Internal vs. External CFO Candidates

There is an ongoing discussion in my Linkedin CFO Careers group over an article written by executive search consultant John Touey about the shrinking CFO candidate pool. While that potentially spells good news for those who are seeking their first CFO position, it is also creating risk for companies who hire external or promote internal – inexperienced – folks to those strategic positions.

Here’s one comment from the group …

I think Touey is right on target with this article. I have had a number of recruiters contact me about open CFO roles in the last year. Each one I have asked why they are not promoting someone from within. Almost every one has said because the internal candidates lacked the breadth of experience that the company desired. Most of the time they were talking about a controller who had been with them 10+ years.

Coincidentally, in doing research for a Proformative webinar I conducted back in 2012, I found stats that indicated the average internal promotion to the CFO seat did not happen for an average of 11 years. Apparently, that has not changed in the last few years.

Good-fitting CFO

Good-fitting CFO

Here’s the conundrum.

With internal candidates you have fit-for-culture but limited experience. With external candidates, you might get transformation, but culture fit could be an issue.

Companies want – and need – both. Proven leadership and a track record of measurable impacts (experience, not necessarily title), along with a clear fit within their established culture.

photo by: reynermedia
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Posted in CFO Careers, Current Affairs, Recent Statistics | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Success or Significance?

Forbes recently published an interview with Ed Imparato, current Chief Financial Officer of St. Dominic’s Home.

He began by talking about the impact going through operations had on his success.

Running a division taught me how to look through numbers to better understand what was driving performance. As a result, I learned to speak the language of the people who are running companies by linking performance to financial results.

I so agree. Understanding the operations component on the deeper and more intimate level that comes from being immersed in it is a valuable tool in a CFO’s career toolbox.

Mr. Imparato then went on to talk about his career in terms of the significance of what he has done. Does it matter whether what you do is significant? Do you need to be in a non-profit in order to be significant?

The choice between success or significance is a personal one, and I don’t believe it is an “either or” choice. Just like your values, it’s not a question of right or wrong but rather, what is true for you. Whether you are striving for success or significance, obtaining either will necessitate today’s marketable CFO to go through operations.

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Prime Resume Real Estate

On average, how long does it take before you stop listening to the person who is talking to you and begin mentally going over your remaining “To Do” list, think about what you’re going to say next, or plan how you can tactfully extract yourself from the person and the conversation?

We’ve all been there, right? And it’s even more challenging for the High D folks – which encompasses most Senior-level Executives and particularly the less-people-oriented people operating within the finance realm.

So take that same concept … tell me what’s important, make it quick, and hit my pain points … and apply it to your resume.

Learn how in my column for this month’s Futures in Finance newsletter.

Prime Resume Real Estate

Prime Resume Real Estate

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CFOs or Chief Everything Officers

Can you even remember the days of being “just” a finance guy? If you can’t, it’s no surprise since those days seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Just in the last week, I’ve read numerous articles that speak to the expanding role of the Chief Finance Officer.

CFO.com, in its article about holding the CFO and CEO role simultaneously points out …

Daily Journal CEO Gerald Salzman is also the firm’s president, CFO, treasurer, assistant secretary and principal accounting officer, as well as a member of the board. “How one man can do all these jobs by himself is beyond me,” Weil wrote. “Usually the CFO reports to the CEO. Here he’s the same person.”

CGMA Magazine just released data on the trend I’ve been noticing for the past couple of years … the elimination of the COO role as it morphs into an expanded Chief Financial Officer role.

Just 35% of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies employed a COO last year, according to executive search firm Crist|Kolder Associates’ Volatility Report 2013. That was down from 39% in 2012 and is the lowest percentage since at least 2000, when 48% of companies in the survey had a COO.

Trending NorthWhat can you take away from these evolving and growing statistics?

-   Those Finance Chiefs with broader skill sets than those of pure bean counters will remain the more marketable candidates of the future.

-   There has never been a better time for the operationally-focused Chief Financial Officer, with his sights set on the Chief Executive Officer seat, to make his move. After all, he is already the Chief Everything Officer, right?

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Posted in CFO Careers, Current Affairs, Recent Statistics, Recruiters | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Kind or Nice

One of the members of the Linkedin CFO Careers group posted an article by Harvard Business Review on always being kind, but not always being nice to your employees. What good insights! And sometimes, it is very difficult to choose to be kind when what you really want is to not be nice. What an exceptional leader you are, though, when you choose to respond with kindness in the most vexing and stressful situations.

