and implemented, or else it is seen as a failure. I believe that the exact opposite needs to happen.

Unnaturally holding back your change agent mindset requires spending conscious energy, because as the CFO, the ability to spot gaps, identify efficiencies and create long-term shareholder value are all part of your remit. However, as the new face of the organisation, it’s still important to listen to the people around you, their challenges and their success stories. You have been brought in for what is hopefully a long and fruitful tenure.

So, before you can implement any change, here are six tips to help you better understand the business first.

  1. All your meetings should be face-to-face where possible. This helps you understand your team’s mannerisms, nuisances, and idiosyncrasies, while (most importantly) also allowing them to assess yours. The internet and technology may have made us a global workforce, but the value in human interaction should never be discounted. Business is done by people, with other people.
  2. If you have joined a business that is based out of multiple locations, make sure to visit all the sites and operations of each business unit, end-to-end. Make sure you are present and available for everyone at that branch, as people may be concerned about the leadership changes.
  3. Get out of your office as soon as possible. Walk the halls, pop into offices and ask people how they are doing. Revel in the watercooler chats, because this is where you really get to know the dynamics and relationships of your people.
  4. If you are stuck behind your desk, make sure you always have an open door. Be accessible and approachable.
  5. Don’t take calls during a meeting. Show that you are present and paying attention to the opinions and thoughts that are being shared.
  6. Don’t have login information to the accounting, or any system for that matter, yet. Ask your team to help you obtain the information you need. This way you can also assess where their strengths and weaknesses may lie.

Bonus tip!
While you are in this assessment phase, you might also feel tempted to start bringing in people you know from previous businesses or ventures to fill gaps. This is a familiarity bias, and will result in an inculcation of a prior culture, with its value and issues included.

Remember that each business has unique people, skills and eccentricities. First look at how you can grow some of the internal workforce and build on the culture that already exists.

If this isn’t possible, bring in other external parties and grow them in he business. Your role is to lead and grow a multitude of people, not a select few.

Read the full series here:

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