Turnaround CFOs

The January/February 2011 issue of CFO magazine includes an article entitled “Looking for the Light,” in which it cites the high demand for turnaround masters.  Specialists. In fact, the recommendation in the article was that “any CFO would do well to become acquainted with, if not specialize in,” turnaround.

I agree. It’s a great, in-demand skill set. But I think there is a broader issue … that of building a reputation as being a subject matter expert. CFO tenure today is a mere 22 months. For the “traditional” finance chief, that is barely enough time to become intimately familiar with the organization let alone effect change. But it is enough time to swoop in, clean up a mess or solve a problem, and then move on.

So, two key recommendations …

— Figure out what you do well and what you enjoy doing … they are not always identical. Then, leverage it. Your strongest positioning is from strengths, passions, and values to a clear target market.

— Raise your visibility. If no one knows what a cracker jack turnaround master (or other subject matter expert) you are, does it matter?

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4 thoughts on “Turnaround CFOs”

  1. Cindy,

    You bring out good points. I agree with your recommendations.

    I would recommend to CFOs that they do not pigeon-hole themselves. It is important in building personal brand that CFOs keep in mind thay they need to showcase their strengths, but need to be able to do more than one role.

    Today there may be a need for Turnaround Experts. Tomorrow may show a need for Growth Masters. You can be both.

    As CFO you have built a signifcant ‘bag of tricks’ to call on if and when needed. The challenge is to show your strengths, be visible and build your reputation.

    • I sort of agree, Samuel.

      I don’t call it “pigeon-holing” but “niching.” It’s much easier to be a subject matter expert when you are not a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.” And I don’t believe that is what you were implying. However, a CFO can have multiple strengths, but those should be grounded in his passion and values. Being good at something (strength), doesn’t necessarily translate to passion (or enjoyment.) The strongest positioning comes from understanding what you do well and love doing, where you want to do it, who needs it, and then playing in that space.


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