Reading the article made me think of the wonderful Seth Godin book, “Tribes.” Having people follow (work for) you because you’re the means to the paycheck is far different than people following you because you are a great leader and they want to be close in order to learn, to grow, and to emulate.

Ultimately, it’s not a choice between kindness and greatness. It’s a choice between creating or forgoing context. You have to create and maintain a context in which people are expected to rise and want to rise to be their absolute best—where you have people’s express permission to push them beyond their comfort zones.

There has never been a better, or more challenging, time to be the Finance Leader of an organization. Having cohesive, motivated teams that want to exceed corporate objectives makes the job much easier than having to push and coax a lazy, unmotivated group of people who have to perform to the minimum degree necessary in order to collect a paycheck.

Do people follow you? If so, why? It’s definitely food for thought for all Chief Financial Officers and those who desire to step into that role in the future. It is one of those soft skills – leading vs. managing – that can truly differentiate you from the competition.

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Oversight Responsibilities

A recent post in a Linkedin group asked about “oversight responsibilities.” When you hear that phrase, what pops into your mind?

Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but that is a phrase you will never find me using in the context of describing the scope of responsibilities my clients hold. Why, you might ask?

A Google search of the word reveals the first meaning of “oversight” as

Oversight

Oversight

Now I know that in your resume it is not intended to indicate an “error, omission, or failure” to do something. However, “oversight” is not a derivative of “oversee.”

Words evolve and change over time. In fact, the second definition of “oversight” in our current dictionaries says …

“the action of overseeing something.”

But the word “oversight” isn’t in the 1828 dictionary. It’s a relatively new word, with a new connotation … but just like other new words with new meanings in this day and age, changing the word doesn’t change the intent of the word in the minds of some folks, particularly old-school English majors who love words.

Might I suggest some more positive, action-oriented alternatives you can use to frame your scope of responsibilities?

  • Oversaw (which is the past tense of oversee)
  • Administered
  • Directed
  • Guided
  • Supervised

The English language is robust and provides much better options to avoid painting a potentially negative picture in the mind of the person reading your resume … “failing to do” versus actually “doing.”

Just because it is a generally-accepted phrase doesn’t mean you have to use it. Dare to be different! And … grammatically correct.

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The Incredibly Uncredible Profile

Uncredible. Maybe it isn’t a real word among grammar-hounds, but when I Googled it, I found this from WordReference Forums …

“A new word to fill a need. It means something lacks believability.”

Who are you?

Who are you?

Enter the incredible, completely uncredible, and unbelievable Linkedin profiles I see daily when approving CFOs for my CFO-only Careers group. Listen, if I’m not sold on your fit for my group based on your profile, I can assure you recruiters and hiring managers will not be sold on you as a viable candidate either when you choose to …

- Call yourself a CFO despite offering no credible evidence you actually are one other than a current job title.

- Show only your most recent CFO title with a graduation date that leaves a ginormous gap along with lots of questions and plenty of red flags.

- Conversely, that you were a CFO immediately after graduating from college.

- Show a profile with only the bare bones of information, none of which is based on your value proposition to a prospective employer.

- List one position, your most current, with nothing else. No photo, no summary, no experience, and no education … and no network.

- Have multiple accounts – same name, same photo but different job titles.

My bar to enter the group is that you are a sitting CFO or have held the Chief Financial Officer title in the past. But if, in a cursory review of your profile, I can’t tell that you are legitimate and/or your position is legitimate, I won’t approve you.

If that’s my standard for a Linkedin group, imagine how recruiters and decision-makers might be responding when seeking potential candidates and their reputation and commission is on the line?

It is critically important that you have a complete profile –and- that it is credible and compelling. Use your profile to answer the question the people who are hiring are asking: Who are you and how can you solve our problems?

photo by: Valerie Everett
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Posted in Branding, CFO Careers, Current Affairs, Digital Footprint, Recruiters | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Upgrades Are Not Created Equally

Upgrade has become a relative term when speaking about social media platforms. And venues like LinkedIn and Facebook come immediately to mind whenever “social media” and “upgrade” are used in the same sentence. And maybe you’ve even noticed that the word upgrade is often a misnomer, since many of those so-called “upgrades” only seem to ratchet up the level of frustration of users.

