5 tips for CFOs in their first 100 days


Assuming the mantle of CFO can be a nerve-wracking experience. The first 100 days can be among the most challenging and stressful of your career. All too often, organisations expect new hires to sink or swim and use their own initiative to get by. At the same time, this period represents an enormous opportunity to deliver quick wins and position yourself as a rising star.

Here are a few tips from financial services behempoth EY on navigating this difficult period without undue pain.

Expect the unexpected
The role you signed up for might not be the one that was sold at interview. You may find that the reality of the issues facing you is of a different magnitude and nature than described. It is important to do your due diligence to understand the function of the role and begin to identify the key issues that are to be inherited prior to commencement.

Act promptly
The presupposition of change which often follows the appointment of a new CFO is something to capitalise on. There is a clear distinction between starting the role in a crisis situation and in one that is more stable. Where a turnaround situation is required, there is a certain expectation that significant change will be made early on. In a stable environment where the business is already performing well, you should establish the reasons for this and what the "next big thing" is to deliver on.

Ask the stupid questions
There are advantages and disadvantages of being appointed internally or externally. An existing knowledge of the business, ability to leverage existing networks and inherent knowledge of systems, people and processes are some of the advantages of an internal appointment. However, the advantages of an external placement include no previous history to impair initial credibility, the ability to more easily "command the change" and the opportunity to ask the stupid questions. An external appointment is the platform to ask the straightforward questions which can throw light on fundamental issues previously overlooked.

Make friends and influence people
Considering the wide spectrum of CFO stakeholders, it is important to prioritise those relationships which are critical for investment during the first 100 days - and to get to know their expectations of you. Obviously you need to understand what the CEOs and senior management expect of you. You may also want to consider getting out and about in the organization - particularly in one that is multi-location - and meeting with senior finance and commercial managers.

Get your team behind you
Spend time up front in understanding your teams' issues, responsibilities and competencies. Identify who you can rely on to support you with the detail, so you can focus on the bigger picture.

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From small-town beginnings to the C-suite

CFO Barbara Makhubedu learnt the value of support, determination and relationships from a very young age, and uses those same values as she leads finance at Liberty Two Degrees.