5 Tips for your first 90 days as CFO


Starting 2012 with a job as Financial Director? Well done! Since you only get one chance to make a good impression and given the fact that a CFO on average lasts only five years, there really is no time to waste. CFO South Africa provides you with 5 golden tips for a perfect start of your new career.

Tip 1: Find an ally!
As the new CFO it is crucial to get to know the finance team as soon as possible. However, you simply cannot be everywhere at the same time - which makes it very important to have an observant advisor within the organisation. Somebody who advises you on persons or teams within the team needing more attention, or possibly when there is turmoil in a certain division. Having such a partner in your near surroundings and as a 'friend' is extremely useful. This ally does not necessarily have to be a peer or direct report, but it can just as well be an outspoken junior colleague. Often those needing help the most, generally demand the least of it.

Tip 2: Control what's there to control.
A CFO should always be wary of ending up in a role of a 'controller in disguise'. Clearly a CFO wants to have to worry as little as possible about this part of the role; it simply just has to be 100%. That's why it is utterly important to set up a strong controlling team in the earliest stages - even if it means hiring extra people or re-organising the division. Most likely this part of the job cannot be done in 90 days, but the first lay-out should definitely be firmly set within this timeframe.

Tip 3: Don't cut down on finance budgets.
A good CFO always wants to keep a close eye on the budget, which is why they always tend to cut down on expenses of the finance department. Wrong! CFOs often feel they should set an example in scrimping, while this in fact is very counter-productive when done in the finance department. You simply rely too much on talent in that department in order to make your company successful. Golden rule: first look at quality, only then jump to the costs. Always make sure talents have room to further develop themselves.

Tip 4: Work together!
Especially for a new CFO it is crucial to work closely together with the right people on plans and new initiatives. Always keep colleagues and peer managers in the loop on developments in projects - also to ensure support in subsequent projects and next steps. A new chief of finance should also search for informal support and feedback on how to improve efficiency and implement projects as smooth as possible within the company. Many of the CFOs actions have a great impact on the business than other operations, which is why it is of crucial importance for a (new) CFO to gather as much input from all different channels in the company.

Tip 5: Listen carefully - always!
Blame it to the new chief's enthusiasm or passion, but most of them tend to talk too much and, unfortunately, occasionally forget to listen. When one has just started a new job one is exposed to so much new information, and therefore gets new ideas virtually every minute. Golden rule: don't try to use them all at once! The first 90 days on the job are the most important time to look at existing projects and ideas, and to decide which ones are strong, and to decide which ones might need improvement. By talking to different people you will find out soon enough whether they support the current strategy, and where perhaps the flaws occur. All these little pieces of gathered information help you greatly when re-evaluating the company's strategy. Also, listening to colleagues and peers help you to see through the company's politics and internal relations. After all, no company is a rational entity - so even when a plan or project might appear 100% on paper, one still can encounter obstacles when trying to implement it. By familiarizing with the political obstacles and know-how's you clear your future path to the success of your decisions and ultimately, your personal success as the CFO.

Good luck!

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