Take for example the “Congratulate XXX” emails from LinkedIn that are coming fast and furious these days. The problem (and it is a problem) is that LinkedIn is reading changes to your headline as a job change. That error happens because members mistakenly use the headline as a place to restate their current job title.

If you’ve seen those emails or even been embarrassed by offering congratulations to someone who hasn’t really changed positions, only their headline –  or – you want to hear about some actual great upgraded features on Linkedin, you’ll want to read my article in this month’s Futures in Finance newsletter.

Linkedin Upgrades

Linkedin Upgrades

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Job Title vs. Branded Positioning

My week started off with a delicious cup of coffee and engaging convo with a dear friend of mine who also happens to be a Chief Financial Officer.

He recently decided to leave his job. Which left him with a dilemma …

how to identify himself?

It is an interesting, but not insurmountable, challenge. And coincidentally, I had the same question from another CFO last week. There are probably quite a few Finance Executives who are now in active job search mode wondering the same thing.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I am a big proponent of branding. Understanding how you are perceived by others as it aligns with how you view yourself, and then leveraging those emotional (relational) attributes in talking about how you do what you do is very powerful positioning. And, …

Brand transcends job title. 

Your brand is what appears in your Linkedin headline.
Your brand statement is in your email signature line.
Your brand tag is on your business cards.

And when someone hears your name, they see your brand not your job title – or lack thereof.

Your brand also speaks directly to fit-for-culture, which gives you a leg up over the competition in the trickiest part of the hiring process. Being branded also helps to ensure the right-fit companies are the only ones courting you … so you will land in the best environment to continue your record of success.

It is time to stop defining yourself by your job title and begin embracing and living your brand!

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Finding a CFO Position …

A few weeks ago I had a Linkedin connection email me with this question …

Are there REALLY any good job boards for senior finance executives?

And then earlier this week, Matt Bud, the Executive Director of FENG, posted a great editorial in his newsletter  entitled “The Easy Button” … and that visual propelled me to finally write this blog post.

Job search is not easy. And, it almost always takes much longer than you think it will; be more frustrating along the way than you ever imagined; and force you out of your comfort zone if you truly want to be effective. It’s just the nature of the beast, I mean, search.

But, before you can even get to the search, you need (and must have) a resume that highlights your proven ability to do the job. Matt and I have always disagreed about who can and should write your resume. He is a firm believer that everyone should write their own resumes, but that opinion does not take into consideration that …

- not everyone is a writer; and

- sometimes our own self-limiting perspective is the biggest impediment to value positioning.

But on this comment in his “Easy Button” article, Matt and I find some common ground …

The reason is that although others can facilitate the process for you, no one can actually write your resume for you and no one can prepare a proper 90-second announcement for you unless you have already done 90% of the work. And, you will do a lot better with whoever is working with you if you have done 95% of the work.

In order for your value proposition to shine, you must be intimately engaged in the process. An hour on the phone with you is not serving you. In fact, I would venture to say it is doing you a grave disservice while charging you for it.

Think of the partnership with your resume writer as being akin to a coach standing on the side of the field watching a player on the field. The coach has a unique vantage point and perspective that the player, involved in playing, cannot see. The coach’s position and expertise allows him to coach the player to be more effective based on what he sees from his vantage point. But both the player and the coach have to be engaged in order for the player to receive the benefit.

It should work that same way with someone you hire to work with you on your value positioning. The coach is your guide to get you outside your own limited, and limiting, perspective. That requires hard work on both sides. You have to dig deep to find your value and then be comfortable enough to confidently message your unique value. The resume is merely the end result of the critically important process of identifying how you can solve a company’s problems so they will not only want you, but pay well to get you.

The process of finding that next position just isn’t that easy, but unless you feel absolutely confident in your ability to identify and message your value -and- write a 2-page resume that is compelling and value-oriented, why would you risk making the process even more challenging -and- perhaps missing that next, great opportunity because you somehow believe “you” are the only one who can write your marketing documents? Maybe you are, but maybe you aren’t.

Do companies hire marketing teams or outsource their marketing? Or, do they decide to “do it themselves” even though they are not marketers? When / if they choose the latter, is their a potential cost associated with that decision?

P.S. My answer to the question posed above is no, there really aren’t any good job boards for senior finance executives. Furthermore, playing the posted position game is the least effective job search strategy, particularly at the senior or C-level.

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Posted in CFO Careers, Current Affairs | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments